500 – Unfamiliar Conditions

National Integration Through Thirukkural And Sanskrit

Operating in unfamiliar conditions

Hitler as the Commander of the German Army, started a war against Russia in June 1941. The Russians were unprepared and taken by surprise. Russia being a vast country spread over a wide area, penetrating the same was both a logistical and a physical challenge. Also the Russian Army gave the Germans, a tough fight. In spite of it,  Germans were progressing slowly and steadily. By mid-October, German units were within 40 miles of Moscow. The entire government, including Russian Premier Stalin, were prepared to evacuate.

Then the turning point occurred.  The weather changed. It began with weeks of unending autumn rain, creating battlefields of deep, sticky mud that immobilized German tanks and robbed German units of their tactical advantage. The non-stop rain drenched foot soldiers, soaking them to the bone in mud up to their knees. And things got worse,  when  snow squalls with frigid winds and sub-zero temperatures, caused frostbite and other cold-related sickness.

The German Army had planned on a quick summertime victory in Russia and had therefore neglected to prepare for the brutal winter warfare it now faced. Heavy boots, overcoats, blankets and thick socks were desperately needed to fight the cold,  but were unavailable. As a result, thousands of frostbitten soldiers dropped out of their frontline units. Food supplies also ran low and the troops became malnourished. Mechanical failures worsened as tank and truck engines cracked from the cold and artillery and machine-guns jammed.

The once-mighty German military machine had now ground to a halt in Russia. The weather delays had given Russians, time to re-group themselves and bring in massive reinforcements, specially trained for winter warfare. Germans succumbed to the Russians. Hitler ordered all surviving troops in Russia to halt in their tracks and retreat.

Germans who were just days away from achieving the greatest victory of all time and changing world history, were now completely defeated, just for the simple reason, that, they did not prepare themselves for warfare in extremely cold weather conditions.

Moral of the story

One is in a distinct disadvantage when attacking an enemy at his own place and in conditions unfamiliar to the attacker.

Thiruvalluvar in his couplet 500 states that “Even a majestic warrior-elephant with fearless eyes that kindles terror in the enemy, will be a powerless prey to a jackal, when it is trapped on marshy ground”.

கால்ஆழ் களரின் நரிஅடும் கண்அஞ்சா 
வேலாள் முகத்த களிறு 

Kaal-aazh Kalarin Nari-adum Kann-anjaa
Velaal Mugaththa Kaliru

பரிமேலழகர் உரை: 

கண் அஞ்சா வேலாள் முகத்த களிறு – பாகர்க்கு அடங்காவுமாய், வேலாள்களைக் கோத்த கோட்டவுமாய களிறுகளை, கால்ஆழ் களரின் நரி அடும் – அவை கால் ஆழும் இயல்பிற்றாய சேற்றுநிலத்துப் பட்டுழி நரி கொல்லும் (‘முகம் ஆகுபெயர்’. ‘ஆண்மையும் பெருமையும் உடையாரும் தமக்கு ஏலா நிலத்துச் செல்லின் அவற்றால் பயன் இன்றி மிகவும் எளியரால் அழிவர்’ என்பது தோன்ற நின்றமையின், இதுவும் அவ்வலங்காரம். ‘வேலாழ் முகத்த என்று பாடம் ஓதுவாரும் உளர்: வேற்படை குளித்த முகத்தவாயின் அதுவும் நரி அடுதற்கு ஏதுவாய் முடிதலின்,அது பாடம் அன்மை அறிக.).

Sanskrit Translation by Shri S.N. Srirama Desikan

ஸூ²லஹஸ்த மஹாவீர ஹந்த்ரு த³ந்த-யுதோ(அ)பி ஸன் |
பங்கம் விஸ²ன் மத³க³ஜ: ஸ்ருகா³லேனாபி ஹன்யதே ||