Duty, Sacrifice, and Bravery: Religious Lessons for the Indian Defence Forces

The Role of Religion in the Indian Defence Forces.

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Lt Col Manoj K Channan
Lt Col Manoj K Channan
Lt Col Manoj K Channan (Retd) served in the Indian Army, Armoured Corps, 65 Armoured Regiment, 27 August 83- 07 April 2007. Operational experience in the Indian Army includes Sri Lanka – OP PAWAN, Nagaland and Manipur – OP HIFAZAT, and Bhalra - Bhaderwah, District Doda Jammu and Kashmir, including setting up of a counter-insurgency school – OP RAKSHAK. He regularly contributes to Defence and Security issues in the Financial Express online, Defence and Strategy, Fauji India Magazine and Salute Magazine. *Views are personal.

Religions have always shaped civilisations, societies, and individuals by inculcating values, principles, and ethics. Drawing inspiration from Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, and Judaism, the Indian Defence Forces can strengthen its personnel’s moral character and courage.

The Indian Army has always been secular, and the religion of the troops you command is followed earnestly by the unit/subunit officers. Sarva Dharmasthal, a common place of worship, is a place of congregation for religious festivals to be celebrated. Along with the Quarter Guard of the unit, Sarva Dharmasthal is equally essential. All unit function visits of a social nature start from the Sarva Dharmasthal.

Religion is an essential aspect of the motivation of officers and troops, as the men in the Indian Defence Services are committed to winning in battle at all costs. From immemorial and post-independent India, various accounts of bravery and valour have been narrated by various authors giving out acts of bravery and selfless service.

The Indian Army is not just a defence force; it embodies discipline, valour, and determination. While many sources inspire the spirit of the Indian Army, ancient Indian teachings, especially those of Lord Krishna, have left a profound impact. Lord Krishna’s teachings, as encapsulated in the Bhagavad Gita, have profound relevance to the ethos, practices, and challenges faced by the Indian Army. These teachings serve as a beacon for our brave soldiers and provide them with a way of life to lead on and off the battlefield.

Lessons from the Bhagwat Gita

Righteousness in Duty (Dharma)

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna: “It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.” For the Indian Army, the sense of duty or Dharma goes beyond the call of their immediate task. Soldiers are taught to perform their duty with utmost dedication, irrespective of the circumstances, much like Arjuna was advised to perform his duty as a warrior without being attached to the results.

Detachment and Commitment

Do your duty without expecting the fruits of your actions,” advises Lord Krishna. The Indian Army operates with a sense of commitment and not intending to receive awards or recognition. Their selfless service, where they put the nation before themselves, reflects Krishna’s teachings of performing one’s duty with detachment from the outcomes.

Courage in the Face of Adversity

“For the soul, there is neither birth nor death, and it cannot be destroyed,” says Krishna. The Indian Army is often faced with life-threatening situations. Drawing from Krishna’s wisdom about the soul’s eternal nature gives them courage. The belief in the imperishability of the soul provides soldiers with the valour to face death head-on.

Control Over Mind

“For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends, but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy.” In rigorous training and real-time operations, mental strength is as crucial as physical prowess. Lord Krishna’s emphasis on mastering one’s mind resonates with the training given to army personnel. They are trained to be mentally robust and resilient, capable of making critical decisions under extreme pressure.

Unity and Brotherhood

“Just as a single sun illuminates the entire universe, so does the spirit soul illuminate the entire body by consciousness,” quotes the Gita. The Indian Army is a mosaic of various religions, cultures, and traditions. Lord Krishna’s teaching emphasises the oneness of all beings, which translates to brotherhood and unity amidst diversity in the context of the army. Soldiers learn to respect and protect their fellow soldiers, regardless of their background.

The Power of Righteousness

“Where there is dharma, there is victory,” Krishna assures Arjuna. The Indian Army is a bulwark against threats to the nation’s sovereignty and integrity. Upholding the ‘dharma’ or righteous way, even when faced with moral dilemmas, ensures that their actions align with the nation’s greater good.

Continuous Learning and Adaptability

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna emphasises the importance of acquiring knowledge. The Indian Army, too, believes in continuous training, learning from experiences, and adapting to ever-evolving situations. In today’s technologically advanced warfare scenario, keeping abreast of new strategies and technologies is crucial.


Lord Krishna speaks about acting without the thought of personal profit. The Indian Army’s motto, ‘Service Before Self,’ is a testament to this teaching. Soldiers often go beyond their call of duty, making personal sacrifices for the nation’s well-being.

Guided by a Higher Purpose

The Bhagavad Gita teaches that every action should be aligned with a higher purpose. For the Indian Army, this higher purpose is the safety, honour, and welfare of the country. This guiding principle ensures that every task is done with sincerity and dedication.

Seeking Inner Peace

Even amidst the chaos of war, Lord Krishna speaks of finding inner peace. Soldiers are often trained in meditation and techniques to find calm amidst the storm, ensuring mental equilibrium and better decision-making.

India is a country where the citizens practice and follow different faiths. It is essential to derive lessons from these religions so that there is an over-encompassing teaching and motivation is given to All Ranks to carry out their duty. The ones mentioned below are the major religions being followed. Some may not be mentioned here, especially the tribal cultures and their beliefs. In the end, all religions have the same essence and objective.


Christianity emphasises love, sacrifice, and service. The greatest act of love, as per Christian belief, was the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for humanity.

Lesson for Defence Forces

The idea of selfless sacrifice for the larger good can be instilled in soldiers. This would ensure that they prioritise the safety, security, and welfare of the nation and its citizens above their interests.


 Islam strongly emphasises the virtues of bravery, justice, and righteousness. The concept of striving in the path of God is advocated. It primarily refers to the spiritual struggle against sin.

Lesson for Defence Forces

Islam teaches that real bravery is not just about physical might but also about the strength of character. The defence forces can imbibe the values of righteous action, even in the face of adversity, ensuring that their actions always align with the principles of justice.


Zoroastrianism revolves around the principle of good thoughts, good words, and good deeds. It believes in the constant battle between the forces of good (Ahura Mazda) and evil (Angra Mainyu).

Lesson for Defence Forces

As Zoroastrians constantly strive towards righteousness, the defence personnel can be taught to consistently differentiate between right and wrong, making choices that protect and uphold the nation’s values.

Indian Army Female Cadets Taking Oath. Image: Social media


Central to Sikhism is the tenet of selfless service and sacrifice. The community’s history is replete with tales of valour where Sikhs put their lives on the line for the welfare of others.

Lesson for Defence Forces

The spirit of ‘Seva’ (selfless service) in Sikhism can be an exemplary model for soldiers, emphasising that their duty goes beyond their uniform. They are protectors and caregivers, ensuring peace, safety, and unity.


Judaism upholds the sanctity of life, perseverance, and resilience. The history of Jews is a testament to their indomitable spirit in the face of immense adversities.

Lesson for Defence Forces

Just as Jews have stood resilient through centuries of persecution, soldiers can learn the values of perseverance, resilience, and unwavering spirit in the face of challenges.

Integrating these Lessons:

Training Modules

Incorporating tales of valour, sacrifice, and resilience from these religions into training modules can serve as motivational stories. These tales can emphasise the universal values upheld by these religions, underscoring their relevance to a soldier’s duty.

Moral and Ethical Education

Regular sessions on moral and ethical education based on the universal values of these religions can help in character-building. Understanding that their duty has a higher purpose can lead to a more profound commitment.

Interfaith Dialogues

Organising interfaith dialogues can instil respect and understanding for diverse beliefs. This will not only foster unity among the defence personnel but also ensure that they uphold the nation’s secular values.

Mentorship Programs

While addressing troops, senior officers should exemplify these values, which can mentor younger recruits, ensuring that the ethos of sacrifice, resilience, and righteousness is passed down the ranks.


As imparted by Lord Krishna, the Bhagavad Gita’s timeless teachings serve as foundational principles for the Indian Army. Integrating these teachings into their training and daily routines, the Indian Army remains a force of resilience, righteousness, and unwavering commitmentIn the words of Lord Krishna, “Whatever happened, happened for the good. Whatever is happening is happening for the good. Whatever will happen will also happen for the good.” This philosophical approach guides the Indian Defence Forces through their triumphs and challenges, ensuring they stand firm, come what may.

In conclusion, the values and principles upheld by Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, and Judaism can significantly contribute to the moral fabric of the Indian Defence Forces. Drawing inspiration from these religions can instil a solid moral character, ensuring that the forces serve with unwavering devotion and an unparalleled spirit of sacrifice.


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