Alexander the Great in India and Pakistan

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Alexander the Great

Alexander campaign in India and Pakistan (327BC-325 B.C.)

Alexander campaign in India

        Alexander campaign in India

Alexander campaign in India started in 327 B.C. to conquer with his Macedonian army. He came through modern-day Afghanistan, crossed the Indus, and entered India.  He was very impressed by the culture and society of subcontinent.  The land was prosperous and the Macedonians found India and the Indians people very magical.  After spending two years there, he went from the Salt Range to Taxila on the Beas River, crossed the Indus River, and sailed toward the sea, crossing the Makran desert from Baluchistan to Iran and went back.    

When he was in Afghanistan, he divided his army, sent his prominent army through the Khyber Pass and carried the remaining army with himself to the north. Some local rulers resisted and fought against him, while some were afraid of his strength and met him with gifts and equipment. After the conquest of Punjab and Sindh, Alexander ended his campaign in India turned to the Arabian sea.

Alexander the Great in Pakistan 

Before the coming of Alexander in the subcontinent, the States of Sindh and Punjab in subcontinent  were ruled  by Darius I of Persia in 518 B. C. Since then, Indian people paid taxes to the Persian empire on precious resources (Gold & textiles).  When Alexander the Great conquered the India, it  became the easternmost part of the Macedonia empire after  defeating the Persians in 326 B.C.

Greek civilization had a long-lasting impact on the region by establishing Indo-Greek kingdoms in Afghanistan and Pakistan. His army was consisted on 75,000-man (with 40,000   comprised Persian soldiers but just 15,000 Macedonians. Alexander’s forces faced severe opposition from the northern people of Pakistan, who hid in the hilly parts and conducted guerrilla war, effectively halting Alexander’s proceeding for 18 months. Alexander’s troops used pitons (instruments to climb mountains) and ropes to attack the people inside the forts built by the locals in the Karakoram range. After two years of struggle, people surrendered, and then the daughter of a nobleman (named Roxanne) got married to Alexander.

people of Kalash Valley Pakistan

The Kafir-Kalash, a community living now in valleys of the Chitral in Pakistan’s Province (KPK), claim to be the offspring of  Alexander the Great. The tribe is well-known for its pagan beliefs, filthy songs, bold dances, wild parties, and unusual clothing. It’s possible they are descendent of Alexander because as we mentioned before Alexander married to a Northern girl.

Greek writers wrote on the people’s social practices and religious beliefs of that period. At that time in the subcontinent , if a kid was born faulty or damaged, he was murdered.  A beautiful person was superior and got married  easily.  Women in some tribes practiced the Sati tradition, in which widows burned themselves at their husband’s funerals.

  The Greeks saw a curious custom in Taxila that desperate parents put girls for sale in the marketplace, and they  saw that the dead people were left to be eaten by vultures (a bird). Polygamy (to marry more than one woman) was also a prevalent practice among the locals.

Alexander and Porous Battle 

Alexander the Great

Ancient Taxila city in Pakistan

At the time of Alexander’s expedition in India, the Ambhi was the ruler of Taxila. He was the son of Ambhiraj, who was killed by his nephew ‘Porus“. Ambhiraj’s sister Anusuya married king Bamni, who was an enemy of Ambhiraj. Later in the war, Ambhiraj killed his sister (Anusuya) in battle. After that, Anusuya’s son Porus killed his maternal uncle (Ambhiraj). 

Ambhiraj’s son Ambhi wanted to take revenge for his father murder from Porus. When Alexander came into India, he sent an embassy to Alexander the Great along with 3000 oxen, more than 10000 sheep, 200 telnets of silver, more than 700 horse riders, and 30 war elephants.  Alexander was so shocked by such welcoming in India from Ambhi.

Not only this, rather Ambhi assisted Alexander’s army in building a bridge on the Indus River. He also welcomed Alexander and his whole army in his capital (Taxila) with highly liberal hospitality. He participated in the battle of Hydaspes with his entire army, and after the war Alexander sent him in pursuit of the Porus.

Battle of Hydaspes-(Alexander and Porous Battle) 

The river Jhelum was called Hydaspes by the Greeks.  Battle between Alexander and Porous was fought on the bank of the Jhelum River near Bhera (a town in Punjab, Pakistan).  Alexander’s army was on the river’s west bank, while the Porus army was on the east side of the river (on the Bhera side). 

Alexander moved the army up and down the Hydaspes river’s banks  for three weeks, and Porus reacted by doing the same. After some days Alexander discovered a ford (the place where is less water and river can cross easily from there) on his left flank that he might use to outflank the Porus’s army, so he put it into his strategy.

Alexander placed his main army at the ford, with two spearmen and an archery unit in the middle of the west bank of river and an army of similar strength on the ford to the right. Porus‘ main army was in the middle, and also  had strong backup force. He had a lesser army on the other side of the Hydaspes confronting the Macedonians’ right flank, although it was more significant than the Macedonians’ force there.       

Alexander advanced his main force behind his smaller troops, crossed the ford to the left of his soldiers, and positioned on the Indian right flank. The Porous army reallocated some troops from their main force on the central bank and other units to confront the Macedonian army attacking them. Alexander’s Macedonian cavalry charged the Indian troops dispatched to face them, initially engaging the Indian cavalry. Then they battled against the Indians, who were so demoralized that they didn’t use their better weapons but got killed by Macedonian. The Macedonian soldiers  fought successfully  and killed the Porus’s amry.

 The Indian army confronted Macedonia’s right side when they got the commands to reposition to battle the main Macedonian army, restricting the Hydaspes to cross the right side of Macedonia and the main army to march further . The Central Indian Army was involved in fighting and was beaten by the main Macedonian army, while the Macedonian force could cross the river on the central ford. When Indian military was forced to retire from the battlefield, then King Porus personally led Indian’s army against the Macedonians.  

His strength included the carts, the frightening Indians and some cavalry and infantry. Standing on the top, they guarded the position while numerous Indian cavalry and spearmen withdrew through this place. The Macedonian soldiers that climbed uphill fought king Porus’ men and the elephants. Alexander army launched a brutal struggle against the elephants, with its Allied Cavalry carrying the brunt of the fight. The Macedonian troops and cavalry, with some help from the Macedonian firemen, repelled the elephants. The arrows frightened  Porus elephants who were scared by the flames and started to run back.

 The carts went downhill and their spiking wheels cut numerous legs, they also were routed. The Indian military was destroyed, and 23,000 Indian troops got slaughtered. In the conflict, both Indians and Macedonians were suffering quite severe casualties.  It was one of the sever battle between Alexander and Porous in histroy.

Alexander did not defeat Porus even after a severe fight in Battle of Hydaspes. Both parties faced significant losses, and so  it changed into mutual compromise. Alexander was  impressed by Porus’s bravery and sought to ally. After Battle of Hydaspes, Alexander asked some points from Porus about how he wanted to be treated, he replied with  famous remark, “I wanted to be treated like a king.” 

Alexander himself was wounded in this war so instead of moving towards Nanda Empire in east, he went back  and died in Babylon in 323 BC.

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