Alexander`s Invasion of India - Informative & researched article on Alexander`s Invasion of India
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Alexander`s Invasion of India
Alexander`s invasion of India had far reaching consequences on Indian Polity.
More on Alexander`s Invasion of India (3 Articles)
 As remarked by V. A. Smith, "Alexander the great having completed the subjugations of Bactria, resolved to execute the cherished purpose of emulating and surpassing the mythical exploits of Dionysos, Herokles, and Semiram is by effecting the conquest of India." By that time on the eve of Alexander's invasion India was divided into small kingdoms, which fought among themselves. During Alexander's fight with the Persians, Shashi Gupta, a Hindu king helped Persians against Alexander. When Alexander defeated the Persians, Shashi Gupta entered into friendship with Alexander and helped him in his invasion for India. When Alexander was at Nakai, Ambhi, the king of Taxila sent many costly presents and elephants to Alexander as gifts and accepted his sovereignty. Ambhi was the first traitor in the history of India who for his own self-interest sent an invitation to Alexander to visit India. Certain other kings of frontier kingdoms followed Ambhi and accepted the sovereignty of Alexander.

Alexander's Fight with hill tribes
Alexander had to face many races living on hills. They were very brave and freedom loving. After terrible fight with them Alexander first conquered the Aspasians and the Guraeans. After the fight Alexander captured 40,000 prisoners and 2,30,000 oxen. After this Alexander attacked Nysa. After little opposition, the Nysaens submitted to Alexander. Being encouraged with these successes Alexander attacked the Assakenoi state. The people of this state fought with an army of 20,000 cavalry, 30,000 infantry and thirty elephants. The fort Massaga was regarded impregnable. Because of this reason Alexander became a little disappointed but it so happened that a chance arrow killed the chief of Assakenoi. This created chaos and confusion among the people and they ultimately surrendered to Alexander. There were 7,000 mercenary soldiers in the garrison of Massaga who were guaranteed safe passage by Alexander but as and when they retreated to a distance, Alexander got all of them slaughtered through treachery. Diodoros and Plutarch condemn Alexander for this breach of trust. After the conquest of Massaga in which a large number of persons were massacred, Alexander captured the free cities of Aorons Bazira, Ora or Dyrta.

War with Puru
After Taxila, Alexander advanced towards Jhelum and sent a messenger to Puru to accept his over lordship. Puru sent the reply that he would see him in the battlefield. The armies of Alexander and Poras faced each other on either banks of the river of Jhelum.

Puru had a very big army consisting of 50,000 infantry, 3,000 cavalry, 1,000 chariots and 130 elephants. The armies of Alexander consisted of different races and there were also some mercenary soldiers. Alexander was a great diplomat and knew before hand the strength of Puru. He knew that it would be difficult to cross the river, which was in spate, in front of the army of Puru. As pointed out by Arrian, Alexander made up his mind to steal passage. He took 11,000 soldiers 16 miles up the river from his camp and crossed the river. Puru was under the impression that Alexander would not cross the river in the night and hence he did not take any precautions. All this prevented Puru from resting and concentrating his preparations at any one point selected in preference to any other as the best for defending the passage.

The battle of Jhelum
As soon as Puru knew that the enemy had crossed the river, he sent his son with 2,000 horses and 120 chariots. Alexander easily routed this army and Purus's son along with 400 Indian soldiers was killed in this battle. Hearing the news of the rout, Puru moved with 203 elephants and a huge army. Puru mainly relied upon the elephants. Indians fought with great courage. Indians obstinately maintained their ground till the eight hour of the day, but eventually the luck did not favour them. The main strength of Puru lay in the chariots that became useless due to utter rains. The rain and storms had made the ground slippery and unfit for horses to ride over, while chariots kept sticking in the muddy sloughts formed by the rains and proved almost immovable from their great weight." Moreover due to slippery ground, the Indian archers proved to be ineffective. In the beginning the elephants of Puru terrorized the enemy but due to narrow space and being injured by the arrows they turned back and trampled their own soldiers.

As observed by Arrian, "The elephants being now cooped up within a narrow space did no less damage to their friends than to their foes, trampling them under their feet as they wheeled and pushed about" Thus ultimately all the chariots were destroyed, elephants were either killed or captured and himself was taken a prisoner in fainting condition,

However, Alexander was pleased with the bravery and valour of Puru. On being asked as to how be wished to be treated, Puru replied, "Treat me, O Alexander as befits a king." Alexander was very much impressed with this answers and he not only returned the territory of Puru but also gave him certain conquered states. To commemorate his victory Alexander founded two cities of 'Bonkephala' and 'Nikaia'

Other conquests of Alexander
After having defeated Puru, Alexander marched into the territory of Gausai and conquered 37 cities there. Thereafter he crossed river Chenab and defeated Kanishka or Chhota Poras and included his kingdom in that of the Puru's. Towards the end of 326 B.C. Alexander crossed river Ravi and captured the fort of Pimarama. After this , Alexander captured San-goala, which was the stronghold of Kathas, the Kathas fought with great bravery and made the cavalry of Alexander ineffective. Ultimately Poras came to the help of Alexander with 5,00 Indian soldiers and with his help Alexander conquered the Kathas.

Departure of Alexander to the homeland
After conquering the Katha, the soldiers of Alexander refused to proceed further. Alexander wanted to conquer the Nanda Empire about which he had heard but despite his persuasion, encouragement and even command his army refused to proceed further. When Alexander failed to convince his army and the soldiers who had not the courage to speak openly to Alexander, Koinos came up with the courage and said, "Seek not to lead them against their inclination, for you will not find them the same men in the face of dangers, if they enter without heart into their contests with the enemy." These words of Koinos had the full support of the army.

Reason for the refusal of army to proceed further
There were some specific reasons for which the army of Alexander refused to proceed further and these reasons are

  • It was a long time since Greek soldiers were away from home and they wanted to go back to their homes. As pointed out by Plutarch, "It is true that the Greek soldiers were war worn and homesick, disease stricken and destitute. They had lost many of their friends and relations in the battle and needed a well-earned rest as well.

  • Another reason, which discouraged the Greek soldiers from proceeding, further was the bravery and fighting capacity of the Indians. It can be understood as remarked by Plutarch, "The battle with Poras depressed the spirits of the Macedonians and made them very unwilling to advance further into India." Regarding the heroism and skill of Indian soldiers Arrian also observes that, "In the art of war they were far superior to the other nations by which Asia was at that time inhabited."

  • Yet another reason, which depressed the spirits of the Greek soldiers was that, the state conquered by them raised their head in revolt.

  • Greek soldiers had heard of several independent and material races living in the east of Vyas. Moreover, in the middle of India there was the mighty empire of the Nandas. Already depressed by the heroism of Poras and the skill of Indian soldiers, they had "No stomach for further toils in India."

    In view of the reasons mentioned above, all the appeals made by Alexander proved to be ineffective and ultimately he had to order the retreat.

    Though quite reluctantly, Alexander divided his army into three parts and ordered the retreat. He made Puru the master of 15 republics consisting of 5,000 cities. He gave northwestern provinces Jhelum to Ambhi and Kashmir and Uarsha to Abhisara.

    Alexander's Difficulties in the way back
    During the retreat Alexander had too many difficulties, which can be briefly described as below

    The Siboi and Agalassians: At the confluence of Ravi and Chenab, Alexander had to face the Siboi and Agalassians who had gathered 40,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry. They fought bravely but were defeated by Alexander.

    The Malavas and Kshudrakas: The next encounter that Alexander had to face was against the warlike tribes of Malavas and Kshudrakas. The Malavas and the Kshudrakas were at daggers drawn but forgot their differences and combined to give a strong resistance to the Greek soldiers. Their combined army consisted of 90,000 infantry 10,000 cavalry and 900 war chariots. Greek soldiers were fed up with wars and began to reproach the king. Alexander appealed to his soldiers to permit him to return from India with known and not to escape from it like a fugitive. Greek soldiers responded to the appeal of Alexander and attacked the enemy and killed a large number of enemy troops and men and women mercilessly at Malloi. As pointed out by Dr. R. S. Tripathi, "The indiscriminate slaughter of women and children was undoubtedly an act of wanton cruelty which casts a slur on the war codes of the Greeks in India." After appointing Philippos as governor over them, Alexander reached the junction of Chenab and Sind and waited for Peridikkasas who had gone to conquer and subjugate the Abastaroi.

    Conquest of lower Sindh: The ruler of the Brahinans, Musecanons submitted to the Alexander. Alexander also conquered Patalre.

    Other difficulties: As regards other difficulties which Alexander had to encounter, Arrian writes, "The blazing heat and the want of water destroyed a great part of the army and specially the beasts of burden, which perished from the great depth of sand and the heat which scorched like fire while many of them died of thirst."

    Death of Alexander
    Alexander left India in 325 B.C. He divided his army into two parts. One part of the army, led by Niparkas went through water whereas the other part led by Alexander marched from Baluchistan. In 323 B.C Alexander fell ill at Babylonia and expired. As remarked by a scholar, "Into thirteen years he had compressed the energies of many life and times."

    After Alexander's death
    Just after the retreat of Alexander, the conquered states raised their heads in revolt. The Greek satrap, commandant Philippos was murdered. The king of Taxila extended his empire from Kabul valley to Hindukush. Eudamus remained the sole Greek representative in India. In 323 B.C. after the death of Alexander, there ensued a lot of contusion and his generals partitioned the empire among themselves. In 321 B.C. The empire was again partitioned. Eudamus was totally ignored and in 317 B.C. he returned to his home country where he died. Peithon also returned to his home country. Ultimately Chandra Gupta Maurya drove away all the Greeks from India.

    Causes of defeat of Indians
    There were many causes of defeat of Indians but the main causes can be mentioned as follows
  • Differences and dissension of Indians,
  • Lack of able leadership,
  • Lack of organization, and of course
  • The personality of Alexander.

    Besides this, Greek soldiers were more skillful in modern warfare. V. A. Smith remarks, "The triumphant progress of Alexander from the Himalayas to the sea demonstrated the weakness of the greatest Asiatic armies when confronted with European skill and discipline."

    (Last Updated on : 18/04/2014)
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