Alexander vs Porus – a Different View

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Surrender of Porus to Alexander, 1865 engraving by Alonzo Chappel

Many people will think it sacrilegious to even think the Alexander the Great was stopped by the Indian Hindu king Porus. It can never be imagined by them that a great conqueror who had won battles across Greece, Persia and Afghanistan could be worsted at the battle of Hydespes. But the fact is that Alexander never went forward and turned back after the battle.

The Battle

In 326 BC Alexander met Porus on the banks of the River Jhelum. Generally historians (mostly western) have put forward the thesis that Alexander defeated Porus and then as a mark of magnanimity gifted vast lands to Porus. But these historians do concede that the battle with Porus was the toughest that Alexander faced.

The Greeks relied mainly on cavalry and audacious leadership. This was a plus point against the Persians who did not have much military tradition. But while facing Porus they came against something that they had never faced – an elephant corps. The elephants were trained in battle and moved forward to the accompaniment of drums and conch shells. The result, to say the least, must have been unnerving.

Porus had an elephant force of 200 and he threw them into battle at the end of the day. Earlier it appears Porus was outflanked and his chariots got bogged down in the wet sand of the bank of the river Jhelum. The Greeks who had thought that they had carried the day in the first part of the battle were surprised to see the elephant corps looming out of the jungles; it was a new phenomena and there is every chance that the common soldier must have been in awe.

The Result

The result of the battle is certainly disputed. Modern historians led by Dr Buddha Prakash have opined that perhaps Alexander lost the battle. The Greek army was tired and unable to press home their advantage against the elephant corps and probably Alexander called off the battle and decided on a meeting with Porus.

As per Dr Prakash, Alexander and Porus became friends and Alexander decided to turn back. He also, as a mark of the great fighting qualities of king Porus, gifted cast land to him. Dr Prakash also bases his conclusion on the Persian epic Firdausi Shahnamah. In this epic the great poet clearly mentions that Alexander was defeated by Porus. Another piece of evidence is the fact that the writer Kautaliya makes no mention of the battle of Alexander. It is possible it had very little effect on the political equation at that time and Porus became more powerful.

However all Historians agree that Alexander going back left Porus as the strategic victor. He deserves our admiration as great Hindu warrior.

References

  1. Firdausi Shahnameh (10th Century Persian epic)
  2. History of Porus Dr Buddha Prakash, Publisher Punjabi University, Patiala (1967)
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