HYDASPES – Battle of Confusion Or Conclusion ( 326 BC )

The clouds were heavy , thunders were dazzling the sky and the river was at spate like never before . Altogether quite not a symbol for peace but for an upcoming war , which will be idealised for generations .

A pair of eyes gleaming in the darkness were hiding behind the dead bodies . As an archer the heavy rain proved fatal . Soil was now mud , obstructing him to control the bow beneath his toenail due to the slippery base . In spite of knowing how every soldier is pinned to death , still fear was far behind to hold . Now the archer surrendered to the will of wind .

Only one thought was oscillating in his mind , β€œ Maybe this is my last war , and maybe the best fought by me .”

Search for another weapon started simultaneously keeping his glance straight on the enemies . As he grabbed a sword nearby , in the other second a sword swung in his direction . By dodging and planting a swift attack on the enemy’s foot , another spear launched on his bare back .

The spear went in ripping off his flesh . The archer died .

As surrendering was not an option , death is what they choose with open arms .

A war was lost and a war was won .

A king dethroned the other and marked his territory .

This war was between the Macedonian king Alexander III and Indian King Purushottam or Porus as called by Greeks of Paurava Dynasty . May 326 BC , was the time when Alexander marched to the right banks of the river , currently in Punjab province of Pakistan . One of the most costliest battle fought by Greeks .

At that time Jhelum was at spate , a challenge big enough to drown the high dreams of Alexander’s world victory .

But it was good for Porus whose ulterior motive was to save the land from foreign invasions .

336 BC , Alexander succeeded his father Philip II who was assassinated by the envies . Alexander’s empire stretched from Ionian Sea to the Himalayas . As a son , Alexander always aspired to be more of what his father was . Hence he was one of the great military leader of history sharing the honor with Constantine the great , Akbar , Napoleon , Genghis Khan , Julius Caesar , Timur etc . Great strategic and tactical planning , manoeuvrability and new ideas are the elements Alexander was made of .

After he won the Persian Achaemenid Empire , under the trail of enthusiasm and aspiration of expansion of empire all over the planet , he turned towards Asia , specifically India . The prosperity of India fascinated many foreign invaders and explorers from Europe and other continents as well .

King Porus or Purushottam ( means the best amongst men ) belonged to the Paurava Dynasty . The empire was in between the two rivers Chenab and Jhelum making the land prosperous and hence this prosperity invited vulture eyes . The beholder of exceptional war skills , he was a brave fighter . The leadership qualities flowed in his veins . It is also said that when Alexander’s army saw Porus on a wild elephant , height more than seven feet and broad chest , all were shuttershocked .

Kingmenship is what he radiated and this will be symbolically proved further in this blog .

Background –

After crossing Khyber Pass and winning over the Aornos , Alexander continued his march to the east . And ignoring strong opponent like Porus , in future should have proved of high risk .

As the army of Alexander was reaching towards river Jhelum , smelling the intended attack of Alexander , Porus marched his army to the south bank of the river .

Without crossing the river , war must not be possible and so because of this Alexander was all eyes and ears to get to the other end .
Where his target Porus was quite pleased with the river’s raging flow . Alexander went pillar to post to search for that one crossing that will lead him into the entrance to the golden bird . Finally the clock ticked no time , but a WAR .17 miles away , a strong footbridge was found near Jalalpur . As strong the bridge was to let go infantry and cavalry of Alexander to pass . Filled hay and rafts were made to make a noise less crossing . All plans were made smartly to fool Porus .
A man of same physicality like Alexander was planted so as Porus will think , no action is going on the opposition’s side . As Alexander planned , Porus didn’t expected mid-night attack .

Why he didn’t expected a mid-night attack ?

Because at that time Indians followed the rule that a war starts with the sunrise and ends with the sunset i.e., a full day not night . So a war will not take place at night . This was a rule prominent from Great Indian Mythologies like Mahabharata and Ramayana .

THe War Statistics :

Porus’s Army.

Commanders : Porus and his son Raja

● 31,000 infantry ( foot soldiers ),.
● 4,000 cavalry ( horseback soldiers ),
● 200 chariots , and
● 300 elephants .

Alexander’s Army

Commanders : Craterus , Coenus , Ptolemy , Hephaestion , Perdiccas , Seleucus , Demonicus Peucestas , Lysimachus and Taxiles .

● 13,000 infantry , and
● 3,000 cavalry .

Before the war strategy .

Before the direct attack , Alexander strategized to first divert Porus army which was greater in number .

When Porus got the news that a small Alexander’s contingent is looting the Jalalpur village he first sent a small contingent (3,000 men and 1000 charioteers ) under his son Raja , then realized it was a PINCER maneuver .

The Pincer maneuver or double envelopment is a an attack strategy in which the army attacks both flanks of the opposition’s army at the same time , enveloping like a scorpion’s Pincer . If successful this strategy is a game changer .
Out of 4,000 soldiers only 200 returned back .
The trick played well and it was neither a small contingent nor a small penetration to the south . Raja was defeated and killed .

Raja also injured the Bucephalus , favorite and the strongest horse of Alexander . Porus moved his army 10 miles backward for some space to maneuver .

Army structure :

PORUS headed the central command just in front of the main infantry line .

And right command consisted of war elephants .

He arranged his army in traditional Indian battle style .

Alexander arranged his cavalry to the right and infantry phalanxes to the left of cavalry .1000 cavalry soldiers were kept as secret surprise force or reserved force to the right of his flank .

* Phalanx ( ΰ€΅ΰ₯ΰ€―ΰ₯‚ΰ€Ή ΰ€°ΰ€šΰ€¨ΰ€Ύ ) – The phalanx was a rectangular mass military formation , usually composed entirely of heavy infantry armed with spears , pikes , sarissas etc .

Battle Ground Or Eve of the Battle

It would be easier to understand one attack over other step by step …
1) Alexander attacked the left flank with his mounted archers .
Vs .
Left wing chariots and cavalry of Porus army .
Result – Speed of horsemen with blankets ( saddle was not invented ) provided them with improved accuracy and speed .
2) Porus : Corner most right of Alexander’s army attacked by War elephants .
Vs .
Solid wall in a lock-shield formation , phalanx planned by Alexander .

Result – Greeks were scared but targeted the mahouts and injured them with long pikes , due to which elephants trampled on their own men .

3) Porus attacked with right wing chariots and infantry .
Hidden reserve force of Alexander .
Result – Alexander’s general Parmenio attacked with left infantry phalanx .
Mass killing took place with heavy bloodshed .

Alexander’s army never initiated straight to the battlefield . Instead they progressed with diagonal phalanx .

* Diagonal or Oblique Tactic –

The oblique order is a military tactic whereby an attracting army focuses it’s forces to attack a single army flank , thereby focusing all strength on one flank and remainder will fix the enemy line . This provides local superiority in numbers and a tactic favored by king Frederick II of Prussia .

Reasons of high casualties on Porus side

1 . Rain resulted as big challenge because chariots of Porus army stuck in the mud and even archers faced high resistance from it to target .

2 . Sarissa , a weapon developed by Alexander’s father Philip was a 20 feet long spear was used by Macedonian soldiers . Prominent for its handling , range and precision . This proved hard and dangerous for Indian Soldiers .
4. Indians soldiers never expected a mid night attack . As rules of war were like war starts from sunrise and ends with the sunset .

5 . Use of diagonal or Oblique phalanx by Greek soldiers .

Causes of high casualties on Alexander’s side –

1 . The giant elephants created quite a panic among Macedonian soldiers .

2 . Crossing the Khyber Pass , winning over the Fortress of Aornos by facing high resistance from Hindu clans of Hindu Kush and then crossing the river Jhelum was quite a lot for the soldiers which made them weary and tired .

3 . Porus obviously out-numbered the number of men Alexander had .

Story – 1

Both the kings were injured and in some texts it is quoted that Alexander asked Porus to stop the war by adhering to the high number of casualties . He sent some of his generals and after continuous insistence by Alexander he agreed . Even the army men of Alexander surrendered after seeing the their soldiers died in large numbers . A pact was signed that Alexander will not attack in future .

Story – 2

Another story suggests that Porus challenged Alexander for one to one fight where Porus charged upon Alexander . Alexander fell and got injured and was took away by his soldiers .
Then Porus was made a prisoner , Alexander asked him how he wants to be treated . And with full pride and dignity Porus answered ,” Treat me , O Alexander , like a king .”
Alexander made Porus the satrap and increased the charge from Hydaspes to Hyphasis river ( Beas river ) .
While Alexander founded the new city Nicea which was the battle ground . On the battle Alexander’s brave horse Alexandra Bucephalus got injured and just after the battle died .
Bucephalus was evident of almost every war Alexander fought in Greece and Asia .
Alexander tried to approach Nanda Empire at Hyphasis but his troops rebelled to go any further .
While on the way to Macedonia Alexander died of food poisoning . City of Alexandria was made and is the place where Alexander died .

Story 3

Alexander was defeated and had to sign a treaty to save the life of his soldiers and his dream to conquer world was shattered and felt miserable.
Why this variation of stories ??
Because the records of this war are written by Greek historians like Diodorus and Arrian .
So there is equal chance of manipulation or some facts changing .
Most of the accounts about this battle is by Justin , Arrian , Curtius and Diodorus . There is no sign of Indian records so we know only one side of the history and other side is assumed but none to confirm . There are some unanswered questions and as we all know history is written by the victor though maybe not true . Historians like Mr. E.A.W Badge in his book ” Life and Exploits of Alexander ” , books like Buddha Prakash (1976) and contradictions and confusion between the accounts of work of Diodorus , Curtius , Arrian and Plutarch forms the base to not form ideas and draw conclusions from the Greek accounts only .
So as this battle ends to no conclusion and hence confusion , in the future blog I will present a detailed study over some of the unanswered questions .

But one conclusion and quite confirmative was drawn by Peter Green that Porus’s resistance was at par from the ones Alexander faced from both Memnon of Rhodes and Spitamenes .
What do you think who actually won the war ?

Is history actually such a mystery ?

Curious to know what you all think about it , the war , blog and any suggestions …

  1. Bibliography

Decisive Indian Battles and Wars by Savita Singh , battle of hydaspes , who won the battle , BRAVEHEART PORUS and wikipedia .

Images by google search .

Β©Sakshi Mishra 2018


23 thoughts on “HYDASPES – Battle of Confusion Or Conclusion ( 326 BC )

  1. You are an amazing writer and u really delivered an amazing blog.
    Loved it!. U just made history fun and exciting, and for a guy, who dislikes Indian history, I found this really interesting. πŸ˜‰πŸ˜Š

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This got me thinking that there are people who still vouch history .
    I loved it in school and so i do even now .
    Great work .

    Please , do go through my work as well , although it doesn’t have anything historical .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a fascinating account of Alexander. I visited Skopje, Macedonia (nation’s capital) and was amazed by their gigantic and ornate statue of Alexander the Great posted on his bucking horse.


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