The Myth of Alexander’s Indian Victory

For more than 25 centuries the Western historians and later left historians of India have propagated and documented the distorted versions of Alexander’s Indian invasion. It was believed and taught in our classrooms that Alexander’s forces defeated the Indians. Greek and Roman accounts say that the Indians were bested by the superior courage and stature of the Macedonians. His ‘victory’ has been used as evidence of European superiority over Indians even in ancient times. Since most of the information was documented by their scholars, distortion was inevitable.

After many successful invasions in the western world, European army led by Alexander entered India in 326 BC. His invasions are considered a huge victory of the organized west against disorganized and chaotic east. The army of 41,000 soldiers consisted of Macedonian soldiers, Greek cavalry, Balkan fighters and Persian allies. Their most memorable clash was at the Battle of Hydaspes (Jhelum) against the army of Porus, the ruler of the Paurava Kingdom of Western Punjab. Although Alexander defeated only a few minor kingdoms in India’s northwest, in the view of many colonial writers the conquest of India was complete. In reality, much of the country was not even known to the Greeks. If the Greeks and Macedonians were victorious, why did they leave India so early?

By the time Greek and Macedonian forces reached the banks of Jhelum, they had lost several thousand soldiers fighting the smaller Indian kingdoms.  Greek cavalry was terrified of Indian war elephants. According to E A W Budge, Egyptologist, Orientalist and philologist who has given a detailed account of the battle of Hydaspes, Indians destroyed Alexander’s cavalry.

Once he realized that winning was not possible, Alexander requested Puru to stop fighting. Puru, showing his generosity and Indian traditions, spared him and signed a peace treaty. The claim that ‘After the victory, Alexander made an alliance with Porus and appointed him the satrap of his own country’ doesn’t look genuine. No noble and principled king would accept his kingdom back after being defeated.

Although the Greeks claim victory, the resistance put up by the army and common people had shaken the nerve of Alexander’s army. His army was close to mutiny and refused to move further east. Within a few years of Alexander’s retreat, the Indians drove the Greeks out of India. Inspired by the master strategist Chanakya, Chandragupta Maurya, defeated Seleucus Necator, Alexander’s satrap. Tired of fighting, the Greek forces didn’t even return from the same route they had come. They didn’t want to face the mountain kingdoms again – another indicator of their defeat.

The historically correct picture was first brought into light in 1957, when Marshal Gregory Zhukov, the legendary Russian commander, while addressing the cadets of the Indian Military Academy, said that actions of Alexander after the Battle of Hydaspes suggest that he had suffered an outright defeat. According to Zhukov, Alexander in his Indian campaign had fared far worse than Napoleon in Russia.

Dr N S Rajaram wrote-

“Indian history has been distorted to meet the ideological needs of the ruling powers,a situation that continues to the present day. The pattern though is startling: just as the myth of the Aryan invasion was created to make Vedas and Sanskrit foreign imports, the myth of Greek superiority beginning with Alexander’s victory in India was concocted to make Greek learning superior to Indian.”

Slowly, the claims were made that all Indian achievements from astronomy and mathematics to Sanskrit drama and epic poetry must have been borrowed from the Greeks. (Like: Ramayana was a copy of the Illiad) Western Indologists claim that all Indian science and mathematics were borrowed from the Greeks, after Alexander’s invasion. Some even claim that Indian writing was also borrowed from the Greeks.

Alexander, his troops and later his satrap Seleucus accessed only a very small part of India and left India within a short time. But to go by the accounts of colonial scholars, Alexander must have brought an army not of soldiers but of astronomers, scholars, scientists, and mathematicians who taught Indians everything in that short period. Another lie propagated by Western scholars has been busted. Next time when you hear “Jo Jeeta Wo Hi Sikandar” please stop and correct the person as it is not true.

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