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Battle of the Hydaspes

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The Battle of the Hydaspes River was fought by Alexander the Great in 326 BC against the Hindu king Porus (Pururava in Sanskrit) on the banks of Hydaspes River (the Jhelum) in the Punjab region near Bhera now in Pakistan. The kingdom of Paurava of King Porus was situated in the part of Punjab which is now part of modern day Pakistan (Pakistani Punjab). The Hydaspes was the last major and most costly battle fought by Alexander.[15] King Porus and his men put up a fierce resistance against the invading Macedonian army which won the admiration and respect of Alexander.[16]

battleAlthough victorious, Alexander's exhausted army mutinied soon after, when he made plans to cross river Hyphasis, and refused to go further into India. After some short, yet victorious campaigns against Indian clans residing along the Indus, securing his rule and founding cities that would serve as outposts and trade centers, Alexander would return to Babylon.

Later, Alexander founded a city on the site of the battle, which he called Nicaea; as long as this city has not been discovered, any attempt to find the ancient battle site is doomed, because the landscape has changed considerably. For the moment, the most plausible location is just south of the city of Jhelum, where the ancient main road crossed the river, and where a Buddhist source indeed mentions a city that may be Nicaea. The identification of the battle site near modern Jalalpur/Haranpur is certainly erroneous, as the river, in the ancient times, meandered far from these cities.[17]



Alexander had to subdue King Porus in order to keep marching east. To leave such a strong opponent at his flanks would endanger any further exploit. He could also not afford to show any sign of weakness if he wanted to keep the loyalty of the already subdued Indian princes. Porus had to defend his kingdom and chose the perfect spot to check Alexander's advance. Although he lost the battle, he became the most successful recorded opponent of Alexander.

[edit] Pre Battle Maneuvers

Alexander's crossing of the Hydaspes River.

Porus drew up on the south bank of the Jhelum River, and was set to repel any crossings. The Jhelum River was deep and fast enough that any opposed crossing would probably doom the entire attacking force. Alexander knew that a direct crossing had little chances of success and thus tried to find alternative fords. He moved his mounted troops up and down the river bank each night, Porus shadowing him. Eventually, Alexander used a suitable crossing, about 27 km (17 miles) upstream of his camp. His plan was a classic pincer maneuver. He left his general Craterus behind with most of the army, while he crossed the river upstream with a strong contingent, consisting, according to Arrian of 6,000 foot and 5,000 horse, though it is probable that it was larger. Craterus was to ford the river and attack if Porus faced Alexander with all his troops, but to hold his position if Porus faced Alexander with only a part of his army.

Alexander quietly moved his part of the army upstream and then traversed the river in utmost secrecy. He mistakenly landed on an island, but soon crossed to the other side. Porus perceived his opponent's maneuver and sent a small cavalry and chariot force under his son to fight off Alexander, hoping that he would be able to prevent his crossing. Alexander had already passed, and easily routed his opponent, the chariots in particular being impeded by the mud near the shore of the river, with Porus' son among the dead. Porus understood that Alexander had crossed to his side of the river and hasted to face him with the best part of his army, leaving behind a small detachment to disrupt the landing of Craterus' force, should he try to cross the river.

[edit] Battle

When Porus reached the point where Alexander's army was arrayed, he deployed his forces and commenced the attack. The Indians were poised with cavalry on both flanks, their center being comprised by infantry with elephants towering among or before them in equal intervals. The elephants caused much harm to the Macedonian phalanx, but were eventually repulsed by the dense pikes of the phallangitai, wreaking much havoc upon their own lines.

Combined attack of cavalry and infantry.

Alexander started the battle by sending horse archers to shower the Indian left cavalry wing. Then, he led the charge against the weakened Indian wing. The rest of the Indian cavalry galloped to their hard pressed kinsmen but at this moment, Coenus's cavalry contingent appeared on the Indian rear. The Indians tried to form a double phalanx, but the necessary complicated maneuvers brought even more confusion into their ranks making it easier for the Macedonian horse to conquer. The remaining Indian cavalry fled among the elephants for protection, but the beasts were already out of control and would soon retreat exhausted from the field, leaving the rest of Porus's army encircled by the Macedonian horse and phalanx. At this time, the phallangitai locked their shields and advanced upon the confused enemy. Porus, after putting up a brave fight, surrendered and the battle was finally over. According to Justin,[19] during the battle, Porus challenged Alexander, who charged him on horseback. Alexander fell off his horse in the ensuing duel, his bodyguards carrying him off and capturing Porus.

According to Arrian, Macedonian losses amounted to 310.[11] However the military historian J.F.C. Fuller sees as "more realistic" the figure given by Diodorus of about 1,000,[12][20] a large number for a victor, yet not improbable, considering the partial success of the Indian war elephants. Indian losses amounted to 23,000 according to Arrian, 12,000 dead and over 9,000 men captured according to Diodorus.[14] The last two numbers are remarkably close, if it is assumed that Arrian added any prisoners to the total Indian casualties. Historian Peter Green supports that Macedonian casualties might have mounted to 4.000 men, mainly phallangites,[21] but his claims are not supported by the sources.

[edit] Aftermath

A painting by Charles Le Brun depicting Alexander and Porus during the Battle of the Hydaspes.

The bravery, war skills and princely attitude of Porus much impressed Alexander, who allowed him to rule Hydaspes in Alexander's name. Wounded in his shoulder, standing at over 1.8 m (6 feet) tall, he was asked by Alexander how he wished to be treated. "Treat me, O Alexander, like a king" Porus responded.[22] Alexander would indeed treat him like a king, allowing him to retain his kingship. The Macedonian regent founded two cities, one at the spot of the battle called Nicaea (Greek for Victory) in commemoration of his success and one on the other side of the Hydaspes called Alexandria Bucephalus, to honor his faithful steed, which died soon after this battle. In 326 BC, the army of Alexander the Great approached the boundaries of the Magadha. His army, exhausted from the continuous campaigning and frightened at the prospect of facing yet another gigantic Indian army, demanded that they should return to the west. This happened at the Hyphasis (modern Beas), the exact spot being believed to be at 'Kathgarh' in Indora tehsil of Himachal Pardesh with nearest rail head at Pathankot, Punjab). Alexander finally gave in and turned south, along the Indus, securing the banks of the river as the borders of his empire.



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