Ancient Bharat
Alexander's Invasion

The disintegration of small principalities once again paved way for an invasion of India. This time, it was by a Great warrior with a mastermind behind it.

On the eve of the Persian invasion, Northwest India was divided into petty states.
Darius I was the first foreign king to invaded Indian provinces. Some of Indian provinces like Punjab and Gandhara are mentioned as parts of Achamenian Empire. The Indian provinces provided them mercenaries or supplies for wars against Greece. The Persian hold over India continued till 330 B.C. Alexander, the great Greek king, defeated the last Persian ruler Darius III.

Alexander's path to India-

Alexander embarked a far-reaching scheme of campaigns and conquests in the east. As mentioned above, his first conquest was that of Persia in 330 B.C. In 327 B.C. he completed his conquest of Eastern Iran. He took control of Hindukush, Bactria and Marcanda or Samarkand.

Alexander turned towards India in later part of 327 B.C. His army was estimated of around 30,000 men. Main scenes of his invasion were, the Kabul valley, the plains of Punjab and the lower course of Indus. From Nicaea, near India, he sent invitations to Indian kings. Some kings like Ambhi of Taxila and Sasigupta were in Alexander's favour.

Alexander had no difficulty in handling such a big unguarded country. The small states were easy to win. Even those states, which were not willing to buy peace, had no time to retaliate. The speedy Greek forces eliminated any chances of the reunion of the Indian states.

First, Alexander made two main divisions of his army. The first was sent to build a bridge on the river Indus and the other was sent to the hilly regions to fight. Alexander himself had to deal with strong opponents on the hills. The first Indian king to lose was the king of Astakenoi. The strength of the Greek enemy beat him down. The next stage in Alexander's campaign was the fort of Aornos or Varana. Alexander posted a garrison here.

The Greek army crossed the Indus thereafter. Beyond Taxila, between the rivers Jhelum and Chenab was the kingdom of Porus. Porus was opposed to Ambhi, the king of Taxila. Ambhi not only welcomed Alexander, but also provided him help. Both the two armies were standing on either sides of the river Jhelum. Excellent tactics, military superiority and the advantages of rains were the plus points to help Alexander. Alexander won the battle of Jhelum. He however gave back the throne to Porus, whom he respected a lot.

The Retreat

Alexander further marched to the interiors of the country. Right from the beginning he had to face a lot of difficulty with small tribal units. The great kingdom of Magadha
was his next target.

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Magadha was very famous for its prosperity in those times. The soldiers had already suffered greatly. Their patience and strength was exhausted by the climatic conditions in particular. So Alexander had to order the retreat to Persia, ending the campaign in India.

On his way back some assembled republican people like Malavas and some Brahmanas opposed him. All Malava cities became the centers of resistance. The chief of the Mushikas also seems to have given tough resistance. Alexander's last halt was at Patala. In September 325 B.C. Alexander proceeded through Baluchistan to Babylon where he died after two years.

Death of Alexander-

Alexander died a sudden death at the age of 33, in the year 323 B.C.
A conqueror of such a caliber lacked the quality of a good administrator. Most of the conquests of Alexander were not consolidated. He had appointed Satrapis or officers but they all became independent after his departure. Even in India, he gave back the conquered territories to the old principalities. Alexander did not have a worthy successor. So after his death, the territories which he had conquered, one after another, became independent. His own kingdom was also affected and suffered because of his absence.

Effects of Alexander's Invasion

Though the invasion failed to mark the political life of India, it had definitely influenced the social and cultural life. The effects of the invasion are either over-emphasized or under-emphasized. The Greek settlements could not have a permanent effect on the Indians, at the same time, their influence cannot be denied. The effects were as follows:

1)The routes used by Alexander became trade routes between India and the West. He also opened a sea route to the West. Still, we cannot say that 'because of the Greek invasion the Indian trade flourished'. There are evidences to prove that India already had good commercial connections with the rest of the world.

2) Alexander brought with him a number of historians and scientists. These people recorded many details about the Indian society. The foreign resources are useful in reconstructing the basic chronology of events. Again, we cannot completely rely on these sources. These accounts are most of the times exaggerated.

3) A very important effect is observed in the field of art. The Gandhara School of art is very much influenced by the Greek art. Similarly, we also see Indian influence on the Greek art as well. So there was a cultural exchange between the two countries.

4) There is one more point that Alexander tried to get the scattered principalities under one control. This situation must have helped Chandragupta Maurya in the later years.We can say that though the consequences were not of a far-reaching nature there was a large amount of give and take at both the ends.


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