Alexander battled Puru: Poros the victorious

Who was victorious, Alexander or Puru (popular as Poros of Greeks)

In pre-independence India, our history started with invasion of Alexander, the Macedonian. He was son of Philip, king of Macedonia, who ascended the throne in 359 B.C. Alexander was born three years later in 356 B.C. At the age of 6 he was put under the tutelage of Leonidas, a harsh, stern disciplinarian who taught him military science, trained him to endure hardships, privations and to abhor luxury. By nature he was restless, energetic, fearless, headstrong and self-willed. At about 12, he was put in the charge of renowned Greek Philosopher Aristotle who taught him for about 4 years before leaving for Athens. Henceforth, Alexander became too much absorbed in military and political interests to devote attention to study.

In 336 B.C., Philip was murdered by a disgruntled member of his bodyguard and Alexander ascended the throne at the age of 20. At that time, Persia was a mighty empire holding sway up to Egypt and had been trying to bring Greek islands under its hegemony. King Philip, bent upon thwarting the Persian attempt to expand his own kingdom, had raised a highly strong well-trained disciplined army, perhaps the most formidable in that region. But while he was preparing to launch offensive against Persia, he was murdered and the onus to fulfill his dream fell upon Alexander.

Alexander then shortly after set out on his conquering spree and brought under control a large swath of land from Greece to a small part of northwest India. Then, as is alleged, he turned back because his soldiers revolted and refused to march further. His last major confrontation was with Puru, king of a small area of Punjab between Chenab and Jhelum Rivers comprising the districts of Jhelum, Gujrat and Shahpur in Pakistan.

A Greek historian, Arrian, in order to give Alexander credit of victory over Puru, concocted the prevalent fictitious story. According to him, Puru was defeated and captured. He was brought before Alexander as prisoner. The victor asked him as to how should he be treated?  Puru boldly replied, “As a king treats another king.” Alexander was so pleased with the reply of his adversary that he not only allowed him to retain his kingdom but also added his other Indian conquests to that. It is a very strange story, perhaps the only one of generosity of a victor to the vanquished. However, it does not stand to reason.

All the five main sources about the life of Alexander, Arrian, Curtius, Diodoros, Plutarch and Justinus, give different versions of the conflict and its outcome as none of them was contemporary of Alexander. The only contemporary writer to accompany him on his eastern expedition was Kallisthenes, his friend and nephew of his preceptor Aristotle. He was a man of free ideas and defiant nature.  When on an occasion he criticized Alexander on his adoption of oriental (Persian) manners the latter got irritated and ordered him to be imprisoned. He was later tortured and put to death. It happened after the battle between Alexander and Puru. His account must have been marked by plain-speaking which his countrymen did not relish. His record had been lost. But part of his narration is available in some Oriental and African traditions and is termed pseudo-Kallisthenes.

It is narrated that the grand army of Alexander set forth down the Indus River, 1,20,000 strong. In leaving for his campaign against Puru, Alexander also took with him native troops, some 30,000 Bactrians, Sogdians, Scythians, and Daan bowmen all mounted on famous Arab and Turk horses.

Alexander, along with the army of his friend and ally Ambhi, King of Taxila, marched to Jhelum. Thus total strength of his army must have been about 1,70,000 plus 86 elephants 56 of which were provided by Ambhi and 30 by another king. In comparison, Puru had only 35,000 soldiers and 300 war Elephants. During the battle, seven feet six inches tall Puru, a man of robust built and of outstanding personality and strength, gave very hard time to five feet six inches tall Alexander. Indian soldiers and elephants made havoc in Greek army in the small area of Karri plain. They inflicted so much loss that Macedonians began to despair. The Ethiopic texts, as translated by Budge, give following account of the close of battle:

“Many of Alexander’s horses were slain, and by reason of this, there was such great sorrow among them that they wept and howled like dogs, and they wished to throw down the arms, which were in their hands, and to forsake Alexander and go over to the enemy. When Alexander saw this, he drew nigh into their midst, bring himself in great tribulation, and he wished to stop the fight.”

Joseph Ben Gorion in his History of the Jews says:

“Now the war between the Macedonians and the Indians was prolonged until a great number of Alexander’s soldiers were destroyed and those (that remained) took counsel together to lay hold of Alexander and to deliver him to the King of India.”

Marshal Gregory Zhukov, the legendary Russian commander, said that the Macedonians had suffered catastrophic defeat in India.

Of course the five historians, who wrote account of the conflict between two adversaries, agree on the point that Macedonian army refused to march forward. Their accounts throw light on heavy losses suffered by Alexander’s army that compelled him to make peace with Puru. The invader made overtures for peace talks but Puru would not agree. Finally, a messenger, named Meroes (Greek name) an old friend of Puru, brought his friendship to bear on him and made him agree to meet Alexander. They concluded a treaty of peace by which Puru became master of much larger area as Alexander ceded to him all the territory conquered by him in India. They also agreed to make a joint endeavour for reducing some independent tribes of Punjab for Puru. But between Chenab and Beas Rivers, Alexander met such a tough resistance that the conqueror of Greece, Egypt and Persia had to abandon further advance and return back home. However, the wounds he had suffered during the Indian campaign cut short his life and he died soon after on his way home at Babylon.


Moreover, history contains no instance of a victor opening parleys of peace with the vanquished acknowledging his sovereignty and ceding his conquered territory to him in the stirring moment of triumph.  The circumstances lead to the conclusion that Alexander was humbled and had to cede all conquered Indian land to Puru.


Balraj Saggar:

By Naresh Sagar

Mentor MSME, Motivator, Media Event Org, Management fiscal & Water management.Social Media branding,Internet broadcasters,Propunder of Indian Philosophy

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