From the accounts of historian Plutarch it is gathered that when the Greek hero reached the Hindu Kush, he commanded an army of one lakh and twenty thousand soldiers.
With that big army he crossed the Hindu Kush and marched through Swat and Gandhara. The mountainous tribes of those territories offered brave resistance to the invading armies, and fought fiercely to check their advance.
But Alexander fought them down with utmost cruelty. He conquered the Swat valley, stormed some forts and subjugated the cities of Nysa and Pushkalavati. The latter named city was very near to modern Peshawar.
In 326 B.C. the Greek army approached the frontier city of Taxila (which was situated only within ten miles of modern Rawalpindi). It was unfortunate that the king of Taxila, Ambhi, to whom the Greeks called Omphis, did not resist the invaders, but instead opened the gates of his capital to the foreigners. It is known from the accounts of Curtius that Ambhi sent information to Alexander in advance, that he would not fight but offer his submission. As Alexander advanced towards the city, Ambhi kept his word and came out of his capital to receive the invader.
It is further known that this unusual and unkingly action of king Ambhi was due to his hostility towards the neighbouring kindgoms of Paurava and Abhisara in the east and the north. Ambhi wanted to see the foreigners on his own soil so that his enemies should suffer foreign invasion of their own territories. The action of Ambhi has remained a bad example for all time to come.
Alexander thus entered Taxila unopposed. Tactfully enough he showed much generosity towards the Taxilan king. It is said that both Alexander and Ambhi offered each other valuable gifts. For the Greek invader the courtesy towards his host was more of a diplomatic nature as he wanted his friendship before proceeding further. To the satisfaction of Alexander, he received presents from Abhisara while in Taxila. While all these things were going on, beyond the frontiers of Taxila, king Porus or Paurava was preparing for his resistance to the foreigners and to check their further advance inside the Indian landmass.
Alexander and Porus: The Battle of Hydaspes (Jhelum) 326 B.C:
King Porus was a man of gigantic and powerful body, and was gifted with heroic virtues. Brave and courageous, and having the strength of mind and conviction, he was angry at the conduct of the king of Taxila, and stood determined to defend his country against the invasion of the Greeks. As Alexander marched eastward from Taxila, on the other side of the river Vitasta or Jhelum, which the Greeks called Hydaspes, king Porus stood with his forces to face the invasion. His army contained 30,000 foot soldiers, 4,000 soldiers on horse, 300 chariots, and 200 elephants.
Porus kept his elephant force in front of the infantry, and placed the cavalry forces on either side with chariots in their front. For the first time, the Greeks were surprised to find in the Indian elephant force, standing in lines like huge walls, a terrifying war machine before which the Macedonian Phalanx paled into insignificance.
The river Jhelum separated the Greek and the Indian sides as the opposing forces stood on its opposite banks. It was the month of May when the melting of the Himalayan snows made the river swollen with flood. Alexander saw the army of Porus from his side of the bank, and could not take courage to attack it straight away or immediately. For several weeks he delayed the invasion during which he thought of various tactics to deceive the enemy. Night after night he caused false shows of attack and of the crossing of the river.
Arrian described the strategy of the Greeks in the following way:
“The cavalry was led along the bank in various directions, making a clamour and raising the battle cry – as if they were making all preparations for crossing the river. When this had occurred frequently…, Porus no longer continued to move about also; but, perceiving his fear had been groundless, he kept his position.”
Alexander planned to take the enemy by total surprise. To his luck, there came a night of severe storms on the Jhelum, with the roaring sounds of clouds and furies of rains. That stormy dark night, Alexander left his camp and proceeded with his army about 17 miles upward on the bank. There, taking advantage of a sharp bend of the river and the existence of an island in the water, he crossed to the other bank, unnoticed by the enemy. According to Arrian, “The noise of the thunder drowned with its din the clatter of the weapons.”
Having crossed the river in night Alexander advanced to fall upon the enemy from behind. Porus was taken by complete surprise. Added to that military tragedy, and to his misfortune, the Nature went against him in that fateful battle. The rains of the previous night had left the river bank muddy. Making the wheels of the chariots immobile, Porus first sent his son with a force to check the enemy march. But the prince fell dead with his soldiers while fighting hard.
When the Macedonian cavarly forces came in swiftly, the chariots of Porus could not run in speed on the mud to face them. The archers on the Indian side who used their long bows by pressing one end of the bow on the ground, found the soil too soft for their strong action. They could not thus shower their arrows on the enemy.
The infantry too could not fight on the watery ground. Worst of all, the huge elephants of Porus became useless in action, unable to run on the mud. When wounded by arrows from Greek mounted archers, those furious animals created havoc amidst their own soldiers instead of rushing at the enemies. Among the madly behaving elephants, and on muddy ground, the cavalry forces of Porus also could not fight in an effective manner.
Overtaken by Alexander’s tricks and betrayed by Nature, Porus found his cause hopeless, but decided to fight till the last. Riding a huge elephant, he went on fighting as his soldiers were losing the battle and scattering in all directions. He received several wounds, but did not think of escape. A severe wound on his body finally brought to an end the valiant struggle of Porus against his formidable foes. The Battle of Hydaspes was won by the Greeks.
Alexander was surprised at the valour of his great foe. When, after the battle, the vanquished Porus was brought before the victor, he was as heroic as he was in the battle. A proud Alexander asked him how he would like to be treated. Porus demanded bravely that “He should be treated as a King”.
A hero as Alexander was, he greatly admired the courage of a hero. As it is known from the Greek accounts Alexander “not only granted him the rule over his own Indians but also added another country of larger extent than the former to what he had before. Thus he treated the brave man in a kingly way”. The heroic role of Porus was a glorious episode of the Greek invasion of India. A small king though he was, he gave a good example of fighting the foreigners for the freedom of the land.