After his victory in the Battle of Hydaspes, Alexander marched eastwards for further conquests. He crossed the river Chenab and the river Ravi and invaded the small principality of the Kathaioi or Kathas.
Its capital, Sangala, was taken by strom. The people of that place fought so bitterly that as many as 17,000 people were killed there and 70,000 were taken prisoners.
Alexander’s extreme cruelty alarmed the king Saubhuti of the neighbouring territory who made his submission without a battle.
Alexander thereafter reached the river Beas. More powerful kingdoms were lying towards the east of it. Information reached that there lay “a nation of repute, braveand well equipped, more civilised than these through which he had passed like a flaming sword. His own courage rose high, but the spirit of the soldiers had begun to flag.”
The news about the powerful Nanda Empire in the east reached the Greeks to alarm them against further advance. They produced the plea of feeling home-sick and pleaded that “thus far and no farther.” Alexander could not have forced an unwilling army to march ahead. Nor was he unconcerned about the risks of advancing towards the Gangetic valley to face a large empire with larger armies and vaster resources.
Deciding upon his return, Alexander ordered the construction of twelve huge altars “equal in height to the loftiest military towers, while exceeding them in breadth; to serve both as a thanks offering to the gods who had led him so far as conqueror, and also to serve as monuments of his own labours.” Leaving the land between the Jhelum and the Beas in charge of king Porus, Alexander began his return journey towards the end of 326 B.C.
The Greeks retreated down the rivers Jhelum and Indus. On their way, they met with severe attacks from various Indian tribes. The tribes named as the Sibis and the Agresrenis gave their bitter battles against the foreigners. A more dangerous opposition was offered by the tribes named the Malavas and Kshudrakas. Alexander suffered disaster after disaster as he marched downward from the north. In his fight with the Malavas he was himself very badly wounded. In furious anger, he killed a large number of those people.
As the Greeks approached Sind, the king of the Mousikanos offered brave resistance. Finally, however, Alexander reached the end of the Indus delta at the mouth of that river. It was in September 325 B.C. that Alexander left with a part of his army by land route from a place near modern Karachi on his homeward journey. Another part of the army was sent in ships under the command of Nearchus.
The retreat of Alexander was tragic in many way. His soldiers suffered extreme hardship in the deserts of Baluchistan. Many fell dead, and many suffered sickness. Finally the conqueror reached Babylon. There in that ancient city he began to plan his new conquests. His ambition for world conquest became limitless. But amidst new hopes and newer dreams, suddenly he fell ill. It was 323 B.C. when Alexander was only 33 years old. In that fatal fever, Alexander breathed his last.
So ended the dramatic career of a young hero. History has honored Alexander as the Great. He was one of the greatest soldiers of all history, and the first among the world conquerors. He enjoyed power only for 13 years. Of- that brief period he spent long 11 years in his conquests and expedition. He conquered far. But he had no time to consolidate his conquests. He also left no heir to succeed to his throne. As a result, his vast empire lost its political unity the moment he died. His empire was divided among his generals who began to rule as independent kings.
As a soldier, conqueror, explorer, builder and as a visionary, Alexander was gifted enough to deserve the title ‘Great’. His unique role provided a milestone in history. Both the West and the East came under the influence of a new transition because of Alexander’s activities.
With all these achievements, however, Alexander had darker aspects of his career. He was a disturber of peace and a destroyer of culture. He was a despot and a cruel ruler; and did not show his talent as an administrator or an empire builder. But, yet, he enriched the world history by his remarkable life. World history would indeed be poorer without the life of Alexander the Great.