Who was the First to Invade India?


A land of abundance, India has witnessed numerous invasions by various emerging powers from time to time in its long cherished history. Among them the first large scale invasion of India is attributed to Alexander the Great.

India has been known as a Golden Bird since ancient times, due to its immense wealth, gold, diamonds, spices, ample natural resources, fertile land and conducive weather conditions. Consequently it has always remained on the radar of emerging powers across the world. However, the largest ever invasion of a foreign army into it was done by Alexander the Great in 327 BC.

“Alexander the Great” was the king of the Macedon, the ancient kingdom of Greek based in Macedonia. Born in 356 B.C. in Pella, Alexander acquired the title, “the Great” as he was one such powerful and ambitious military commander who remained undefeated in all the battles he fought all throughout his short span of life.

He inherited the strong kingdom of Macedon from his father King Philip at the very young age of twenty only and in no time he conquered all the neighbouring kingdoms including Syria, Egypt and Persia. After conquering the entire region of Central Asia known as Bactria, he crossed over Hindukush Mountains and reached Massaga, and conquered it and founded the city of Alaxendria. After leaving there a Greek garrison, immediately he marched towards India with his strong army in 326 B.C.

In due course, after crossing the Indus River, Alexander reached the prosperous city Taxila which was ruled by King Ambhi. King Ambhi surrendered to Alexander and honoured him with lots of endowments and in return he was supported by the Alexander’s army and in this way he betrayed all the neighbouring rulers— Chenub, Abhisara and Porus.

Later Alexander had to face King Porus of Paurava kingdom situated along Jhelum River in current Punjab. In the beginning it looked impossible to cross the river Jhelum with all the horses that he had in his cavalry to face the army of Porus standing on the other side. But for a tactical army commander like Alexander nothing was impossible. Very soon Alexander prepared a strategic plan and crossed the river that too in a storm-stricken night. King Porus was utterly surprised to find Alexander’s army in his region, but he did not surrender and rather gave Alexander a tough fight.

Alexander was impressed with the majestic personality of King Porus and more so the courage demonstrated by him. As a result, despite his win, Alexander gave back the Kingdom to Porus.  Not only this, but Alexander also added some small neighbouring regions he later won in the Kingdom of Porus.

From there onwards, Alexander moved towards the adjacent tribal regions and won ‘Glancise’ and ‘Kathos’ kingdoms and added them as well into the Kingdom of Porus. Later, he advanced further and reached to the boundary line of Magadha Empire till the bank of the river Bias, but after looking at an extremely powerful army of Magadha waiting for him, he could not muster courage to move further.  Moreover, by this time his soldiers had also become too tired due to fighting in back to back wars. They were now strongly inclined to return back to their homeland.  Consequently, Alexander had to return back from there, however unfortunately on reaching Babylon in 323BC, he died.

Alaxender’s invasion, a landmark event

Alexander’s invasion turned out as a landmark event in the history of India, as it had brought the boundary lines of India and the Persian kingdom of Alexander almost next to each other. Almost all the smaller kingdoms in India after Alexander’s invasion had to be united under one banner, however soon they once again became independent kingdoms. In 327BC, the Kingdom of Porus encompassed the entire region between Chenub and Jhelum rivers.

However, the Indian society also remained largely unaffected by the Greek influence on its culture, or the skills of its military preparations, but the political relation of the country with its neighbours was definitely influenced by the outcomes of this invasion. After the Alexander went back to his country, a need of unification among all the kingdoms across the country was being felt. Consequently, the northern kingdoms of India started showcasing their willingness of being united under the emerging most powerful kingdom of Chandragupta Maurya who was on his winning journey. Very soon Chandragupta Maurya captured most of the states in India and merged them into Maurya Kingdom.

Another important change brought in by Alexander’s invasion was that exchange of cultures started between the India and Greeks. Alexander had set in operation several marine and land routes between Europe and India in a way that Indian and European civilisation got enough opportunities to come close to each other. In addition, the entire Indian subcontinent started witnessing a cultural change.

Apart from being a military commander, Alexander was also a strong administrator. Before marching towards Indian subcontinent, he had already planned everything regarding a permanent settlement of Greeks in this part of the world. He had envisioned earlier and then founded a large number of cities at strategic locations in Indus Valley, just with an intention to keep all the areas he conquered under his direct control. He had also introduced his own administrative system with simultaneously carrying out effective planning to achieve his goals.

Even though India, did not come under the full control of Alexander’s Hellenic civilization, it witnessed, the establishment of a large number of Greek colonies surrounding the north-western side of its boundary. Among them, many Greek colonies remained established until Maurya Dynasty overpowered them. Already we have enough written evidences about the settlement of several Greeks, or Yavans and Greek cities in north-west part of the boundaries of the vast Maurya Empire.

Amid all these, we need to remember that in India, Alexander remained engaged in fighting with smaller kingdoms only. At the time of Alexander’s invasion, the real decisive power was lying in the hands of Nanda Empire, but Alexander could not proceed to fight with them. Later, Chandragupta Maurya, who established Maurya Umpire after winning the Nanda Empire, drove out all the Greeks from the entire Indian subcontinent. He defeated Seleucos Nikotar, the most powerful Greek ruler in his time and became a mighty power in the entire Asia soon.

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