Poros – Defender of Indian Border

Alexander the great planned to invade India and met powerful indian king at Battle of Hydaspas.

Paurav was the noblest of the Indian kings of his time. 

He ruled over the land enclosed by the Jhelum river on the west and the Chenab on the east.

His greatest enemy was Ambhi, the king of Taxila, and his ally was Abhisar, the king of Rajaur and Jammu.

After overcoming ,the last two, Alexander called upon Poros to pay tribute. Poros waited for Macedonian conqueror at his own frontier.

By this envoy Poros sent back the reply that he would comply only with the second of these demands.

If Alexander entered his realm he would meet him in battlefield.

Alexander, determined to crush his spirit of independence and marched towards west bank of the Jhelum.

Battle of Hydaspas – River Crossing

He encamped at a place opposite Poros’s camp on the other bank, about the middle of May, 326 BC.

The Jhelum at this point was a very swift stream, fully half a mile in breadth.

The approaching monsoon rain would soon make it impassable.

On the eastern bank stood Poros’s 85 huge war elephants near the water’s edge.  

He massed his infantry and cavalry ready to oppose the landing of the Macedonians.

As Alexander said, the uncouth shape of the elephant and the movement of the trunk would have frightened his horses into jumping from their boats into the water.

So, a crossing in the face of such a foe was not practicable.

Alexander Plan to cross the river

Alexander pondered, surveyed the west bank up and down.

He played a master stroke of strategy to steal a passage 17 miles upstream, unopposed by the enemy.

For this purpose he halted there for five weeks and deluded the enemy by daily making false demonstrations of crossing the river. 

At last he succeeded in making Poros think that Macedonians did not mean business and  retire baffled.

Thus the Indian army was thrown off its guard and slackened its vigilance.

Meantime, Alexander had chosen the place for his secret crossing at a spot 17 miles upstream from his camp.

Alexander Crosses the River

One dark night Alexander started from his camp in secret with nearly three-fourths of his troops.

He followed a sunken road to some distance parallel to the river bank  tovplace without the enemy.

The most of the people in his own camp knowing of his-march. 

Alexander cheered his troops and made them cross river.

He himself led in the first boat, and transporting the horses on the inflated skin rafts.

Forming his troops in order on the dry land, Alexander advanced with his cavalry towards Poros’s camp.

Attack of Poros Advance Guard

Soon he sighted an Indian force under son of porus coming up to give him a fight. 

Alexander attacked him with his cavalry  squadrons while his horse-archers turned the enemy’s flanks.

The Macedonian killed prince with 400 of his men, the rest fled to carry the fatal news to Poros. 

Battle of Hydaspas - Alexander Attack
Battle of Hydaspas – Alexander Attack

Poros was at first distracted, by two prong attack.

But at last he decided to leave a few elephants and a small force in his camp to oppose the landing of Krateras.

He marched with the remaining troops to meet Alexander on the way to start Battle of Hydaspas.

When Alexander leading his vanguard of cavalry sighted the army of Poros, he halted for some time beyond bowshot of the enemy.

Battle of Hydaspas – Poros Order of the Battle

There stood Poros’s troops drawn up in battle order on a dry sandy patch of the Kari plain. 

In the front of the Indian line were stationed 85 elephants with fighters on their howdas the spaces between filled by the best-equipped infantry. 

Behind this front line poros massed his other infantry, with two large bodies of infantry projected on the right and left wings, in line with their brethren in the center but with their front unprotected by any elephants. 

These two wings were further extended right and left by the Indian cavalry, probably 3,000 strong in two equal divisions, which formed the extreme wings of the Indian army.

Poros had two hundred war-chariots still with him; these were posted two equal divisions of a hundred each on his right and left, beyond the elephants, and in front of the infantry of the wings. 

The total strength of the Indian army was about 33,000 and of the Macedonian a little over 15,000.

Alexander Order of the Battle

On his extreme right he concentrated all his cavalry, over five thousand strong.

Next to them on the left the thousand horse-archers serving as very flexible and useful light cavalry.

Alexander’s centre formed mainly of infantry, first a corps of light infantry, next the Hypaists and then five battalions of the Phalanx.

Finally another corps of light infantry formed the extreme of his left wing.

The Indian army lay on the defensive a huge inert mass,wanting to observe their enemy’s action.

Alexander seized the initiative, thus enjoying the advantage of attacking or drawing back at any point as suited his interest, and varying his tactics with every change in the tide of the battle.

His plan was not to throw away his soldiers against the hard core of the enemy’s elephants protected centre.

So, he held the Phalanx stationary before the Indian centre as a threat paralyzing its movement to aid any wing.

So, he sought a decision by first attacking the Indian left wing. 

Battle of Hydaspas – Combat Opens

When the fighting became general, the Indian chariots drove at full speed into the middle of the battle, to aid their friends. 

Some Macedonian foot soldiers, first exposed to this charge, trampled under it.

Soon Macedonian hurried charioteers from their seats when the chariots in rushing into action jolted over broken and slippery ground. .

Battle of Hydaspas
Battle of Hydaspas

So, this arm of the Indian army could achieve nothing useful and soon ceased to exist. 

Centre Attacked

Soon the phalanx advanced and attacked the line of elephants with infantry men forming the centre.

Then began the most stubborn and murderous part of the fight.

The elephants were driven against the attacking infantry.

The onslaught of huge uncouth monsters was a kind of warfare of which the Macedonia soldiers had no experience before.

The elephants charged and “wherever they turned went crashing through the Macedonian phalanx though in close formation”.

The front line

It opened with Alexander sending his mounted archers to attack the Indian cavalry which send Indian cavalry into confusion with a storm of arrows and charges of infantry.

Behind them he himself advanced with two full regiments.

Later he sent two other cavalry regiments (2000 men)with order to ride round the back and attack the cavalry the Indian left in the rear.

While they were engaged with Alexander himself in front. 

Alexander despatched against the elephants the lightly armed Agrianians and the Thracian troops, more serviceable in skirmishing than in close combat.

Contact with Enemy

They assailed the elephants and their drivers with a furious storm of missiles.

The Macedonian phalanx, on seeing the resulting terror and confusion, steadily pressed forward. 

Seeing the first confusion of the phalanx in the struggle with the elephants.

The Indian cavalry, so long sheltering behind their elephant line, wheeled round and charged Alexander’s cavalry on their left. 

But the Macedonians again routed them and drove them back upon the elephants.

The elephants now huddled together within a narrow space trample down friends and foes alike.

Many of the defiant drivers had been shot down, some of the elephants had been wounded.

Without a guide animals roamed aimlessly, attacking all who lay In their path. 

At last the utterly exhausted elephants retreated but still keeping their faces to the enemy and trumpeting. 

The fight had raged for over three hours now, with increasing crowding and confusion on the Indian side. 

Central command and cooperation among their parts had vanished; everywhere a mingled fight was going on. 

Indians Routed 

The Indian cavalry took heavy casualties.

But the heaviest slaughter was among Indian infantry.

They were hopelessly butchered, as their enormous bows could not be strung by resting one end on the soft ground.

The Macedonian spears were much longer than the Indian swords. 

At the closing stage of the struggle Poros rallied his forces and advanced with some elephants to prolong the contest. 

The battle continued doubtful for some time longer.

The Macedonians some times pursuing, and sometimes fleeing from the elephants. 

At the right moment Alexander surrounded with his cavalry the whole of the enemy’s line.

He gave the signal that his infantry with their shields linked together so as to give the utmost compactness to their ranks.

The Macedonians were now fall upon the remnant of Poros’s army from every side. 

Battle of Hydaspas – Poros last Stand

All turned to flight, wherever they could find a gap in cordon of Macedonian cavalry. 

Poros had maintained the contest so long that two of his sons and most of his gallant friends had fallen. 

As the enemy came up to him, he began to hurl upon them the spears of which he had kept a supply on his elephant.

He exposed himself as a conspicuous target to the arrows and darts of the enemy. 

He had received nine wounds before and behind, the mainly on his unprotected right shoulder.

Soon, he fainted from the great loss of blood. 

In this time Krateros had arrived across the river with the full battalions of the phalanx (3,000 strong) from Alexander’s camp, and he now took up the pursuit with these fresh troops. 

Battle of Hydaspas – Aftermath

Poros himself was taken prisoner and made a friend by Alexander’s generous policy. 

The combat with Poros abated the strength of the Macedonians and made them resolve to proceed no further in India.

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