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Alexander the Great and Chandragupta Maurya

The story of Alexander the Great is very familiar to most Indians (at least we think we do).  We are taught in history classes that Alexander invaded India in 326 BCE.  He fought a fierce battle with King Porus (battle of the Hydaspes River) in modern day Pakistan.  Porus was defeated but Alexander spared his life and allowed him to rule the area under his name.  Alexander then reached the Beas River in Himachal Pradesh and decided to turn back after his army started revolting (many people in the ancient world including the Greeks also believed that India was the end of the world and it would not make sense to keep advancing).

As Alexander started his long journey back to Macedonia he awarded most of the lands captured by him to various Satraps (Persian name for governors).  Over the course of time many of these Satraps became emperors controlling large tracks of land themselves.  Unfortunately very little is taught in Indian schools about these satraps appointed by Alexander or the lasting legacy that they left on the long history of India.

Indian history teaches that the Mauryan Empire came into existence immediately after Alexander’s arrival in northwestern India.  Chandragupta Maurya (340 BCE to 298 BCE) is credited with founding the Maurya Empire and establishing the first “Indian” empire by defeating the Greek Satraps. How do we explain such a major Indian empire coming into existence just 15 years after Alexander’s arrival at the Beas River?

In Greek and Latin Chandragupta Maurya is known as Sandrokottos or Androcottus. Very little is known about him or his lineage.  Some Indian historians claim that he is the illegitimate child born to a Nanda prince and a maid.  Others claim that he was raised by peacock tamers.  But history is murky.  The dates attributed to reign of Chandragupta Maurya are not set in stone and that is what makes his story very interesting.

Noted Indian historians like Dr. Ranjit Pal (Ph.D from IIT Kharagpur and life member of “Indian Society for Greek and Roman Studies”) are now beginning to make a compelling case about revising the history of India during the time of Alexander (I recommend reading his book “Non-Jonesian Indology and Alexander).  The main area of contention is the location of the city of Pataliputra (which is mentioned in the classic work by Greek writer Megasthenes called Indica).

Sir William Jones (1746 – 1794) was the founder of the Asiatic Society and one of the first individuals to suggest an existence of a group of languages now known as Indo-European languages (he wrote a book called “The Sanscrit Language” in 1786 in which he suggested that Sanskrit, Greek and Latin had a common root which we now know to be true).  But he also made a claim that Pataliputra (Palibothra) is Patna (Bihar).  This effectively placed Alexander, Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka in Eastern India.  This is called the “Jonesian Theory” and is widely accepted as a fact in India and elsewhere.

But many Indians would be surprised to learn that this theory is based on very thin evidence.  Till date no relic of any Mauryan King including the great Ashoka or the Greeks has been found in Patna.  This is true for the Nanda kings who the Mauryans supposedly captured.  So where were the Mauryans actually ruling and who is Chandragupta Maurya?

Dr. Ranjit Pal argues that Palibothra of Megasthenes is not Patna of Bihar but Patali (near the city of Kerman in Iran).  The names of many Indian cities can also be found in other countries and names like Patali, Konarak, and Salem are good examples (it would be a mistake to assume that these Indian cities are older.  It is more likely that Patali (Iran) is much older than Patna (India).  The name Patel which is popular among people in Gujarat is likely related to Patali.  Gujarat is part of Western India and close to Iran where Patali is).

So if Megasthenes was talking about Patali in Iran and not in India then that would mean that Alexander never visited India that we know today.  Instead of Chandragupta Maurya setting up the Mauryan Empire following Alexander’s retreat there is evidence to show that Chandragupta was a contemporary of Alexander and fought and lost a major battle with Alexander in Patali.  This will mean that the Mauryan Empire was mostly an empire that existed in Northwestern India (including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) and probably did not exist in modern day Central and Eastern India (which could be the reason why the archeological evidence is missing).

After capturing Taksila (city in Pakistan), Alexander left the city under the control of one of his Satraps known as Orontobates (some accounts indicate that Orontobates was a Persian.  Alexander’s army just like most armies in the world today had soldiers and generals from lands that they captured).  Orontobates was also known as Tridates.  He later on assumed the name of Sasigupta (known in Greek as Sasicottos).

Sashi and Chandra means moon in Sanskrit.  Many historians now believe that Orontobates a.k.a. Sasigupta is none other than Chandragupta Maurya (this explains why there is very little information in the Indian context as to who Chandragupta was before he became emperor of “India”).  This Persian was an important member of Alexander’s conquests. Diodorus (ancient Greek historian) indicates that it was Tridates who handed the Persian treasury over to the Greeks after Alexander defeated the Persian Empire led by King Darius III.

Why did Chandragupta revolt against his longtime friend Alexander?  Did he secretly continue to resent the defeat of the Persians by the Greeks under Alexander after all these years?  Did he participate with other Persians in Alexander’s army to poison and kill their leader?  If you believe in the ancient Sanskrit drama Mudrarakshasa the answer is a resounding yes.

Related posts:

  1. Gautama Buddha: Siddhartha Gautama an Avatar of Vishnu?
  2. P.C. Alexander Should Stop Talking About Morality
  3. Did You Root For Pakistan or New Zealand?
  4. Great Failed Walls of China
  5. India’s Rich History: Myth vs. Reality

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Category: Culture & Religion

Comments (24)

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  1. Dinesh says:

    Probably you seem to be a disciple of max mueller or romila thapar.People like you are destroying indian history culture and heritage by propogating such false history with the help of “made up stories” by grek writers and colonial fools. or some similiar western a***e.Do you expect us to believe your b****t.British are called “angreej” in hindi so do they become indian.Alexander was badly defeated and crushed by Porus for your info. in 325 bc during reign of chandrgupta of gupta dynasty.Maurya dynasty was around 16th century bc.

    • Hari says:

      Dinesh,

      According to you Alexander defeated Porus in 325 BC but the Maurya Dynasty was around the 16th century BC? Call your History teacher or do a simple Google search. You will realize how wrong your are (you are off by about 1000 years!!).

      Alexander was crushed by Porus? Government issued history books in India will state that Alexander and Porus fought a fierce war but in the end Alexander won but pardoned Porus after seeing his bravery.

      You cannot just say that people like me are destroying “Indian culture” without providing evidence. As I mentioned in the article William Jones (a Britisher) claimed that that Pataliputra (Palibothra) is Patna (Bihar). This effectively placed Alexander, Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka in Eastern India. This is what we teach in our history books today. So who is following the stories written by “Greek writers and colonial fools”? You or me.

      • Amit says:

        So Hari, that puts everything into disorder … you want to tell us the Asoka Chakra a persian relic??

        • Hari says:

          Amit,

          Instead of asking me questions, go to Google and perform a search for “Ashoka pillar Greek Aramaic”. Then read a few of the search results. Look at some of the photographs. Submit a report to us on why the Ashoka pillars have inscriptions in Greek and Aramaic (two languages that were never spoken in India) and what it means.

          That is your homework for today.

      • Gagan says:

        hari the people like u belive inGermany doing google only and just because of u these f***ing Britishers had a word to say they are the best by knowing about the fact the didn’t wash their back then also some people will poke their nose to their back. If u want to studty Indian history come here and see. The parts of our veds are the part the solar energy based aeroplanes which is going on China, Russia,Germany etc. But u have to do either google or to come to India. May god give u some courage to accept this..!!

        • Hari says:

          I am born and brought up in India and have nothing to do with Germany or Britain. I learnt my history in India. So stop being a hater.

          As I mentioned before, the Jonesian Theory (that is taught in Indian schools today and the theory that you believe in) is a British theory. So as per your own assumptions you like to wash the back of the British!

          Dr. Ranjit Pal is an Indian and I think that his theory merits strong consideration.

    • PS says:

      Dinesh,

      Easy there tiger, even if we take your mixed up foolish account you do realise like most western (of the sub continent) kingdoms were Buddist or early Verdic (not like the Hinduism that is common in other parts of India).
      Spouting hatred towards minorities may get you far in modern India but as the inspirations (Nazi’s) of your movement (RSS, BJP, VHP etc) have found rewriting history is only short term for actual events of history live an eternity.

    • nitish says:

      strongly disagree with the author…. He is living in fantasy….

      if patliputra is in iran, then how did alexander cross the so called “Hydaspes River” ?

      What about asoka’s war in kalinga??
      no proof found?? a lot of proof and weapon remains are recovered there and are well preserved in museums (showcased in BBC programme story of india).

      Author seems to have done little home work before writing…

      Dude, take my advice and write children’s story books…

      • Hari says:

        Nitish,

        I will live in my own fantasy while you can live in the fantasy created by William Jones hundreds of years ago!

        Before making judgments I suggest you read the book. What happened 2500 years ago is not cut and dry as history books in Indian schools what you to believe. It is much more complicated. We are all very familiar with the Jonesian Theory. But read about the all the other possibilities and then make up you mind (until I read the book I did not realize that some of “Ashoka’s Pillars” found in India are of Greek origin and made hundred or so years earlier. They have Greek inscriptions on them over which Ashoka’s edicts were written).

        I want to keep an open mind and learn.

        • Gagan says:

          i would also planning to write a book do u belive in that book..???

          • Hari says:

            Gagan … I would not believe in your book because you do not have the credentials.

  2. Aryan says:

    Dinesh…u suck!!!! before postin or shld i say trolling get ur facts straight…or better STFU if u hav no idea wat u r talkin abt…
    history is fluid..theres no concrete evidence of anything… i m nt sayin dat hari’s theory is crrect, but he has a right to express his ideas…
    and porus never crushed alexande in the battle of hydaspes… check it out buster.. and wat is crap abt the mauryan empire being founded at 16th century bc????? u make me lol dude… in 1600 bc the vedas were barely written and the indo aryans wer still migrating… nad before the mauryas these dynasties ruled magadh…
    1.Brihadratha
    2.Pradyota
    3.Haryanka
    4.Shishunaga
    5.Nanda dynasty

    if the mauryas strted ruling magadh at 1600 bc then these preceding dynasties must have ruled it during the stone age..lol

  3. Sachin D. says:

    How will you explain Chanakya in this case? Was he Greek? Well I am sure he was not as he was Brahmin, which for ages had been part of Indian culture.

    Secondly, about your hypothesis that since no relic is found in Patna, Chandragupta did not rule Patna (India) but Iran… Well, the biggest hole in this theory is, again, historians (Indian, western including Greek) have agreed that Chandragupta was educated in a university in Patliputra (presumed Patna). Here, “relics” are discovered, no such proof is found in Iran of any such university.

    Thirdly, pl recheck your sources. As silver coins belonging to Chandragupta empire were found in Central India.

    • Hari says:

      Sachin,

      Let me clarify one thing. This is not my hypothesis. This is the belief of historians like Dr. Ranjit Pal and others like him. What I have mentioned here is a small snapshot of what is presented in his book “Non-Jonesian Indology and Alexander”. After reading the book I happen to believe that the information is credible and has a much more realistic portrayal of what happened during the time of Alexander than what is explained by Sir William Jones.

      What you have repeated is the Jonesian theory proposed by Sir William Jones (1746 – 1794). This Jonesian theory is what is taught in Indian schools today. There are no “holes” in “my” theory. There are weaknesses in Ranjit Pal’s theory and there are major issues with William Jones theory (not to mention the lack of archeological evidence). Yet we take it for granted.

      Historians still have debates about where exactly Patliputra was. You conveniently “presumed” that it is Patna. Are you sure? Because if you do, and you have evidence for it, then you can solve this long lasting debate once and for all (you would be naive to make the assumption that you know something about some silver coins in Central India which eminent historians like Ranjit Pal do not know of)!

      • Amit says:

        Alexander was from Greece, right? Or wasn’t he from Persia?? I can easily play around with history and say there was no Alexander at all!

        The Greece believe that Alexander was an avatar of Achilles and Hercules, mythological characters from Iliad.

        I think as Indians we are generally not proud of our history. We will sing glories of Qutub-Minar and Taj-Mahal, relics of slavery, but moments of pride such as discovery of Arthashashtra script(in 1906) and rebuilding of Somnath temple (in late 40s) are moments of shame!!! This happens only in India, thanks to so-called India’s best brains who brain-wash us/

        • Hari says:

          Amit,

          Show me one survey that shows that Indians are not proud of our history.

          How is Qutub Minar and Taj Mahal relics of slavery but not the Somanath Temple? What is the criteria that you are using? This is a communal statement that is not based on facts. You state that some Indians consider rebuilding the Somanath temple as a moment of shame! This is another statement that is not based on facts.

          You should stop speaking on behalf of Indians. Just speak for yourself.

  4. Sundeep says:

    We really need to stop hurling abuse and calling each other names every time a topic is discussed. For the sake of academics, we have to learn to keep our minds open and pursue the truth. If we don’t do that, somebody else will continue to write our history books for us.

    • Hari says:

      Agree with you 100% Sundeep.

  5. supriya says:

    Anyway! thanks for posting interesting posts on history! Till there’s a time machine with which we can go back and see ourselves, there will be confusions, hused up facts,facts covered in dunes of time.Letz keep our minds open -no religion,caste,country,race here! it’s all evolution of humans!

    • Hari says:

      Supriya .. welcome and thank you for submitting your comments.

  6. ramakrishnan says:

    interesting. and seems to make sense as Alexander invaded the western part of india and magadh was in the east.yet chandragupta flought selucus Nicator.
    is there any monument or relic in iran suilt by chandragupta maurya?

    thanks Haor throwing light on this.

    • Hari says:

      Ramakrishnan …. welcome and thank you for your comments.

  7. kiran says:

    whatever u say abt history…. but on one thing, i believe we all will agree that chandragupta maurya was a prodigy…

    • Hari says:

      Kiran,

      In what sense was he a prodigy?

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