Mong, Pakistan (326 BC)
The Battle of Hydaspes was the definitive battle of the India campaign of Alexander the Great, and the most distant major battle ever fought by a European power until the colonial era. It was among his last major victories and essentially marked the end of the Macedonian march to the east. Although a definitive triumph for Alexander, it is also believed to have been one of his hardest fought battles. After the battle, the greatly respected enemy leader, Porus, was spared by Alexander and became the governor of the newly won province (one of the handful of his opponents to be so treated). The Battle of Hydaspes became famous in antiquity for the early use of war elephants. The site of the battle is uncertain, but is generally commemorated in the town of Mong on the banks of the Jhelum River.
After a decade of constant warfare which took Alexander the Great from Greece across the Middle East and Persia, the victorious army of Macedonia and their auxiliaries finally arrived on the frontiers of the Indian subcontinent. Considered by Alexander to be yet another stage in his drive to overcome Asia as far as the Pacific Ocean, the attempt to conquer India was his last major military campaign. His army, much smaller than it had been at the outset of his war against Persia, invaded India through th Khyber Pass in 326 BC.
After overcoming several smaller territories, Alexander allied himself with the King of Taxila and prepared the formal of India itself. His first opponent, and as it turns out one of his last, was Porus, king of Paurava. Pauruva was a mid-size state with a strong army which Alexander saw as a threat to his lines of communication if he continued to march eastward. At this point the army of Alexander numbered perhaps eleven thousand men, whereas Porus had three times this number including a large chariot force and war elephants.
The two forces met along the Hydaspes River (now the Jhelum River), with the Macedonians on the northwest bank and the Indians on the southeast bank. Porus’ strategy, strictly defensive, was to prevent a successful Greek crossing. However, a large portion of Alexander’s force forded the river upstream in great secrecy. By the time Porus was aware of the maneuver, it was too late to stop it. However, the Indians were able to meet the Greeks in good order.
According to most sources the Indians met with some success, wreaking havoc among the Greeks with their war elephants. However, in the end the Indians were hopelessly outmaneuvered, and a general slaughter ensued. By the time the battle ended, the Greeks had lost a thousand men, the Indians over ten thousand. Despite the victory the Greek ranks were decimated, contributing strongly to the discontent which effectively ended Alxander’s campaign shortly thereafter. Furthermore, despite their loss, the Indian king Porus was seen as so valiant by Alexander that he was spared and appointed as governor of the province. A few months after the battle, the exhausted Macedonian army secured the Indus River for their border, ending forever Alexander’s drive to the east.
Thanks to changes in the course of the Jhelum River, as well as to thousands of years of warfare and destruction that wrecked havoc in the region, the topography of the battlefield is virtually unrecognizable today. Sources indicate that Alexander built the Punjab city of Nicaea on the site of the battle, and that this was located somewhere on the south banks of the river between the modern day cities of Jhelum and Bhera. Commemorative markers note place believed to be associated with the battle.
The site specifically associated with the battle is the modern-day town of Mong, just north of the city of Mandi Bahauddin and approximately 65 miles south of Islamabad. The battlefield, such as it is, is an open site. There is no cost of admission. Web: www.tdcp.gop.pk/tdcp (official tourism website of Punjab province).