Porus or Poros (Ancient Greek: Πῶρος Pôros; fl. 326–321 BC) was an ancient Indian king whose territory spanned the region between the Jhelum River (Hydaspes) and Chenab River (Acesines), in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent. He is only mentioned in Greek sources.
|Reign||before 326 – c. 317 BC|
|Died||c. 321 – c. 315 BC|
Credited to have been a legendary warrior with exceptional skills, Porus unsuccessfully fought against Alexander the Great in the Battle of the Hydaspes (326 BC), in what is now Pakistani Punjab. In the aftermath, an impressed Alexander not only reinstated him as his satrap but also granted him dominion over lands to the south-east extending as far as the Hyphasis (Beas). Porus reportedly died sometime between 321 and 315 BC.
Michael Witzel conjectures that Porus was a king of the Pūrus, a Vedic tribe, who existed as a marginal power in Punjab after their defeat in the Battle of the Ten Kings. Hem Chandra Raychaudhuri largely agreed with this identification.
Quintus Curtius Rufus mentions Porus' vanguard soldiers carrying a banner of "Herakles" during the face-off with Alexander. Accordingly, Ishwari Prasad and a few other scholars argue that Porus was a Shurasena.[a] This identification is based on the fact that multiple Greek histories — Indica by Arrian, Geographica by Strabo, and Bibliotheca historica by Diodorus Siculus — note Megasthenes[b] to have described an Indian tribe called Sourasenoi who worshiped one "Herakles" and originated from the lands of Mathura and Yamuna.[c]
Porus ruled over the tracts between the rivers Hydaspes (Jhelum) and Acesines (Chenab); Strabo noted the territory to contain almost 300 cities. He had a hostile relationship with the neighboring polity of Taxila, having assassinated their erstwhile ruler Ambhiraj, his maternal uncle.
When Alexander crossed the Indus in their eastward migration, probably in Udabhandapura, he was greeted by the then-ruler of Taxila, Omphis, son of Ambhiraj. Years ago, he had visited Alexander in Sogdiana and was treated as an ally; Omphis' rule was confirmed and gifts lavished, but a Macedonian satrap was installed. Omphis hoped to force both Porus and Abisares into submission, leveraging the might of Alexander's forces, and dispatched diplomatic missions to this effect.
In response, Abisares offered submission but Porus refused, leading Alexander to seek a face-off on the bank of Jhelum. Thus began the Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC; the exact site remains unknown and the exact strength of the armies cannot be determined either, due to major discrepancies between sources.
Battle of the Hydaspes
Alexander re-used the same vessels which were used for crossing the Indus, the first time, some 300 km away at Udabhandapura. His forces frequently mounted intrusion-attempts and even before the battle had started, skirmishes were reported in the riverine islands.
A few months later, Alexander decided to accompany a strike force across the densely forested headlands and besiege Porus' defense; the base camp with substantial cavalry and infantry units was left under Craterus, who was advised to follow Alexander upon a successful passage whilst the remaining forces were distributed along the river under three phalanx officers to distract Porus' forces. The strategy was successful and they crossed the Jhelum unobstructed, on a stormy night, just before dawn. A band of horsemen on chariots led by Porus' son did detect the intrusion and mount a charge but was repelled by Alexander's superior cavalry.
Informed of Alexander's passage, Porus became concerned with tackling those who had already crossed, rather than preventing passage of the remaining majority. He took a defensive position in the plains, interspersing infantry units with elephants[d] on the front lines and stationing the cavalry and chariots in the wings. Alexander chose to shield his infantry and instead led a devastating cavalry charge on Porus' left wing, forcing reinforcements from the right; however, this rear-transit came under attack by Coenus' cavalry and Porus' cavalry was compelled to take refuge within the infantry frontlines, causing confusion.
This led to an all-out attack from both sides, but Porus' plans proved futile. According to Heckle (2014), Porus is believed to have had around 30,000 infantry. However, Porus only had 4,000 mounted troops. Not only were Porus' cavalry charges repelled but the mahouts were killed using sarissas and the elephants were pushed back into Porus' columns, wreaking havoc on the rear, Alexander's cavalry kept charging and inflicting disorder. Soon Porus' army was surrounded on all sides, and became easy fodder for Alexander's forces with the cavalry exterminated and most of the elephants captured. Still, Porus refused to surrender and wandered about atop an elephant, until he was wounded and his force routed. A fraction of the infantry successfully escaped and probably planned to regroup but Craterus pursued them to their deaths.
The battle resulted in a decisive Greek victory; however, A. B. Bosworth warns against an uncritical reading of Greek sources, who obviously exaggerated. Alexander held athletic and gymnastic games at the site, and even commissioned two cities in commemoration: Nicaea at the site of his victory and Bucephalous at the battle-ground, in memory of his horse.[e] Later, decadrachms were minted by the Babylonian mint depicting Alexander on horseback, armed with a sarissa and attacking a pair of Indians atop an elephant.
Despite the apparently one-sided results, Alexander was impressed by Porus and chose not to depose him. His territory was not only restored, but also expanded, with Alexander's forces annexing the territories of Glausaes, who ruled to the northeast of Porus' kingdom. Further, Omphis was reconciled with Porus.
A joint expedition was then mounted against a territory east of the Chenab, ruled by an enemy cousin of Porus; he had earlier submitted to Alexander but, suspicious of Porus' rise in rank, chose to flee with his army. The date of this battle remains disputed; Alexander's forces overran his lands before meeting stiff resistance at a walled Sangala on the other side of the Ravi. Siege warfare was executed to brilliant effect and the full-fledged attack began once Porus had joined with his elephants. As Sangala and allied cities were razed, Porus was allowed to station his garrisons.
Thereafter, Alexander proceeded unopposed to the Beas and even intended to cross it towards the Gangetic Plain; however, the monsoon was at its peak and his weary troops remained stubborn despite his cajoling and threats. A reluctant Alexander had to renounce his plans and turn back. Porus was thus ratified as the de facto ruler of the entire territory east of the Jhelum, with no European satrap to co-rule with, unlike Ambhi and Abisares. The crossing-back of the Jhelum was a prolonged affair; filled with festivities, it attracted thousands.
After Alexander's death in 323 BC, Perdiccas became the regent of his empire, and after Perdiccas's murder in 321 BC, Antipater became the new regent. According to Diodorus, Antipater recognized Porus's authority over the territories along the Indus River. However, Eudemus, who had served as Alexander's satrap in the Punjab region, treacherously killed Porus.
Cultural depictions of Porus
- Sohrab Modi portrayed Porus in the 1941 movie Sikandar
- Prithviraj Kapoor portrayed Porus in the 1965 movie Sikandar-e-Azam
- Porus is played by Arun Bali in the 1991 TV series Chanakya.
- Porus appears in the 1999 animated series Reign: The Conqueror
- Porus is portrayed by the Thai actor, Bin Bunluerit, in Alexander (2004)
- Porus appears in the 2011 TV series Chandragupta Maurya.
- SET launched Siddharth Kumar Tewary's serial titled Porus on the Battle of Hydaspes in Nov 2017, in which Porus is portrayed by Laksh Lalwani.
- Porus appears in the Historical Battle campaign of Rome: Total War: Alexander.
- Porus appears in the video game Ancient Battle: Alexander, in which he is a playable character, as well as an enemy.
- Iswhari Prashad and others following his lead, found further support for this conclusion in the fact that a section of Shurasenas were supposed to have migrated westwards to Punjab and modern Afghanistan from Mathura and Dvārakā, after Krishna walked to heaven and had established new kingdoms there.
- He had traveled to India, after Porus had been already supplanted by Chandragupta Maurya.
- The Greeks often chronicled foreign gods in terms of their own divinities; multiple scholars have argued "Herakles" to mean "Hari-Krishna", the closest mythological equivalent. This identification also fits with the geography, Mathura being the epicenter of the Krshna cult. However, there is no evidence of Krishna worship as early as 4th century BC. Some modern scholars equate "Herakles" to Indra but this identification is not widely accepted either.
- Porus had expected the elephant units to negate charges by Alexander's well-trained cavalry.
- Craterus supervised the construction. These cities are yet to be identified.
- See Keyne Cheshire, Alexander the Great Archived 17 August 2023 at the Wayback Machine (Cambridge University Press, 2009), p.139: "Alexander charges Porus, who hurls a javelin from atop his elephant"
- Fuller, pg 198
"While the battle raged, Craterus forced his way over the Haranpur ford. When he saw that Alexander was winning a brilliant victory he pressed on and, as his men were fresh, took over the pursuit."
- p. xl, Historical Dictionary of Ancient Greek Warfare, J. Woronoff & I. Spence
- Arrian, Anabasis of Alexander, V.29.2
- "Porus", Encyclopædia Britannica, archived from the original on 14 September 2015, retrieved 8 September 2015
- Asoke Kumar Majumdar (1977). Concise History of Ancient India: Political history. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. p. 136. Archived from the original on 17 August 2023. Retrieved 14 January 2021.
Nothing is known of Porus from Indian sources
- H. C. Raychaudhuri (1988) . "India in the Age of the Nandas". In K. A. Nilakanta Sastri (ed.). Age of the Nandas and Mauryas (Second ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. p. 147. ISBN 978-81-208-0466-1. Archived from the original on 17 August 2023. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
- Witzel, Michael (1997). "The development of the Vedic canon and its schools: the social and political milieu". crossasia-repository.ub.uni-heidelberg.de: 263, 267, 320. doi:10.11588/xarep.00000110. Archived from the original on 12 August 2021. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- Witzel, Michael (1995). "4. Early Indian history: Linguistic and textual parametres". In Erdosy, George (ed.). The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia: Language, Material Culture and Ethnicity. Indian Philology and South Asian Studies. De Gruyter. pp. 85–125. doi:10.1515/9783110816433-009. ISBN 978-3-11-081643-3. S2CID 238465491. Archived from the original on 12 August 2021. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
- Brereton, Joel P.; Jamison, Stephanie W., eds. (2014). The Rigveda: The Earliest Religious Poetry of India. Vol. I. Oxford University Press. pp. 880, 902–905, 923–925, 1015–1016. ISBN 9780199370184.
- Krishna: a Sourcebook, p. 5, Edwin Francis Bryant, Oxford University Press US, 2007
- A Comprehensive History of India: The Mauryas & Satavahanas, p. 383, edited by K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, Kallidaikurichi Aiyah Nilakanta Sastri, Bharatiya Itihas Parishad, Published by Orient Longmans, 1992, Original from the University of California
- "Actually, the legend reports a westward march of the Yadus (MBh. 1.13.49, 65) from Mathura, while the route from Mathura to Dvaraka southward through a desert. This part of the Krsna legend could be brought to earth by digging at Dvaraka, but also digging at Darwaz in Afghanistan, whose name means the same thing and which is the more probable destination of refugees from Mathura..." Introduction to the Study of Indian History, p. 125, D D Kosambi, Publisher: [S.l.] : Popular Prakashan, 1999
- Puskás, Ildikó (1990). "Megasthenes and the "Indian Gods" Herakles and Dionysos". Mediterranean Studies. 2: 39–47. ISSN 1074-164X. JSTOR 41163978. Archived from the original on 12 August 2021. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
- Bosworth, Albert Brian (1993). "The Campaign of the Hydaspes". Conquest and Empire: The Reign of Alexander the Great. Cambridge University Press. pp. 125–130.
- Hamilton, J. R. (1956). "The Cavalry Battle at the Hydaspes". The Journal of Hellenic Studies. 76: 26–31. doi:10.2307/629551. ISSN 0075-4269. JSTOR 629551. S2CID 163435999. Archived from the original on 13 August 2021. Retrieved 13 August 2021.
- Heckel, W. (2012). “Conquest of the Punjab” in The Conquests of Alexander the Great (Canto Classics, pp. 112-125). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139197076.011
- Holt, Frank Lee (2003). Alexander the Great and the mystery of the elephant medallions. University of California Press.
- Bosworth, Albert Brian (1993). "From the Hydaspes to the Southern Ocean". Conquest and Empire: The Reign of Alexander the Great. Cambridge University Press.
- Anson, Edward M. (2013). Alexander the Great: Themes and Issues. Bloomsbury. p. 151. ISBN 9781441193797.
- Heckel, Waldemar (2006). Who's Who in the Age of Alexander the Great: Prosopography of Alexander's Empire. Wiley. ISBN 9781405112109.
- Irfan Habib; Vivekanand Jha (2004). Mauryan India. A People's History of India. Aligarh Historians Society / Tulika Books. p. 16. ISBN 978-81-85229-92-8.
- DD National (6 August 2020). Chanakya Episode 12. Archived from the original on 15 March 2023. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
- Old Serials Archive (19 July 2017). Chandragupta Maurya Episode 1.
- "Siddharth Kumar Tewary's next on Porus for Sony Entertainment Television". Times of India. 4 October 2016. Archived from the original on 27 July 2017. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 22 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Lendring, Jona. Alexander de Grote - De ondergang van het Perzische rijk (Alexander the Great. The demise of the Persian empire), Amsterdam: Athenaeum - Polak & Van Gennep, 2004. ISBN 90-253-3144-0
- Holt, Frank L. Alexander the Great and the Mystery of the Elephant Medallions, California: University of California Press, 2003, 217pgs. ISBN 0-520-24483-4
- Raychaudhuri, Hemchandra (1953). Political History of Ancient India: From the Accession of Parikshit to the Extinction of Gupta Dynasty. University of Calcutta.
- Media related to Porus at Wikimedia Commons