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Porus alexander coin.png
King Porus (on elephant) fighting Alexander the Great, on a "victory coin" of Alexander (minted c. 324–322 BC)[1]
Reignbefore 326 – c. 317 BC
BornPunjab region
Diedc. 321 – c. 315 BC
Punjab region, Indian subcontinent

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.

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).[2] 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 until the Hyphasis (Beas).[3][4] Porus reportedly died sometime between 321 and 315 BC.[5]


The only contemporary information available on Porus and his kingdom is from Greek sources, whereas Indian sources do not mention him.[6] These Greek sources differ considerably among themselves.[7]



Michael Witzel conjectures Porus to have been a king of the Pūrus, who existed as a marginal power in Punjab since their defeat in the Battle of the Ten Kings notwithstanding (probable) political realignment with the Bharatas.[8][9][10] Hem Chandra Raychaudhuri had largely agreed with this identification.[7]


Multiple histories — Indica by Arrian, Geographica by Strabo, and Bibliotheca historica by Diodorus Siculus — mention Megasthenes[a] to have described an Indian tribe called Sourasenoi: they worshiped one "Herakles" and originated from a land having the city of Mathura and the river of Yamuna.[11][12] The Greeks often chronicled foreign gods in terms of their own divinities; thus multiple scholars have understood "Herakles" to mean "Hari-Krishna".[11][12] That Quintus Curtius Rufus mentions Porus' vanguard soldiers to have carried a banner of "Heracles" during the face-off with Alexander,[11] Ishwari Prasad argues Porus to be a Shurasena.[13][b]

However, the identification with "Hari-Krishna" is not well-settled; there is no evidence of Krishna worship as early as 4th century BC.[12] Modern scholars increasingly equate "Herakles" to Indra but even this identification is not widely accepted.[12]


H. C. Seth had identified Porus with Parvataka, a king mentioned in the Sanskrit play Mudrarakshasa, the Jain text Parishishtaparvan, and some other sources including royal genealogies of Nepal.[7] However, there is little evidence in support: Parishishtaparvan assigns him the territory of Himavatkuta while Greek sources have Porus rule in the present-day Punjab region, and Mudrarakshasa attributes his death to poisoning planned by Chanakya while Greek sources state that Porus was killed by Eudemus (or Alexander, himself).[7]



Porus used to rule over the tracts between rivers Hydaspes (Jhelum) and Acesines (Chenab); Strabo had held the territory to contain almost 300 cities.[15] He (alongside one Abisares) had a hostile relationship with the Kingdom of Taxila which was ruled by his extended family; Porus is noted to have had assassinated Ambhiraj, his maternal uncle and the erstwhile ruler of Taxila.[15]

When the armies of Alexander crossed Indus in its eastward migration, probably in Udabhandapura, he was greeted by the-then ruler of Taxila, Omphis/Ambhi, son of Ambhiraj.[15] Omphis had sent emissaries to Alexander long-back and was considered a friendly — in return, his rule was confirmed but under a Macedonian satrap and gifts were lavished.[15] Omphis had hoped to force both Porus and Abisares into submission leveraging the might of Alexander's forces and diplomatic missions were mounted.[15] But while Abisares offered a token submission, Porus refused.[15]

This led Alexander to seek for a face-off with Porus.[15] Despite being attracted to the exoticism of Taxila and Brahminic practices, he had to migrate for the bank of Jhelum, on the other bank of which, Porus had set up his main line of defense.[15] Thus began the Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC; the exact site remains unknown.[15]

Battle of the Hydaspes

A painting by Charles Le Brun depicting Alexander and Porus during the Battle of the Hydaspes

Alexander dismantled and reused the same vessels which were used for crossing the Sind, some 300 km away.[15] Small scale intrusion-attempts were frequently mounted and even before the battle had started, there were skirmishes in river-islands with Porus' army who maintained guard.[15] The exact strength of the armies might be never known, due to major discrepancies in sources.[15]

After some days, Alexander decided on crossing via the headlands which were forested and provided cover for transit; the base camp with cavalry and infantry was left under Craterus and Alexander accompanied the striking force.[15] They were tasked with this crossing whilst mercenaries were distributed along the length of the river under three phalanx officers to distract Porus's forces.[15] The strategy was successful and they crossed almost unobstructed, in a stormy night.[15] After reaching the bank, Alexander's cavalry unit routed a band of advancing horsemen led by Porus' son (and even captured chariots) in what marked the commencement of the battle.[15]

Thereafter, Porus became primarily concerned with tackling Alexander's forces who have already crossed, rather than prevent passage of the remaining.[15] Porus chose a sandy plain to take a defensive position — infantry units interspersed with elephants.[15][c] Cavalry and chariots were stationed in the wings.[15][16]

Encircled from all sides and trampled by their mahout-less elephants, Porus' army was easy fodder for Alexander's forces.[15] A fraction of infantry escaped while most of the elephants were captured and the cavalry exterminated.[15] Porus refused to surrender and wandered about atop an elephant, until he was wounded and his force routed.[15] In the meanwhile, Craterus crossed along with the mercenaries and pursued the escapees to death.[15]


The battle resulted in a decisive Greek victory; however, A. B. Bosworth warns against an uncritical reading of Greek sources who were obviously exaggerative.[15] Alexander held athletic and gymnastic games at the site, and even commissioned two cities—Nicaea at the site of victory and Bucephalous at the battle-ground (in memory of his horse)—in commemoration.[15][d] Later, tetradrachms would be minted by the Babylonian mint depicting Alexander on horseback, armed with a sarissa and attacking a pair of Indians on an elephant.[15][17]

Surrender of Porus to Alexander, 1865 engraving by Alonzo Chappel.


Despite the apparently one-sided results, Alexander was impressed by Porus and chose to not depose him.[18][19] Not only was his territory reinstated but also expanded with Alexander's forces annexing the territories of Glausaes, who ruled to the northeast of Porus' kingdom.[18] Further, Omphis was reconciled with Porus and sent back to Taxila; Bosworth argues that he won't have been particularly happy with Porus having displaced him as the main beneficiary of Alexander's campaigns.[18]

A joint expedition was then mounted against a territory east of Chenab, which was ruled by an enemy-cousin of Porus; he had earlier submitted to Alexander but suspicious of Porus' rise in ranks, chose to flee with his army.[18] 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 Ravi.[18] Siege warfare was executed to brilliant effect and the full-fledged attack began, once Porus had joined with his elephants.[18] As Sangala and allying cities were razed, Porus was allowed to station his garrisons.[18]

Thereafter, Alexander proceeded unopposed to Beas and even intended to cross it towards mainland India; however, the monsoon was in its peak and the much-weary troops remained stubborn despite a variety of cajoling and threats.[18] An unwilling Alexander had to renounce his plans and turn back.[18] Porus was thus ratified as the de facto ruler of the entire territory east of Jhelum — he was given no European satrap to co-rule with unlike Ambhi and Abisares.[18] The crossing-back of Jhelum was a prolonged affair; filled with festivities, it attracted thousands.[18]


After Alexander's death in 323 BCE, Perdiccas became the regent of his empire, and after Perdiccas's murder in 321 BCE, Antipater became the new regent.[20] 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.[21]

In popular culture

See also


  1. ^ He had traveled to India, after Porus had been already supplanted by Chandragupta Maurya.
  2. ^ Iswhari Prashad and others, following his lead, found further support of 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.[14]
  3. ^ Porus had expected the elephant units to negate charges by Alexander's well-trained cavalry.
  4. ^ Craterus supervised the construction. These cities are yet to be identified.



  1. ^ See Keyne Cheshire, Alexander the Great (Cambridge University Press, 2009), p.139: "Alexander charges Porus, who hurls a javelin from atop his elephant"
  2. ^ 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."

  3. ^ p. xl, Historical Dictionary of Ancient Greek Warfare, J, Woronoff & I. Spence
  4. ^ Arrian Anabasis of Alexander, V.29.2
  5. ^ "Porus", Encyclopædia Britannica, retrieved 8 September 2015
  6. ^ Asoke Kumar Majumdar (1977). Concise History of Ancient India: Political history. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. p. 136. Nothing is known of Porus from Indian sources
  7. ^ a b c d H. C. Raychaudhuri (1988) [1967]. "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.
  8. ^ 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. Retrieved 15 April 2021.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ a b c Krishna: a sourcebook, pp 5, Edwin Francis Bryant, Oxford University Press US, 2007
  12. ^ a b c d Puskás, Ildikó (1990). "Magasthenes and the "Indian Gods" Herakles and Dionysos". Mediterranean Studies. 2: 39–47. ISSN 1074-164X. JSTOR 41163978.
  13. ^ A Comprehensive History of India: The Mauryas & Satavahanas, pp 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
  14. ^ "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, pp 125, D D Kosambi, Publisher: [S.l.] : Popular Prakashan, 1999
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Bosworth, Albert Brian (1993). "The campaign of the Hydaspes". Conquest and Empire: The Reign of Alexander the Great. Cambridge University Press. pp. 125–130.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Holt, Frank Lee (2003). Alexander the Great and the mystery of the elephant medallions. University of California Press.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Bosworth, Albert Brian (1993). "From the Hydaspes to the Southern Ocean". Conquest and Empire: The Reign of Alexander the Great. Cambridge University Press.
  19. ^ Anson, Edward M. (2013). Alexander the Great: Themes and Issues. Bloomsbury. p. 151. ISBN 9781441193797.
  20. ^ Heckel, Waldemar (2006). Who's Who in the Age of Alexander the Great: Prosopography of Alexander's Empire. Wiley. ISBN 9781405112109.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ DD National (6 August 2020). Chanakya Episode 12.{{cite AV media}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  23. ^ Old Serials Archive (19 July 2017). Chandragupta Maurya Episode 1.
  24. ^ "Siddharth Kumar Tewary's next on Porus for Sony Entertainment Television". Times of India. Retrieved 23 July 2017.


Further reading

  • Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Porus" . 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

External links

  • Media related to Porus at Wikimedia Commons