The Bravery of Ancient Indians

Vishnu Sculpture

by Jayaram V

For nearly two thousand years after the collapse of the cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro, India remained free from foreign aggression. Despite of their great strength and vast mobile army, the Persians somehow avoided confronting the native rulers of India and looked elsewhere for the expansion of their empire.

When Alexander invaded India he was met with stiff opposition from the native tribes, whom he suppressed with great difficulty. The might of the Nandas was already known to the marching armies of Alexander and they were evidently apprehensive of their own survival as they approached the kingdom of Puru.

We have enough reasons to believe that king Puru actually gave a taste of defeat to Alexander and was magnanimous enough to allow him to leave the battle field with dignity. After this encounter, so great was the fear felt by his army about the might of the Indian kingdoms that Alexander had no option but to accept their demand to terminate his campaign and return to Macedonia.

With all his rashness and ruthlessness, which were so evident during his Persian campaign or in his dealings with his own commanders and friends, Alexander would have never allowed his enemy to remain free in such a dignified manner, had he not perceived it as the only alternative to his own survival and personal dignity.

It was very probable that he was either fully defeated or nearly defeated and was left with no option but to return. He therefore halted his ambition and turned back, having learned good lessons spiritually, politically and temporally about himself and his might as a world conqueror. Sick and troubled with unpleasant memories, he died on his way back to Macedonia.

The Greek historians suppressed this truth about Alexander's setback for obvious reasons. They did not want to tarnish the character and life of a great hero, especially after he had passed away in the prime of his youth in pitiable conditions leaving his unfulfilled dreams behind. They did not want to expose him to unnecessary ridicule and criticism by his own people and by his future generations.

So very wisely they reversed the roles of Alexander and Puru and attributed weariness of the army and the distance from the homeland as the reasons for his unconditional withdrawal. It was not uncommon among the kings in the ancient world, and for that matter even in the medieval period to boast about their victories to their gullible people even after they suffered humiliating defeat in far away lands.

Thus for nearly three thousand years after the entry of the vedic people into the subcontinent, till Alexander came to this country with his huge army, the Indian subcontinent remained free from foreign invasions. It was not that the Greeks or Persians had no means of invading India. It was because they were aware of the strength and the fighting spirit of the Indian armies and they did not want to go all the way and get defeated in an unfamiliar environment.

It was only after the fall of the Mauryan empire that the foreigners occupied large tracts of northwestern India including the Punjab and began their rule on a larger scale. Though the Indian rulers regained their lost lands from them from time to time, India seldom remained free from foreign invasions. During these invasions the people suffered greatly, slaughtered and exploited mercilessly by the victorious armies.

What forces contributed to this fall of the native character and rendered him vulnerable to outside attacks is explained variously by many historians? The disunity among the native rulers and the divisions with in Indian society on the basis of caste and religion can be cited as the chief reasons for the troubles of Indian subcontinent for the last two millenniums.

It is interesting to note that these two problems persist even today. There are today six or seven nations in the Indian subcontinent who hardly see eye to eye with each other. A great majority of people in these countries live below poverty line and seldom in peace. There is hardly any friendship and feelings of common ancestry amongst them. Deeply divided and distrustful of each other, they show little consideration for their common past, or the possibility of working for each other's welfare and economic success. Divided as they are on social, political, regional or religious grounds, they have great antipathy towards each other.

Perhaps there are no other countries in the history of the world with such common heritage and ancestry which were invaded and subjugated by so many outsiders and so many times. In no other countries you would come across so much religious or social tension, so much betrayal and social or religious discard. In a land where religious consciousness rose to such great heights, it is difficult to understand why human character became so weak and degraded.

Some historians tend to lay the blame on Buddhism. But it is difficult to believe that Buddhism was responsible for the weakening of the character of these peoples. If it was really the cause, then why did not it happen in countries like China and Japan who also became converted to Buddhism. There Buddhism strengthened the character of these nations and turned them into hard fighters.

It is hard to predict in what direction these countries would ultimately proceed. They have all the resources, great moral strength and strong religious fervor. They have abundant practical intelligence and an all round knowledge of sciences and arts, sufficient to push them right into the middle of 21st century. In many ways they are very progressive minded and they have a vast reservoir of leadership to depend upon in times of crises.

Would they eventually learn lessons from their common past and come together to forge some form of alliance? Would they ever learn to trust each other, or decimate each other in some nuclear holocaust? There is no doubt that if these countries unite and work together even in a partial way, tolerating each other's paths and ways, the world would know where to look for the next center of world power.

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