The Ganges Delta is a land of great natural resources, myths, and heritage by ancient geographers and historians. The extensive area ranging from the current Indian state of West Bengal to Bangladesh’s heart was once known as the home of the Gangaridai kingdom.
Filled with enormous wealth and powerful mercenaries the kingdom intimidated enemies trying to cross the river. And Alexander’s Army was no exception. But is this the only reason why the Indian Subcontinent remained unconquered by Alexander the Great? Let’s find out.
Gangaridai – The Lost Empire
According to Greco-Roman writers, the historical state of Gangaridai was established around 300 BCE in the Bengal Delta region, which is currently the Indian subcontinent. While archeologists are yet to find the ruins of the capital city Gange, multiple historians suggest that Wari-Bateshwara, or Chandraketugarh, could have the ruins.
They also believe that the Gangaridai empire was the Nanda empire. From multiple ancient historians’ writings, it is evident that the kingdom was mighty powerful with its brave troops, especially the war elephants. The confluence of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna, three of Asia’s greatest rivers, was the booming point of world trade. It was also the place where Greek warrior Alexander the Great ended his great Indian campaign. And he thus left the region of Gangaridai unconquered.
Alexander Towards The Gangaridai
Greek king Alexander the Great was possibly the first foreign power to fix an eye on the Gangaridai territory to capture it. But what brought him there? This eastern part of the Indian subcontinent offers him a lucrative option to invade the enormous wealth of the region and the flourishing trade centers of Asia.
Around 500 BCE, Greek writer Hecataeus of Miletus produced a map of the region that Alexander probably had a look at. Sources suggest that the traders of the area helped Hecataeus of Miletus to create the map. Whatever it is, Alexander was aware of the power of its king, but the lucrative wealth was hard to leave for him.
Gangaridai In Bibliotheca Historica
The Bibliotheca Historica by the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus has a thorough description of the Gangaridai empire. According to Diodorus, the Gangaridai was strong with mercenaries, horses, and war elephants. And that was reason enough for most foreign armies to stay away from the mighty nation. Siculus highlights how the Gangaridai army’s use of war elephants could be the reason behind Alexander’s retreat.
According to him, the king of the empire had a massive troop of 4000 war-trained elephants at that time. In his book, he wrote that Alexander heard the news of the enormous troops, and upon verifying the information, he decided not to cross the river to invade the land.
Megasthenes About Gangaridai
Megasthenes was the first historian who suggested that the bravery of Gangaridai and troops might be from the mercenaries of the Roman Army. He wrote in detail about these soldiers in his famous book Indica.
Megasthenes lived during the time of the invasion of Alexander. From his writing, we get a clear picture of the whereabouts of the strategy of Alexander. He wrote the king owned 1,000 horses, 60,000 troops, and a massive army of 700 war elephants equipped for war.
Modern Theories propose that the Gangaridai was the dynasty of the great king Dhana Nanda. And most people would recognize this kingdom as the Nanda dynasty. Dhana Nanda ruled the region during Alexander’s invasion. However, the entire kingdom of Dhana Nanda came from an amalgamation of the Prasii and Gangaridai territory.
Chandragupta Maurya later defeated Dhana Nanda to take over the entire empire. However, Rakhaldas Bandyopadhyay, a famous Bengali historian, argues that during Chandragupta Maurya’s reign, the Gangaridai was independent.
Based on the emerging evidence from modern research, it is safe to assume the land of this Ganges delta was one of the world’s cultural and economic epicenters. Popular Greco-Roman historians also echoed the same. Besides Alexander the Great, the Gangaridai empire’s valor had successfully kept every foreign invader at bay. And all these mighty kingdoms now lie in archeological ruins, waiting for us to explore and uncover their wisdom. They have numerous lessons to teach us, not just about their bravery, but about the rich culture too.