The Battle of the Vitasta

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Notes

The Battle of Vitasta: (Or the Battle of the Hydaspes) was fought by Alexander the Great in 326 BC against King Porus of the Paurava kingdom on the banks of the Hydaspes River (now known as the Jhelum River) in what is now the Punjab Province of Pakistan. The battle resulted in a complete Greek victory.

Harold Bloom: (b. 1930) Harold Bloom is a Poststructuralist critic and Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University, US; often associated with Derrida, de Man, Miller and Hartman.

King Porus: original name Raja Purushottama, was a king of the Pauravas, Ruler of a territory now known as the Punjab (and now in Pakitan), and reigned between 340 – c. 315 BC,  who fought fiercely and skilfully against Alexander the Great in the Battle of Vitasta;  was reinstated though defeated in the battle, for his courage and soldierly qualities. 340 – c. 315 BC . Assassinated in 315 BCE by a Greek general.

King Alexander: (356 – 323 BCE) Alexander the Great, Conqueror and king of Macedonia, was born on July 20, 356 – 323 BCE in Pella, Macedonia. During his leadership, from 336 to 323 B.C., united the Greek city-states, also  became the king of Persia, Babylon and Asia, and created Macedonian colonies in the region; known for his leadership and nobility. Was Aristotle’s disciple.

Arrian: a Greek historian, public servant, military commander and philosopher of the Roman period.

Zhukov: (1896 – 1974), Gen. Zhukov was a Soviet-Russian officer in the Red Army of the Soviet Union who became Chief of General Staff. He made this claim in his lecture, delivered at the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun, in 1957.

GOK: God Only Knows

“for want of a rider,… the battle was lost” : adaptation of a Nursery Rhyme

“Truest friend and noblest foe”: an echo of  Tennyson’s 'Home they brought her warrior dead':

 

 

 

 

 


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While textualizing history
(now after nearly 24 centuries)
Of the Battle of the ‘Vitasta,’ or ‘Hydaspes’
Or the Jhelum (a name now common),
There’s bound to be some swerve,
Which is how (according to Bloom)
Poetry is born—
Now that there are claims and counter-claims:
Alexander conquered India,
(by courtesy of Arrian);
No, he fled, a hypothesis
As advanced, notably by Zhukov
(Who, it is claimed, would know 
A fleeing force if he saw one).
How did Zhukov happen to see 
Alexander's army fleeing?
GOK!

But this is not an attempt to romanticize the battle,
Glorifying either Alexander and his Bucephalus
Or King Porus and his valiant elephant.	
Now, if we go by Arrian, what’s the bottom line? 

You were wounded, King Porus, 
But it did not matter to you in the least;
But your elephant was killed, 
Which decided the end of the great battle.

You fought fiercely— till the end.
So did your men,
But only until you collapsed.
Then they started fleeing 
As would any troop in those times—
In the circumstances.

And they were chased by the Greek garrison (in reserve)
That joined from across the Jhelum— 
A neat plan that Alexander had thought out
And it worked.
Alas, for want of a rider,… the battle was lost!

Come to think of it, 
Yours after all was a top-down system, 
As was any such system (Alexander’s included),
Until modern times, which would collapse,
Like a quake-hit city,
When the leader falls. 

But that was not the end of the story.
The best is yet to be, as we know.
For you, Porus, it was dignity even in defeat.
And Alexander happened to be
The truest friend and noblest foe.
You, now in chains, asked to be treated as a King.
So, you were reinstated and made the Satrap
(the Governor of the Greek Dominon).

The lesson (or one of the lessons) 
that we have learnt from your battle,
King Porus, is this:
Any good team should have a Second-in-command!

***

Copyright © | Year Posted 2017




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Date: 9/1/2017 8:48:00 AM
I thoroughly enjoyed this poem of history. It brought me closer to understanding the human side of such large figures.
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R. V. Avatar
Ram R. V.
Date: 9/1/2017 9:43:00 AM
Thank you very much, Patricia, for your profound remarks. You will be my voice! I had to do quite a lot of referencing for the poem. Now I feel amply rewarded:) By the way, post your photo. Otherwise, you will only be my disembodied voice!
R. V. Avatar
Ram R. V.
Date: 9/1/2017 9:43:00 AM
Thank you very much, Patricia, for your profound remarks. You will be my voice. I had to do quite a lot of referencing for the poem. Now I feel amply rewarded:). By the way, post your photo. Otherwise, you will only be my disembodied voice!