Imprints of Greeks in Jammu

Menanadra the Indo Greek King who setup his capital at Sangla the present day Sialkot on the outskirts of R S Pura Jammu

Iqbal Ahmad
In the ancient local traditions there is mention of one Abhisara named king of Poonch and Nowshera, who is believed to have held Jammu and Kashmir during Alexander times.
He is recorded to have surrendered to the Alexander and then Porus was made in-charge of the whole area which Alexander had conquered. The area lay between the Beas and the Jhelum. King of Texila, Ambhi was given the territories west of Jhelum while Abhisara’s authority was extended up to Kashmir.
Who has been this Abhisara, no further details are available of this king . In fact he is being mentioned in classical history literatures, but his authority over Kashmir is not testified by any other source. However, Alexander’s numismatic finds in Jammu and Kashmir provide certain clues of his campaign of the areas bordering Jammu and Kashmir and the possibility of his visit of the land which since times immemorial was attractive for its visitors
In fact, there are several ancient events and evidences related with several ancient Greek kings found in Jammu and Kashmir. Abhishara is recorded to have been the king of Nowshera and Poonch when Alexander invaded the empire of Porus. There are several villages and towns of Jammu and Kashmir which have Greek origin. The historic town of Menander in the same District is believed and to have been founded in the name of Menendra, the most famous Indo Greek king who had his capital at Sangla in present-day Sailkote which is only few kilometers from R.S. Pura Jammu. This king has also got his numismatic and literacy evidences in Jammu and Kashmir. Demetrious and Menandra are recorded to have enjoyed their political authority on the lands which included parts south of Kashmir as well.

Unexplored archaeological mound at Sakhi Maindan Menander, Poonch

The stone remains and the basement of some stone structures are found scattered on a plateau at Sakhi Madian Village of Mender. There are possibilities of finding of some more evidences related to Indo- Greek period king Menandra. Since the site is yet to face any scientific exploration so nothing can be said in advance. In the local folklore there are various interesting stories related with this site, In fact so far as its surface evidence is concerned, there are remains of some built structures under its debris.
One more interesting story of ancient Greeks is related with Baffaliyaz, a small town of the district Poonch, which is situated on the historic Mughal road. A curious legend about this place states that it is the place where the Alexander’ during his expeditions towards Indian subcontinent lost his cherished horse called Bucephalus.
Most of the people are well aware about the historic figure Alexander the great. He is well mentioned in the folk traditions of Jammu and Kashmir and is here known by the name of Sikinder Azam. His one of the battles which he fought with Raja Pours is also very much popular among the local story tellers. I have my self read about him in various Persian literary works. These works are titled as Sikander Nama and such works are housed in various museums, archival repositories and libraries of Jammu and Kashmir.
There is one such well preserved manuscript of Sikander Nama housed in Dogra Art Museum at Jammu. This manuscript gives us a detailed description of adventures which he made towards east and west.
Besides, coins of Alexander have also been found in Jammu and Kashmir and few of the ancient Macedonian coins are also housed in the numismatic collection at SPS Museum Srinagar.
One of the interesting pieces of coin depicting the battle scene of Alexander and Porus is also preserved in the numismatic collections of the British Museum.
Historically speaking, Sikander Azam is known by the name of the Alexander the great, and plenty of historical accounts are available, which tell us the story of Indian expeditions of this Macedonian king,
The Indian traditions tell us about the confrontation of Alexander with the Indian king Porus in the lower belt of Hydaspes, which is presently known as Jhelum. Tradition further tells, Porus drew up on the south bank of the Jhelum River, and was set to repel any crossings. The Jhelum River was deep and fast enough that any opposed crossing would probably doom the entire attacking force. Alexander knew that a direct crossing would fail, so he found a suitable crossing, about 27 kms (17 mi) upstream of his camp. The name of the place is “Kadee”. Alexander left his general Craterus behind with most of the army while he crossed the river upstream with a strong contingent. Porus sent a small cavalry and chariot force under his son to the crossing.
According to sources Alexander had already encountered Porus’s son, so the two men were not strangers. Porus’s son killed Alexander’s horse with one blow, and Alexander fell to the ground.
Other traditions state that there was a fight at the actual landing between Alexander’s cavalry and a force of Indians commanded by Porus’s son, who was there ready to oppose them with superior numbers, and that in the course of fighting he (Porus’s son) wounded Alexander with his own hand and struck the blow which killed his (Alexander’s) beloved horse Buccaphalus.
An oral tradition preserved here states that the battle took place somewhere near the olden town of Poonch. Several Kashmiri scholars identify a village in Poonch District of the Jammu and Kashmir called Baffaliyaz, located in the lap of Pirpanchal as the place named after the beloved horse of Alexander. They cliam Baffaliyaz as the corrupt form of Buccaphalus. Mohammad Yousuf Taing the eminent historian and author in one of his articles published in Kashmiri Shiraza has claimed that Baffaliyaz is the corrupt form of Buccaphalus. And it is the place where Sikinder lost his cherished horse named Buccaphalus during a fight with Porus. In fact Alexander was encountered by Porus in Dravabhisar in the lower belt of the River Jhelum. The area has been identified as that of Poonch region. How much reality is in this claim one cannot be certain. But if Baffailyaz is named after the name of Buccaphalus then the fight may have taken place somewhere near Poonch, which is one of the olden towns of the Jammu and Kashmir and mentioned in the olden indigenous and foreign records as well.
Indian traditions record that Porus was one of many local kings who impressed Alexander. He was asked by Alexander how he wished to be treated. “Treat me, Alexander, the way a King treats another King”, Porus responded.
Alexander was very much excited by his brave reply and instead of bringing any kind of harm to him; he rewarded him by granting more empires to him. He later founded Alexandria Nikaia (Victory), located at the battle site, to commemorate his triumph. He also founded Bucephalus on the opposite bank of the river in memory of his much-cherished horse, Bucephalus, who carried Alexander through the Indian subcontinent and died heroically during the Battle of Hydaspes (Jhelum). The local scholars have been identifying Baffaliyaz with Buceaphalus , the site fist founded by Alexander in the name of his horse.
The Menender and Baffaliyaz are two most famous sites traditionally related with ancient Greeks, but so far no such Greek evidences have been recorded from either of these sites. In fact this area has never been archaeologically explored. The Archaeology Department and Jammu University shall under take archaeological exploration of this valley.
It is in place to mention here there are reports that ancient Greek evidences have been found from Jammu. Dr. Michael Matcher in his monumental numismatic book classical world has attributed several Greek coins to Jammu and Kashmir section of his book. He has claimed that these coins have come from Jammu region. Besides it is also presumed that Jammu has been included into the indo Greek empire during the rule of king Menandra, who is known to have set up his capital at Sangla present day Sailkote.