Alexander the Great

Alexander dreamed of a Brotherhood of Man in a world torn by conflicts. This may forever remain an unattainable goal but he remains the finest symbol of our vision of a United Nations. It was due to his initiative that East and West first met and the myriad effects of this fraternization are beyond any estimate. The story of the age-old kinship between India and Europe needs to be retold. One common cliche is that Alexander is ignored in the Indian literature; from this learned scholars like Tarn and Rostovtzeff drew the sweeping conclusion that his influence on Asia was trivial. Prof. R.N. Frye of Harvard also takes a similar view but this is false.

There are many references to Alexander. Again, most critics are unaware of an ancient smear campaign launched by the Generals (and Sasigupta) who probably poisoned him. This not only made it difficult to identify the true villains but also blurred many other aspects of his life and mission.

So much mud has been thrown at Alexander by the Harvard pundits in the name of objective history that the very sanity of perspective has been lost. Writers like Badian and Green have stressed the need to demythologise Alexander but this has been attempted without a precise knowledge of history. His Gedrosian voyage had nothing to do with Semiramis or Dionysius but was against Moeris who was in fact Chandragupta Maurya of Prasii.

Critics who have scoffed at Homonoia are unaware that behind his clarion call for Brotherhood of Man stands a Prophet of Prophthasia who had once adorned the Persian throne and that the sage Kalanos was the great Buddhist scholar Asvaghosha. One crucial factor that seems to undermine Alexander’s legacy is that there appears to be very little archaeological evidence of his meteoric voyage. A careful study of Greek, Latin and Sanskrit sources now reveals that his altars have not been found because these were overwritten by Asoka (Diodotus -I).

This leads to the startling possibility that the four-lion emblem of India, which is taken from the so-called Asokan pillar from Sarnath, may be a timeless relic of Alexander. There can be little doubt that the resurgence in Indian civilization in the fourth century BC is in a large measure due to Alexander’s initiative.

Alexander’s expedition was the first large-scale western expansion in Asia, signalling the end of the world-domination of the great civilizations of the ancient East for almost three thousand years. As a result, Hellenistic culture emerged as a significant factor in the old world, yet the expedition was far from a purely imperial conquest.

Like Buddhism, Hellenism also recognized no national boundaries and as the Son of Ammon, Alexander could not circumscribe himself within narrow national confines. Groomed by such great men as Aristotle and Asvaghosha, Alexander embodied not only western science but also eastern religiosity - he had become a world-citizen in the truest sense. It is not that Asoka utilized only his altars, even his message of tolerance and love was clearly a continuation of Alexander’s call for Homonoia.

Alexander’s legacy can be seen as much in the Seleucid Empire or the culture of Alexandria as in the Greek icon of the Buddha, or the wondrous art of Gandhara and Ajanta. As the 19th century German scholar Droysen wrote, Hellenistic culture was of a mixed nature - Greek in essence but greatly enriched by assimilation from the east. From this mixing of cultures arose not only Christianity but also the mighty wave of Mahayana that later swept Asia.