Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Helen: Greek Wife of Indian King: Love Story or Spy Ring?

For Illustrative Purpose Only
READERS of the blog will know the birth story of Bindusara. Bindusara was the father of Ashoka the Great and was the first born son of Emperor Chandragupta who founded the Maurya dynasty. Bindusara’s mother was accidentally poisoned when she was pregnant. When faced with a dilemma of whether to save the mother or the child, Chanakya ruled in favor of dynasty and saved the son and let the mother die. Emperor Chandragupta was widower at a very young age.

Chandragupta put all his energies into the expansion and administration of his empire. Those were turbulent times and after the death of Alexander under mysterious circumstances and without a clear heir, there was a mad rush among his generals for grabbing the vestiges of Alexander’s empire. These generals became regional heads called “satraps”. The biggest among them was Selukos.

The empire of Selukos started from central Africa and reached till the western borders of the Maurya Empire. The story goes that Chandragupta was on a mission in the border areas and was riding his horse along the banks of the Jhelum River when he caught sight of a bevy of ladies who were frolicking in the water. This was Helen, the daughter of Selukos, who along with her friends had come for a trip. It is said that there was mutual attraction from both sides. The emperor could not get the fair and beautiful Helen out of his head while Helen herself was smitten by the handsome Indian king.

Knowing the enmity between the two, both Chandragupta and Helen was not sure about how their love may come to fruition. It is said that Chanakya played a vital party in the love story by offering his carrier pigeons for taking messages back and forth between the two. Chanakya, ever the strategic thinker, wanted to cement the western borders of the empire with a relationship rather than the army. The western border of the kingdom was vast and with a wide variety of geographical challenges.

Selukos meanwhile was alarmed by the rise of this upstart Chandragupta and wanted to teach the young emperor a lesson. Selukos wanted to defeat Chandragupta and then make him as a vassal and order his army to fight for the expansion of the area under his influence. What happened was a historic confrontation between the two. Selukos was defeated and was presented in front of Chandragupta. It is at this time, that Chandragupta magnanimously let Selukos live and keep a major part of the kingdom also he gave Selukos 500 elephants for helping Selukos in the war in central Asia. What he asked in return was Helen as his wife. Selukos was stunned and happy. He also gave Chandragupta parts of current Afghanistan and also an assurance of no war on their border. Thus was sealed an incredible love story between a Greek princess and Indian king. A princess who believed in the Greek gods and a Hindu King. A bridge was created between two cultures. 

But rumors abound that it was not such a fairy tale romance. Helen was not happy at her father’s defeat and the submission of her father was festering sore in her mind. She was not fully happy with her marriage. Selukos is also believed to have told Helen to be his spy in the Maurya Empire. How much truth is there in this? No one knows.

But did Helen really love Chandragupta? Did she integrate into the Indian culture? Was she a spy or an assassin to kill Chandragupta at the appointed hour? Or was she the latest pawn in search of the secrets of ancient India?   Secrets, that had Alexander come down to India in the first place?
To find out this and much more, read the book “The Indus Challenge”. Hitting the bookshelves soon…

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