Gangaridai

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Gangaridai was an ancient state found around 300 BC where the Bengal
Bengal
Bengal is a historical and geographical region in the northeast region of the Indian Subcontinent at the apex of the Bay of Bengal. Today, it is mainly divided between the sovereign land of People's Republic of Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal, although some regions of the previous...

 region lies today (present-day Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

 and the West Bengal
West Bengal
West Bengal is a state in the eastern region of India and is the nation's fourth-most populous. It is also the seventh-most populous sub-national entity in the world, with over 91 million inhabitants. A major agricultural producer, West Bengal is the sixth-largest contributor to India's GDP...

 state in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

). It was described by the Greek traveller Megasthenes
Megasthenes
Megasthenes was a Greek ethnographer in the Hellenistic period, author of the work Indica.He was born in Asia Minor and became an ambassador of Seleucus I of Syria possibly to Chandragupta Maurya in Pataliputra, India. However the exact date of his embassy is uncertain...

 in his work Indica. The Greek and Latin historians suggested that Alexander the Great withdrew from India, anticipating the valiant joint counter attack of the mighty Gangaridai and Prasii (Nanda) Empires, the latter located in central Bihar
Bihar
Bihar is a state in eastern India. It is the 12th largest state in terms of geographical size at and 3rd largest by population. Almost 58% of Biharis are below the age of 25, which is the highest proportion in India....

.

Location



Ptolemy
Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

 (c.90 – c.168), wrote that the Gangaridai occupied the entire region about the five mouths of the Ganges and that the royal residence was in the city of "Ganges". The five mouths were:
  1. The Kambyson
  2. The Mega
  3. The Kamberikhon
  4. The Pseudostomon
  5. The Antibole


The Periplus
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea
The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea or Periplus of the Red Sea is a Greco-Roman periplus, written in Greek, describing navigation and trading opportunities from Roman Egyptian ports like Berenice along the coast of the Red Sea, and others along Northeast Africa and India...

 refers Gangaridai to be located on the Bay of Bengal
Bay of Bengal
The Bay of Bengal , the largest bay in the world, forms the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean. It resembles a triangle in shape, and is bordered mostly by the Eastern Coast of India, southern coast of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to the west and Burma and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the...

 north to the port city of Dosarene in Kalinga
Kalinga (India)
Kalinga was an early state in central-eastern India, which comprised most of the modern state of Orissa/Utkal , as well as the Andhra region of the bordering state of Andhra Pradesh. It was a rich and fertile land that extended from the river Damodar/Ganges to Godavari and from Bay of Bengal to...

 (ancient Orissa). Its main city, with the same name as the river Ganges, was on the bank of the river. Strabo
Strabo
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...

, Pliny
Pliny
- Persons :* Pliny the Elder , ancient Roman nobleman, scientist and historian, author of Naturalis Historia, "Pliny's Natural History"...

, Arrian
Arrian
Lucius Flavius Arrianus 'Xenophon , known in English as Arrian , and Arrian of Nicomedia, was a Roman historian, public servant, a military commander and a philosopher of the 2nd-century Roman period...

, et al. compiled a map of India as known to the early Greeks, based on Indica of Megasthenes (4th century BC), where the Gangaridai state has been shown in the lower Ganges and its tributaries. However, all the Greek, Latin and Egyptian accounts about Gangaridai suggest that the country was located in the deltaic region of Southern Bengal.

Periplus
Periplus
Periplus is the Latinization of an ancient Greek word, περίπλους , literally "a sailing-around." Both segments, peri- and -plous, were independently productive: the ancient Greek speaker understood the word in its literal sense; however, it developed a few specialized meanings, one of which became...

 mentions the city of Pataliputra, which is north of Tosali or Dosarne, and which based on the map, lies next to the Ganges and is at the heart of Ganga as it flows from the Himalayas to the sea.

During Alexander's invasion


Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus was a Greek historian who flourished between 60 and 30 BC. According to Diodorus' own work, he was born at Agyrium in Sicily . With one exception, antiquity affords no further information about Diodorus' life and doings beyond what is to be found in his own work, Bibliotheca...

 wrote of the area and army:
"When he (Alexander) moved forward with his forces certain men came to inform him that Porus, the king of the country, who was the nephew of that Porus whom he had defeated, had left his kingdom and fled to the nation of Gandaridai... He had obtained from Phegeus
Phegeus
Phegeus was a Greek mythological king who offered succor and his daughter, Arsinoe , to Alcmaeon, who was fleeing from the Erinyes. Alcmaeon left his mother's, Eriphyle's, jewelry and clothing with him and then returned for it later in order to please the river god Achelous and have his daughter,...

 a description of the country beyond the Indus: First came a desert which it would take twelve days to traverse; beyond this was the river called the Ganges which had a width of thirty two stadia
Stadia
Stadium or stadion has the plural stadia in both Latin and Greek. The anglicized term is stade in the singular.Stadium may refer to:* Stadium, a building type...

, and a greater depth than any other Indian river; beyond this again were situated the dominions of the nation of the Prasioi and the Gandaridai, whose king, Xandrammes, had an army of 20,000 horse 200,000 infantry, 2,000 chariots and 4,000 elephants trained and equipped for war".... "Now this (Ganges) river, which is 30 stadia broad, flows from north to south, and empties its water into the ocean forming the eastern boundary of the Gandaridai, a nation which possesses the greatest number of elephants and the largest in (c.90 BC – c.30 BC). Quoted from The Classical Accounts of India, Dr R.C. Majumder, p. 170-72/234.


Diodorus Siculus further describes "Gandaridae":
"Among the southern countries the first under the Kaukasos is India, a kingdom remarkable for its vast extent and the largeness of its population, for it is inhabited by very many nations, among which the greatest of all is that of the Gandaridae, against whom Alexander did not undertake an expedition, being deterred by the multitude of their elephants. This region is separated from farther India by the greatest river in those parts (for it has a breadth of thirty stadia), but it adjoins the rest of India which Alexander had conquered, and which was well watered by rivers and highly renowned for its prosperous and happy Quoted from Ancient India as Described in Classical Literature, John W. McCrindle, p. 201.


Quintus Curtius Rufus
Quintus Curtius Rufus
Quintus Curtius Rufus was a Roman historian, writing probably during the reign of the Emperor Claudius or Vespasian. His only surviving work, Historiae Alexandri Magni, is a biography of Alexander the Great in Latin in ten books, of which the first two are lost, and the remaining eight are...

 noted the 2 nations Gangaridae and Prasii:
"Next came the Ganges, the largest river in all India, the farther bank of which was inhabited by two nations, the Gangaridae and the Prasii, whose king Agrammes kept in field for guarding the approaches to his country 20,000 cavalry and 200,000 infantry, besides 2,000 four-horsed chariots, and, what was the most formidable of all, a troop of elephants which he said ran up to the number of (wrote between 60-70 AD). Quoted from The Classical Accounts of India, p. 103-128.


Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 noted both Gangaridae and Prasii together:
"The Battle with Porus depressed the spirits of the Macedonians, and made them very unwilling to advance farther into India... This river (the Ganges), they heard, had a breadth of two and thirty stadia, and a depth of 1000 fathoms, while its farther banks were covered all over with armed men, horses and elephants. For the kings of the Gandaritai and the Prasiai were reported to be waiting for him (Alexander) with an army of 80,000 horse, 200,000 foot, 8,000 war-chariots, and 6,000 fighting Quoted from The Classical Accounts of India, p. 198.


Megasthenes
Megasthenes
Megasthenes was a Greek ethnographer in the Hellenistic period, author of the work Indica.He was born in Asia Minor and became an ambassador of Seleucus I of Syria possibly to Chandragupta Maurya in Pataliputra, India. However the exact date of his embassy is uncertain...

 in Indika wrote about Gangaridai:
"Now this river, which at its source is 30 stadia broad, flows from north to south, and empties its waters into the ocean forming the eastern boundary of the Gangaridai, a nation which possesses a vast force of the largest-sized elephants. Owing to this, their country has never been conquered by any foreign king: for all other nations dread the overwhelming number and strength of these animals. [Thus Alexander the Macedonian, after conquering all Asia, did not make war upon the Gangaridai, as he did on all others; for when he had arrived with all his troops at the river Ganges, he abandoned as hopeless an invasion of the Gangaridai and India when he learned that they possessed four thousand elephants well trained and equipped for (c. 350 BC-290 BC). Quoted from the Epitome of Megasthenes, Indika. (Diod. II. 35-42. ), Ancient India as Described by Megasthenes and Arrian. Translated and edited by J.W. McCrindle.


During the reign of Chandragupta Maurya


Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 wrote about the people:
"In the final part of its Ganges course, which is through the country of the Gangarides.... But Prasii surpass in power and glory every other people, not only in this quarter, but one may say in all India, their capital Palibothra (Pataliputra), a very large and wealthy city, after which some call the people itself the Palibothri, (He talks about Prasii during the reign of Chandragupta Maurya)... In the parts which lie southward from the Ganges the inhabitants, already swarthy, are deeply coloured by the sun, though not scorched black like the Quoted from The Classical Accounts of India, Dr. R.C. Majumdar, p. 341-343.

Megasthenes wrote about the people known as Gangarides:
"The least breadth of the Ganges is eight miles, and its greatest twenty. Its depth where it is shallowest is fully a hundred feet. The people who live in the furthest-off part are the Gangarides, whose king possesses 1,000 horse, 700 elephants, and 60,000 foot in apparatus of Quoted from FRAGM. LVI. B. Solin. 52. 6- 17. Catalogue of Indian Races, Ancient India as Described by Megasthenes and Arrian. Translated and edited by J. W. McCrindle.

Later period

"... Sailing with the ocean to the right and the shore remaining beyond to the left, Ganges comes into view, and near it the very last land toward the east, Chryse. There is a river near it called the Ganges, and it rises and falls in the same way as the Nile. On its bank is a market-town which has the same name as the river, Ganges. Through this place are brought malabathrum and Gangetic spikenard and pearls, and muslin of the finest sorts, which are called Gangetic. It is said that there are gold-mines near these (1st century AD). Quoted from The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Wilfred H. Schoff, p. 47-8.

Ptolemy has been quoted on Gangaridai covering the whole delta:
"All the country about the mouths of the Ganges is occupied by the Gangaridai with this city : - Gange, the royal residence... Quoted from Ancient India as Described by Ptolemy, John W. McCrindle, p. 172.

Dionysius Periegetes
Dionysius Periegetes
Dionysius Periegetes was the author of a description of the habitable world in Greek hexameter verse written in a terse and elegant style...

 also wrote of the area:
"Next come the wild tribes of the Peukalensians, beyond whom lie the seats of the Gangaridae, worshippers of Bacchus
Dionysus
Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology. His name in Linear B tablets shows he was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete...

, ... the land here projects into the deep whirling ocean in steep precipices, over which the fowls of heaven in swift flight can hardly wing their way. "---Dionysius Periegetes
Dionysius Periegetes
Dionysius Periegetes was the author of a description of the habitable world in Greek hexameter verse written in a terse and elegant style...

 (3rd century AD). Quoted from The Classical Accounts of Ancient India, p. 423.

In Greek mythology


Gangaridai has been noted in Greek myth too. In Apollonius of Rhodes
Apollonius of Rhodes
Apollonius Rhodius, also known as Apollonius of Rhodes , early 3rd century BCE – after 246 BCE, was a poet, and a librarian at the Library of Alexandria...

' "Argonautika
Argonautika
The Argonautica is a Greek epic poem written by Apollonius Rhodius in the 3rd century BC. The only surviving Hellenistic epic, the Argonautica tells the myth of the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts to retrieve the Golden Fleece from the mythical land of Colchis...

"
, Datis
Datis
For other uses of the word Dati, see Dati .Datis or Datus was a Median admiral who served the Persian Empire, under Darius the Great...

, a chieftain, leader of the Gangaridae who was in the army of Perses III, fought against Aeetes
Aeëtes
In Greek mythology, Aeëtes , , , was a King of Colchis , son of the sun-god Helios and the Oceanid Perseis , brother of Circe and Pasiphae, and father of Medea, Chalciope and Apsyrtus...

 during the Colchian civil war. Colchis
Colchis
In ancient geography, Colchis or Kolkhis was an ancient Georgian state kingdom and region in Western Georgia, which played an important role in the ethnic and cultural formation of the Georgian nation.The Kingdom of Colchis contributed significantly to the development of medieval Georgian...

 was situated in modern day Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

, on the east of the Black Sea. Aeetes was the famous king of Colchia against whom Jason
Jason
Jason was a late ancient Greek mythological hero from the late 10th Century BC, famous as the leader of the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece. He was the son of Aeson, the rightful king of Iolcus...

 and the Argonauts
Argonauts
The Argonauts ) were a band of heroes in Greek mythology who, in the years before the Trojan War, accompanied Jason to Colchis in his quest to find the Golden Fleece. Their name comes from their ship, the Argo, which was named after its builder, Argus. "Argonauts", therefore, literally means...

 undertook their expedition in search of the "Golden Fleece
Golden Fleece
In Greek mythology, the Golden Fleece is the fleece of the gold-haired winged ram, which can be procured in Colchis. It figures in the tale of Jason and his band of Argonauts, who set out on a quest by order of King Pelias for the fleece in order to place Jason rightfully on the throne of Iolcus...

". Perses III was the brother of Aeetes and king of the Taurian tribe. Virgil
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

 also speaks of the valour of the Gangaridae in his Georgics
Georgics
The Georgics is a poem in four books, likely published in 29 BC. It is the second major work by the Latin poet Virgil, following his Eclogues and preceding the Aeneid. It is a poem that draws on many prior sources and influenced many later authors from antiquity to the present...

.

Virgil has been quoted:
"On the doors will I represent in gold and ivory the battle of the Gangaridae and the arms of our victorious


It is possible that the Gangaridai people did not only trade with the Greeks/Romans but also fought for them as mercenaries.

Interpretations


The name "Gangaridai" has been spelled differently by different Greek/Roman accounts: Gangaridae, Gandaridai, Gangaritai, Gangaridum. However the stem of the term "Gangaridai" as "Ganga" has been interpreted by different historians as: Ganga-Hrd (Land with Ganges in its heart), Ganga-Rashtra (State of the Ganges), Gandaridai.

Rakhaldas Bandyopadhyay
Rakhaldas Bandyopadhyay
Rakhaldas Bandyopadhyay , also known as R. D. Banerji, was an Indian historian and a native Indian pioneer in the fields of Indian archaeology, epigraphy and palaeography. He was the Manindra Chandra Nandy Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture at the Banaras Hindu University from 1928-30...

, the famous Bengali historian says: "During Chandragupta Maurya's rule Gangaridai was independent like the Andhra kingdom and Gangaridai was joined with Kalinga
Kalinga (India)
Kalinga was an early state in central-eastern India, which comprised most of the modern state of Orissa/Utkal , as well as the Andhra region of the bordering state of Andhra Pradesh. It was a rich and fertile land that extended from the river Damodar/Ganges to Godavari and from Bay of Bengal to...

." ("Bangalar Itihash" v-I, p. 23). It is interesting that the description of the armed forces of Gangaridae and Calingae during the reign of Chandragupta Maurya
Chandragupta Maurya
Chandragupta Maurya , was the founder of the Maurya Empire. Chandragupta succeeded in conquering most of the Indian subcontinent. Chandragupta is considered the first unifier of India and its first genuine emperor...

 as given by Megasthenes are identical (both possessed army of 60,000 foot-soldiers, 1,000 horsemen and 700 elephants).

According to Dr. N.K. Sahu's opinion, the illustrious Ganga Dynasty
Ganga Dynasty
Ganga Dynasty is a name used for two unrelated dynasties who ruled parts of India:* The Western Ganga Dynasty, a kingdom in southern India, based in southern Karnataka, from the 3rd to the 10th centuries...

 of Orissa
Orissa
Orissa , officially Odisha since Nov 2011, is a state of India, located on the east coast of India, by the Bay of Bengal. It is the modern name of the ancient nation of Kalinga, which was invaded by the Maurya Emperor Ashoka in 261 BC. The modern state of Orissa was established on 1 April...

 (and also Karnataka
Karnataka
Karnataka , the land of the Kannadigas, is a state in South West India. It was created on 1 November 1956, with the passing of the States Reorganisation Act and this day is annually celebrated as Karnataka Rajyotsava...

, Madras) were the descendants of the Gangaridai people who migrated to South India
South India
South India is the area encompassing India's states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu as well as the union territories of Lakshadweep and Pondicherry, occupying 19.31% of India's area...

 from Tamluk
Tamluk
Tamluk is the district headquarters of Purba Medinipur district of West Bengal, India. Though there is some controversy, scholars have generally agreed that present day Tamluk is the site of the ancient city variously known as Tamralipta or Tamralipti...

 (Midnapur) in South Bengal. He further implies that the Gangaridai people inhabited the entire eastern coast of India stretching from Bengal to Kalinga and Madras.

The area of Gangaridai is noted circa 450 BC:
"The Nandas
Nanda Dynasty
The Nanda Empire originated from the region of Magadha in Ancient India during the 5th and 4th centuries BC. At its greatest extent, the Nanda Empire extended from Bengal in the east, to Punjab in the west and as far south as the Vindhya Range...

 who ruled in the 4th century BCE originated from Bengal and they defeated the Shishunaga dynasty
Shishunaga dynasty
The Shishunaga dynasty was the third ruling dynasty of Magadha, a kingdom in ancient India. But according to the Puranas, this dynasty is the second ruling dynasty of Magadha, which succeeded the Barhadratha dynasty....

 around 450 BCE and joined the crowns of Gangaridai (Bengal) and Prasii (Magadha). Agrammes or Dhana Nanda was the king of this empire during the invasion of Alexander the

This theory supports Diodorus' opinion that "Gangaridai was the greatest empire in India" and that, "This region is separated from farther India by the greatest river in those parts,... but it adjoins the rest of India which Alexander had conquered" (see quote further above).

The relation with the Prasii kingdom is not clear. It is plausible that Gangaridae formed a confederacy with Prasii to face the threat of Alexander's invasion. Dr. Hemchandra Ray Chowdhury writes: "It may reasonably be inferred from the statements of the Greek and Latin writers that about the time of Alexander's invasion, the Gangaridai were a very powerful nation, and either formed a dual monarchy with the Pasioi, or were closely associated with them on equal terms in a common cause against the foreign The History of Bengal, v-I, p. 44.

The city of Gange had not been located. Recent excavations of Chandraketugarh
Chandraketugarh
Chandraketugarh is an archaeological site located beside the Bidyadhari river, about 35 km north-east of Kolkata, India, in the district of North 24 parganas, near the township of Berachampa and the Haroa Road railhead....

, Deganga
Deganga
Deganga is an administrative division in Barasat Sadar subdivision of North 24 Parganas district in the Indian state of West Bengal. Deganga police station serves this block. Headquarters of this block is at Debalay...

 and Wari-Bateshwar ruins
Wari-Bateshwar ruins
Wari-Bateshwar is the site of an ancient fort city dating back to 450 BC situated in the north-eastern part of Bangladesh. This 2500 years old site is a significant archaeological discovery...

 prove that these cities are strong contenders to be the city of Gange. According to the historian Paresh Chandra Dasgupta, Gange most probably was the port town of Chandraketugarh
Chandraketugarh
Chandraketugarh is an archaeological site located beside the Bidyadhari river, about 35 km north-east of Kolkata, India, in the district of North 24 parganas, near the township of Berachampa and the Haroa Road railhead....

, a fact that is corroborated by the large number of ship seals found during excavation of the site. The reference of Gange to be the producer of the finest sort of muslin
Muslin
Muslin |sewing patterns]], such as for clothing, curtains, or upholstery. Because air moves easily through muslin, muslin clothing is suitable for hot, dry climates.- Etymology and history :...

 points to the Brahmaputra-Padma region which was definitely the home for muslin
Muslin
Muslin |sewing patterns]], such as for clothing, curtains, or upholstery. Because air moves easily through muslin, muslin clothing is suitable for hot, dry climates.- Etymology and history :...

. For trade, the people of Gangaridai used some kind of gold coin called "Caltis".

Sources

  • The Classical accounts of India, Dr. R. C. Majumdar. p. 103-128, 170-172, 190, 234, 341-343, 375.
  • Ancient India as Described in Classical literature, John W. McCrindle. p. 201.
  • Ancient India as Described by Ptolemy, John W. McCrindle. p. 172
  • The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Wilfred H. Schoff. p. 47-8.
  • Studies of Geography of Ancient and Medieval India, Dr. Dineshchandra Sarkar. p. 213, 218.
  • Political History of Ancient India. p. 231.
  • Pre-Aryan and Pre-Davidian in India, Jean Przyluski. p. 137
  • Historic Geography of Ancient and Early Medieval Bengal, Dr. Amitav Vattacharya. p. 38.
  • Ancient India as described by Megasthenes and Arrian ( 2nd Edition), J. W. McCrindle

External links