Love Affair of another Helen with an Indian King
A Greek-Indian Love Affair
A few days back my father told me that earlier Hindi films also produced historical films. He particularly mentioned that there was a movie eulogizing the love of Chandragupta Maurya and the Greek princess Helen titled ‘ Samrat Chandragupta’ ( 1958)
Chandragupta Maurya is one of the most formidable rulers ofIndia. He loved the daughter of Seleucus whom he has secretly seen with her handmaidens, when he was riding past a rivulet. Seleucus was a great soldier and as per Greek historians, he had led the cavalry charge of the Greek army of Alexander the great, against the elephant corps of Porus in the battle of Hydespes in 326 BC.
Chandragupta and Helen
After the early death of Alexander atBabylonwithout an heir, his empire was split up and Seleucus Nikatar (victorious) began his rule all over Persia Iraq up toIndia. Earlier to that Chandragupta had espied Helen (not to be confused with the Helen of Troy) and he desired her. In fact he had fallen in love with her. But he was of humble origin and he resolved to rise up and claim the hand of Helen. But before that he had to deal with the Nanda Empire which was ruling all overNorth India.
Chandragupta over ran the Nanda empire and this alarmed the Greeks. Seleucus who had already troubles inBabylonresolved to come back and defeat Chandragupta. He thus marched against Chandragupta. In the meantime Chandragupta expressed his love for Helen by messages which were carried by carrier pigeons. Helen it appears also began to love the ardent suitor fromIndia. Through her hand maidens she learn’t that Chandragupta was a heathen who was a Hindu and did not believe in the Greek gods and religion. Yet she formed an image of Chandragupta and loved him.
The Defeat of Seleucus
In 305 BC Seleucus Greek army met Chandragupta in battle. By all accounts the Greek historians who refer to Chandragupta as Sandrokottos confirm that he defeated Seleucus. After the defeat, Seleucus was non plussed when Chandragupta offered a truce to him. The two kings met and signed a peace treaty and at that time Chandragupta asked for the hand of Helen.
Chandragupta Marries his Love, Helen
Seleucus was not inclined initially to allow his daughter to marry a heathen, but his daughter insisted and he agreed. He was also taken in by the generosity of Chandragupta who gifted him 500 elephants. But Seleucus had to give up all his territories up toIranto Chandragupta. These elephants gifted by Chandragupta were decisive in the battle of Ipsus in 305BC against his opponents. The relationship between Seleucus and Chandragupta was strengthened.
When Chandragupta reached thepalaceofHelenshe was delighted to see the man who had been sending her unrequited messages of love. Bards of that period tell us that Helen was the epitome of beauty with a skin that was fairest of the fair. However she insisted that her handmaidens also accompany her and Chandragupta readily agreed. Thus a lot many girls came to the court of Chandragupta at Pataliputra (modernPatna) and settled down there. Many married the nobles at Chandragupta’s court.
Chandragupta took Helen fromIranto Pataliputra and their was much rejoicing among the populace. feasts and dances were held. The fairness and beauty of Helen enchanted Chandragupta and the court and Kautaliya gave his approval.In fact he had suggested this marriage earlier from the political angle. This was one of the most glorious love affairs of all time. Soon Helen conceived and gave birth to a child. No much is known about Helen further, except that she was a queen who loved Chandragupta..
As in fairy tales Chandragupta and Helen lived happily till Helen died. Then Chandragupta converted to Jainism and abdicated his throne to Bindusar and went away to Karnataka where he died. What a great man to abdicate and go away!
The love of the Greek princess and the Indian king is a romantic tale that can be told and retold. Is it not a matter of pride for all of us that Chandragupta defeated the Greeks and claimed his love a Greek princess as a prize? This is how legends are made