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Sunday, March 1, 2015

How Emperor Chandragupta Loved the Greek Princess Helen


Everybody is aware of the famous story of Helen of Troy. This is related in the Iliad by the blind poet Homer. Helen was a  Greek queen and the wife of King Menelaus. She however eloped with Paris a prince of Troy and the son of King Priam. Paris was the younger brother of the warrior Hector. Many  versions of this tale are available and Hollywood has made at least 5  presentations of this love story.
There is however another love story that happened in India. It concerns the love of Chandragupta Maurya with another Helen who was the daughter of Seleucus the ruler of Persia and Western India. Seleucus was a Greek and earlier a general of Alexander the Great. After the death of Alexander he usurped the eastern part of his empire and became emperor.
Chandragupta many years earlier has espied Helen and her handmaidens playing on the banks of the Jhelum. He was smitten with her and desired her as a wife and consort, though he was already married to queen Dhundhara. Once he was emperor he confessed his desire to his advisor Chanakya. The learned man advised that the only way was to go to war with Seleucus. Chandragupta began to amass a vast army on the border with the Greek empire.
Seleucus heard about the rise of Chandragupta and he returned to quell the situation created in Western India. In 305 BC Seleucus and Chandragupta met in battle. The elephant corps of Chandragupta carried the day and Seleucus was defeated. On the advice of Chanakya Chandragupta invited the vanquished Greek king for a meeting. In the meeting Chandragupta proposed an alliance and at the same time asked for Helen as his wife. To assuage the hurt feelings of Seleucus, Chandragupta handed over a corps of elephants as a gift to Seleucus. In turn large portions of Afghanistan and other areas came under the rule of Chandragupta.
From Indian accounts Helen was a princess of great beauty and had a lot of interest in India. She had also seen Chandragupta earlier and readily agreed to be his wife. It was a love match like the love saga of troy. However while Paris was killed this love saga had a happy ending as Chandragupta married her and took her to Pataliputra. It was a happy ending. Many historians has concluded that perhaps the emperor Bindusara was the son of Helen by Chandragupta. But it appears unlikely as Helen and Chandragupta remained married only for about 5 years as Chandragupta died young at 42.  Mostly Bindusara,another great king warrior was the son of Chandragupta through Dhundhara.