Gangaridai in Ptolemy's Map.
|Kotalipara, Bengal (modern day Bangladesh)
|est. 300 BCE
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Gangaridai (Greek: Γανγαρίδαι; Latin Gangaridae) was an ancient kingdom, which existed around 300 BC, in the Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent. It was described by the Greek traveller Megasthenes in his work Indica. Greek and Latin historians suggested that Alexander the Great withdrew from the Indian subcontinent, anticipating the valiant joint counterattack of the mighty Gangaridai and Prasii (Nanda) Empires, the latter located in central Bihar. The capital of the Gangaridai was situated at Kotalipara in present-day Gopalganj District, Bangladesh.
- The Kambyson
- The Mega
- The Kamberikhon
- The Pseudostomon
- The Antibole
The Periplus refers Gangaridai to be located on the Bay of Bengal north to the port city of Dosarene in Kalinga (ancient Odisha). Its main city, with the same name as the river Ganges, was on the bank of the river. Strabo, Pliny, Arrian, 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 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.
Greek, Roman, and Egyptian accounts on Gangaridai
During Alexander's invasion
Diodorus Siculus 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 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, 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 size. –Diodorus Siculus (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 condition. –Diodorus Siculus (1st century AD). Quoted from Ancient India as Described in Classical Literature, John W. McCrindle, p. 201.
Quintus Curtius Rufus 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 3,000. –Quintus Curtius Rufus (wrote between 60-70 AD). Quoted from The Classical Accounts of India, p. 103-128.
Plutarch 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 elephants. –Plutarch (42-120 AD). Quoted from The Classical Accounts of India, p. 198.
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 war.] –Megasthenes (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 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 Ethiopians. –Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD). 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 war. –Megasthenes (Indica). 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.
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 places. –The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (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... 146- 19.15 degree. –Ptolemy (2nd century AD). Quoted from Ancient India as Described by Ptolemy, John W. McCrindle, p. 172.
Dionysius Periegetes also wrote of the area:
Next come the wild tribes of the Peukalensians, beyond whom lie the seats of the Gangaridae, worshippers of Bacchus, ... 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 (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' "Argonautika", Datis, a chieftain, leader of the Gangaridae who was in the army of Perses III, fought against Aeetes during the Colchian civil war. Colchis was situated in modern-day Georgia, on the east of the Black Sea. Aeetes was the famous king of Colchia against whom Jason and the Argonauts undertook their expedition in search of the "Golden Fleece". Perses III was the brother of Aeetes and king of the Taurian tribe. Virgil also speaks of the valour of the Gangaridae in his Georgics.
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 Quirinius. –Virgil, "Georgics" (III, 27)
It is possible that the Gangaridai people did not only trade with the Greeks/Romans but also fought for them as mercenaries.
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.
Bengali historian Rakhaldas Bandyopadhyay says: "During Chandragupta Maurya's rule Gangaridai was independent like the Andhra kingdom and Gangaridai was joined with Kalinga." ("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 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 Ganga Dynasty of Orissa and Ganga Dynasty of Karnataka were the descendants of the Gangaridai people who migrated to South India from Tamluk (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 c. 450 BC:
The Nandas who ruled in the 4th century BCE originated from Bengal and they defeated the Shishunaga 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 Great. –Bangladesher Itihash, p. 22.
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 invader." –Chowdhury, The History of Bengal, v-I, p. 44.
The city of Gange had not been located. Recent excavations of Chandraketugarh, Deganga and Wari-Bateshwar ruins 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, 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 points to the Brahmaputra-Padma region which was definitely the home for muslin. For trade, the people of Gangaridai used some kind of gold coin called "Caltis".
- Sastri, K. A. Nilakanta, ed. (1988) , Age of the Nandas and Mauryas (Second ed.), Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-0465-1
- 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