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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)

Gedrosia on Map showing the route of Alexander the Great

Rambagh is one of the ancient names of Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan.

Variants of name


Alexander Cunningham[1] writes that On crossing the river Arabius, Alexander marched

[p.308]: for a whole night through a desert, and in the morning entered a well-inhabited country. Then coming to a small river, he pitched his tents, and waited for the main body of the army under Hephsestion. On its arrival, says Arrian, Alexander " penetrated further into the country, and coming to a small village which served the Oritae instead of a capital city, and was named Rambakia, he was pleased with its situation, and imagining that it would rise to be a rich and populous city, if a colony were drawn thither, he committed the care thereof to Hephaestion." [2] On the approach of Alexander, the Oritae made their submission to the conqueror, who appointed Apollo-phanes their governor, and deputed Leonatus with a large force to await the arrival of Nearchus with the fleet, and to look after the peopling of the new city. Shortly after Alexander's departure, the Oritae rose against the Greeks, and Apollophanes, the new governor, was slain, but they were signally defeated by Leonatus, and all their leaders killed. 1 Nearchus places the scene of this defeat at Kokala, on the coast, about halfway between the rivers Arabius and Tomerus. Pliny calls the latter river the Tonberos [3] and states that the country in its neighbourhood was well cultivated.

From these details I would identify the Oritae, or Horitae, or Neoteritae as they are called by Diodorus, with the people on the Aghor river, whom the Greeks would have named Agoritae, or Aoritae, by the suppression of the guttural, of which a trace still remains in the initial aspirate of Horitae. In the bed of this

[p. 309]: river there are several jets of liquid mud, which, from time immemorial, have been known as Ram-Chandar-ki-kup, or " Ram Chaudar's wells." There are also two natural caves, one dedicated to Kali, and the other to Hingulaj, or Hingula Devi, that is, the “Red Goddess," who is only another form of Kali. But the principal objects of pilgrimage in the Aghor valley are connected with the history of Rama. The pilgrims assemble at the Rambagh, because Rama and Sita are said to have started from this point, and proceed to the Gorakh Tank, where Rama halted; and thence to Tonga-bhera, and on to the point where Rama was obliged to turn back in his attempt to reach Hingulaj with an army.

Rambagh I would identify with the Rambakia of Arrian, and Tonga-bhera with the river Tonberos of Pliny, and the Tomerus of Arrian. At Rambakia, therefore, we must look for the site of the city founded by Alexander, which Leonatus was left behind to complete. It seems probable that this is the city which is described by Stephanus of Byzantium as the " sixteenth Alexandria, near the bay of Melane[4] Nearchus places the western boundary of the Oritae at a place called Malana, which I take to be the bay of Malan, to the cast of Ras Malan, or Cape Malan of the present day, about twenty miles to the west of the Aghor river. Both Curtius and Diodorus [5] mention the foundation of this city, but they do not give its name. Diodorus, however, adds that it was built on a very favourable

[p.310]: site near the sea, but above the reach of the highest tides.

The occurrence of the name of Rambagh at so great a distance to the west of the Indus, and at so early a period as the time of Alexander, is very interesting and important, as it shows not only the wide extension of Hindu influence in ancient times, but also the great antiquity of the story of Rama. It is highly improbable that such a name, with its attendant pilgrimages, could have been imposed on the place after the decay of Hindu influence. [6] During the flourishing period of Buddhism many of the provinces to the west of the Indus adopted the Indian religion, which must have had a powerful influence on the manners and language of the people. But the expedition of Alexander preceded the extension of Buddhism, and I can therefore only attribute the old name of Rambakia to a period anterior to Darius Hystaspes.

Ch 6.21: Alexander's Campaign against the Oritians (Nov 326 BC)

Arrian[7] writes....The season of the year was then unfit for voyaging; for the periodical winds prevailed, which at that season do not blow there from the north, as with us, but from the Great Sea, in the direction of the south wind.[1] Moreover it was reported that there the sea was fit for navigation after the beginning of winter, from the setting of the Pleiades[2] until the winter solstice; for at that season mild breezes usually blow from the lands drenched as it has been with great rains; and these winds are convenient on a coasting voyage both for oars and sails. Nearclius, who had been placed in command of the fleet, waited for the coasting season; but Alexander, starting from Patala, advanced with all his army as far as the river Arabius.[3] He then took half of the shield-bearing guards and archers, the infantry regiments called foot Companions, the guard of the Companion cavalry, a squadron of each of the other cavalry regiments, and all the horse-bowmen, and turned away thence on the left towards the sea to dig wells, so that there might be abundance, of them for the fleet sailing along on the coasting voyage; and at the same time to make an unexpected attack upon the Oritians,[4] a tribe of the Indians in this region, which had long been independent. This he meditated doing because they had performed no friendly act either to himself or his army. He placed Hephaestion in command of the forces left behind. The Arabitians,[5] another independent tribe dwelling near the river Arabius, thinking that they could not cope with Alexander in battle, and yet being unwilling to submit to him, fled into the desert when they heard that he was approaching. But crossing the river Arabius, which was both narrow and shallow, and travelling by night through the greater part of the desert, he came near the inhabited country at daybreak. Then ordering the infantry to follow him in regular line, he took the cavalry with him, dividing it into squadrons, that it might occupy a very large part of the plain, and thus marched into the land of the Oritians. All those who turned to defend themselves were cut to pieces by the cavalry, and many of the others were taken prisoners. He then encamped near a small piece of water; but when Hephaestion formed a junction with him, he advanced farther. Arriving at the largest village of the tribe of the Oritians, which was called Rhambacia,[6] he commended the place and thought that if he colonized a city there it would become great and prosperous. He therefore left Hephaestion behind to carry out this project.[7]

1.These periodical winds are the southerly monsoon of the Indian Ocean. Cf. Arrian (Indica, 21).

2.This occurs at the beginning of November. The Romans called the Pleiads Vergiliae. Cf. Pliny (ii. 47, 125): Vergiliarum occasus hiemem inchoat, quod tempus in III. Idus Novembres incidere consuevit. Also Livy (xxi. 35, 6): Nivis etiam casus, occidente jam sidfere Vergiliarum, ingentem terrorem adjecit.

3.This river, which is now called the Purally, is about 120 miles west of the mouth of the Indus. It is called Arabia by Arrian (Indica, 21); and Arbis by Strabo (xv. 2).

4.These were a people of Gadrosia, inhabiting a coast district nearly 200 milles long in the present Beloochistan. Cf. Arrian {Indica, 22 and 25); Pliny, vi. 23.

5.The Arabitians dwelt between the Indus and the Arabius; the Oritians were west of the latter river.

6.Rhambacia was probably at or near Haur.

7.According to Diodorus (xvii. 104) the city was called Alexandria.


External links


  1. The Ancient Geography of India/Western India,pp. 308-310
  2. Arrian, Anabasis, vi. 21, 22 ; and ' Indica,' 23 ; Curtius, ix. 10, 34.
  3. Hist. Nat., vi. 25.
  4. In voce Alexandria, <greek>
  5. Curtius, Vita Alex., ix. 10: — "In hac quoque regione urbem condidit." Diodorus, Hist. xvii
  6. Hingulaj (Khingalatchi) is mentioned by the Tibetan Taranath, see ' Vassilief,' French translation, p. 45, as a Rakshasa in the west of India, beyond Barukacha, or Baroch.
  7. Arrian:The Anabasis of Alexander, 6.21

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