Iron Earth and Golden Sky

Legends of Alexander

from The New Indian Express
by H. H. Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj
Full post here

There is a story from the life of Alexander the Great that illustrates the result of  engaging in the desires of the world. Alexander the Great had conquered many people.

He was leading his army into the north-western part of India to conquer those people.  When returning home, he asked his astrologers to tell him how and when he would die.

The astrologers told him, “0 great King, our calculations show that you will not die until  the earth turns into iron and the sky is transformed into gold.” The king was overjoyed and said, “This is great news. It would take many ages for the earth to turn to iron and the  sky to turn to gold. What a miracle! I am going to live for a long time.”

Alexander the Great next decided to go to Persia. On the way he had an attack of  malaria, and told his chief minister who was riding alongside him on his horse, “I have a  terrible fever. My strength is fading. I cannot ride any longer.”

The minister grew worried and said, “0 great King, let us ride a few miles more. We can then find a tree  and you can lie down in the shade.” However, Alexander could  ride no longer. He got off his horse and lay down on the hot ground.

The minister could not bear to see the great king lying in the hot sun, so he made a couch for the king by removing his own coat of iron armour that was lined with forty layers of silk so that the king could rest upon the silk. The minister then held his own  shield over the king’s face to keep the sun off him.

When Alexander opened his eyes and saw the shield decorated with strips of gold,  the astrologer’s prediction came to his mind. “Oh, no,” thought Alexander. “I was a fool  to be happy with the astrologer’s prediction. I thought it meant I would live a long time.

Now, the prediction is true. I am lying on iron as if it were earth. The sky above me is  now the gold shield.” Suddenly, the royal physician rode up on his horse to treat the king.

He examined Alexander and told the king, “I cannot deceive you. You are lying at the door of death.” Alexander cried, “Is there no remedy?” The doctor said, “No, great King,  the fever is too severe. No medicine can help you.”

The king fell into despair. Although he was so weak, he could not believe his life  was about to end. The king turned to his minister and said, “Please announce that I will  give half my kingdom to anyone who can enable me to live long enough to have a last  glimpse of my mother.” The doctor said, “Sir, that is not possible. You have only a minute or two to live.” Alexander panicked, “Whoever will let me live long enough to see my mother will receive all my conquests. I will live only on alms.” The doctor said,

“It is useless. Nothing can save you now.” Then, Alexander the Great, who had terrorized and plundered thousands of people as he conquered their nations, began to cry.

Suddenly, a saint wandered by. He looked in silence at the dying king. He then said to the minister that it was a shame that Alexander threw away all his life for temporary desires of the world. He added that the conquest of all the world is nothing compared to spiritual bliss.

Fact or Fiction? Definitely fiction
Any Reason Why? Alexander never suffered from malaria on his way back to Persia; the Macedonian army did not use iron armour; the idea of giving half or all of his kingdom away would never have occurred to Alexander; the idea of living on alms would have absurd to him; he died in Babylon, not on the road back from India; a wandering saint would never have got that close to Alexander
Name Something Good Here. The story alludes to Alexander’s religiosity. He did take omens and portents seriously (though sometimes defied them, e.g Arrian IV.4)
Rating: One sarissae out of five for being a neat tale even if not remotely true

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