Huna Invasions

The Huna Invasions on India during Gupta Era

The Hunas had poured down from the steppes of Central Asia through the Northwestern passes and devastated the smiling cities of India. These central Asian hordes were in four cardinal directions they were known as follows:

  • Northern Huna – Black Huna
  • Southern Huna – Red Huna
  • Eastern Huna – Celestial Hunas
  • Western Hunas – White Hunas.

The nomad Mongol tribes known as Huns have found first mention in the Bhishma parva of Mahabharta. As per Dr V. A. Smith, the sholkas that mention the Hunas must have been placed after editing in 4th or 5th century AD. In Mahabharta these tribes have been mentioned as Malechhas and Malechhas included several tribes such as Sakas, Yavanas, Savaras, Savaras, Paundras and Kiratas,Khasas, Chivukas, Pulindas, Chinas etc. Practice of Polyandry was common in Hunas (several husbands one wife).

The Hunas moved westwards and divided into two major streams. One directed towards the valley of Oxus (today known as Amu Darya, a boundary between Iran and Central Asia and in Indian texts known as Vaksu) and another towards Volga River (Westwards towards Europe). The latter are thought to have poured into Eastern Europe and forced the Goths to the south and causing the Gothic wars, indirectly. Hunas filled the land between Volga and Danube but they could not make full use of their advantageous position. The Hunic Empire in Europe was finished within 20 years by a fresh swarm of barbarians from Northern Asia.

However, the Asiatic domain of the Hunas lasted a bit longer. In Persia (Iran), the former are known to have attacked the Sassanid King of Persia, Peroz I and captured him. Peroz I was killed in the hands of Hunas and these Hunas assailed the Kushan Kingdom of Kabul and then from from there poured into India. Around 500 AD, Hunas under a chieftain Ramanila is known to have conquered Gandhara. About Ramanila, we know only through his coins. Later, the Huna Power in Punjab regions is known to have consolidated under Toramana.

Toramana : The early white Huna King

We know about the 6th century White Huna King Toramana from Kura Inscription in which his name is mentioned as Rajadhiraja Maharaja Toramana Shahi Jaula. He has also been referred in Rajtarangini. The silver coins of Toramana are very much similar to the Gupta Kings. It is thought that Toramana invaded the Gupta Empire with the help of a scion of the Gupta family called Harigupta. Moreover, the feudal structure of the administration was a facilitating factor for Huna’s conquest. Toramana acquired the Malwa region by 510 AD and the local prince Bhanugupta was unable check him.

Toramana was succeeded by Mihirkula, his son.

Mihirkula: The Huna Tyrrant

Mihirkula means “one from the Sun Clan”, In Persian Mihirkula refers to Mehr Gul that also refers to Sun Flower. Mihirkula came to power in 510 AD and was an antibuddhist, known for his cruelty against the Buddhists. He destroyed the temples and monasteries and was tyrannical to the Buddhists. His reign extended up to Gwalior. His contemporary Gupta King was Narsimhgupta Baladityaraja II.

Narsimhgupta Baladityaraja II is known to have a devout Buddhist. He fought with Mihirkula and was supported by Yasodharman of Malwa in this fight. Mihirkula was defeated, captured by Yasodharman but was allowed to take refuge in Kashmir where he died shortly afterwards, probably due to a fatal attack by a King of Kashmir. This was the end of White Hunas in India. The year was 528 AD. Thus, Yashidharman is credited to check the Huna expansion in India.

Who was Yasodharman?

We know about Yasodharman from the Mandsor Inscription and Bijaygarh Inscription of Bayana near Bharatpur, in Rajasthan, which was erected / created by Vishnuvarhana, son of Yasodharman. He initially is thought to have been friendly with the Guptas but later turns their enemy and carried his victorious arms. However, not many details are known about Yasodharman. He appeared and disappeared quickly, most probably by 540 AD.

After the Hunas were checked, the Gupta Empire destroyed into many parts and several kings appeared in the scene all over north India. By the mid of the 6th century Guptas lost the control over the Magadha also. There were many contemporary dynasties of the Guptas and probably most ancient of them is Maukharis.