India and the Empire of the White Huns 500 CE


Map Code: Ax01428

It is unclear which ethnic group the White Huns belonged to, however a scroll dating from c.492 CE, translated in 2007, mentions that they practiced Buddhism and had Iranian names. Their name has appeared in Sanskrit as Sveta Hunas or Kiderites, and in Greek as Ephtalites or Hephthalites. The Hunnic tribes had divided themselves into four subtribes each identified by a specific colour, northern became Black Huns, western were White Huns, southern Blue Huns and eastern Red Huns. The White Huns emerged in the region of Transoxiana, expanded into Bactria and into what is now Afghanistan, this territorial gain that was at the expense of the Sasanians. As they expanded they were joined by, or incorporated, various related peoples, for example the Alchon and Nezak Huns, who were not separately identified in Indian sources, and referred to as “Hunas”. The Huna raids into northern India, then under Gupta rule, began in 458 CE. Emperor Skandagupta fought back, inflicting a major defeat on the invaders, who were led by Toramana. The second invasion came in 470 CE under the leadership of Mihiragula, son of Toramana. This time the invasion was a success, extending Mihiragula’s rule as far south as Malwa, effectively ending the power of the Gupta Empire. From his capital at Sakala, Mihiragula ruled northwestern India for 30 years. However, he was eventually driven back from the northern plains toward his stronghold around Sakala by an Indian coalition. He died around 542 CE and after his death the political power of the Hunas began to decline.

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