The Hephthalite Hunas were the coalition of the nomadic people in Central Asia. They occupied the territories North of The Great Wall of China, which extended to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan and North West of India.
Hephthalite Hunas – History and Wars
The Hephthalites or White Huns commonly known as Hoa or Hoa-tun by Chinese were the tribe recorded to be dwelling in Dzungaria, North of the Great Wall around 125 AD. In the mid of 5th century, around 425 AD they moved towards west and conquered Transoxiana, part of Central Asia. They overpowered Persia but the victorious journey was interrupted by Sassanid in 427 AD. White Huns defeated Sassanian around 450 AD and was claimed to be the golden period of Hephthalite Empire.
The Hephthalites were known as Ephthalite by the Greeks but Indians called them Hunas. They moved east towards India through Kabul valley defeating the Kushan in 470 AD. They tried to invade India number of times but all attempts were snubbed by Skandagupta, King of Gupta Empire. Hephthalite Empire waited for the death of Skandagupta and disintegration of the Gupta Empire. They swabbed Indus valley as well as Ganges basin and ruined number of cities including Pataliputra. Later they were absorbed in the Indian subcontinent and mingled with the local population here. Some historians believe that White Huna lost battles with Yasodharmana and Narasimhagupta, Indian Kings in the 6th century and were forced out of Gangetic Plain.
Very little is known about their origin and life style of The Hephthalite Empire. They were like the descendants of Iran or Turk and ruled most of the central Asia till the 670 AD.
Hephthalite Hunas – Culture and Religion
They lead nomadic life, practiced polyandry and felt tents were their shelters. Woman had several husbands and all were brothers. A man would adopt another as his brother so that he can marry his wife. There was a custom of women wearing a hat with several horns, signifying the number of husbands.
Knowledge about Huna language is still obscure and some scholars believe that their language was similar to Mongols whereas many scholars believe that an East Iranian language was their official language which was found minted on their coins. Liang shu, a Buddhist pilgrim of 520 AD particularly mentioned the use of tally sticks in place of alphabets and few of the Greek letters were also adopted.
Hephthalite believed in nature God and they worshiped especially fire and sun like Hinduism. They were not followers of Buddhism but some monasteries were rebuilt after being destroyed. Some signs of following Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism religion were also found but the custom of burial of the dead in the tombs or graves, rules out their faith in Zoroastrianism.
Hephthalite Hunas – Decline and Legacy
Hephthalite were brave warriors which wrapped in itself different cultures along their journey to triumph. Although very little evidence is left to portray era of the Great Nomads of Hephthalite.
By : Anupama Verma