Hunas – Who are They?

Hunas KIngdom

Hunas were a band of nomadic savages. They originally lived in the neighbourhood of China. They advanced towards the West and divided themselves into two parts.

Hunas Who are They?


  • One part of them went towards the Volga and the other to the Oxus. Those Humans who went to Europe were called the Black Hunas and their greatest leader was Attila.
  • Those Hunas who came and settled in Persia and India came to be known as the White Hunas or Hephthalites.
  • They became powerful in the Oxus Valley towards the middle of the 5th century.
  • In 484 A.D., their king Ak Schou War defeated and killed Feroz, the Sassanian ruler of Persia.
  • This victory added to the prestige of Hunas and by the end of the 6th century A.D., they ruled over a vast empire with their principal capital at Balkh.
  • It has already been pointed out that the Hunas attacked India in the time of Skandagupta but they were beaten back.
  • The defeat must have been so crushing that they did not dare to attack India again for a long time.



  • We do not possess much reliable information with regard to the activities of the Hunas in India.
  • The names of two kings, Toramana and Mihirakula, are known from coins and inscriptions. They are considered  to be Hunas but there is no conclusive evidence with regard to their nationality.
  • Song-yun, a Chinese Ambassador to the Huna this kingdom of Gandhara in 520 A.D., refers to the conquest and occupation of this kingdom by the Hunas two generations before his time.
  • He also gives the following account of the country. “This is the country which the Ye-thats destroyed and afterwards set up a tegin to be king over the country; since which events two generations have passed.
  • The disposition of this king was cruel and vindictive and he practised the most barbarous atrocities.
  • He did not believe the law of Buddha, but loved to worshiped demons….. Entirely self-reliant on his own strength, he had entered on a war with the country of Ki-pin (Kashmir), disputing the boundaries of their kingdom, and his troops had been already in it for three years.
  • The king has 700 war-elephants….. The king continually abode with his troops on the frontier and never returned to his kingdom…”


Cosmas Of Prague

  • Cosmas is a Greek writer, wrote thus about 547 A.D. in his Christian Topography : “Highly up in India, that is further to the north, are the White Hunas.
  • It is said that when going to war the one called Gollas takes with him not less than great force of cavalry and two thousand elephants.
  • He is India’s lord, and oppressing the people, forces them to pay tribute.
  • Again, “The river Phison separates all the countries of India from the country of the Hunas.”
  • The same writer says that the river Phison is the river Indus. Towards the close of the 5th or the beginning of the 6th century A.D., Toramana advanced from the Punjab and conquered a large part of Western India.
  • Even Eran was included in his dominion. The coins of Toramana testify to his foreign origin and also prove that he ruled over parts of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Kashmir.
  • Probably he was connected with the Huna family ruling in Gandhara. It is stated in a Jain work of the 8th century A.D. named Kuvalayamala that Toramana enjoyed the sovereignty of the world.
  • He lived at Pavaiya on the bank of the Chandrabhaga or Chenab river. He was converted to the Jain faith.


Mihirakula Coin Image

  • Toramana was succeeded by his son Mihirakula about 515 A.D. According to Hiuen Tsang, Sakala was the capital of Mihirakula.
  • He has also stated that “Mihirakula established his authority in his town and ruled over India.
  • He subdued all the neighbouring provinces without exception. At first he took some interest in Buddhism but later on he “issued an edict to destroy all the priests through the five Indies, to overthrow the law of Buddha, and leave nothing remaining.”
  • The Rajatarangini refers to Mihirakula as a powerful king who ruled over Gandhara and Kashmir and conquered Southern India and Ceylon.
  • Mihirakula is described as a man of violent disposition. Stories of his cruelty are told at great length.
  • It is stated that Mihirakula led an expedition against the ruler of Ceylon.
  • The exact date of the death of Mihirakula is not known. According to some writers, he died in 540 A.D.
  • There are others who hold the view that he died in 547 A.D.
  • However, Mihirakula was so cruel that “at the time of his death, there was hail and thunder and a thick darkness and the earth had shaken and a mighty tempest raged.
  • Not much is known about  the religion of Mihirakula. His coins bear the figures of the bulls of Siva. It is possible that he was a worshipper of Siva.
  • In the Gwalior inscription, it is stated  that Mihirakula built a Sun temple. He might have been a worshipper of the Sun also.
  • As pointed out already, he was very cruel towards Buddhism.



  • In the Buddhist Records of the Western World, it is stated  that the Hunas “have no written characters and their rules of politeness are highly faulty.
  • They have absolutely no knowledge regarding the movements of heavenly bodies. And, in measuring the years they have no intercalary month or any long or short months; but they merely divide the year into twelve parts, that is all.
  • There are no instruments of music visible at all. The royal ladies of the yetha country wear  state  robes which trail on the ground, three feet and more.
  • They also wear on their heads a horn, in length eight feet or more, three feet of its length being red coral…. Both the rich and poor have their distinctive modes of dress.
  • The majority of them do not believe in Buddha. Most of them worship false gods. They kill living creatures and eat their flesh.”
  • It is true that the Hunas ruled in India for a short time, but they certainly affected the country in many ways.
  • Politically, the Huna invasions were partly responsible for the empire were exhausted.
  • The political unity was destroyed and the country was divided into many small States. The invasion brought chaos and confusion and the people suffered.
  • From the cultural point of view, the Huna invasions proved to be a great curse.
  • The moral effects of the Huna invasion are referred to in these words by Havell : “the strong infusion of Human blood lowered the high ethical standards of Indo-Aryan tradition and favoured the growth of many of the vulgar superstitions which were countenanced by the great philosophers and spiritual teachers of Aryavarta.”

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