Mihirakula
Ruler of the Alchon Huns
Reign515-540
PredecessorToramana
SuccessorToramana II
Pravarasena
Map of Mihirakula's territories (in green, circa 500 CE). He led campaigns into Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
Map of Mihirakula's territories (in green, circa 500 CE). He led campaigns into Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
Coin of Mihirakula. Obv: Bust of king, with legend in Gupta script (),[1] (Ja)yatu Mihirakula ("Let there be victory to Mihirakula").[2] Rev: Dotted border around Fire altar flanked by attendants in the Sasanian Empire style.[3][4][5]
Coin of Mihirakula. Obv: Bust of king, with legend in Gupta script (Gupta allahabad j.svg)Gupta allahabad y.svgGupta allahabad tu.jpgGupta allahabad mi.jpgGupta ashoka hi.jpgGupta allahabad r.svgGupta allahabad ku.jpgGupta allahabad l.svg,[1] (Ja)yatu Mihirakula ("Let there be victory to Mihirakula").[2] Rev: Dotted border around Fire altar flanked by attendants in the Sasanian Empire style.[3][4][5]
The defeat of the Alchon Huns under Mihirakula by King Yasodharman at Sondani in 528 CE.
The defeat of the Alchon Huns under Mihirakula by King Yasodharman at Sondani in 528 CE.

Mihirakula (Gupta script:

, Mihirakula), also Mihiragula or Mahiragula, was one of the most important rulers of the Alchon Huns, who led a conquest and gained temporary control of Gandhara, Kashmir, northern and central India. Mihirakula was a son of Toramana, both of Huna heritage, and ruled the Indian part of the Hephthalite Empire. Mihirakula ruled his empire from 502 to 530,[6] from his capital of Sagala (modern-day Sialkot, Pakistan).[7][8]

According to Xuanzang, Mihirakula initially was interested in Buddhism, but after being insulted by Buddhist monks, he turned anti Buddhist.[9] According to Buddhist texts, the Huna king Mihirakula was extremely cruel and barbaric.[10][6][11] He destroyed Buddhist sites, ruined monasteries, killed monks.[12] Yashodharman and Gupta Empire rulers, in and after about 532 CE, reversed Mihirakula's campaign and ended the Mihirakula era.[13][14]

Etymology

The name "Mihirakula" is most likely of Iranian origin and may have the meaning "Mithra's Begotten", as translated by Janos Harmatta.[15] According to Harold Walter Bailey: "A name like Toramana and his son's name Mihirakula interpreted by North Iranian (and not by Western Iranian) are clearly Iranian".[16]

Description

According to Krishna Chandra Sagar, the Huna king Toramana was cruel and barbaric, his son Mihirakula even more so, during their rule.[13] Mihirakula had conquered Sindh by 520 CE, had a large elephant and cavalry-driven army. Mihirakula destroyed Buddhist sites, ruined monasteries, according to Sagar. Yashodharman, about 532 CE, reversed Mihirakula's campaign and started the end of Mihirkula era.[13][10] Mihirakula issued coins, like the Kushana era kings, showing Oesho or Shiva, which suggests that he may also have patronized Shaivism. Other scholars state that there are many legends surrounding this era and historical facts are difficult to ascertain. The Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang (Hsuan Tsang) mentions Mihirakula as conquering Kashmir first, then Gandhara. He is also mentioned as attempting to conquer central and eastern India, but getting vanquished by Yashodharman and the Gupta king Narasimhagupta Baladitya. Mihirakula was captured during the war, but his life spared because Baladitya's mother intervened and argued against capital punishment.[14][17] He returned to Kashmir, states the Chinese pilgrim, with treachery seized power, attacked Gandhara, then died within a few months.[14]

Cosmas Indicopleustes

The 6th-century Alexandrian traveler Cosmas Indicopleustes states that the Hephthalites in India reached the zenith of its power under "Gollas", which is thought to be the same as Mihirakula from the last part of his name.[18][19]

Higher up in India, that is, farther to the north, are the White Huns. The one called Gollas when going to war takes with him, it is said, no fewer than two thousand elephants, and a great force of cavalry. He is the lord of India, and oppressing the people forces them to pay tribute.

Xuanzang

"The Record of the Western Regions" by the 7th-century Chinese traveler Hsüan-tsang states that Mihirakula destroyed Buddhism and killed monks in Gandhara.[20] Xuanzang wrote in 630 CE that Mihirakula had conquered all India. The Narasimhagupta Baladitya defeated Mihirakula who was finally captured by the Indian king, who later spared his life.[20] Xuanzang states that while Mihirkula lost his conquest, his brother seized power in Kashmir and Gandhara. Mihirakula returned to Kashmir, with treachery seized the throne, attacked Gandhara but died within a year.[14]

There was a king called Mo-hi-lo-kiu-lo (Mahirakula), who established his authority in this town (Sagala) and ruled over India. He was of quick talent, and naturally brave. He subdued all the neighbouring provinces without exception.

— Xuanzang "The Record of the Western Regions"[21]

Xuanzang tells us that initially Mihirakula was interested in learning about Buddhism, and asked the monks to send him a teacher; the monks insulted him by recommending a servant of his own household for the purpose. This incident is said to have turned Mihirakula virulently anti-Buddhist.[22]

Historian Upinder Singh has raised some questions over the anti-Buddhist reputation of Mihirakula while considering these episodes of violence:-

Was this reputation based on actual religious persecution? Or was Mihirakula cast into the role of a cruel anti-Buddhist king because one of his arch political opponents, king Baladitya of Magadha (sometimes identified with a later Gupta emperor Narasimhagupta), at whose hands he apparently suffered a crushing defeat, was an ardent patron of the Buddhist sangha? The interesting thing is that ninth- and tenth-century Jaina texts describe Mihirakula as a wicked, oppressive tyrant who was anti-Jaina. Are the textual references evidence of active political persecution and violence? Or are they merely expressions of resentment at a lack of royal patronage and support? Are they recastings of political conflicts into religious molds?[23]

It is possible that Mihirakula, who from one of his inscriptions and the symbols on his coins seems to have been inclined toward Shaivism (although his coins also have representations of other deities such as the goddess Lakshmi), was inimical toward both Buddhists and Jainas.[24]

She concludes that:-

Even if the extent of the persecution of kings such as Mihirakula and Shashanka (king of unified Bengal polity; circa. 590 CE - 625 CE) was exaggerated, it is significant that such perceptions of violent royal persecution and oppression on religious lines existed. But Mihirakula and Shashanka are exceptions to the general trends of royal religious policy of that period.[25]

Gwalior inscription

Main article: Gwalior inscription of Mihirakula

The Gwalior inscription issued in the 15th regnal year created by Matricheta in a Surya temple, mentions Mihirakula. It confirms that Mihirakula reign had included Gwalior around 535 CE.

Sondani columns inscription

Main article: Sondani inscription

In 528 Mihirakula suffered a defeat in the Battle of Sondani by the Aulikara king Yashodharman[26] and the Gupta emperor Narasimhagupta who previously paid tribute to him. The defeat at the resulted in the loss of Alchon possessions in the Punjab and north India by 542.[27]

Notes

  1. ^ The "h" (
    ) is an early variant of the Gupta script, seen for example in the Chandragupta type
  2. ^ The "h" (
    ) is an early variant of the Gupta script, seen for example in the Chandragupta type
  3. ^ Verma, Thakur Prasad (2018). The Imperial Maukharis: History of Imperial Maukharis of Kanauj and Harshavardhana (in Hindi). Notion Press. p. 264. ISBN 9781643248813.
  4. ^ Sircar, D. C. (2008). Studies in Indian Coins. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 376. ISBN 9788120829732.
  5. ^ Tandon, Pankaj (2013). Notes on the Evolution of Alchon Coins Journal of the Oriental Numismatic Society, No. 216, Summer. Oriental Numismatic Society. pp. 24–34. also Coinindia Alchon Coins (for an exact description of this coin type)
  6. ^ a b Grousset, Rene (1970), The Empire of the Steppes, Rutgers University Press, p. 71, ISBN 0-8135-1304-9
  7. ^ Bakker, Hans (16 July 2014). The World of the Skandapurāṇa. BRILL. ISBN 9789004277144.
  8. ^ Dani, Ahmad Hasan (1999). History of Civilizations of Central Asia: The crossroads of civilizations: A.D. 250 to 750. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 9788120815407.
  9. ^ Singh, Upinder (2017). Political Violence in Ancient India. Harvard University Press. p. 241. ISBN 978-0-674-97527-9.
  10. ^ a b Mihirakula, Encyclopaedia Britannica
  11. ^ Behrendt, Kurt A. (2004). Handbuch der Orientalistik. BRILL. ISBN 9789004135956.
  12. ^ https://archive.org/details/wonderthatwasind00alba/page/266/mode/2up
  13. ^ a b c Foreign Influence on Ancient India by Krishna Chandra Sagar p.216
  14. ^ a b c d Ramesh Chandra Majumdar (1977). Ancient India. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 242–244. ISBN 978-81-208-0436-4.
  15. ^ Janos Harmatta, "The Rise of the Old Persian Empire: Cyrus the Great," AAASH Acta Antiqua Acadamie Scientiarum Hungaricae 19, 197, pp. 4-15.
  16. ^ Bailey, H. W. (1982). Culture of the Sakas in Ancient Iranian Khotan. Caravan Books. p. 81. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  17. ^ Louis Renou; Jean Filliozat (1957). Political history of India from the earliest times to the 7th century A.D. by J. Filliozat. Susil. pp. 176–183.
  18. ^ Dani, Ahmad Hasan (1999). History of Civilizations of Central Asia: The crossroads of civilizations, A.D. 250 to 750. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 142. ISBN 8120815408. Retrieved 5 November 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  19. ^ Indian History. Tata McGraw-Hill Education. p. 396. ISBN 9781259063237.
  20. ^ a b Early Buddhist Transmission and Trade Networks by Jason Neelis p.168
  21. ^ Hsüan-tsang, ca 596-664; Beal, Samuel (1884). Si-yu-ki, Buddhist records of the Western world;. London : Trübner. p. 167.
  22. ^ Upinder Singh (2017). Political Violence in Ancient India. Harvard University Press. p. 241. ISBN 9780674981287.
  23. ^ Upinder Singh (2017). Political Violence in Ancient India. Harvard University Press. p. 241-242. ISBN 9780674981287.
  24. ^ Upinder Singh (2017). Political Violence in Ancient India. Harvard University Press. p. 241-242. ISBN 9780674981287.
  25. ^ Upinder Singh (2017). Political Violence in Ancient India. Harvard University Press. p. 242. ISBN 9780674981287.
  26. ^ Ojha, N.K. (2001). The Aulikaras of Central India: History and Inscriptions, Chandigarh: Arun Publishing House, ISBN 81-85212-78-3, p.52
  27. ^ Klaus Vondrovec (2014). Coinage of the Iranian Huns and Their Successors from Bactria to Gandhara (4th to 8th Century CE). ISBN 978-3-7001-7695-4.
Preceded by
Toramana
Tegin of the Alchon Huns
515-540
Succeeded by
Toramana II