Alchon Huns

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The Alchon Huns, also known as the Alchono, Alxon, Alkhon, Alkhan, Alakhana and Walxon, were a nomadic people who established states in Central Asia and South Asia during the 4th and 6th centuries CE. They were first mentioned as being located in Paropamisus, and later expanded south-east, into the Punjab and central India, as far as Eran and Kausambi. The Alchon invasion of the Indian subcontinent contributed to the fall of the Gupta Empire and in a sense brought an end to Classical India.


  • "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.
    •  Cosmas Indicopleustes, Book XI [1]
  • In him, the northern region brought forth, as it were, another god of death, bent in rivalry to surpass... Yama (the god of death residing in the southern regions). People knew of his approach by noticing the vultures, crows and other birds flying ahead eager to feed on those who were being slain within his army's reach. The royal Vetala (demon) was day and night surrounded by thousands of murdered human beings, even in his pleasure houses. This terrible enemy of mankind had no pity for children, no compassion for women, no respect for the aged
    • Kalhana writing on Mihirakula's cruelty. Quoted from Abraham Eraly (2011). The First Spring: The Golden Age of India. New Delhi: Penguin Books India. p. 48. ISBN 978-0-670-08478-4.
  • Some apologists of Islam have tried to lay the blame at the door of the White Huns or Epthalites who had overrun parts of the Hindu cradle in the second half of the fifth century A.D. But they count without the witness of Hiuen Tsang, the famous Chinese pilgrim and Buddhist savant, who travelled all over this area from 630 A.D. to 644. Starting from Karashahr in Northern Sinkiang, he passed through Transoxiana, Northern Afghanistan, North-West Frontier Province, Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, North-Eastern Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Nepal, Bengal, Assam, Orissa, Mahakosal and Andhra Pradesh till he reached Tamil Nadu. On his return journey he travelled through Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Bharat, Sindh, Southern Afghanistan and Southern Sinkiang. In most of these provinces he found in a flourishing state many Buddhist establishments consisting of vihãras (monasteries), chaityas (temples) and stûpas (topes), besides what he described as heretical (Jain) and deva (Brahmanical) temples. The wealth of architecture and sculptures he saw everywhere confirms what we learn from Hindu literary sources. Some of this wealth has been recovered in recent times from under mounds of ruins. During the course of his pilgrimage, Hiuen Tsang stayed at as many as 95 Buddhist centres among which the more famous ones were at Kuchi, Aqsu, Tirmiz, Uch Turfan, Kashagar and Khotan in Sinkiang; Balkh, Ghazni, Bamiyan, Kapisi, Lamghan, Nagarahar and Bannu in Afghanistan; Pushkalavati, Bolar and Takshasila in the North-West Frontier Province; Srinagar, Rajaori and Punch in Kashmir; Sialkot, Jalandhar and Sirhind in the Punjab; Thanesar, Pehowa and Sugh in Haryana; Bairat and Bhinmal in Rajasthan, Mathura, Mahoba, Ahichchhatra, Sankisa, Kanauj, Ayodhya, Prayag, Kausambi, Sravasti, Kapilvastu, Kusinagar, Varanasi, Sarnath and Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh; Vaishali, Pataliputra, Rajgir, Nalanda, Bodhgaya, Monghyr and Bhagalpur in Bihar; Pundravardhana, Tamralipti, Jessore and Karnasuvarna in Bengal; Puri and Jajnagar in Orissa; Nagarjunikonda and Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh; Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu; Badami and Kalyani in Karnataka; Paithan and Devagiri in Maharashtra; Bharuch, Junagarh and Valabhi in Gujarat; Ujjain in Malwa; Mirpur Khas and Multan in Sindh. The number of Buddhist monasteries at the bigger ones of these centres ranged from 50 to 500 and the number of monks in residence from 1,000 to 10,000. It was only in some parts of Eastern Afghanistan and the North-West Frontier Province that monasteries were in a bad shape, which can perhaps be explained by the invasion of White Huns. But so were they in Kusinagar and Kapilavastu where the White Huns are not known to have reached. On the other hand, the same invaders had ranged over Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and most of Uttar Pradesh where Hiuen Tsang found the monasteries in a splendid state. They had even established their rule over Kashmir where Hiuen Tsang saw 500 monasteries housing 5,000 monks. It is, therefore, difficult to hold them responsible for the disappearance of Buddhist centres in areas where Hiuen Tsang had found them flourishing. An explanation has to be found elsewhere. In any case, the upheaval they caused was over by the middle of the sixth century. Moreover, the temples and monasteries which Hiuen Tsang saw were only a few out of many. He had not gone into the interior of any province, having confined himself to the more famous Buddhist centres.
    • S.R. Goel in Hindu Temples, What Happened to Them. Volume I.
  • But at least, the next incident is reported by two seemingly independent sources: the persecution of Buddhists by the Huna king Mihirakula in Kashmir. Romila Thapar herself admits that Hsuan Tsang's account about "the destruction of 1.600 Buddhist stupas and sangharamas and the killing of thousands of monks and lay-followers" sounds exaggerated, but she has faith in Kalhana's more detailed version which mentions "killing innocent people by the hundreds". But Hsuan Tsang gives an interesting detail which does not sound like a fairy-tale and may well be historical. Mihirakula, "wishing to apply his leisure to the study of Buddhism", asked the Buddhist sangha to appoint a teacher for him. But none of the more accomplished monks was willing, so they appointed a monk who had the rank of a servant. The king found this procedure insulting, and ordered the destruction of the Buddhist church in his kingdom. This king was not anti-Buddhist, was open-minded and took a sincere interest in Buddhism. But once a king's ego is hurt, he can get violent, regardless of his religion. That is regrettable, but it is something else than religious fanaticism.... For the same reason, Mihirakula's rage against the impolite monks cannot be equated with the religiously motivated persecutions by the Muslim rulers.
    • Elst, Koenraad Negationism in India: concealing the record of Islam. 1992
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