White Huns -Part 10

Coming back to the Hun invasion it may be mentioned that this was also, like that of the Sakas, one of the greatest migrations of Central Asian nomadic tribes in the history of Pakistan and the sub-continent. The particular branch of the Huns which was encamped in the Oxus Valley and which came to Pakistan was known as Epthalite or White Huns. They were accompanied by a number of other tribes including Gurjaras. They started coming in wave after wave from the middle of the 5th century A.D. and very soon became rulers of Pakistan. One of their mighty rulers was Mehar Gul (Sunflower) whose capital was Sakala, Sialkot.

The mass immigration of Huns and Gurjaras extending over the 5th and the 6th centuries constitutes a turning point in the history of Pakistan and of northern India both politically and socially. Politically because henceforth, till the arrival of Muslims, they were the ruling class in Pakistan and in most of northern India. Socially because the origin of majority of the tribes of Pakistan and those of Rajputana is traceable to them. “No authentic family or class traditions go back beyond the Hun invasion. All genuine tradition of the earlier dynasties has been absolutely lost. The history of the Mauryas, Kushans and Guptas, so far as it is known has been recovered labourously by the researches of scholars, without material help from living tradition.” (Ibid). Many of Afghan-Pathan tribes and most of the Rajput and Jat clans of the Punjab and Sind are, according to modern scholars, descended from the Epthalites i.e., White Huns.

There was a period of confusion forming the transition from one age to another. Pakistan and north India had left the Early Period of history and entered what is generally termed as the Medieval Period. During the transition the hordes of foreign invaders were gradually absorbed into the Hindu body politic and new grouping of states began to evolve. This period was marked by the development of the Rajput clans never heard of in earlier times. They began to play highly prominent role after the death of Harsha so much so that the 500-year period from the 7th century A.D. to the 12th century A.D. (i.e., till the arrival of Muslim Turks) may be called the Rajput period.

The Hun invasions and their consequences broke the chain of historical tradition. Living clan traditions rarely if ever go back beyond the 8th century and few go as far. The existing clan-castes only began to be formed in the 6th century. The Brahmans found their advantage in treating new aristocracy, whatever its social origin, as representing the ancient Kshatriya class of the scriptures, and the novel term Raja-putra or Rajput, meaning king’s son, or member of a ruling family or clan came in use as an equivalent of Kshatriya.” (Oxford History of India).

During this 500-year period, again, Pakistan was under quite independent Rajput kingdoms separate from those of India. Even the Gurjara-Pratihara Empire of northern India which was one of the most important formed during this period did not include Pakistan, not even during the days of its greatest and most powerful king Raja Bhoja. “The rule of the Pratiharas had never extended across the Sutlej, and the history of the Punjab between the 7th and 10th centuries A.D. is extremely obscure.” (Ibid). At some time during this period, a powerful kingdom had been formed in Pakistan which extended from the mountains beyond the Indus, eastwards as far as the Hakra or ‘lost river’ in East Punjab so that it comprised a large part of the NWFP and the Punjab. At the time Mahmud Ghaznavi came into power at the end of the 10th century A.D. this kingdom was still in existence and it was with its ruler Raja Jaipal that he came into clash.

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