The period of the Gupta Empire is considered the second golden age of India. The foundation of this mighty empire was laid by Sri Gupta. But in reality, Chandra Gupta 1 (319 CE-350 CE) is considered the real founder of this empire.
However, in this article, we will cover the story of the Gupta emperor who is the only hero in Asia and Europe who defeated the Huns (Hunas) in their glorious period. His name was Skanda Gupta Vikramaditya who defeated the central Asian invaders so badly that they did not dare to attack India again in the reign of Skanda Gupta.
Note: Do you know that Mughals also came from central Asia? How Mughals came to India. READ HERE
Background: Skanda Gupta and his times
After the death of Kumara Gupta Skanda Gupta ascended the throne of the mighty Gupta Empire.
It is believed that Skanda Gupta from the inception of his military career had fought tons of war and when he returned to his kingdom in the year 455-56 CE his mother welcomed his son in the same way as Devaki welcomed Krishna.
Note: The Guptas upheld Dharma in all aspects and drew inspiration from Vedas too.
Another point regarding how Skanda Gupta became the emperor of the Gupta Empire is that many believe that this young king had fought a war of succession against his stepbrother Purugupta. But again this is a topic of debate as no conclusive records agree on it.
But his reign was full of countless big and small battles. According to some sources probably contemporary ones, Skanda Gupta had to stop the advance of Central Asia warlords which had already launched their terrors on Europe and Asia.
Furthermore, a Kashmiri writer of 11th century CE mention in his book Kathasaritsagara mentions that Vikramaditya son of Mahendraditya, the king of Ujjain succeeded the throne of the empire after his father abdicated it and routed the Mlecchas who were on the verge of conquering the Earth.
Skanda Gupta was a prudent king who always respected his countrymen. He always remains loyal towards his common troops and always watched their backs. To maintain a healthy discipline and unity among his troop he (Skanda Gupta) even slept on the floor rather than in a luxurious tent to win the support of his soldiers.
He appointed his ablest governors to look for the betterment of the civilians and due to this, the Guptas Empire survived the internal threats.
One example that further add a star to Skanda Gupta’s leadership is that when the embankment of a big water reservoir (on the Grinar Hill) near Junagadh was burst out due to excessive rain. This was a tough situation as the whole of the country was in grave danger, but the governor (Parnadatta) appointed by Skanda Gupta was able to repair the embankment quickly.
R.C. Majumdar in his book The Classical Age mentioned that the Gupta Empire stood as a symbol of unity, integrity, and independence of Aryavarta.
Even during his reign, the mighty Gupta Empire was stretched from Bengal to the Arabian Sea. We can only imagine what would have happened if Skanda Gupta was defeated by the Huns.
Rise of Huns (Hunas)
The origin of the Huns is a topic of debate. But it is believed that around the second century CE these tribes were able to settle near the borders of modern-day China.
Then after some time, the later Huns like Yueh chi migrated west and there the Huns divided into two branches. Those Huns who settled near Oxus valley were later known as the White Huns or Hephthalites.
They then marched towards India and Persia through Hindu Kush Mountains.
It is believed that in the middle of the 5th century CE the White Huns also known as Hephthalites invaded northwestern India. The Huns captured the Empire of Gandhara and also occupied the Oxus valley. It is believed that the Huns had placed a barbaric king in the region of Gandhara who was famous for his barbaric atrocities.
Skanda Gupta against the Huns
The Hunas invasion of India was the supreme test of Skanda Gupta’s military leadership as he had to stop the advance of those who had vehemently terrorized Europe and Central Asia.
The conflict between the Huns and Skanda Gupta was severe. It was a great achievement for the Indian king who inflicted a crushing defeat over the Huns who were very successful in Europe and Central Asia.
The date of this epic carnage is believed to be about 460 CE.
The main reason why the Hunas (Huns) failed badly in front of the Gupta king was that the latter had realized the importance of heavy horse archers in the army. Indian cavalry had never been a favorite when they were up against central Asian invaders.
To handle this situation Skanda Gupta decided to maintain a regular unit of Horse archers who were completely covered with chain mail up to their knees. This new unit of the Indians was able to stop the ruthless charge of the Hunnic cavalries.
During the battle, the Gupta cavalry also had several types of different flags to establish better coordination among their troops. These flags worked as a rallying point for the Indians which the Hunas weren’t prepared for.
This invention of the new type of cavalry under the Guptas and especially under the military guidance of Skanda Gupta completely changed the conduct of the war on Indian territories.
The cavalry of Guptas can be regarded as the best that Indians had produced. Their cavalry was specially trained under the strict observation of a central government (same as in the time of Mauryas) at Ashrams.
They even had a reserve cavalry which the later Indian Emperor completely ignored. It is not difficult to see the difference between the military tactics of the Guptas and later Indian kings.
This success of the Indian against the central Asian warlord was hugely appreciated by the Indians and they proclaimed Skanda Gupta as a national hero who saved the empire from misery.
Many historians believed that it was Skanda Gupta’s courageous resistance that stopped the Huns even after his death. Some of the Huns or probably later Huns also accepted Hinduism and it was possible only because of Skanda Gupta. It was after this battle when Skanda Gupta adopted the title of Vikramaditya and the Huns didn’t dare to invade India during his reign.
Salute to the great warriors like Skanda Gupta and many more who guarded the sub-continent against foreign invaders and protected the thousand-year-old civilization from crumbling.
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