The Hephthalites were a nomadic people who lived in tents and were often in search of pasture, moving to coolness in summer and to warmth in the winter. In the late 400s they defeated the Persians, and they moved eastward into Transoxiana. Dissension within the Gupta royal family weakened the Gupta empire. Samudra Gupta had repelled an invasion by the Hephthalites, but in the early 500s the Hephthalites returned, perhaps aware that India was an easier take. The Hephthalites moved across the Hindu Kush and into the Punjab and Kashmir, and they advanced into the Ganges Valley in search of plunder. There they ruined cities, towns, trading centers and Buddhist monasteries. The great city Pataliputra was reduced to a mere village of people.
The Hephthalites withdrew from the Ganges Valley, but they continued to hold territory in the Punjab and Kashmir, with Piandjshent, sixty-five kilometers south of Samarkand, as the center of their rule. And, with the Gupta empire gone, the Hephthalites became the superpower in Middle Asia.
It did not last long. Soon they were attacked by an alliance of Persians and Turks. In the late 550s this coalition defeated them militarily, the Persians pursuing the Hephthalites in revenge for the defeat the Hephthalites had given their forefathers a century before. The Hephthalites vanished from history, and it is believed that they reappeared later in Central Asia as those called Avars.
India, meanwhile, was divided into numerous small kingdoms, which meant military weakness. And economic decline had come to some of India's cities. Profitable trade with the Roman Empire had ended, and by the mid-500s India's trade with Persia had also declined.
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