Mihirakula (Chinese: 大族王) was one of the most important Hephthalite emperors, whose empire was in the present-day territories of Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern and central India. Mihirakula was a son of Toramana who was a tegin of the Indian part of the Hephthalite Empire. Mihirakula ruled his empire from 515 to 530.
The name "Mihirakula" is most likely of Iranian origin and may have the meaning "Mithra's Begotten", as translated by Janos Harmatta. Cognates are also known from Sanskrit sources, though these are most likely borrowed from the neighbouring East Iranian languages.
The 6th-century Alexandrian traveler Cosmas Indicopleustes states that the Hephthalites in India reached the zenith of its power under Mihirakula. "The Record of the Western Regions" by the 7th-century Chinese traveler Hsüan-tsang describes Mihirakula as:
He was of quick tallent and naturally brave. He subdued all the neighboring provinces without exception.
The Gwalior inscription issued in the 15th regnal year of Mihirakula shows his territory at least included Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, central India. Mihirakula suffered a defeat by the Aulikara king Yasodharman of Malwa in 528, and the Gupta emperor Narasimhagupta Baladitya who previously paid Mihirakula tribute. According to Hsüan-tsang, Mihirakula was taken as prisoner, and later released, but meanwhile the brother of Mihirakula had seized power over the Hephthalites. Mihirakula set off for Kashmir where the king received him with honor. After a few years Mihirakula incited a revolt against the king of Kashmir and seized his power. Then he invaded Gandhara located westward, and killed many of its inhabitants and destroyed its Buddhist shrines. But Mihirakula died shortly afterwards.
Mihirakula is remembered in contemporary Indian and Chinese histories for his cruelty and his destruction of temples and monasteries, with particular hostility towards Buddhism. He claimed to be a worshipper of Shiva.
- Rene Grousset (1970). The empire of the steppes - a history of central Asia, Rutgers, ISBN 0-8135-0627-1, p.71
- Janos Harmatta, "The Rise of the Old Persian Empire: Cyrus the Great," AAASH Acta Antiqua Acadamie Scientiarum Hungaricae 19, 197, pp. 4-15.
- Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin, Congrès International d&Etud. Études mithriaques: actes du 2e Congrès International, Téhéran, du 1er au 8 september 1975. p 293. Retrieved 2012-9-5.
- 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 November 5, 2012.
- Ojha, N.K. (2001). The Aulikaras of Central India: History and Inscriptions, Chandigarh: Arun Publishing House, ISBN 81-85212-78-3, p.52