कुषाण साम्राज्य तत्कालीन तीन महत्त्वपूर्ण साम्राज्य, पूर्व में चीन, पश्चिम में पार्थियन (पहलव) एवं रोम साम्राज्य के मध्य में स्थित था। चूंकि पार्थियनों के रोम से सम्बन्ध अच्छे नहीं थे, इसलिए चीन से व्यापार करने के लिए रोम को कुषाणों से मधुर सम्बन्ध बनाने पड़े। यह व्यापार महान् ‘सिल्कमार्ग’ तथा ‘रेशममार्ग’ से सम्पन्न होता था। यह मार्ग तीन हिस्सों में बंटा था -(1.) कैस्पीयन सागर होते हुए, (2.) मर्व से फरात नदी होते हुए नील सागर पर स्थित बन्दरगाह तथा (3.) लाल सागर तक जाता था।
प्रथम शताब्दी में भारत और रोम के बीच मधुर सम्बन्ध का उल्लेख ‘पेरिप्लस ऑफ़ दी इरीथ्रियन सी’ नामक पुस्तक में मिलता है। इस पुस्तक में रोमन साम्राज्य को निर्यात की जाने वाली वस्तुओं में कालीमिर्च, अदरक, रेशम, मलमल, सूती वस्त्र, रत्न, मोती आदि का उल्लेख मिलता है। आयात की जाने वाली वस्तुओं में मूंगा, लोशन, कांच, चांदी, सोने का बर्तन, रांगा, सीसा, तिप्तीया घास, गीत गाने वाले लड़के का उल्लेख मिलता है। प्रथम शताब्दी ई. में व्यापार मुख्यतः सिन्धु नदी के मुहाने पर स्थित बन्दरगाह ‘बारवैरिकम’ और भड़ौच से होता था। दक्षिण भारत में इस समय आरिकामेडु, मुजरिस, कावेरी, पत्तम जैसे प्रमुख बन्दरगाह थे। ‘पेरिप्लस ऑफ़ द इसीथ्रियन सी’ पुस्तक में आरिकामेडु बन्दरगाह का उल्लेख पेडोक नाम से किया गया है। बेरीगाजा (भड़ौच) अथवा भरूकच्छ पश्चिमी तट पर स्थित सर्वाधिक महत्त्वपूर्ण बन्दरगाह और प्रवेशद्वार था। रोम से भारत आ रहे लोगों की मात्रा पर ग्रीक इतिहासकार प्लिनी ने दुःख व्यक्त किया है।
चौथी बौद्ध संगीति
कनिष्क बौद्ध धर्म की ‘महायान’ शाखा का अनुयायी था। उसने बौद्ध धर्म के प्रचार के लिए काफ़ी काम किया। कनिष्क के समय में ही बौद्ध धर्म की चौथी संगीति का आयोजन किया गया। यह संगीति कश्मीर के ‘कुण्डल वन’ में आयोजित की गई। इस संगीति के अध्यक्ष वसुमित्र एवं उपाध्यक्ष अश्वघोष थे। अश्वघोष, कनिष्क का राजकवि था। इसी संगीति में बौद्ध धर्म दो भागों-हीनयान और महायान में विभाजित हो गया। इस संगीति में नागार्जुन शामिल हुए थे। इसी संगीति में तीनों पिटकों पर टीकायें लिखी गईं, जिनको ‘महाविभाषा’ नाम की पुस्तक में संकलित किया गया। इस पुस्तक को बौद्ध धर्म का ‘विश्वकोष’ भी कहा जाता है। संगीति के निर्णयों को ताम्रपत्र पर लिखकर पत्थर की मंजूषाओं में रखकर स्तूप में स्थापित कर दिया गया। कनिष्क बौद्ध धर्म का अनुयायी होते हुए भी अन्य धर्मों के प्रति साहिष्णु था। इसके सिक्कों पर पार्थियन, यूनानी एवं भारतीय देवी-देवताओं की आकृतियाँ मिली हैं। कनिष्क के सिक्कों पर ग्रीक अक्षर में जिन देवताओं के नाम लिखे हैं वे इस प्रकार हैं- ‘हिरैक्लीज’, ‘सिरापीज’, ग्रीक नामधारी सूर्य और चन्द्र, हेलिओस और सेलिनी, मीइरो (सूर्य), अर्थों (अग्नि), ननाइया, शिव आदि। सिक्कों पर महात्मा बुद्ध तथा भारतीय देवी देवताओं की आकृतियाँ यूनानी शैली में उकेरी गई हैं। कुषाण वंश के शासकों में विम कडफ़ाइसिस, शैव; कनिष्क, बौद्ध; हुविष्क और वासुदेव कुषाण, वैष्णव धर्म के अनुयायी थे। मथुरा से कनिष्क की एक ऐसी मूर्ति मिली है, जिसमें उसे सैनिक वेषभूषा में दिखाया गया है। कनिष्क के अब तक प्राप्त सिक्के यूनानी एवं ईरानी भाषा में मिले हैं।
कनिष्क के तांबे के सिक्कों पर उसे ‘बलिवेदी’ पर बलिदान करते हुए दर्शाया गया है। कनिष्क के सोने के सिक्के रोम के सिक्कों से काफ़ी कुछ मिलते थे। बुद्ध के अवशेषों पर कनिष्क ने पेशावर के निकट एक स्तूप एवं मठ निर्माण करावाया। कनिष्क कला और विद्वता का आश्रयदाता था। इसके दरबार का सबसे महान् साहित्यिक व्यक्ति अश्वघोष था। इसकी रचनाओं की तुलना महान् मिल्टन, गेटे, काण्ट एवं वॉल्टेयर से की गई है। अश्वघोष ने ‘बुद्धचरित्र’ तथा ‘सौन्दरनन्द’, शारिपुत्रकरण एवं सूत्रालंकार की रचना की। इसमें बुद्धचरित तथा सौन्दरनन्द को महाकाव्य की संज्ञा प्राप्त है। सौन्दरनन्द में बुद्ध के सौतेले भाई सुन्दरनन्द के सन्न्यास ग्रहण करने का वर्णन है। अश्वघोष का ग्रंथ ‘सरिपुत्रप्रकरण’ नौ अंको का एक नाटक ग्रंथ है, जिसमें बुद्ध के शिष्य ‘शरिपुत्र’ के बौद्ध धर्म में दीक्षित होने का नाटकीय उल्लेख है। इस ग्रंथ की तुलना वाल्मीकि के रामायण से की जाती है। कनिष्क के दरबार की ही एक अन्य विभूति नागार्जुन दार्शनिक ही नहीं, बल्कि वैज्ञानिक भी था। इसकी तुलना मार्टिन लूथर से की जाती है। इसे भारत का ‘आईन्सटाइन’ कहा गया है। नागार्जुन ने अपनी पुस्तक ‘माध्यमिक सूत्र’ में सापेक्षता के सिद्धान्त को प्रस्तुत किया। वसुमित्र ने चौथी बौद्ध संगीति में ‘बौद्ध धर्म के विश्वकोष’ ‘महाविभाष्ज्ञसूत्र’ की रचना की। इस ग्रंथ को ‘बौद्ध धर्म का विश्वकोष’कहा जाता है। कनिष्क के दरबार के एक और रत्न चिकित्सक ‘चरक’ ने औषधि पर ‘चरकसंहिता’ की रचना की। चरक, कनिष्क का राजवैद्य था। अन्य विद्धानों में पार्श्व, वसुमित्र, मतृवेट, संघरक्षक आदि के नाम उल्लेखनीय है। इसके संघरस कनिष्क के पुरोहित थे। विभाषाशास्त्र की रचना वसुमित्र ने की थी। कुषाणों ने भारत में बसकर यहाँ की संस्कृति को आत्मसात् किया। भारतीय संस्कृति यूनानी संस्कृति से प्रभावित थी। कुषाण शासकों ने ‘देवपुत्र’ उपाधि धारण की। कनिष्क के समय में ही ‘वात्सायन का कामसूत्र’, भारवि की स्वप्नवासवदत्ता की रचना हुई। ‘स्वप्नवासवदत्ता’ को संभवतः भारत का प्रथम सम्पूर्ण नाटक माना गया है।
युइशि जाति का भारत प्रवेश
हूणों के आक्रमण के कारण युइशि लोग अपने प्राचीन अभिजन को छोड़कर अन्यत्र जाने के लिए विवश हुए थे, और इसलिए मध्य एशिया के क्षेत्र में निवास करने वाली विविध जातियों में एक प्रकार की उथल-पुथल मच गई थी। युइशि जाति का मूल अभिजन तिब्बत के उत्तर-पश्चिम में ‘तकला मक़ान’ की मरुभूमि के सीमान्त क्षेत्र में था। उस समय हूण लोग उत्तरी चीन में निवास करते थे। जब चीन के शक्तिशाली सम्राट शी-हुआंग-ती (246—210 ई. पू.) ने उत्तरी चीन में विशाल दीवार बनवाकर हूणों के लिए अपने राज्य पर आक्रमण कर सकना असम्भव बना दिया, तो हूण लोग पश्चिम की ओर बढ़े, और उस प्रदेश पर टूट पड़े, जहाँ युइशि जाति का निवास था। युइशि लोगों के लिए यह सम्भव नहीं था कि वे बर्बर और प्रचण्ड हूण आक्रान्ताओं का मुक़ाबला कर सकते। वे अपने अभिजन को छोड़कर पश्चिम व दक्षिण की ओर जाने के लिए विवश हुए। उस समय सीर नदी की घाटी में शक जाति का निवास था। युइशि लोगों के आक्रमण के कारण वह अपने प्रदेश को छोड़ देने के लिए विवश हुई, और सीर नदी की घाटी पर युइशि जाति का अधिकार हो गया। युइशियों से धकेले जाकर ही शकों ने बैक्ट्रिया और पार्थिया पर आक्रमण किए और उनकी एक शाखा भारत में भी प्रविष्ट हुई। शकों के द्वारा बैक्ट्रिया के यवन राज्य का अन्त हुआ, और पार्थिया भी उनके अधिकार में आ जाता, यदि राजा मिथिदातस द्वितीय उनके आक्रमणों से अपने राज्य की रक्षा करने में समर्थ न होता। पार्थिया को जीत सकने में समर्थ न हो पाने के कारण ही शकों की एक शाखा सीस्तान होती हुई सिन्ध नदी में प्रविष्ट हुई थी।
युइशि जाति का बैक्ट्रिया में प्रवेश
सीर नदी की घाटी से शकों को निकालकर युइशि जाति के लोग वहाँ पर आबाद हो गए थे। पर वे वहाँ पर भी देर तक नहीं टिक सके। जिन हूणों के आक्रमण के कारण युइशि लोग अपने मूल अभिजन को छोड़ने के लिए विवश हुए थे, उन्होंने उन्हें सीर नदी की घाटी में भी चैन से नहीं रहने दिया। हूणों ने यहाँ पर भी उनका पीछा कया, जिससे की शकों के पीछे-पीछे वे बैक्ट्रिया में भी प्रविष्ट हुए। बैक्ट्रिया और उसके समीपवर्ती प्रदेशों पर उन्होंने क़ब्ज़ा कर लिया, और वहाँ अपने पाँच राज्य क़ायम किए। एक चीनी ऐतिहासिक के अनुसार –
पहली सदी ई. पू. से ही युइशि लोग अपने ये पाँच राज्य स्थापित कर चुके थे। इन राज्यों में परस्पर संघर्ष चलता रहता था। बैक्ट्रिया के यवन निवासियों के सम्पर्क में आकर युइशि लोग सभ्यता के मार्ग पर भी अग्रसर होने लगे थे, और वे उस दशा से उन्नति कर गए थे, जिसमें कि वे तक़लामक़ान की मरुभूमि के समीपवर्ती अपने मूल अभिजन में रहा करते थे।
युइशि लोगों के पाँच राज्यों में अन्यतम ‘कुएई-शुआंगा’ था। 25 ई. पू. के लगभग इस राज्य का स्वामी ‘कुषाण’ नाम का वीर पुरुष हुआ, जिसके शासन में इस राज्य की बहुत उन्नति हुई। उसने धीरे-धीरे अन्य युइशि राज्यों को जीतकर अपने अधीन कर लिया। वह केवल युइशि राज्यों को जीतकर ही संतुष्ट नहीं हुआ, अपितु उसने समीप के पार्थियन और शक राज्यों पर भी आक्रमण किए।
अनेक इतिहासकारों का मत है, कि कुषाण किसी व्यक्ति विशेष का नाम नहीं था। यह नाम युइशि जाति की उस शाखा का था, जिसने अन्य चारों युइशि राज्यों को जीतकर अपने अधीन कर लिया था। जिस राजा ने पाँचों युइशि राज्यों को मिलाकर अपनी शक्ति का उत्कर्ष किया, उसका अपना नाम कुजुल कडफ़ाइसिस था। पर्याप्त प्रमाण के अभाव में यह निश्चित कर सकना कठिन है कि जिस युइशि वीर ने अपनी जाति के विविध राज्यों को जीतकर एक सूत्र में संगठित किया, उसका वैयक्तिक नाम कुषाण था या कुजुल था। यह असंदिग्ध है, कि बाद के युइशि राजा भी कुषाण वंशी थे। राजा कुषाण के वंशज होने के कारण वे कुषाण कहलाए, या युइशि जाति की कुषाण शाखा में उत्पन्न होने के कारण – यह निश्चित न होने पर भी इसमें सन्देह नहीं कि ये राजा कुषाण कहलाते थे और इन्हीं के द्वारा स्थापित साम्राज्य को कुषाण साम्राज्य कहा जाता है।
प्राचीन भारत के सभी साम्राज्यों में कुषाण साम्राज्य की बड़ी ही महत्त्वपूर्ण अंतर्राष्ट्रीय स्थिति थी। इस समय के अनेक साम्राज्यों के बीच स्थित था। पूर्व में चीन का ‘स्वर्गिक साम्राज्य’ था। इसके पश्चिम में पार्थियन साम्राज्य था। रोमन साम्राज्य का उदय हो रहा था। रोमन तथा पार्थियन साम्राज्यों में परस्पर शत्रुता थी, और रोमन एक ऐसा मार्ग चाहते थे जहाँ से रोम और चीन के बीच व्यापार शत्रु देश पार्थिया से गुज़रे बिना हो सके। इसलिए वे कुषाण साम्राज्य से मैत्रीपूर्ण सम्बन्ध रखने के इच्छुक थे। महान् ‘सिल्क मार्ग’ की तीनों मुख्य शाखाओं पर कुषाण साम्राज्य का नियंत्रण था –
कैस्पियन सागर से होकर जाने वाले मार्ग पर,
मर्व से फ़रात (यूक्रेट्स) नदी होते हुए रूमसागर पर बने बंदरगाह तक जाने वाले मार्ग पर,
भारत से लाल सागर तक जाने वाले मार्ग पर।
परिणामस्वरूप कुषाणों के समय में उत्तर पश्चिम भारत उस समय का सर्वाधिक महत्त्वपूर्ण व्यापारिक केन्द्र बन गया था। आर्थिक दृष्टि से कुषाणकालीन भारत अत्यन्त समृद्ध प्रतीत होता है। केवल सम्पूर्ण गंगा घाटी ही नहीं अपितु मध्य एशिया तक विभिन्न उत्खननों से पता चलता है कि ईसा की तीन शताब्दियों में शहरीकरण काफ़ी विकसित हो चुका था।
उत्तरी भारत के सांस्कृतिक इतिहास में भी कुषाण काल का महत्त्वपूर्ण स्थान है।
कुषाण भी शकों की ही तरह मध्य एशिया से निकाले जाने पर क़ाबुल-कंधार की ओर यहाँ आ गये थे। उस काल में यहाँ के हिन्दी यूनानियों की शक्ति कम हो गई थी, उन्हें कुषाणों ने सरलता से पराजित कर दिया। उसके बाद उन्होंने क़ाबुल-कंधार पर अपना राज्याधिकार क़ायम किया। उनके प्रथम राजा का नाम कुजुल कडफाइसिस था। उसने क़ाबुल – कंधार के यवनों (हिन्दी यूनानियों) को हरा कर भारत की उत्तर-पश्चिमी सीमा पर बसे हुए पह्लवों को भी पराजित कर दिया। कुषाणों का शासन पश्चिमी पंजाब तक हो गया था। कुजुल के पश्चात् उसके पुत्र विम तक्षम ने कुषाण राज्य का और भी अधिक विस्तार किया। भारत की तत्कालीन राजनीतिक परिस्थिति का लाभ उठा कर ये लोग आगे बढ़े और उन्होंने हिंद यूनानी शासकों की शक्ति को कमज़ोर कर शुंग साम्राज्य के पश्चिमी भाग को अपने अधिकार में कर लिया। विजित प्रदेश का केन्द्र उन्होंने मथुरा को बनाया, जो उस समय उत्तर भारत के धर्म, कला तथा व्यापारिक यातायात का एक प्रमुख नगर था।
Greco-buddhism in Kushan Empire : The influence of the greek culture and civilisation in Central Asia and Indian subcontinent
Greco-Buddhism, sometimes spelled Graeco-Buddhism, refers to the cultural syncretism between Hellenistic culture andBuddhism, which developed between the 4th century BCE and the 5th century CE in Bactria and the Indian subcontinent, corresponding to the territories of modern day Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. It was a cultural consequence of a long chain of interactions begun by Greek forays into India from the time of Alexander the Great, carried further by the establishment of the Indo-Greek Kingdom and extended during the flourishing of the Kushan Empire. Greco-Buddhism influenced the artistic, and perhaps the spiritual development of Buddhism, particularly Mahayana Buddhism. Buddhism was then adopted in Central and Northeastern Asia from the 1st century CE, ultimately spreading to China, Korea, Japan,
Philippines, Siberia, and Vietnam. The interaction between Hellenistic Greece and Buddhism started when Alexander the Great conquered the Achaemenid Empire and further regions of Central Asia in 334 BCE, crossing the Indus and then the Jhelum River after the Battle of the Hydaspes and going as far as the Beas, thus establishing direct contact with India. Alexander founded several cities in his new territories in the areas of the Amu Darya and Bactria, and Greek settlements further extended to the Khyber Pass, Gandhara (see Taxila), and the Punjab region. These regions correspond to a unique geographical passageway between the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush mountains through which most of the interaction between India and Central Asia took place, generating intense cultural exchange and trade. Following Alexander’s death on June 10, 323 BCE, the Diadochi or “Successors” founded their own kingdoms in Anatolia and Central Asia. General Seleucus set up the Seleucid Empire, which extended as far as India. Later, the eastern part of the Seleucid Kingdom broke away to form the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom (250 BC-125 BC), followed by the Indo-Greek Kingdom (180 BC – 10 CE), and later the Kushan Empire (1st–3rd century CE).
According to Ptolemy, Greek cities were founded by the Greco-Bactrians in northern India. Menander established his capital in Sagala (modern Sialkot, Punjab, Pakistan) one of the centers of the blossoming Buddhist culture. A large Greek city built by Demetrius and rebuilt by Menander has been excavated at the archaeological site of Sirkap near Taxila, where Buddhist stupas were standing side-by-side with Hindu and Greek temples, indicating religious tolerance and syncretism. The Kushan Empire, one of the five tribes of the Yuezhi, settled in Bactria around 125 BCE, displacing the Greco-Bactrians and invading the northern parts of Pakistan and India from around 1 CE. By that time they had already been in contact with Greek culture and the Indo-Greek kingdoms for more than a century. They used the Greek script to write their language, as exemplified by their coins and their adoption of the Greek alphabet. The absorption of Greek historical and mythological culture is suggested by Kushan sculptures representing Dionysiac scenes or even the story of the Trojan Horse and it is probable that Greek communities remained under Kushan rule. Heraios (often read as Heraus, Heraos, Miaos) was a clan chief of the Kushans (reign: 1-30 CE), one of the five constituent tribes of the Yuezhi confederacy in Bactria in the early 1st century CE, roughly at the time when the Kushans were starting their invasion of India. Silver coins were made in the Hellenistic style and used the Greek writing. The reverse shows the winged Greek god of victory Nike holding out a wreath over the clan chief mounted on a horse. The clan chief wears a tunic and has a large bow on the side. On the coins, the clan chief’s name appears as “ΗΛΟΥ” or “”ΗΙΛΟΥ”, which has been variously transliterated as “Ilou”, “Maou” or “Miaou”. Kanishka I or Kanishka the Great, was the emperor of the Kushan dynasty in the second century (c. AD 127–163). He is famous for his military, political, and spiritual achievements. A descendant of Kushan empire founder Kujula Kadphises, Kanishka came to rule an empire in Bactria extending from Turfan in the Tarim Basin toPataliputra on the Gangetic plain. The main capital of his empire was located at Puruṣapura in Gandhara, with two other major capitals at Kapisa and Mathura. His conquests and patronage of Buddhism played an important role in the development of the Silk Road, and the transmission of Mahayana Buddhism from Gandhara across the Karakoram range to China. Kanishka’s date of accession was later used as a calendar era, the so-called Saka era, corresponding to AD 78. However, this date is not now regarded as the historical date of Kanishka’s accession. Kanishka is estimated to have accessed to the throne in AD 127 by Falk (2001). Kanishka’s coins from the beginning of his reign bear legends in Greek language and script and depict Greek divinities. Later coins bear legends in Bactrian, the Iranian language that the Kushans evidently spoke, and Greek divinities were replaced by corresponding Iranian ones. All of Kanishka’s coins – even ones with a legend in the Bactrian language – were written in a modified Greek script that had one additional glyph (Ϸ) to represent /š/ (sh), as in the word ‘Kushan’ and ‘Kanishka’. A few coins at the beginning of his reign have a legend in the Greek language and script: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΝ ΚΑΝΗΣΚΟΥ, basileus basileon kaneshkou “[coin] of Kanishka, king of kings.”Greek deities, with Greek names are represented on these early coins: ΗΛΙΟΣ (ēlios, Hēlios), ΗΦΑΗΣΤΟΣ (ēphaēstos, Hephaistos), ΣΑΛΗΝΗ (salēnē, Selene), ΑΝΗΜΟΣ (anēmos, Anemos). Following the transition to the Bactrian language on coins, Iranian and Indic divinities replace the Greek ones. Bactrian (Αρια, Arya) is an Iranian language which was spoken in the Central Asian region of Bactria (present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan), and used as the official language of the Kushan and the Hephthalite empires. Bactrian was natively known as αρια or “Arya” language. Because Bactrian was written predominantly in an alphabet based on the Greek script, Bactrian is sometimes referred to as “Greco-Bactrian”, “Kushan” or “Kushano-Bactrian”. Until the 1970s, Bactrian was sometimes referred to as “Eteo-Tocharian”, because in medieval times, Bactria was also known as Tokharistan at the time of the arrival of the Yuezhi tribes. But it is now certain that Bactrian is an Iranian language, and as such not closely related to the Tocharian languages. after 124 BC, Bactria was overrun by Yuezhi Tocharian tribes. Subsequently, one of the Yuezhi tribes advanced to found the Kushan dynasty in the 1st century AD. The Kushans at first retained the Greek language for administrative purposes, but soon began to use Bactrian. The Bactrian Rabatak inscription (discovered in 1993 and deciphered in 2000) records that the Kushan king Kanishka (c. 127 AD) discarded Greek (Ionian) as the language of administration and adopted Bactrian (“Arya language”). The Greek language accordingly vanishes from official use and only Bactrian is attested. The use of the Greek script however remained to write Bactrian. In the 3rd century, the Kushan territories west of the Indus river fell to the Sassanids, and Bactrian began to be influenced by Middle Persian. Next to Pahlavi script and (occasionally)Brahmi script, some coinage of this period is still in Greco-Bactrian script. Beginning in the mid-4th century, Bactria and northwestern India yielded to the Hephthalite tribes. The Hephthalite period is marked by linguistic diversity and in addition to Bactrian, Middle Persian, North Indo-Aryan, Turkish and Latin vocabulary is also attested. The Hephthalites ruled their territories until the 7th century when they were overrun by the Arabs, after which the official use of Bactrian ceased. Although Bactrian briefly survived in other usage, that too eventually ceased, and the latest examples of the language date to the end of the 9th century. The territorial expansion of the Kushans helped propagate Bactrian to Northern India and parts of Central Asia. Among Indo-Iranian languages, the use of the Greek script is unique to Bactrian. The Bactrian language is known from inscriptions, coins, seals, manuscripts, and other documents. The Kushan king Kanishka, who honored Zoroastrian, Greek and Brahmanic deities as well as the Buddha and was famous for his religious syncretism, convened the Fourth Buddhist council around 100 CE in Kashmir in order to redact the Sarvastivadin canon. Some of Kanishka’s coins bear the earliest representations of the Buddha on a coin (around 120 CE), in Hellenistic style and with the word “Boddo” in Greek script. Kanishka also had the original Gandhari Prakrit Mahāyāna sūtras translated into Sanskrit, “a turning point in the evolution of the Buddhist literary canon”. The Kanishka casket, dated to the first year of Kanishka’s reign in 127 CE, was signed by a Greek artist named Agesilas, who oversaw work at Kanishka’s stupas (cetiya), confirming the direct involvement of Greeks with Buddhist realizations at such a late date. The new syncretic form of Buddhism expanded fully into East Asia soon after these events. The Kushan monk Lokaksema visited the court of Emperor Ling of Han at Luoyang in 178 CE and worked there for ten years to make the first known translations of Mahayana texts into Chinese. The new faith later spread into Korea and Japan, and was itself at the origin of Chan Buddhism. The interaction of Greek and Buddhist cultures operated over several centuries until it ended in the 5th century CE with the invasions of the Hephthalite Empire and finally wiyh the expansion of Islam. The Hephthalites, Ephthalites, Ye-tai, White Huns, or in Sanskrit as the Sveta Huna, were a a confederation of nomadic and settled people in Central Asia who expanded their domain westward in the 5th century. At the height of its power in the first half of the 6th century, the Hephthalite Empire controlled territory in present-day Afghanistan,Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, India and China.
यूइची (Yue-Tche) या युएझ़ी, युएज़ी या रुझ़ी (अंग्रेज़ी: Yuezhi, चीनी: 月支, ‘झ़’ के उच्चारण पर ध्यान दें, यह ‘झ’ से भिन्न है) प्राचीन काल में मध्य एशिया में बसने वाली एक जाति थी। माना जाता है कि यह एक हिन्द-यूरोपीय लोग थे जो शायद खस लोगों से सम्बंधित रहें हों। शुरू में यह तारिम द्रोणी के पूर्व के शुष्क घास के मैदानी स्तेपी इलाक़े के वासी थे, जो आधुनिक काल में चीन के शिंजियांग और गांसू प्रान्तों में पड़ता है। समय के साथ वे मध्य एशिया के अन्य इलाक़ों, बैक्ट्रिया और भारतीय उपमहाद्वीप के उत्तरी क्षेत्रों में फैल गए। संभव है कि भारत के कुशान साम्राज्य और खस साम्राज्य की स्थापना में भी उनका हाथ रहा हो।
मध्य एशिया तथा चीन के विस्तृत क्षेत्र में जिन खूँखार जातियों ने एक-दूसरे को हराकर राजनीतिक उथल-पुथल कर दी थी उनमें यूइची उल्लेखनीय हैं। द्वितीय शताब्दी ईसवी पूर्व में इसके हिउंग नु तथा वु सुन के साथ संघर्ष का विवरण चीनी स्रोतों में मिलता हैं। वहाँ के कई ग्रन्थों में यूवची के अन्य जातियों के साथ संघर्ष तथा अपने निवासस्थान को छोड़ पश्चिमी क्षेत्र की ओर बढने और राज्य स्थापित करने का उल्लेख हैं। इनसे मूलतया यह प्रतीत होता हैं कि लगभग ईसा पूर्व १७६ में हिउंग नु के शासक माओ तनु ने चीन सम्राट को एक संदेंश भेजा कि उसने यूवची को हटाकर तुनू हुआंग तथा कि लिएन के बीच के क्षेत्र में खदेड़ दिया हैं। यूवची पश्चिम की ओर बढते हुए साइवंग (शकों) के क्षेत्र में पहुँचे और उनको वहाँ से हटा दिया। बाद में यूवची जाति को वसुन के आक्रमण के कारण उस क्षेत्र को स्वय छोड़ना पड़ा। उसके बाद वे याहिया की और बढ़े। ई० पू० १२६ में चीनी राजदूत चांग किएन ने यूवची की जाति को अक्षु नदी के उतर में पाया। यूवची की मुख्य शाखा ने आगे चलकर पुन: शको को हराया और कपिश पर अधिकार कर लिया। इसी समय से यूवची जाति का ऐतिहासिक संबंध भारत से भी आरम्भ होता हैं। कहा जाता हैं, यूवची जाति के पाँच कबीलों में बँट गई और उनमें कुइ शुआंग अथवा कुशान- कुषाण जाति के कियुल कथफिस कजकुल कैडाफिसिज ने अन्य और जातिओं को हटाकर अपनी शक्ति संगठित की, काबुल की और यूनानीयों का अंत कर वहाँ का शासक बन बैठा।
इसके विपक्ष में कुछ विद्वान् यूइची तथा कुषाण वंश में कोई संबंध नहीं पाते। उनका कथन है कि कुषाण वास्तव में शक जाति के ही एक अंग थे और यूइची ने जब शकों को हराया तो इसी वंश के कुछ प्रमुख सरदार यूइची में मिल गए। बाद के चीनी इतिहासकारों ने इन दोनों जातियों की पृथकता नहीं समझी। कुषाणों के अतिरिक्त चार और जातियों (यवगुओं) ने यूइची आधिपत्य स्वीकार कर लिया था। वास्तव में यूइची का हिउंगनु तथा नुसुन नामक उन जातियों के साथ संघर्ष तथा एक का दूसरे के प्रति रक्तपिपासु होना कुजुल कैडफसिज़ की अपने ‘सत्यधर्म प्रवर्तक’ उपाधि ग्रहण करने के साथ उचित प्रतीत नहीं होता। हूणों सहित मध्य एशिया से सब जातियाँ अपनी बर्बरता के लिये प्राचीन इतिहास में प्रसिद्ध हैं। इनके विपक्ष में शक कुषाणों की धार्मिक प्रवृत्तियों तथा सहनशीलता का परिचय लेखों तथा सिक्कों से होता है। प्रसिद्ध कुषण सम्राट् कनिष्क छोटी यूइची जाति का था और उसने उत्तरी भारत पर आक्रमण किया तथा पाटलिपुत्र तक पहुँचा। यद्यपि इस शासक का साम्राज्य उत्तरी भारत में वाराणसी तक अवश्य फैला था, तथापि उसके यइची होने में संदेह है।
Βασιλεία Κοσσανῶν (Greek)
Status Nomadic empire
Capital Bagram (Kapiśi)
Common languages Greek (official until ca. 127)
Bactrian(official from ca. 127)
Historical era Classical Antiquity
• Kujula Kadphises unites Yuezhi tribes into a confederation
• Subjugated by the Sasanians, Guptas, and Hepthalites
200 est 2,000,000 km2 (770,000 sq mi)
200 est. 2,500,000 km2 (970,000 sq mi)
Currency Kushan drachma
Preceded by Succeeded by
Nagas of Padmavati
The Kushan Empire (Ancient Greek: Βασιλεία Κοσσανῶν; Bactrian: Κυϸανο, Kushano; Late Brahmi Sanskrit: Gupta allahabad ku.jpg Gupta gujarat ssaa.jpg Gupta ashoka nn.svg, Ku-ṣā-ṇa, Kuṣāṇa; Devanagari Sanskrit: कुषाण राजवंश, Kuṣāṇa Rājavaṃśa; BHS: Guṣāṇa-vaṃśa; Parthian: 𐭊𐭅𐭔𐭍 𐭇𐭔𐭕𐭓, Kušan-xšaθr; Chinese: 貴霜 was a syncretic empire, formed by the Yuezhi, in the Bactrian territories in the early 1st century. It spread to encompass much of modern-day territory of Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India, at least as far as Saketa and Sarnath near Varanasi (Benares), where inscriptions have been found dating to the era of the Kushan Emperor Kanishka the Great.
The Kushans were most probably one of five branches of the Yuezhi confederation, an Indo-European nomadic people of possible Tocharianorigin, who migrated from northwestern China (Xinjiang and Gansu) and settled in ancient Bactria.The founder of the dynasty, Kujula Kadphises, followed Greek religious ideas and iconography after the Greco-Bactrian tradition, but was also a devotee of the Hindu God Shiva, an almost historical necessity due to the presence of Indian culture and traders on the Silk Road.The Kushans in general were also great patrons of Buddhism, and, starting with Emperor Kanishka, they also employed elements of Zoroastrianism in their pantheon. They played an important role in the spread of Buddhism to Central Asia and China.
The Kushans possibly used the Greek language initially for administrative purposes, but soon began to use the Bactrian language Kanishka sent his armies north of the Karakoram mountains. A direct road from Gandhara to China remained under Kushan control for more than a century, encouraging travel across the Karakoram and facilitating the spread of Mahayana Buddhism to China. The Kushan dynasty had diplomatic contacts with the Roman Empire, Sasanian Persia, the Aksumite Empire and the Han dynasty of China. The Kushan Empire was at the center of trade relations between the Roman Empire and China: according to Alain Daniélou, “for a time, the Kushana Empire was the centerpoint of the major civilizations” While much philosophy, art, and science was created within its borders, the only textual record of the empire’s history today comes from inscriptions and accounts in other languages, particularly Chinese.
The Kushan Empire fragmented into semi-independent kingdoms in the 3rd century AD, which fell to the Sasanians invading from the west, establishing the Kushano-Sasanian Kingdom in the areas of Sogdiana, Bactria and Gandhara. In the 4th century, the Guptas, an Indian dynasty also pressed from the east. The last of the Kushan and Kushano-Sasanian kingdoms were eventually overwhelmed by invaders from the north, known as the Kidarites, and then the Hephthalites.
Chinese sources describe the Guishuang (貴霜), i.e. the Kushans, as one of the five aristocratic tribes of the Yuezhi.There is scholarly consensus that the Yuezhi were a people of Indo-European origin.A specifically Tocharian origin of the Yuezhi is often suggested.An Iranian, specifically Saka,origin, also has some support among scholars. Others suggest that the Yuezhi might have originally been a nomadic Iranian people, who were then partially assimilated by settled Tocharians, thus containing both Iranian and Tocharian elements.
The Yuezhi were described in the Records of the Great Historian and the Book of Han as living in the grasslands of eastern Xinjiang and northwestern part of Gansu, in the northwest of modern-day China, until their King was beheaded by the Xiongnu (匈奴) who were also at war with China, which eventually forced them to migrate west in 176–160 BCE.The five tribes constituting the Yuezhi are known in Chinese history as Xiūmì (休密), Guìshuāng (貴霜), Shuāngmǐ (雙靡), Xìdùn (肸頓), and Dūmì (都密).
The ethnonym “KOϷϷANOV” (Koshshanoy, “Kushans”) in Greek alphabet (with the addition of the letter Ϸ, “Sh”) on a coin of the first known Kushan ruler Heraios (1st century CE).
The Yuezhi reached the Hellenic kingdom of Greco-Bactria (in northern Afghanistan and Uzbekistan) around 135 BC. The displaced Greek dynasties resettled to the southeast in areas of the Hindu Kush and the Indus basin (in present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan), occupying the western part of the Indo-Greek Kingdom.
In India, Kushan emperors regularly used the dynastic name ΚΟϷΑΝΟ (“Koshano”) on their coinage.Several inscriptions in Sanskrit in the Brahmi script, such as the Mathura inscription of the statue of Vima Kadphises, refer to the Kushan Emperor as Gupta allahabad ku.jpg Gupta gujarat ssaa.jpg Gupta ashoka nn.svg, Ku-ṣā-ṇa (“Kushana”). Some later Indian literary sources referred to the Kushans as Turushka, a name which in later Sanskrit sources was confused with Turk, “probably due to the fact that Tukharistan passed into the hands of the western Turks in the seventh century”.[note 1] Yet, according to Wink, “nowadays no historian considers them to be Turkish-Mongoloid or ‘Hun’, although there is no doubt about their Central-Asian origin.”
Some traces remain of the presence of the Kushans in the area of Bactria and Sogdiana in the 2nd-1st century BCE, where they had displaced the Sakas, who moved further south.Archaeological structures are known in Takht-i Sangin, Surkh Kotal (a monumental temple), and in the palace of Khalchayan. On the ruins of ancient Hellenistic cities such as Ai-Khanoum, the Kushans are known to have built fortresses. Various sculptures and friezes from this period are known, representing horse-riding archers and, significantly, men such as the Kushan prince of Khalchayan with artificially deformed skulls, a practice well attested in nomadic Central Asia.Some of the Khalchayan sculptural scenes are also thought to depict the Kushans fighting against the Sakas. In these portrayals, the Yuezhis are shown with a majestic demeanour, whereas the Sakas are typically represented with side-wiskers, and more or less grotesque facial expressions.
The Chinese first referred to these people as the Yuezhi and said they established the Kushan Empire, although the relationship between the Yuezhi and the Kushans is still unclear. Ban Gu’s Book of Han tells us the Kushans (Kuei-shuang) divided up Bactria in 128 BCE. Fan Ye’s Book of Later Han “relates how the chief of the Kushans, Ch’iu-shiu-ch’ueh (the Kujula Kadphises of coins), founded by means of the submission of the other Yueh-chih clans the Kushan Empire.”
The earliest documented ruler, and the first one to proclaim himself as a Kushan ruler, was Heraios. He calls himself a “tyrant” in Greek on his coins, and also exhibits skull deformation. He may have been an ally of the Greeks, and he shared the same style of coinage. Heraios may have been the father of the first Kushan emperor Kujula Kadphises.
The Chinese Book of Later Han chronicles then gives an account of the formation of the Kushan empire based on a report made by the Chinese general Ban Yong to the Chinese Emperor c. 125 AD:
More than a hundred years later [than the conquest of Bactria by the Yuezhi], the prince [xihou] of Guishuang (Badakhshan) established himself as king, and his dynasty was called that of the Guishuang (Kushan) King. He invaded Anxi (Indo-Parthia), and took the Gaofu (Kabul) region. He also defeated the whole of the kingdoms of Puda (Paktiya) and Jibin (Kapisha and Gandhara). Qiujiuque (Kujula Kadphises) was more than eighty years old when he died. His son, Yangaozhen [probably Vema Tahk (tu) or, possibly, his brother Sadaṣkaṇa ], became king in his place. He defeated Tianzhu [North-western India] and installed Generals to supervise and lead it. The Yuezhi then became extremely rich. All the kingdoms call [their king] the Guishuang [Kushan] king, but the Han call them by their original name, Da Yuezhi.
— Book of Later Han.
Diverse cultural influences
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Early gold coin of Kanishka I with Greek language legend and Hellenistic divinity Helios. (c. 120 AD).
Obverse: Kanishka standing, clad in heavy Kushan coat and long boots, flames emanating from shoulders, holding a standard in his left hand, and making a sacrifice over an altar. Greek legend:
ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΝ ΚΑΝΗϷΚΟΥ
In the 1st century BCE, the Guishuang (Ch: 貴霜) gained prominence over the other Yuezhi tribes, and welded them into a tight confederation under yabgu (Commander) Kujula Kadphises. The name Guishuang was adopted in the West and modified into Kushan to designate the confederation, although the Chinese continued to call them Yuezhi.
Gradually wresting control of the area from the Scythian tribes, the Kushans expanded south into the region traditionally known as Gandhara (an area primarily in Pakistan’s Pothowar and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region) and established twin capitals in Begram and Peshawar, then known as Kapisa and Pushklavati respectively.
The Kushans adopted elements of the Hellenistic culture of Bactria. They adopted the Greek alphabet to suit their own language (with the additional development of the letter Þ “sh”, as in “Kushan”) and soon began minting coinage on the Greek model. On their coins they used Greek language legends combined with Pali legends (in the Kharoshthi script), until the first few years of the reign of Kanishka. After the middle of Kanishka’s reign, they used Kushan language legends (in an adapted Greek script), combined with legends in Greek (Greek script) and legends in Prakrit (Kharoshthi script).
The Kushans “adopted many local beliefs and customs, including Zoroastrianism and the two rising religions in the region, the Greek cults and Buddhism”. From the time of Vima Takto, many Kushans started adopting aspects of Buddhist culture, and like the Egyptians, they absorbed the strong remnants of the Greek culture of the Hellenistic Kingdoms, becoming at least partly Hellenised. The great Kushan emperor Vima Kadphises may have embraced Shaivism (a sect of Hinduism), as surmised by coins minted during the period.The following Kushan emperors represented a wide variety of faiths including Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and Shaivism.
The rule of the Kushans linked the seagoing trade of the Indian Ocean with the commerce of the Silk Road through the long-civilized Indus Valley. At the height of the dynasty, the Kushans loosely ruled a territory that extended to the Aral Sea through present-day Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan into northern India.
The loose unity and comparative peace of such a vast expanse encouraged long-distance trade, brought Chinese silks to Rome, and created strings of flourishing urban centers.
Kushan territories (full line) and maximum extent of Kushan control under Kanishka the Great.The extent of Kushan control is notably documented in the Rabatak inscription. The northern expansion into the Tarim Basin is mainly suggested by coin finds and Chinese chronicles.
Rosenfield notes that archaeological evidence of a Kushan rule of long duration is present in an area stretching from Surkh Kotal, Begram, the summer capital of the Kushans, Peshawar, the capital under Kanishka I, Taxila, and Mathura, the winter capital of the Kushans.The Kushans introduced for the first time a form of governance which consisted of Kshatrapas
(Brahmi:Gupta ashoka kss.jpgGupta ashoka tr.jpgGupta ashoka p.svg, Kṣatrapa, “Satraps”) and Mahakshatrapa (Brahmi:Gupta ashoka m.svgGupta ashoka h.svgGupta ashoka kss.jpgGupta ashoka tr.jpgGupta ashoka p.svg, Mahakṣatrapa, “Great Satraps”).
Other areas of probable rule include Khwarezm and its capital city of Toprak-Kala, Kausambi (excavations of Allahabad University),Sanchi and Sarnath (inscriptions with names and dates of Kushan kings), Malwa and Maharashtra, and Odisha (imitation of Kushan coins, and large Kushan hoards)
Map showing the four empires of Eurasia in the 2nd century CE. “For a time, the Kushan Empire was the centerpoint of the major civilizations”.
Kushan invasions in the 1st century CE had been given as an explanation for the migration of Indians from the Indian Subcontinent toward Southeast Asia according to proponents of a Greater India theory by 20th-century Indian nationalists. However, there is no evidence to support this hypothesis.
The recently discovered Rabatak inscription confirms the account of the Hou Hanshu, Weilüe, and inscriptions dated early in the Kanishka era (incept probably 127 CE), that large Kushan dominions expanded into the heartland of northern India in the early 2nd century CE. Lines 4 to 7 of the inscription describe the cities which were under the rule of Kanishka, among which six names are identifiable: Ujjain, Kundina, Saketa, Kausambi, Pataliputra, and Champa (although the text is not clear whether Champa was a possession of Kanishka or just beyond it). The Buddhist text Śrīdharmapiṭakanidānasūtra—known via a Chinese translation made in 472 CE—refers to the conquest of Pataliputra by Kanishka. A 2nd century stone inscription by a Great Satrap named Rupiamma was discovered in Pauni, south of the Narmada river, suggesting that Kushan control extended this far south, although this could alternatively have been controlled by the Western Satraps.
Eastern reach as far as Bengal: Samatata coinage of king Vira Jadamarah, in imitation of the Kushan coinage of Kanishka I. The text of the legend is a meaningless imitation. Bengal, circa 2nd-3rd century CE.
In the East, as late as the 3rd century CE, decorated coins of Huvishka were dedicated at Bodh Gaya together with other gold offerings under the “Enlightenment Throne” of the Buddha, suggesting direct Kushan influence in the area during that period.Coins of the Kushans are found in abundance as far as Bengal, and the ancient Bengali state of Samatata issued coins copied from the coinage of Kanishka I, although probably only as a result of commercial influence.Coins in imitation of Kushan coinage have also been found abundantly in the eastern state of Orissa.
In the West, the Kushan state covered the Pārata state of Balochistan, western Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan was known for the Kushan Buddhist city of Merv.
Northward, in the 1st century CE, the Kujula Kadphises sent an army to the Tarim Basin to support the city-state of Kucha, which had been resisting the Chinese invasion of the region, but they retreated after minor encounters In the 2nd century CE, the Kushans under Kanishka made various forays into the Tarim Basin, where they had various contacts with the Chinese. Kanishka held areas of the Tarim Basin apparently corresponding to the ancient regions held by the Yüeh-zhi, the possible ancestors of the Kushan. There was Kushan influence on coinage in Kashgar, Yarkand, and Khotan.According to Chinese chronicles, the Kushans (referred to as Da Yuezhi in Chinese sources) requested, but were denied, a Han princess, even though they had sent presents to the Chinese court. In retaliation, they marched on Ban Chao in 90 CE with a force of 70,000 but were defeated by the smaller Chinese force. Chinese chronicles relate battles between the Kushans and the Chinese general Ban Chao. The Yuezhi retreated and paid tribute to the Chinese Empire. The regions of the Tarim Basin were all ultimately conquered by Ban Chao. Later, during the Yuánchū period (114–120 CE), the Kushans sent a military force to install Chenpan, who had been a hostage among them, as king of Kashgar.
Main Kushan rulers
Kushan rulers are recorded for a period of about three centuries, from circa 30 CE, to circa 375 CE, until the invasions of the Kidarites. They ruled around the same time as the Western Satraps, the Satavahanas, and the first Gupta Empire rulers.
Kujula Kadphises (c. 30 – c. 80)
30 CE–350 CE
Heraios 1-30 CE
Kujula Kadphises 50–90 CE
Vima Takto 90-113 CE
Vima Kadphises 113-127 CE
Kanishka I 127-151 CE
Huvishka 151-190 CE
Vasudeva I 190-230 CE
Kanishka II 230-247 CE
Vāsishka 247-267 CE
Kanishka III 267-270 CE
Vasudeva II 270-300 CE
Mahi 300-305 CE
Shaka 305-335 CE
Kipunada 335-350 CE
…the prince [elavoor] of Guishuang, named thilac [Kujula Kadphises], attacked and exterminated the four other xihou. He established himself as king, and his dynasty was called that of the Guishuang [Kushan] King. He invaded Anxi [Indo-Parthia] and took the Gaofu [Kabul] region. He also defeated the whole of the kingdoms of Puda [Paktiya] and Jibin [Kapisha and Gandhara]. Qiujiuque [Kujula Kadphises] was more than eighty years old when he died.”
— Hou Hanshu
These conquests by Kujula Kadphises probably took place sometime between 45 and 60 and laid the basis for the Kushan Empire which was rapidly expanded by his descendants.
Kujula issued an extensive series of coins and fathered at least two sons, Sadaṣkaṇa (who is known from only two inscriptions, especially the Rabatak inscription, and apparently never ruled), and seemingly Vima Takto.
Kujula Kadphises was the great-grandfather of Kanishka.
Vima Taktu or Sadashkana (c. 80 – c. 95)
Vima Takto (Ancient Chinese: 閻膏珍 Yangaozhen) is mentioned in the Rabatak inscription (another son, Sadashkana, is mentioned in an inscription of Senavarman, the King of Odi). He was the predecessor of Vima Kadphises, and Kanishka I. He expanded the Kushan Empire into the northwest of South Asia. The Hou Hanshu says:
“His son, Yangaozhen [probably Vema Tahk (tu) or, possibly, his brother Sadaṣkaṇa], became king in his place. He defeated Tianzhu [North-western India] and installed Generals to supervise and lead it. The Yuezhi then became extremely rich. All the kingdoms call [their king] the Guishuang [Kushan] king, but the Han call them by their original name, Da Yuezhi.”
— Hou Hanshu
Vima Kadphises (c. 95 – c. 127)
Main article: Vima Kadphises
Vima Kadphises (Kushan language: Οοημο Καδφισης) was a Kushan emperor from around 95–127 CE, the son of Sadashkana and the grandson of Kujula Kadphises, and the father of Kanishka I, as detailed by the Rabatak inscription.
Vima Kadphises added to the Kushan territory by his conquests in Bactria. He issued an extensive series of coins and inscriptions. He issued gold coins in addition to the existing copper and silver coinage.
Kanishka I (c. 127 – c. 150)
Statue of Kanishka in long coat and boots, holding a mace and a sword, in the Mathura Museum. An inscription runs along the bottom of the coat.
The inscription is in middle Brahmi script:
The rule of Kanishka the Great, fourth Kushan king, lasted for about 23 years from c. 127 CE. Upon his accession, Kanishka ruled a huge territory (virtually all of northern India), south to Ujjain and Kundina and east beyond Pataliputra, according to the Rabatak inscription:
In the year one, it has been proclaimed unto India, unto the whole realm of the governing class, including Koonadeano (Kaundiny, Kundina) and the city of Ozeno (Ozene, Ujjain) and the city of Zageda (Saketa) and the city of Kozambo (Kausambi) and the city of Palabotro (Pataliputra) and as far as the city of Ziri-tambo (Sri-Champa), whatever rulers and other important persons (they might have) he had submitted to (his) will, and he had submitted all India to (his) will.
— Rabatak inscription, Lines 4–8
His territory was administered from two capitals: Purushapura (now Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan) and Mathura, in northern India. He is also credited (along with Raja Dab) for building the massive, ancient Fort at Bathinda (Qila Mubarak), in the modern city of Bathinda, Indian Punjab.
The Kushans also had a summer capital in Bagram (then known as Kapisa), where the “Begram Treasure”, comprising works of art from Greece to China, has been found. According to the Rabatak inscription, Kanishka was the son of Vima Kadphises, the grandson of Sadashkana, and the great-grandson of Kujula Kadphises. Kanishka’s era is now generally accepted to have begun in 127 on the basis of Harry Falk’s ground-breaking research. Kanishka’s era was used as a calendar reference by the Kushans for about a century, until the decline of the Kushan realm.
Huvishka (c. 150 – c. 180)
Huvishka (Kushan: Οοηϸκι, “Ooishki”) was a Kushan emperor from the death of Kanishka (assumed on the best evidence available to be in 150) until the succession of Vasudeva I about thirty years later. His rule was a period of retrenchment and consolidation for the Empire. In particular he devoted time and effort early in his reign to the exertion of greater control over the city of Mathura.
Vasudeva I (c. 190 – c. 230)
Vasudeva I (Kushan: Βαζοδηο “Bazodeo”, Chinese: 波調 “Bodiao”) was the last of the “Great Kushans”. Named inscriptions dating from year 64 to 98 of Kanishka’s era suggest his reign extended from at least 191 to 225 AD. He was the last great Kushan emperor, and the end of his rule coincides with the invasion of the Sasanians as far as northwestern India, and the establishment of the Indo-Sasanians or Kushanshahs in what is nowadays Afghanistan, Pakistan and northwestern India from around 240 AD.
Vāsishka (c. 247 – c. 267)
Coin of Kushan ruler Huvishka diademed, with deity Pharro. Circa CE 152-192
Vāsishka was a Kushan emperor who seems to have had a 20-year reign following Kanishka II. His rule is recorded at Mathura, in Gandhara and as far south as Sanchi (near Vidisa), where several inscriptions in his name have been found, dated to the year 22 (the Sanchi inscription of “Vaksushana” – i.e., Vasishka Kushana) and year 28 (the Sanchi inscription of Vasaska – i.e., Vasishka) of a possible second Kanishka era
Little Kushans (270-350 CE)
Following territory losses in the west (Bactria lost to the Kushano-Sasanians), and in the east (loss of Mathura to the Gupta Empire), several “Little Kushans” are known, who ruled locally in the area of Punjab with their capital at Taxila: Vasudeva II (270-300 CE), Mahi (300-305 CE), Shaka (305-335 CE) and Kipunada (335-350 CE). They probably were vassals of the Gupta Empire, until the invasion of the Kidarites destroyed the last remains of Kushan rule.
Kumara/Kartikeya with a Kushan devotee, 2nd century CE
Kushan prince, said to be Huvishka, making a donation to a Boddhisattva.
Shiva Linga worshipped by Kushan devotees, circa 2nd century CE
The Kushan religious pantheon is extremely varied, as revealed by their coins that were made in gold, silver, and copper. These coins contained more than thirty different gods, belonging mainly to their own Iranian, as well as Greek and Indian worlds as well. Kushan coins had images of Kushan Kings, Buddha, and figures from the Indo-Aryan and Iranian pantheons.Greek deities, with Greek names are represented on early coins. During Kanishka’s reign, the language of the coinage changes to Bactrian (though it remained in Greek script for all kings). After Huvishka, only two divinities appear on the coins: Ardoxsho and Oesho (see details below).
The Iranian entities depicted on coinage include:
Ardoxsho (Αρδοχþο): Ashi Vanghuhi Kushan king Huvishka coin
Ashaeixsho (Aþαειχþo, “Best righteousness”): Asha Vahishta Huvishka with Ashaiexsh
Athsho (Αθþο, “The Royal fire”): Atar Huvishka with Athsho
Pharro (Φαρρο, “Royal splendour”): Khwarenah Huvishka. Circa CE 152-192 diademed
Lrooaspa (Λροοασπο): Drvaspa Coin of the Kushan king Kanishka
Manaobago (Μαναοβαγο): Vohu Manah Kanishka I with Manaobago.
Mao (Μαο, the Lunar deity): Mah Huvishka with Mao
Mithro and variants (Μιθρο, Μιιρο, Μιορο, Μιυρο): Mithra Kanishka I with Miiro
Mozdooano (Μοζδοοανο, “Mazda the victorious?”): Mazda *vanaCoin of Kanishka depicting Mozdoano.
Nana (Νανα, Ναναια, Ναναϸαο): variations of pan-Asiatic Nana, Sogdian Nny, Anahita Kanishka I with Nana
Oado (Οαδο): Vata Kanishka I and Oado
Oaxsho (Oαxþo): “Oxus”
Ooromozdo (Ooρoμoζδο): Ahura Mazda Huvihska with Ahuramazda
Ořlagno (Οραλαγνο): Verethragna, the Iranian god of war Coin of Kanisha I showing Verethragna
Rishti (ΡΙϷΤΙ, “Uprightness”): Arshtat Huvishka with Rishti
Shaoreoro (ϷΑΟΡΗΟΡΟ, “Best royal power”, Archetypal ruler): Khshathra Vairya Huvishka and Shaoreoro
Tiero (Τιερο): Tir
Representation of entities from Greek mythology and Hellenistic syncretism are:
Zeus (ZAOOY) Coin of Kujula Kadphises. Obv Kujula seated cross legged facing, Kharoshti legend: Kuyula Kadaphasa Kushanasa. Rev Zeus on the reverse, Greek legend: ΚΟΖΟΛΑ XOPANOY ZAOOY.
Helios (Ηλιος) Kanishka I Greek legend and Helios
Nike (Οα νηνδο) Huvishka with Nike
Selene (ϹΑΛΗΝΗ) Kanishka with Selene
Anemos (Ανημος) A43 Kouchan Kanishka 4unit 1ar (8300885384)
Erakilo (ΗΡΑΚΙΛΟ): Heracles Dinar, Kushan Empire, Depiction of Hercules, 152-192 AD
Sarapo (ϹΑΡΑΠΟ): the Greco-Egyptian god Sarapis Huvishka with seated god Serapis (“Sarapo”)
Kushans and Buddhism
The Ahin Posh stupa was dedicated in the 2nd century CE under the Kushans, and contained coins of Kushan and Roman Emperors.
Early Mahayana Buddhist triad. From left to right, a Kushan devotee, Maitreya, the Buddha, Avalokitesvara, and a Buddhist monk. 2nd–3rd century, Gandhara
The Kushans inherited the Greco-Buddhist traditions of the Indo-Greek Kingdom they replaced, and their patronage of Buddhist institutions allowed them to grow as a commercial power.Between the mid-1st century and the mid-3rd century, Buddhism, patronized by the Kushans, extended to China and other Asian countries through the Silk Road.
Kanishka is renowned in Buddhist tradition for having convened a great Buddhist council in Kashmir. Along with his predecessors in the region, the Indo-Greek king Menander I (Milinda) and the Indian emperors Ashoka and Harsha Vardhana, Kanishka is considered by Buddhism as one of its greatest benefactors
During the 1st century AD, Buddhist books were being produced and carried by monks, and their trader patrons. Also, monasteries were being established along these land routes that went from China and other parts of Asia. With the development of Buddhist books, it caused a new written language called Gandhara. Gandhara consists of eastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. Scholars are said to have found many Buddhist scrolls that contained the Gandhari language.
The reign of Huvishka corresponds to the first known epigraphic evidence of the Buddha Amitabha, on the bottom part of a 2nd-century statue which has been found in Govindo-Nagar, and now at the Mathura Museum. The statue is dated to “the 28th year of the reign of Huvishka”, and dedicated to “Amitabha Buddha” by a family of merchants. There is also some evidence that Huvishka himself was a follower of Mahayana Buddhism. A Sanskrit manuscript fragment in the Schøyen Collection describes Huvishka as one who has “set forth in the Mahāyāna.”
The 12th century historical chronicle Rajatarangini mentions in detail the rule of the Kushan kings and their benevolence towards Buddhism:
Then there ruled in this very land the founders of cities called after their own appellations the three kings named Huska, Juska and Kaniska (…) These kings albeit belonging to the Turkish race found refuge in acts of piety; they constructed in Suskaletra and other places monasteries, Caityas and similar edificies. During the glorious period of their regime the kingdom of Kashmir was for the most part an appanage of the Buddhists who had acquired lustre by renunciation. At this time since the Nirvana of the blessed Sakya Simha in this terrestrial world one hundred fifty years, it is said, had elapsed. And a Bodhisattva was in this country the sole supreme ruler of the land; he was the illustrious Nagarjuna who dwelt in Sadarhadvana.
— Rajatarangini (I168-I173)
The art and culture of Gandhara, at the crossroads of the Kushan hegemony, developed the traditions of Greco-Buddhist art and are the best known expressions of Kushan influences to Westerners. Several direct depictions of Kushans are known from Gandhara, where they are represented with a tunic, belt and trousers and play the role of devotees to the Buddha, as well as the Bodhisattva and future Buddha Maitreya.
According to Benjamin Rowland, the first expression of Kushan art appears at Khalchayan at the end of the 2nd century BCE.It is derived from Hellenistic art, and possibly from the art of the cities of Ai-Khanoum and Nysa, and clearly has similarities with the later Art of Gandhara, and may even have been at the origin of its development. Rowland particularly draws attention to the similarity of the ethnic types represented at Khalchayan and in the art of Gandhara, and also in the style of portraiture itself.For example, Rowland find a great proximity between the famous head of a Yuezhi prince from Khalchayan, and the head of Gandharan Bodhisattvas, giving the example of the Gandharan head of a Bodhisattva in the Philadelphia Museum. The similarity of the Gandhara Bodhisattva with the portrait of the Kushan ruler Heraios is also striking. According to Rowland the Bactrian art of Khalchayan thus survived for several centuries through its influence in the art of Gandhara, thanks to the patronage of the Kushans.
During the Kushan Empire, many images of Gandhara share a strong resemblance to the features of Greek, Syrian, Persian and Indian figures. These Western-looking stylistic signatures often include heavy drapery and curly hair, representing a composite (the Greeks, for example, often possessed curly hair)
As the Kushans took control of the area of Mathura as well, the Art of Mathura developed considerably, and free-standing statues of the Buddha came to be mass-produced around this time, possibly encouraged by doctrinal changes in Buddhism allowing to depart from the aniconism that had prevailed in the Buddhist sculptures at Mathura, Bharhut or Sanchi from the end of the 2nd century BCE.The artistic cultural influence of kushans declined slowly due to Hellenistic greek and Indian influences.
Dated Buddhist statuary under the Kushans
Kosambi Bodhisattva, inscribed “Year 2 of Kanishka” (129 CE)
Bala Bodhisattva, Sarnath, inscribed “Year 3 of Kanishka” (130 CE).
“Kimbell seated Buddha”, with inscription “Year 4 of Kanishka” (131 CE).Another similar statue has “Year 32 of Kanishka”
Buddha from Loriyan Tangai with inscription mentioning the “year 318” of the Yavana era (143 CE).
Hashtnagar Buddha and its piedestal, inscribed with “year 384” of the Yavana era (c.209 CE).
Mamane Dheri Buddha, inscribed with “Year 89”, probably of the Kanishka era (216 CE).
Statue of Hariti from Skarah Dheri, Gandhara, “Year 399” of the Yavana era (244 CE).
The coinage of the Kushans was abundant and an important tool of propaganda in promoting each Kushan ruler.One of the names for Kushan coins was Dinara, which ultimately came from the Roman name Denarius aureus.The coinage of the Kushans was copied as far as the Kushano-Sasanians in the west, and the kingdom of Samatata in Bengal to the east. The coinage of the Gupta Empire was also initially derived from the coinage of the Kushan Empire, adopting its weight standard, techniques and designs, following the conquests of Samudragupta in the northwest.The imagery on Gupta coins then became more Indian in both style and subject matter compared to earlier dynasties, where Greco-Roman and Persian styles were mostly followed.
Contacts with Rome
Roman coinage among the Kushans
Coin of the Roman Emperor Trajan, found together with coins of Kanishka the Great at the Ahin Posh Monastery.
Kushan ring with inscription in the Brahmi script, with portraits of Roman rulers Septimus Severus and Julia Domna.
Indian imitation of a coin of Septimius Severus. 193-211 CE
Several Roman sources describe the visit of ambassadors from the Kings of Bactria and India during the 2nd century, probably referring to the Kushans.
Historia Augusta, speaking of Emperor Hadrian (117–138) tells:
Greco-Roman gladiator on a glass vessel, Begram, 2nd century
Reges Bactrianorum legatos ad eum, amicitiae petendae causa, supplices miserunt “The kings of the Bactrians sent supplicant ambassadors to him, to seek his friendship.”
Also in 138, according to Aurelius Victor (Epitome‚ XV, 4), and Appian (Praef., 7), Antoninus Pius, successor to Hadrian, received some Indian, Bactrian, and Hyrcanian ambassadors.
Some Kushan coins have an effigy of “Roma”, suggesting a strong level of awareness and some level of diplomatic relations.
The summer capital of the Kushan Empire in Begram has yielded a considerable amount of goods imported from the Roman Empire—in particular, various types of glassware. The Chinese described the presence of Roman goods in the Kushan realm:
“Precious things from Da Qin [the Roman Empire] can be found there [in Tianzhu or Northwestern India], as well as fine cotton cloths, fine wool carpets, perfumes of all sorts, sugar candy, pepper, ginger, and black salt.”
— Hou Hanshu
Parthamaspates of Parthia, a client of Rome and ruler of the kingdom of Osroene, is known to have traded with the Kushan Empire, goods being sent by sea and through the Indus River.
Contacts with China
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The Kushan Buddhist monk Lokaksema, first known translator of Buddhist Mahayana scriptures into Chinese, c. 170
During the 1st and 2nd century, the Kushan Empire expanded militarily to the north, putting them at the center of the profitable Central Asian commerce. They are related to have collaborated militarily with the Chinese against nomadic incursion, particularly when they allied with the Han dynasty general Ban Chao against the Sogdians in 84, when the latter were trying to support a revolt by the king of Kashgar. Around 85, they also assisted the Chinese general in an attack on Turpan, east of the Tarim Basin.
Kushan coinage in China
Eastern Han inscriptions on lead ingot, using barbarous Greek alphabet in the style of the Kushans, excavated in Shaanxi, 1st–2nd century CE
In recognition for their support to the Chinese, the Kushans requested a Han princess, but were denied, even after they had sent presents to the Chinese court. In retaliation, they marched on Ban Chao in 86 with a force of 70,000, but were defeated by a smaller Chinese force.The Yuezhi retreated and paid tribute to the Chinese Empire during the reign of emperor He of Han (89–106).
The Kushans are again recorded to have sent presents to the Chinese court in 158–159 during the reign of Emperor Huan of Han.
Following these interactions, cultural exchanges further increased, and Kushan Buddhist missionaries, such as Lokaksema, became active in the Chinese capital cities of Luoyang and sometimes Nanjing, where they particularly distinguished themselves by their translation work. They were the first recorded promoters of Hinayana and Mahayana scriptures in China, greatly contributing to the Silk Road transmission of Buddhism.
Hormizd I Kushanshah (277–286 CE), king of the Indo-Sasanians, maintained Sasanian rule in former Kushan territories of the northwest. Naqsh-e Rustam Bahram II panel.
The Kushano-Sasanians imitated the Kushans in some of their Bactrian coinage. Coin of Sasanian ruler Peroz I Kushanshah, with Bactrian legend around “Peroz the Great Kushan King”
After the death of Vasudeva I in 225, the Kushan empire split into western and eastern halves. The Western Kushans (in Afghanistan) were soon subjugated by the Persian Sasanian Empire and lost Sogdiana, Bactria, and Gandhara to them. The Sassanian king Shapur I (240–270 CE) claims in his Naqsh-e Rostam inscription possession of the territory of the Kushans (Kūšān šahr) as far as “Purushapura” (Peshawar), suggesting he controlled Bactria and areas as far as the Hindu-Kush or even south of it:
I, the Mazda-worshipping lord, Shapur, king of kings of Iran and An-Iran… (I) am the Master of the Domain of Iran (Ērānšahr) and possess the territory of Persis, Parthian… Hindestan, the Domain of the Kushan up to the limits of Paškabur and up to Kash, Sughd, and Chachestan.
— Shapur I’s inscription at the Ka’ba-ye Zartosht, Naqsh-e Rostam
This is also confirmed by the Rag-i-Bibi inscription in modern Afghanistan.
The Sasanians deposed the Western dynasty and replaced them with Persian vassals known as the Kushanshas (in Bactrian on their coinage: KΟÞANΟ ÞAΟ Koshano Shao) also called Indo-Sasanians or Kushano-Sasanians. The Kushano-Sasanians ultimately became very powerful under Hormizd I Kushanshah (277–286 CE) and rebelled against the Sasanian Empire, while continuing many aspects of the Kushan culture, visible in particular in their titulature and their coinage.
“Little Kushans” and Gupta suzerainty
Gupta control over the Eastern Kushans
The expression Devaputra Shāhi Shāhānu Shāhi in Middle Brahmi in the Allahabad pillar (Line 23), claimed by Samudragupta to be under his dominion.
Coin minted in the Punjab area with the name “Samudra” (Gupta ashoka s.svg Gupta allahabad mu.jpg Gupta allahabad dr.jpg Sa-mu-dra), thought to be the Gupta ruler Samudragupta. These coins imitate those of the last Kushan ruler Kipunada, and precede the coinage of the first Kidarite Huns in northwestern India. Circa CE 350-375.
The Eastern Kushan kingdom, also known as the “Little Kushans”, was based in the Punjab. Around 270 their territories on the Gangetic plain became independent under local dynasties such as the Yaudheyas. Then in the mid-4th century they were subjugated by the Gupta Empire under Samudragupta. In his inscription on the Allahabad pillar Samudragupta proclaims that the Dēvaputra-Shāhi-Shāhānushāhi (referring to the last Kushan rulers, being a deformation of the Kushan regnal titles Devaputra, Shao and Shaonanoshao: “Son of God, King, King of Kings”) are now under his dominion, and that they were forced to “self-surrender, offering (their own) daughters in marriage and a request for the administration of their own districts and provinces”.This suggests that by the time of the Allahabad inscription the Kushans still ruled in Punjab, but under the suzerainty of the Gupta Emperor.
Numimastics indicate that the coinage of the Eastern Kushans was much weakened: silver coinage was abandoned altogether, and gold coinage was debased. This suggests that the Eastern Kushans had lost their central trading role on the trade routes that supplied luxury goods and gold. Still, the Buddhist art of Gandhara continued to flourish, and cities such as Sirsukh near Taxila were established
In the east around 350 CE, Shapur II regained the upper hand against the Kushano-Sasanian Kingdom and took control of large territories in areas now known as Afghanistan and Pakistan, possibly as a consequence of the destruction of the Kushano-Sasanians by the Chionites.] The Kushano-Sasanian still ruled in the north. Important finds of Sasanian coinage beyond the Indus river in the city of Taxila only start with the reigns of Shapur II (r.309-379) and Shapur III (r.383-388), suggesting that the expansion of Sasanian control beyond the Indus was the result of the wars of Shapur II “with the Chionites and Kushans” in 350-358 CE as described by Ammianus Marcellinus. They probably maintained control until the rise of the Kidarites under their ruler Kidara.
In 360 a Kidarite Hun named Kidara overthrew the Kushano-Sasanians and remnants of the old Kushan dynasty, and established the Kidarite Kingdom. The Kushan style of Kidarite coins indicates they claimed Kushan heritage. The Kidarite seem to have been rather prosperous, although on a smaller scale than their Kushan predecessors. East of the Punjab, the former eastern territories of the Kushans were controlled by the mighty Gupta Empire
The remnants of Kushan culture under the Kidarites in the northwest were ultimately wiped out in the end of the 5th century by the invasions of the Alchon Huns (sometimes considered as a branch of the Hephthalites), and later the Nezak Huns.