As per the Chinese sources, the Kushanas (mentioned in Chinese texts as Guishuang) were one of the 5 tribes of Yueh-Chi or Yuezhi. Kushanas were also known as Tocharians. They were nomadic tribes and easternmost speakers of the Indo-Europeans Languages which were called “Tocharian languages”.
Their origin is connected to China and also Central Asia. The modern Xiniang and Gansu of China are places where these tribes thrived before 2nd century AD. They were driven out by Xiongnu in around 170 BC. The Construction of the Chinese wall was a big factor of their moving away from the Chinese regions and they moved towards west and south.
Important Kushana Kings are briefed here:
Kujula Kadphises (AD 30-AD 80)
- Kujula Kadphises was the first Yueh Chi chief who crossed the Hindukush Mountains and laid down the foundation of the Kushana Empire.
- He established himself in Kabul and Kashmir and is credited for defeat of Last Greek Kings.
- He adopted the epithet of Dharma-thida.
- Another epithet adopted by Kujala Kadphises was Sachdharmathida, which is coterminous with SatyaDharma Sthitha.
- Both of the above epithets show that he was interested in both Buddhism as well as Shivaite.
Vima Taktu or Sadashkana (AD 80 -AD 95)
- Vima Taktu or Sadashkana was / were son/ sons of Kujula Kadphises and it is not sure who among them ruled after Kujula Kadphises or whether this refered to a single person.
- He is considered to be the predecessor of Vima Kadphises as well as Kanishka-I.
- He is credited for expansion of Kushana Power into the North West of India.
Vima Kadphises: (AD 95-AD 127)
- The Rabatak inscription is written on a rock in the Bactrian language and the Greek script. It was found in 1993 at Rabatak, in Afghanistan.
- This inscription mentions that Vima Kadphises was son of Vima Takto and the father of Kanishka.
- He was one of the most important kings of the Kushana Empire who is best known for issuing large number of Gold Coins.
- Vima Kadphises was probably the first to introduce the Gold Coins in Indiain addition to the Copper and Silver coins.
- This testifies the prosperity of the Kushana Empire.
- Vima is also known to have maintained the Silk Route and trade with all sides including the China, Alexandria, and Roman Empire.
- Kanishka-I was the most power ruler of the Kushana Empire and is known for his military prowess. Click Here to read more about Kanishka-I
- Kanishka-I was succeeded by Vāsishka, who had a short reign who is identified with the Vaskushana, Vajheska, Jushka in difefrent sources. Jushkapura near modern Zukar was a city founded by him.
- Kanishka II was a successor of Vāsishka and is known to have assumed the title of
Kushana Administration and Life
- The Kings of the Kushana Empire had assumed eloquent titles such as Maharaj, Rajatiraj (King of Kings) etc.
- One of the successors of Kanishka was Vasudeva who is considered to be a Shiva worshipper and the figures of Shiva is found on his coins had assumed the title Shaono Shao Vasudeo Kushano.
- These titles were adopted from their predecessors Shakas and appeared later in coins of all Kushana Kings and inscriptions.
Impact of Kushanas on Art and Culture
- Kushanas are considered to be the great patrons of art.
- Two schools, viz. Mathura School of Art and Gandhara School of Art flourished in the Kushana Era.
- Kushana had a cultural influence of the Hellenistic Greeks and this impact is seen these schools of arts as well.
Kushana Empire : Some Important Points
- The great stupa of the Purushpura was not built on direction of the above mentioned kings but was built on direction of Agesilaos.
- The Cap, Boot and helmet was introduced in India by the central Asian Tribes.
- Kushanas (Yueh Chi Tribe) is considered to have conducted the Horse trade by sea with the Koying kingdom of modern Malaysia.
- Largest number of copper coins was issued by the Kushanas.
- Charsada and Taxila were the karvan cities in Post Maurya Era.
- Asvaghosa was the first Dramatist who used Sanskrit in composing the plays.
- Sindoor (Vermillion) and Bamboo was introduced in India by Chinese traders.
- India was known as Shen-tu in the early Chinese texts.
- The works of Aśvaghosa were Buddhacharita, Mahalankara, Saundaranandakavya (Saudarananda), Chandistrotra, Vajrasuchi.
- Sun God has been depicted on the coins of Kanishka-1 and Vāsishka
- Kujala Kadphises and Kanishka-I adopted and patronized the Buddhism, but Vima Kadphises adopted Shaivism and was a Shiva Devotee.
- The 4 important schools of Jainism viz. Kottaka, Varana, Aryayudikiya and vesavadiya have been mentioned in the Epigraphic Records of the Kushana Period.