Follow Us On:
Kushan Dynasty also spelled Kusana, the ruling line descended from the Yueh-Chih, a people that ruled over most of the northern Indian subcontinent, Afghanistan, and parts of Central Asia during the first three centuries of the Christian era. The Kushans replaced the Greeks in Bactria about 130 BC. The Yueh-Chih divided the country into five chiefdoms. One branch of this group migrated to the Tarim Basin and founded a short-lived empire, while the other, under the name of the Kushan, gained control of Central Asia, capturing a section of the great trade route leading from India and China to the West. The Kushan derived much of their revenue from the transit dues they exacted from the caravans crossing their territory, which often were carrying supplies of Chinese gold, silver, and nickel from the Tarim oasis towns to the Seleucid Persians. A hundred later, the Kushan chief Kujula Kadphises secured the political unification of the Yueh-Chih kingdom under himself.
Under Kenosha I and his successors, the Kushans kingdom reached its height. It was acknowledged as one of the four great Eurasian powers of its time. The Kushans were instrumental in spreading Buddhism in Central Asia and China and in developing Mahayana Buddhism and the Gadara and Mathura schools of art.
In the first century A.D. Kadphises I, the chief of the Kushan branch of the horde established himself as the undisputed monarch of the Yuch-Chination. He defeated the Parthians and conquered Kabul and part of Gadara. He became master of the vast extending from the frontiers of Persia to the Indus.
Kanishka, the successor of Kadphises II, was undoubtedly the greatest of the Kushan kings. He was a great conqueror and his military success made him master of a vast empire. During the early years of his reign, he conquered Kashmir and annexed the Indus Valley. His coins and inscriptions prove that he completed the conquests of Upper India and ruled over a wide realm that extended from Kapisa, Gadara, and Kashmir to Benares. His capital was Purushpura or Peshawar which had adorned with many buildings.
Religion of Kanishka
Kanishka did a lot for the spread of Buddhism. Many old monasteries were repaired and many new ones were also built. Missionaries were also sent to foreign countries. It was with the help of those missionaries that Buddhism spread to China, Japan, Tibet, and Central Asia. Though a pattern of Buddhism, he showed respect to the Greek, Sumerian, Zoroastrian, Mithrac, and Hindu gods worshipped in different provinces of the far-flung empire.
Patron of art and literature
Kanishka was a great Patton of art and learning. He built many monasteries and stupas. The headless statue of Kanishka, which has been found at Mathura, bears testimony to the artistic sense of that age. Mathura became a great center of arts and Kanishka beautified it with a large number of fine buildings. He found a city near Taxila and it was probably that the town in Kanishkapura in Kashmir was built by him. It was during his reign that the Gadara School of art made great progress.
The Kanishka was also famous for intellectual and cultural development. It witnessed the production of large quantities of Sanskrit literature, both religious and secular. His court was graced by a galaxy of brilliant scholars like
The Kushans became affluent through trade, particularly with Rome, as their large issues of the gold coin show. These coins, which exhibit the figured of Greek, Roman, Iranians, Hindus, and /Buddhist deities and bear inscriptions in adapted Greek letters, are witnessed to the toleration in religion and art that prevailed in the Kushan Empire. After the rise of the Sasanian dynasty in Iran and local powers in northern India, Kushan rule declined.
Kushan art reached its fullest development in the 2nd century A.D when the great king Kanishka is believed to have reigned. A magnificent, almost life-size, now headless sculpture of Kanishka shows him wearing an elegant version of the nomadic dress. His kingdom extended from Central Asia to Gandhara and Mathura. Kushan art produced during the Kushan dynasty from about the late 1st to the 3rd century AD in an area that is now included parts of Central Asia, northern India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
The Kushans fostered a mixed culture that is best illustrated by the variety of deities_ Greco Roman, Iranian and Indian, invoked on their coins. At least two major stylistic divisions can be made among artifacts of the period; imperial art of Iranian derivation and Buddhist art of mixed Greco- Roman and Indian sources. The best examples of the former are gold coins issued by the seven Kushan kings, the Kushan royal portrays (the Kanishka statue), and princely portraits found at Surkh Kotal in Afghanistan. The style of the Kushan artwork is stiff, hieratic, and frontal, emphasizing the power and wealth of the individual. There is little or no interest in the realistic rendering of anatomy or drapery, in contrast to the second style, which is typified by the Gadara and Mathura schools of Kushan art.
Central Afghanistan is rich in Kushan sites. A Teshkadehye Sorkh Kowtal, situated in the Qonduz valley, closed to the Kabul- Mazar- i- Sharif road, is dated by an inscription to the time of the Kanishka reign. The architecture of the region was very developed there. The town was protected by a double row of walls that ascended the hill on which it stood. The most impressive site within the wall was occupied by a dynastic fire temple, built on a cheapened plan in large blocks of well reseed stone and approached by imposing stairs. Within columns topped by Corinthian capitals supported them. Numerous sculptures had originally adorned the interior, those working with floral and animal motifs conforming to the Gandharan tradition, while figural works followed Scytho- Parthian and, to some extent, Hellenistic traditions.