The Kushanas Polity and Major Impacts to the Contact with Central Asia

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The Kushanas

The Kushanas were of western China origin. They belong to the Yeuh- Chi tribe. They defeated the Shakas and Parthians and created an empire in Pakistan. The first paramount ruler of the Kushana dynasty was Kujula Kadphises. He was succeeded by his son Vima Kadphises and then Kanishka.

Major rulers of Kushana dynasty

Major rulers of Kushana dynasty

Major Rulers of Kushana Dynasty

Major rulers of Kushana dynasty

Important measures under

(i) Kujula Kadphises: his coins have Roman influence. He issued only copper coins having a resemblance to Roman dinari.

(ii) Vima Kadphises: the first ruler to introduce gold coins to India. All his coins have Siva affiliation. He was the first ruler to issue coin with his image on the reverse of the coin.

(iii) Kanishka: ascended the throne in 78 AD, and started the Saka era. His empire extended from central India to north India. The integration of central and northern India to a single empire made his rule more politically relevant. This eventually resulted in the transmission of cultures and trading activities.

  • Kanishka was a great patron of Buddhism. The fourth Buddhist council was held under his patronage in Kashmir. Buddhism got split into Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism in this council.

  • He patronised Gandhara and Mathura school of art.

  • He built the city of Purusha Pura as his capital and erected a stupa to keep Buddha’s relics.

Kushanas Polity and Administration

  • The empire was divided into province, which was ruled by mahakshatrapa. Kshatrapa assisted him in the Administration.

  • The kings used the title ‘devaputra’ son of God to show the divinity of the Kushana rulers. They also used the epithets maharaja and rajadhiraja.

Contributions to Indian History

  • Kushanas contribution to Indian history was in terms of various aspects. These include

  • The intermingling of central Asia and north India resulted in the flourish of external and internal trade and relations. This led to the evolution of new urban centres. The prosperity of the economy was reflected in the issue of gold coins and its use.

  • In the field of literature and medicine, his period witnessed considerable growth. Charaka, known as the father of Ayurveda, wrote Charakasmhita.

  • Ashvaghosa wrote Buddhacharita, the biography of Buddha.

  • Kushanas patronised Gandhara and Mathura school of art which produce the earliest image of Buddha and Buddhisattavas.

Major Impacts Due to the Contact with Central Asia

The invasion of Bactrians and Shakas to India and their political contacts with central Asia resulted in the intermingling of cultures and trade relations. These were enumerated below.

  • There was a mingling of religious ideology. Evidence from the period suggests that these foreign invaders were assimilated into the Brahmanical society with the grades as Kshatriyas. Some of them eventually adopted Buddhism.

  • Central Asian contact brought a new method of coin making. The punch-marked coin was replaced with Greek-style coins. These cons contain legends of the rulers.

  • Indians also borrowed Greek astronomical knowledge. The Indian astronomical literature had the reference of yavanacharya, which means Greek astronomer. There was also the transmission of knowledge of making horoscope.

  • Significant influence was visible in the field of art and architecture. Buddhist sculptures of Gandhara school was influenced by the amalgamation of Indian and the Greek style.

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