Kushana Empire Notes for UPSC Exam

Kushans

  • Kushans or Kuei-Shang were one of the five Great Yueh-chi (tribes) principalities. In the 1st century CE, Kujula Kadphises (Kadphises I) brought together these five principalities and founded the Kushan Empire. 
  • The Kushans movement in India can be traced back to the first century CE during Kadphises I time. 
  • The facts about the Kushan dynasty are important for the IAS Exam and this article will provide important details about it along with Kanishka’s rule.

Rise Of Kushans

  • The Kushan Empire has its roots in the Yuezhi tribe, one of the five divisions residing in the Chinese frontier and central Asia. 
  • In Chinese records, they are referred to as Guishuang. 
  • Gradually, they asserted control over the other Yuezhi tribes and, in the 1st century AD, migrated eastward into India, triumphing over the Parthians and Sakas.
  • The initial leader of the Kushana Empire in India was Kujula Kadphises, also known as Kadphises I, who solidified his rule over Kabul, Kandahar, and Afghanistan. 
  • Following his reign, his son Vima Taktu, or Sadashkana, expanded the empire further into northwest India.
  • Vima Kadphises, succeeding Vima Taktu, ruled from AD 95 to AD 127. An inscription discovered in Rabatak, Afghanistan, identifies him as the son of Vima Taktu and the father of Kanishka. 
  • Noteworthy for his devotion to Shiva, he minted a substantial number of gold coins. 
  • The discovery of numerous Roman gold coins from this period indicates India’s prosperity and burgeoning trade ties with the Romans.

Kanishka

  • Kanishka, a notable ruler from the Kushan Dynasty (127 AD – 150 AD), is regarded as both the greatest Kushana king and a significant figure in ancient India. 
  • Born to Vima Kadphises, his kingdom stretched across various regions, including Afghanistan, parts of Sindhu, Parthia, Punjab, Kashmir, Magadha, Malwa, Benaras, Bengal, Khotan, Kashgar, Yarkhand, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. 
  • His capital was Peshawar, known as Purushpura in his time.
  • Kanishka, known for his tolerance in religious matters, played a pivotal role in Buddhism. He captured Pataliputra and took the Buddhist monk Ashvaghosha to Peshawar. 
  • The scholars in his court, such as Parsva, Ashvaghosha, and Nagarjuna, contributed to the intellectual environment. 
  • Kanishka convened the fourth Buddhist Council in Kashmir, promoting Mahayana Buddhism.
  • Under his rule, Sanskrit literature developed, and the Gandhara School of art thrived. 
  • The Kushanas also fostered trade between India, China, and the Roman Empire, controlling parts of the Silk Route. 
  • Despite being foreign invaders initially, they adopted Indian ways and culture.

Decline Of The Empire

The decline of the Kushana Empire began with Kanishka’s successors, including Vasishka, Huvishka, Kanishka II, and Vasudeva I. Vasudeva I was the last great king, and after his death in 232 AD, the empire disintegrated, marking the end of the Kushana era.

MCQs Test on Kushana Empire

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