Kushana Dynasty (30-375 CE)
Koshshanoy, "Kushans" in Greek alphabet issued by first known Kushan ruler Heraios (100 CE) on coin.
The Kushans were Syncretic Empire of one of five branches of the Yuezhi in the Bactrian territories in
the early 1st century.
A. Yuezhi confederation (The Yuezhi were an ancient Indo-European people first described in Chinese
histories as nomadic pastoralists living in an arid grassland area in the western part of the modern
Chinese province of Gansu, during the 1st millennium BCE),
B. Indo-European (The Proto-Indo-Europeans were a hypothetical prehistoric people of Eurasia who
spoke Proto-Indo-European) nomadic people who migrated from Gansu (Gansu is a landlocked
province in Northwest China. Its capital and largest city is Lanzhou, located in the southeast part of
the province.) and settled in ancient Bactria.
C. Iranian or Tocharian (The Tocharians were an Indo-European people who inhabited the medieval
oasis city-states on the northern edge of the Tarim Basin in ancient times),
The five tribes constituting the Yuezhi are known in Chinese history-
Xiūmì, Guìshuāng, Shuāngmǐ, Xìdùn, and Dūmì.
In an around 100 BCE,
the Guishuang 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.
Peshawar (Puruṣapura), Pakistan, Taxila,
Pakistan, Mathura, India
Language-Greek (official until ca. 127),
Bactrian (official from ca. 127), Sanskrit.
A. The Records of the Grand Historian, also known by its Chinese name Shiji, is a monumental
history of ancient China written by Han dynasty official Sima Qian which was started by his
B. The Book of Han or History of the Former Han is a history of China finished in 111, covering the
Western, or Former Han dynasty from the first emperor in 206 BCE to the fall of Wang Mang in
23 CE. It is also called the Book of Former Han.
C. The Book of the Later Han, also known as the History of the Later Han and by its Chinese
name Hou Hanshu, is one of the Twenty-Four Histories and covers the history of the Han
dynasty from 6 to 189 CE, a period known as the Later or Eastern Han.
D. Ban Gu was a Chinese historian, politician, and poet best known for his part in compiling
the Book of Han, the second of China's 24 dynastic histories.
E. Fan Ye, courtesy name Weizong, was a Chinese historian and politician of the Liu Song dynasty
during the Southern and Northern dynasties period. He was the compiler of the historical
text Book of the Later Han.
F. Chinese travelers like Hwen-tsang, Fa-hi-an, Shung-yung.
G. Chinese and Tibetan Myths.
H. Raajtarangini of Kalhan.
Archaeological [Epigraphs, Numismatics, Architecture- Art]:
Epigraphs- 12 inscriptions of Kanishka (Sarnath, Sanchi, Kausambi, Mathura etc.)
The Rabatak inscription written on a rock in the Bactrian language and the Greek script at the site of
Rabatak, near Surkh Kotal in Afghanistan.
Coins/ Numismatics- Khwarezm, Kausambi, Sanchi and Sarnath (inscriptions with names and dates of
Kushan kings), Malwa and Maharashtra and Odisha (imitation of Kushan coins, and large Kushan
Monuments (Stupa, Monastery), Art- Stupas built by Kanishka, An image of Kings himself from Mathura,
Afghanistan, Mathura School of Art and Gandhara School of Art.
Excavations- Uncountable sites.
IV.WHY THEY MOVED TO Indian Subcontinent?:
The head of the Yuezhi was beheaded by the Huns from Siberia who were also at war with China, which
eventually forced them to migrate west in 176–160 BCE.
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.
Their contemporary dynasties in India were Western Satraps, Satvahan on the south and Gupta on the
1. Heraios (c.01-30 CE)
2. Kujula Kadphises (c. 30-80)
3. Vima Taktu or Sadashkana (c. 80-95)
4. Vima Kadphises (c. 95-127)
5. Kanishka I (c. 127-140)
6. Huvishka (c. 160-190)
7. Vasudeva I (c. 190-230)
8. Vāsishka (c. 247-267)
9. Kanishka III (c. 267-270)
10. Vasudeva II (c. 270-300)
11. Mahi (c. 300-305)
12. Shaka (c. 305-335)
13. Kipunada (c. 335-350 CE)
KUJULA KADPHISES- He was the great grandfather of Kanishka. While his times he extended his control
between Oxus to Indus River. Today’s Afghanistan, Bactria, Eastern part of Iran and north-western India
was under his control. He defeated the last Greek ruler Hermaeus. Title- Obv.: Basileos Sterossy
Hermaiou: "King Hermaeus, the Saviour". Rev: Herakles standing with club and lion skin.
Kharoṣṭhī legend: KUJULA KASASA KUSHANA YAVUGASA DHARMATHIDASA "Kujula Kadphises ruler of
the Kushans, steadfast in the Law ("Dharma"). He is considered as the founder of Kushana dynasty.
VIMA TAKTU OR SADASHKANA- Vima Taktu 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.
Title- Basileu Basileuon Soter Megas": "The King of Kings, Great Saviour".
VIMA KADPHISES- He was the son of Sadashkana and the grandson of Kujula Kadphises, and the father
of Kanishka I, as detailed by the Rabatak inscription. He expanded his territory upto Taxila and north
India and established full control over Bactria. His title was Maharaja, Rajadhirajwat and Basileus
Basileuon Soter Megas Ooemo Kadphises"): "King of Kings Vima Kadphises the Great Saviour" on the
coins issued by him. He has described as The Winner of India in Chinese sources. He was follower of
Hinduism as he issued coins with the word Maheshwar.
KANISHKA- His regal year is disputed among the scholars: 58 BCE (John Faithfull Fleet), 78 CE (Rapson
and Raichaudhary, 125 CE (Sir John Marshall), 278 CE (D.R.Bhandarkar). According to his inscription
Rabtak his empire was from North Afghanistan to Bihar (East to West), Kashmir to Vindhyan range
(North to South). His territory was administered from two capitals: Purushapura (Peshawar, Pakistan)
and Mathura, in northern India. Kanishka's era is now generally accepted to have begun in 127 CE on
the basis of Harry Falk's research.
Title- Mahārāja Rājadhirāja Devaputra Kāṇiṣka-"The Great King, King of Kings, Son of God, Kanishka"
1. The Book of the Later Han, Hou Hanshu, states that general Ban Chao fought battles
near Khotan with a Kushan army of 70,000 men led by an otherwise unknown Kushan viceroy named
Xie in 90 AD. Ban Chao claimed to be victorious, forcing the Kushans to retreat by use of a scorched-
earth policy. The territories of Kashgar, Khotan and Yarkand were Chinese dependencies in the Tarim
Basin, modern Xinjiang. Several coins of Kanishka have been found in the Tarim Basin. It is believed that
Ban Chao and his son Ban Yang won it and KAnishka was defeated in the war. The reason behind this
was to control both the land (the Silk Road) and sea trade routes between South Asia and Rome seems
to have been one of Kanishka's chief imperial goals.
2. Similarly he fought to the Parthians, because they were the enemy of Kushan on western side
and had control over the trade route. Kanishka wanted to control on that trade route.
Religion- Emperor Kanishka was a great patron of Buddhism. He played an important role in the
establishment of Buddhism in the Indian subcontinent and its spread to Central Asia and China.
VASUDEVA I- 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 CE.
A. The Kushan empire fragmented into semi-independent kingdoms in the 300 CE, which fell to
the Sasanians invading from the west, establishing the Kushano-Sasanian Kingdom in the areas
of Sogdiana, Bactria and Gandhara.
B. In the 400 CE, the Guptas also pressed from the east.
C. The last of the Kushan and Kushano-Sasanian kingdoms were eventually overwhelmed by
invaders from the north, known as the Kidarites (The Kidarites were a dynasty that
ruled Bactria and adjoining parts of Central Asia and South Asia in the 4th and 5th centuries
CE. In India as Huna), and
D. The Hepthalites from the north (The Hephthalites (or Ephthalites), sometimes called the White
Huns, were a people who lived in Central Asia during the 5th to 8th centuries).
VII.IMPORTANCE OF THIS PERIOD:
1. 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 center point of the major
2. The Kushan dynasty had diplomatic contacts with the Roman Empire, Sasanian Persia,
the Aksumite Empire and the Han dynasty of China.
3. 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
4. Kanishka facilitate the spread of Mahayana Buddhism to China.
5. Gandhara and Mathura School of art flourished during this period.
6. Images of Indian God-goddesses and the image of Lord Buddha get fame during this period.