The Kushanas, originally belonged to western China.
They are also called Yueh-chis.
The Kushanas after defeating Shakas and Pahlavas created a big empire in Pakistan.
The first prominent ruler of the Kushana dynasty was Kujula Kadphises.
He was succeeded by his son Wema Kadphises.
Next ruler was Kanishka. He was the most famous of the Kushanas. He probably ascended the throne in AD 78, and started a new era, now known as the Shaka era.
It was under Kanishka that the Kushana empire reached its maximum territorial limits. His empire extended from Central Asia to north India and included Varanasi, Kaushambi and Sravasti in Uttar Pradesh.
The political significance of Kanishka’s rule lies in the fact that he integrated central Asia with north India as part of a single empire. It resulted in the intermingling of different cultures and increase in inter regional trading activities.
Kanishka is famous in history as a great patron of Buddhism. He convened the fourth Buddhist Council at Kundalavana (present day Harwan near Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir) in which a large number of Buddhist scholars took part.
It was in this council that Buddhism got split into two schools – Hinayana and Mahayana.
Kanishka also patronized the Gandhara and Mathura schools of sculptural art about which you will learn later in this chapter. He built in the city of Purushpura (present day Peshawar), his capital, a giant stupa to house the Buddha’s relics.
The Kushana power gradually declined from the early third century AD.
Polity and Administration–
The whole empire was divided into provinces, each ruled by a mahakshatrapa (a military governor), who was assisted by a kshatrapa; but how many provinces were there in the empire, is not known.
A prominent feature of Kushana polity was the title of devaputra, i.e., son of God, used by the Kushana kings.
Contribution of the Kushanas–
Their vast empire helped in the growth of internal and external trade.
It resulted in the rise of new urban centres.
The rich state of economy under the Kushanas is also evidenced by the large number of gold and copper coins that they struck.
In literature and medicine, India made progress.
Charaka, known as father of Ayurveda, wrote a book on medicine called Charaksamhita whereas Asvaghosha, a Buddhist scholar, wrote Buddhacharita, a full length biography of the Buddha.
Both these scholars were believed to be the contemporaries of king Kanishka.
The Kushanas patronized the Gandhara and the Mathura schools of sculptural art which are known for producing the earliest images of Buddha and Buddhisattavas.