Middle Kingdoms of India, Part 16


Lord Buddha
2nd Century Gandhara

Apr 20, 2015 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of India's great history, religious movements and temple architecture.

The Kushans

"The Kushans inherited the Greco-Buddhist traditions of the Indo-Greek Kingdom they replaced, and their patronage of Buddhist institutions allowed them to grow as a commercial power.[43] Between the mid-1st Century and the mid-3rd Century Buddhism, patronized by the Kushans, extended to China and other Asian countries along the Silk Road.

Kanishka is renowned in Buddhist tradition for having convened a great Buddhist council in Kashmir. Along with his predecessor in the region,the Indo-Greek king Menander I (Milinda) and the Indian emperors Ashoka and Harsha Vardhana, Kanishka is considered by Buddhism to be one of its greatest benefactors.

During the 1st Century A.D., Buddhist books were being produced and carried by monks, and their trader patrons. Monasteries were being established along the land routes that went to China and other parts of Asia. With the development of Buddhist books, a new written language was developed, known as Gandhara. The Gandhara region consists of eastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. Scholars are said to have found many Buddhist scrolls in that area composed in the Gandhari language.[44]

The reign of Huvishka corresponds to the first known epigraphic evidence of the Buddha Amitabha, on the bottom part of a 2nd Century statue that was discovered in Govindo-Nagar. It now resides at the Mathura Museum. The statue is dated to "the 28th year of the reign of Huvishka", and was dedicated to "Amitabha Buddha" by a family of merchants. There is also some evidence that Huvishka himself was a follower of Mahāyāna Buddhism. A Sanskrit manuscript fragment in the Schøyen Collection describes Huvishka as one who has "set forth in the Mahāyāna."[45]

A Buddhist Devotee in Kushan Dress
Mathura, 2nd Century.

Decline of the Kushans

After the death of Vasudeva I in 225 A.D., the Kushan empire split into western and eastern halves. The Western Kushans (in Afghanistan) were soon subjugated by the Persian Sassanid Empire and lost Bactria and other territories to them. In 248 A.D. they were defeated again by the Persians, who deposed the Western dynasty and replaced them with Persian vassals known as the Kushanshas (or Indo-Sassanids).

The Eastern Kushan kingdom was based in the Punjab. Around 270 A.D. their territories on the Gangetic plain became independent under local dynasties such as the Yaudheyas. Then in the mid-4th Century they were subjugated by the Gupta Empire under Samudragupta.

In 360 A.D. a Kushan vassal named Kidara overthrew the old Kushan dynasty and established the Kidarite Kingdom. The Kushan style of Kidarite coins indicates they considered themselves Kushans. The Kidarite seem to have been rather prosperous, although on a smaller scale than their Kushan predecessors.

These remnants of the Kushan empire were ultimately wiped out in the 5th Century by the invasions of the Hephthalites, and the rise of the Gupta empire."


44 Xinru Liu, The Silk Road in World History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 58.

45 Neelis, Jason. Early Buddhist Transmission and Trade Networks. 2010. p. 141


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