KUSH-03 Click on image for enlargement.


Indian Coins, Kushan. Kanishka I , 127-150 AD, Gold Dinar 7.89 g. 19.9 mm. die-axis 11 o'clock.

Obverse: Bactrian legend around ÞAONANOÞAO KANΗÞKI KOÞANO The King of Kings, Kanishka the Kushan. The king standing facing, head left, wearing helmet and diadem, clad in coat and trousers, and cloak; a sword at his waist, flames on right shoulder, holding a spear in his left hand, and elephant goad in his right hand, sacrificing over altar left.

Reverse: BOΔΔO in Bactrian script, BODDO for the Buddha. Standing facing Buddha image, right hand raised in gesture of reassurance, protection (Abhaya mudra), left hand at waist level holding handful of dhoti, uttarasanga and sanghati (over both shoulders). Lines of all three garments are visible. Detail of the head are obcured by wear, but the enlarged ears and the dressing of the hair into topknot (usnisa) are clear. A nimbus (in three arcs) surrounds the head and body of the Buddha, a royal symbol (tamgha) in right field, a border of dots.

          The coin is die-identical with the specimen in the collection of the British Museum, London, England, (783671001).

          There are two variations, because of different dies.
An extremely rare genuine gold coin of the Kushan Imperial mints, solid gold coin not a filled metal electrotypes / reproductions.

          One of the gold coins is well known for its the earliest numismatic depiction of a standing Buddha captioned 'BODDO' in Bactrian (using Greek script), is useful for art historians to date when and where image of the Buddha were first made.


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          The name Kushan derives from the Chinese term Kouei-chouang, used to describe one branch of the Yueh Chi, a loose confederation of Indo-Europeans people who had been living in northwestern China until they were driven west by the Turko-Mongol Hsiug-nu, in about 170 BC. The Yueh Chi reached Baktria, in the second century BC and by the first century AD were united under king Kujula. Gradually wresting control of the area from the Scytho-Parthians, the Yueh Chi moved south into the northwest Indian region of Gandhara, today parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. With its capital established near Kabul, the Kushans Empire were soon acknowledged as great a power as China, Rome and Parthia. They had adopted a form of the Greek alphabet and initially made coins directly copying Baktrian Greek and Parthian issues. Kujula's son Kadphises II was the first Indian ruler to strike gold coins reminiscent of the Roman aurei circulating along the caravan routes.

          Under Kanishka, the third king, the Kushan Empire reached its greatest extent, controlling a teritory ranging from centrl Asia into northern India as far east as Banares and as far south as Sanchi. The empire was administered from two capitals: Peshawar near the Khyber Pass, and Mathura in northern India. The discovery of the Rabatek inscription has help confirm Cribb's hypothesis that the Kanishka era started between 100 AD and 120 AD. It was a period of great wealth marked by extensive mercantile activities, seagoing trade and commerce along the Silk Route to China. This multi-ethnic empire, tolerant of religious differences, produced an eclectic culure vividly expressive in the visual arts. Coin reverses as well as artifacts from the Gandhara and Mathura schools of art exhibit deities of Greek, Roman, Iranian, and Hindu mythologies and some of the earliest representations of the Buddha.

          Buddhism is based on the teaching of Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as The Buddha, who lived approximately 563 to 483 BC. The word Buddha, meaning awakened or enlightened one, is a title, not a proper name. Siddhartha Gautama was born a prince in the kingdom Sakyas situated on what is now the border area between India an Nepal. At the age of 29, desiring to know the path that leads to the ending of all impermanence and anguish, and to ensure his permanent well-being, he renounced everythings of the world, becoming a homeless ascetic, vowing to find the path to ultimate enlightenment and resolving to teach others what he had discovered about the Four Noble Truths and the chain of causation to achieve Nirvana.

          Kanishka, a fervent Buddhist, is best remembered today for sponsoring the fisrt great Buddhist conference at Kanish Vihar, that led to the adoption and promotion of Mahayana Buddhism, a school of thought that revered the life of Buddha as much as his spiritual teaching. The great bronze plaques that recorded the conference proceedings have never been found, but we are fortunate to have a report of the conference from the Chinese scholar Hien Tsang. The Buddha coinage was probably struck as a special issue in conjunction with the conference, and the image of Buddha would have made a stunning impact at the time. Buddha had previously only been represented in symbolic form, but under Kanishka the fusion of Greek and Indian culture led to the portrayal of Buddha in human form. Kanishka's coins were among these first representations and provide the earliest firmly datable images of the Buddha in any artistic medium.