Click image to view the variations.
A nomadic tribe, known to Chinese as Yueh-chi, left
their homeland on the Chinese frontier eary in the second century BC. and arrived in
the Oxus region and settled at Bactria. After having dwelt there for about a century,
a prince of the Kue-shaung (Kushana) branch of the Yueh-chi invaded Parthia or the parts
of the Indo-Parthian realm in Afghanistan, occupied central Afghanistan, Gandhara and
the lower Swat valley. His successors spread their rule in th regions of northern India.
The Kushanas occupied the land upto Varanasi, Bihar and Gangetic Delta in Bengal in
the east and had extended considerably beyond the Indian frontriers in the west. They
had, thus, built a great empire lasted more than two centuries.
The eariest Indian Kushana coins are those which were
issue by Kujula Kadphises in copper. Kujula's successor
Wima Kadphises who introduced the first gold coins of India for
circulation. Most of the gold for Kushan coins is thought to have come from the Silk Road
trade, which saw a flow of Roman gold Aurei to Central Asia and
India to buy luxuary goods. The Roman Gold Coins were then melted down and restruct with
Kushan type. The Kushans were a multi-cultural society, incorporating much of the cultures
they ruled into their own. Early Kushan coins used Greek legends on the obverse, along with
a translation in the local Karoshthi script on the reverse. Begining with Kanishka I,
however the Kushan language, written in an adaptation of the Greek alphabet with some local
alterations, was used almost exclusively. The Kushans also began to adopte Indian culture
elements, Embracing a wide variety of local Indian, Persian and centerl Asian deities,
they assimilated them with Greco-Roman type already prevalent in the region. Overall, the
Kushans pantheon represented a religious and artistic of western and eastern elements.
Wima Kadphises' successor was Kanishka I,
who, like his predecessor, issueed coins only in gold and copper. Kanishka I introduced the
figure of Buddha with the legend BODDO (Buddha) in gold and
SAKAMANO BODDO (Sakyamuni Buddha) in copper. The next ruler
Huvishka introduced so many deities on his gold coins, Zoroastrian,
Greek. With Kanishka II the Kushana dynasty appears to an end.
The area flourished under the Kushans and their greatest emperor,
Kanishka I, who is traditionally given credit for further spreading the philosophies of Buddhism
throughout Centerl Asia into China. This period is views as one of the most important era in the
history of Buddhism.
Undoubtedly all the Kushana emperors use their coinage for
the propaganda of their own superiority and the possession of superhuman abilities. The concept of
showing king on the coins was non-existant in India and all the previous dynasties minted coins
showing only the symbols. It was the Kushan rulers who popularised this idea which remained in use
for another thousand years. Kushan coinage were copied not only by later indian dynasties like Guptas,
but also by the neighbouring kings like Sassanians (of Persia).