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Chapter 10 – The Kushan or Indo-Scythian Dynasty

From 56 to 225 A.D.

The migrations of the nomad nations of the Mongolian steppes, briefly noticed in the preceding chapter, produced on the political fortunes of India effects so momentous that they deserve and demand fuller treatment.

A tribe of Turki nomads, known to Chinese authors as the Mung-nu, succeeded in inflicting upon a neighbouring and rival horde of the same stock a decisive defeat about the middle of the second century B.C. The date of this event is fixed as 165 B.C. by most scholars, but M. Chavannes puts it some twenty or twenty-five years later. The Yueh-chi were compelled to quit the lands which they occupied in the province of Kan-suh in North-western China, and to migrate westwards in search of fresh pasture-grounds. The moving horde mustered a force of bowmen, estimated to number from one hundred to two hundred thousand, and the whole multitude must have comprised at least from half a million to a million persons of all ages and both sexes.

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In the course of their westward migration in search of grazing-grounds adequate for the sustenance of their vast numbers of horses, cattle, and sheep, the Yueh-chi, moving along the route past Kucha (N. lat. 41° 38′, E. long. 83° 25′), to the north of the desert of Gobi, came into conflict with a smaller horde, named Wu-sun, which occupied the basin of the Ili River and its southern tributaries, the Tekes and Konges. The Wu-sun, although numbering a force of only ten thousand bowmen, could not submit patiently to the devastation of their lands, and sought to defend them. But the superior numbers of the Yueh-chi assured the success of the invaders, who slew the Wu-sun chieftain, and then passed on westwards, beyond Lake Issyk-kul, the Lake Tsing of Hiuen Tsang, in search of more spacious pastures. A small section of the immigrants, diverging to the south, settled on the Tibetan border, and became known as the Little Yueh-chi, while the main body, which continued the westward march, was designated the Great Yueh-chi.

The next foes encountered by the Yueh-chi were the Sakas, or Se, who probably included more than one horde, for, as Herodotus observes, the Persians were accustomed to use the term Sakai to denote all Scythian nomads. The Sakas, who dwelt to the west of the Wushsun, probably in the territory between the Jaxartes (Syr Darya) and Chu Rivers, also attempted to defend their lands, but met with even worse success than the Wu-sun, being compelled to vacate their pasture-. grounds in favour of the victorious Yueh-chi, who occupied

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them. The Sakas were forced to migrate in search of new quarters, and, ultimately, as stated in the last preceding chapter, made their way into India and Sistan.

For some fifteen or twenty years the Yueh-chi remained undisturbed in their usurped territory. But meantime their ancient enemies, the Hiung-nu, had protected the infant son of the slain Wu-sun chieftain, who had grown to manhood under their care. This youth, with Hiung-nu help, attacked the Yueh-chi, and avenged his father’s death by driving them from the lands which they had wrested from the Sakas. Being thus forced to resume their march, the Yueh-chi moved into the valley of the Oxus, and reduced to subjection its peaceful inhabitants, known to the Chinese as Tahia. The political domination of the Yueh-chi was probably extended at once over Bactria, to the south of the Oxus, but the headquarters of the horde continued for many years to be on the north side of the river, and the pastures on that side sufficed for the wants of the newcomers.

In the course of time, which may be estimated at two or three generations, the Yueh-chi lost their nomad habits, became a settled, territorial nation, in actual occupation of the Bactrian lands south of the river, as well as of Sogdiana to the north, and were divided into five principalities. As a rough approximation to the truth, this political and social development, with its accompanying growth of population, may be assumed to have been completed about 70 B.C.

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For the next century nothing is known about Yueh-chi history; but more than a hundred years after the division of the nation into five territorial principalities situated to the north of the Hindu Kush, the chief of the Kushan section of the horde, who is conventionally known to European writers as Kadphises I, succeeded in imposing his authority on his colleagues and establishing himself as sole monarch of the Yueh-chi nation. His accession as such may be dated in the year 45 A.D., which cannot be very far wrong.

The pressure of population upon the means of subsistence, which had impelled the Yueh-chi horde to undertake the long and arduous march from the borders of China to the Hindu Kush, now drove it across that barrier, and stimulated Kadphises I to engage in the formidable task of subjugating the provinces to the south of the mountains.

He made himself master of Ki-pin (Kashmir?) as well as of the Kabul territory, and, in the course of a long reign, consolidated his power in Bactria, and found time to attack the Parthians. His empire thus extended from the frontiers of Persia to the Indus, and included Sogdiana, now the Khanate of Bukhara, with probably all the territories comprised in the existing kingdom of Afghanistan. The complete subjugation of the hardy mountaineers of the Afghan highlands, who have withstood so many invaders with success, must have occupied many years, and cannot be assigned to any particular year, but 60 A.D. may be taken as a mean date for the conquest of Kabul.

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The Yueh-chi advance necessarily involved the suppression of the Indo-Greek and Indo-Parthian chiefs of principalities .to the west of the Indus, and in the preceding chapter proof has been given of the manner in which the coinage legibly records the outline of the story of the gradual supersession of Hermaios, the last Greek prince of Kabul, by the barbarian invaders. The final extinction of the Indo-Parthian power in the Panjab and the Indus valley was reserved, however, for the reign of the successor of Kadphises I, who is most conveniently designated as Kadphises II.

At the age of eighty Kadphises I closed his victorious reign, and was succeeded, in or about 85 A.D., by his son Kadphises U. This prince, no less ambitious and enterprising than his father, devoted himself to the further extension of the Yueh-chi dominion, and even ventured to measure swords with the Chinese emperor.

The embassy of Chang-kien in 125–115 B.C. to the Yueh-chi, while they still resided in Sogdiana to the north of the Oxus, had brought the western barbarians into touch with the Middle Kingdom, and for a century and a quarter the Emperors of China kept up intercourse with the Scythian powers. In the year 8 A.D. official relations ceased, and when the first Han dynasty came to an end in 23 or 24 A.D., Chinese influence in the western countries had been reduced to nothing. Fifty years later Chinese ambition re-asserted itself, and for a period of thirty years, from 73 to 102 A.D., General Pan-chao led an army from victory to victory

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as far as the confines of the Roman empire. The King of Khotan, who had first made his submission in 73 A.D., was followed by several other princes, including the King of Kashgar, and the route to the west along the southern edge of the desert was thus opened to the arms and commerce of China. The reduction of Ruche and Kharachar in 94 A.D. similarly threw open the northern road.

The steady advance of the victorious Chinese evidently alarmed Kadphises II, who regarded himself as the equal of the emperor and had no intention of accepting the position of a vassal. Accordingly, in 90 A.D., he boldly asserted his equality by demanding a Chinese princess in marriage. General Pan-chao, who considered the proposal an affront to his master, arrested the envoy and sent him home. Kadphises unable to brook this treatment, equipped a formidable force of seventy thousand cavalry under the command of his viceroy Si, which was despatched across the Tsung-ling range, or Taghdumbash Pamir, to attack the Chinese. The army of Si probably advanced by the Tashkurghan pass, some fourteen thousand feet high, and was so shattered by its sufferings during the passage of the mountains, that, when it emerged into the plain below, either that of Kashgar or Yarkand, it fell an easy prey to Pan-chao, and was totally defeated. Kadphises II was compelled to pay tribute to China, and the Chinese annals record the arrival of several missions bearing tribute at this period.

This serious check did not crush the ambition of

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the Yueh-chi monarch, who now undertook the easier task of attacking India. Success in this direction compensated for failure against the power of China, and the Yueh-chi dominion was gradually extended (90 to 100 A.D.) all over North-western India, with the exception of Southern Sind, probably as far east as Benares. The conquered Indian provinces were administered by military viceroys, to whom apparently should be attributed the large issues of coins known to numismatists as those of the Nameless King. These pieces, mostly copper, but including a few in base silver, are certainly contemporary with Kadphises II, and are extremely common all over Northern India from the Kabul valley to Benares and Ghazipur on the Ganges.

Copper coin of Kadphises, Kushan Dynasty

The Yueh-chi conquests opened up the path of commerce between the Roman empire and India. Kadphises I, who struck coins in bronze or copper only, imitated, after his conquest of Kabul, the coinage either of Augustus in his later years, or the similar coinage of Tiberius (14 to 38 A.D.). When the Roman gold of the early emperors began to pour into India in payment for the silks, spices, gems, mid dye-stuffs of the East, Kadphises II perceived the advantage of a gold currency, and struck an abundant issue of Orientalized aurei, agreeing in weight with their prototypes, and not much inferior in purity. In Southern India, which, during the same period, maintained an active maritime trade with the Roman empire, the local

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kings did not attempt to copy the imperial aurei, which, however, they imported in large quantities, and used for currency purposes, just as English sovereigns now are in many parts of the world.

The Indian embassy, which offered its congratulations to Trajan after his arrival in Rome in 99 A.D., was probably despatched by Kadphises II to announce his conquest of North-western India.

The temporary annexation of Mesopotamia by Trajan in 116 A.D. brought the Roman frontier within six hundred miles of the western limits of the Yueh-chi empire. Although the province beyond the Euphrates was retroceded by Hadrian the year after its annexation, there can be no doubt that at this period the rulers of Northern and Western India were well acquainted with the fame and power of the great Western empire, and were sensibly influenced by its example.

The victorious reign of Kadphises II was undoubtedly prolonged, and may be supposed to have covered a space of thirty-five or forty years, from about 85 to 120 or 125 A.D., when he was succeeded by Kanishka, who alone among the Kushan kings has left a name cherished by tradition, and famous far beyond the limits of India. His name, it is true, is unknown in Europe, save to a few students of unfamiliar lore, but it lives in the legends of Tibet, China, and Mongolia, and is scarcely less significant to the Buddhists of those lands than that of Asoka himself.

Notwithstanding the widespread fame of Kanishka, his authentic history is scanty, and his chronological

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position strangely open to doubt. Unluckily, no passage in the works of the accurate Chinese historians has yet been discovered which synchronizes him with any definite name or event in the well-ascertained history of the Middle Kingdom. The Chinese books which mention him are all, so far as is yet known, merely works of edification, and not well adapted to serve as mines of historic fact. They are, in truth, translations or echoes of Indian tradition, as are the books of Tibet and Mongolia, and no student needs to be told how baffling are its vagaries.

Kanishka and his proximate successors certainly are mentioned in an exceptionally large number of inscriptions, of which more than a score are dated, and it might be expected that this ample store of epigraphic material would set at rest all doubts and establish beyond dispute the essential outlines of the Kushan chronology. But, unfortunately, the dates are recorded in such a fashion as to be open to most various interpretations, and eminent scholars are still to be found who place the accession of Kanishka in 57 B.C., as well as others who date that event in 278 A.D. Many lines of evidence, which are of great collective force when brought together, lead to the conclusion that Kanishka was the contemporary of Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius, and came to the throne about 120 or 125 A.D., directly succeeding Kadphises II.

Kanishka unquestionably belonged to the Kushan section of the Yueh-chi nation, as did the Kadphises kings, and there does not seem to be sufficient reason

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for believing that he was not connected with them. The coins both of Kadphises II and Kanishka frequently display in the field the same four-pronged symbol, and agree accurately in weight and fineness, besides exhibiting a very close relationship in the obverse devices. The inevitable inference is that the two kings were very near in time to one another – in fact, that one immediately followed the other. Now Kadphises II (Yen-kao-ching) was beyond doubt not only the successor, but the son of Kadphises I (Kieu-tsieu-k’io), who died at the age of eighty after a long reign. It is quite impossible to bring Kanishka into close association with Kadphises II, except on the generally admitted assumption that Kanishka was his immediate successor. Without further pursuing in detail a tedious archaeological argument, it will suffice to say here that ample reason can be shown for holding that the great majority of Indianists are right in placing the Kanishka group directly after that of the Kadphises kings.

Kanishka then may be assumed to have succeeded Kadphises II, to whom he was presumably related, in or about 120 or 125 A.D. Tradition and the monuments and inscriptions of his time prove that his sway, like that of his predecessor, extended all over North-western India, probably as far south as the Vindhyas. His coins are found constantly associated with those of Kadphises II from Kabul to Ghazipur on the Ganges, and their vast number and variety indicate a reign of considerable length. His dominions included Upper Sind, and his high reputation as a conqueror suggests the probability

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that he extended his power to the mouths of the Indus and swept away the petty Parthian princes who still ruled that region at the close of the first century A.D., but are no more heard of afterward.

He probably completed the subjugation and annexation of the secluded vale of Kashmir, and certainly showed a marked preference for that delightful country, in which he erected numerous monuments, and founded a town, which, although now reduced to a petty village, still bears his honoured name.

Tradition affirms that he carried his arms far into the interior, and attacked the king residing at the ancient imperial city of Pataliputra. It is said that he carried off from that city a Buddhist saint named Asvaghosha. But little dependence can be placed upon ecclesiastical traditions which connect the names of famous saints with those of renowned kings, and all such traditions need confirmation.

Kanishka’s capital was Purushapura, the modern Peshawar, the city which then guarded, as it now does, the main road from the Afghan hills to the Indian plains. There, in his latter days, when he had become a fervent Buddhist, he erected a great relic tower, which seems to have deserved to rank among the wonders of the world. The superstructure of carved wood rose in thirteen stories to a height of at least four hundred feet, surmounted by a mighty iron pinnacle. When Song-yun, a Chinese pilgrim, visited the spot at the beginning of the sixth century, this structure had been thrice destroyed by fire, and as often rebuilt by pious

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kings. A monastery of exceptional magnificence stood by its side. Faint traces of the substructures of these buildings may even now be discerned at the “King’s Mound” (Shah ji-ki-Dheri) outside the Lahore gate of Peshawar.

Fort Jamrud, Peshawar

The monastery was still flourishing as a place of Buddhist education as late as the ninth or tenth century, when Prince Vira Deva of Magadha was sent there to benefit by the instruction of the resident teachers, who were famous for their piety. The final demolition of this celebrated establishment was undoubtedly due to the Mohammedan invasions of Mahmud of Ghazni and his successors. Moslem zeal against idolatry was always excited to acts of destruction by the spectacle of the innumerable images with which Buddhist holy places were crowded.

The ambition of Kanishka was not confined by the

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limits of India. He engaged in successful war with the Parthians, when attacked by the king of that nation, who is described by the tradition as “very stupid and with a violent temper.” The prince referred to may be either Chosroes (Khusru) or one of the rival kings who disputed the possession of the Parthian throne between 108 and 130 A.D.

The most striking military exploit of Kanishka was his conquest of Kashgar, Yarkand, and Khotan, extensive provinces lying to the north of Tibet and the east of the Pamirs, and at that time, as now, dependencies of China. Kadphises II, when he attempted the same arduous adventure in 90 A.D., had failed ignominiously, and had been compelled to pay tribute to China. Kanishka, secure in the peaceful possession of India and Kashmir, was better prepared to surmount the appalling difficulties of conveying an effective army across the passes of the Taghdumbash Pamir, which no modern ruler of India would dare to face, and he had no longer General Pan-chao to oppose him. Where his predecessor had failed, Kanishka succeeded, and he not only freed himself from the obligation of paying tribute to China, but compelled the defeated kings to surrender hostages, including a son of the Han Emperor of China, who built a Buddhist shrine at the place of his detention in the province of Kapisa.

These hostages were treated, as beseemed their rank, with the utmost consideration, and were assigned suitable residences at different Buddhist monasteries for each of the three seasons, – the hot, the cold, and the

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rainy. During the time of the summer heats, when the burning plains are not pleasant to live in, they enjoyed the cool breezes at a monastery in the hills of Kapisa beyond Kabul, which was erected specially for their accommodation. The Chinese prince deposited a store of jewels as an endowment for this establishment before his return home, and was gratefully remembered for centuries. When Hiuen Tsang visited the place in the seventh century, he found the walls adorned with paintings of the prince and his companions attired in the garb of China, while the resident monks still honoured the memory of their benefactor with prayers and offerings. The residence of the hostages during the cold season was at an unidentified place in the Eastern Panjab, to which the name of Chinapati was given in consequence. The situation of their abode during the rains is not mentioned An incidental result of the stay of the hostages in Kanishka’s dominions was the introduction of the pear and peach, both of which had been previously unknown in India.

The biographer of Hiuen Tsang tells a curious story about the treasure deposited by the Chinese prince as an endowment for the Chinapati shrine, which was known to be buried under the feet of the image of Vaisravana, the Great Spirit King, at the south side of the eastern gate of the hall of Buddha. An impious raja who tried to appropriate the hoard was frightened away by portents which seemed to indicate the displeasure of its guardian spirit, and when the monks endeavoured to make use of it for the purpose of repairing

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the shrine, in accordance with the donor’s intention, they too were terrified by similar manifestations.

While Hiuen Tsang was lodging at the shrine during the rainy season, the monks besought him to use his influence with the spirit to obtain permission to expend the treasure on urgently needed repairs of the steeple. The pilgrim complied, burned incense, and duly assured the guardian spirit that no waste or misappropriation would be permitted. The workmen who were set to dig up the spot then suffered no molestation, and at a depth of seven or eight feet found a great copper vessel containing several hundredweights of gold and a quantity of pearls. The balance of the treasure left after the repairs to the steeple has doubtless been appropriated long since by excavators less scrupulous than the pious Master of the Law.

The monks of the Chinapati monastery were followers of the ancient form of Buddhism known as the Hinayana, or Lesser Vehicle, and the narrative implies that the Chinese prince belonged to the same sect. If he was really a Buddhist, it is of interest to speculate whether he brought his creed with him or learned it in India. The stories dating from the seventh century which narrate the arrival of Buddhist missionaries in China in 217 B.C., although favourably regarded by Professor Terrien de Lacouperie, are generally disbelieved and are highly improbable.

The missionaries despatched by Asoka in the middle of the third century B.C. were directed to the south and west, not to the east, and there is little or no evidence

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of intercourse between India and China before the time of the Yueh-chi invasion. The statement that the Emperor Ming-ti sent for Buddhist teachers in or about 64 A.D., although rejected by Wassiljew, has been accepted by most writers; but even those authors who admit the fact that Buddhist missionaries reached China at that date allow that their influence was very slight and limited. The effective introduction of Buddhism into China appears not to have taken place until the reign of Hwan-ti, about the middle of the second century, when “the people of China generally adopted this new religion, and its followers became numerous.” This development of Chinese Buddhism was apparently the direct result of Kanishka’s conquest of Khotan, and it is consequently improbable that the Han prince brought his Buddhist creed with him. It may be assumed that he adopted it during his stay in India and that when he returned home he became an agent for its diffusion in his native land. Wassiljew’s view that the Buddhist religion did not become widely known in China until the fourth century is not inconsistent with the belief that the Indian system was effectively introduced to a limited extent two centuries earlier.

The stories told about Kanishka’s conversion and his subsequent zeal for Buddhism have so much resemblance to the Asoka legends that it is difficult to decide how far they are traditions of actual fact, and how far merely echoes of an older tradition. The Yueh-chi monarch did not record passages from his autobiography as Asoka did, and when we are informed in the

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pages of a pious tract that his conversion was due to remorse for the bloodshed during his wars, it is impossible to check the statement. Probably it is merely an echo of the story of Asoka, as told by himself.

Naga people worshipping the trisul emblem of Buddha, on a fiery pillar

from a bas-relief at Amaravati

Just as the writers of edifying books sought to enhance the glory of Asoka’s conversion to the creed of the mild Sakya sage by blood-curdling tales of his fiendish cruelty during the days of his unbelief, so Kanishka was alleged to have had no faith either in right or wrong, and to have lightly esteemed the law of Buddha during his earlier life. The most authentic evidence on the subject of his changes of faith is afforded by the long and varied series of his coins, which, like all ancient coinages, reflect the religious ideas of the monarch in whose name they were struck. The finest, and presumably the earliest, pieces bear legends,

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Greek both in script and language, with effigies of the sun and moon personified under their Greek names, Helios and Selene. On later issues the Greek script is retained, but the language is a form of old Persian, while the deities depicted are a strange medley of the gods worshipped by Greeks, Persians, and Indians. The rare coins exhibiting images of Buddha Sakyamuni with his name in Greek letters are usually considered to be among the latest of the, reign, but they are well executed and may be earlier in date than is generally supposed. It is impossible to fix the exact date of Kanishka’s conversion, but the event evidently did not occur until he had been for some years on the throne.

The appearance of the Buddha among a crowd of heterogeneous deities would have appeared strange, in fact would have been inconceivable to Asoka, while it seemed quite natural to Kanishka. The newer Buddhism of his day, designated as the Mahayana, or Great Vehicle, was largely of foreign origin, and developed as the result of the complex interaction of Indian, Zoroastrian, Christian, Gnostic, and Hellenic elements, which was made possible by the conquests of Alexander, the formation of the Maurya empire in India, and, above all, by the unification of the Roman world under the sway of the earlier emperors. In this newer Buddhism the sage Gautama became in practice, if not in theory, a god, with his ears open to the prayers of the faithful, and served by a hierarchy of Bodhisattvas and other beings acting as mediators between him and sinful

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men. Such a Buddha rightly took a place among the gods of the nations comprised in Kanishka’s widespread empire, and the monarch, even after his “conversion,” probably continued to honour both the old and the new gods, as, in a later age, Harsha did alternate reverence to Siva and Buddha.

External Elevation of the Great Rail at Amaravati

The celebrated Gandhara sculptures, of which the best examples date from the time of Kanishka and his

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proximate successors, give vivid expression in classical forms of considerable artistic merit to this modified Buddhism, a religion with a complicated mythology and well-filled pantheon. The florid Corinthian capitals and many other characteristic features of the style prove that the Gandhara school was merely a branch of the cosmopolitan Greco-Roman art of the early empire.

In Buddhist ecclesiastical history the reign of Kanishka is specially celebrated for the convocation of a council, organized on the model of that supposed to have been summoned by Asoka. Kanishka’s council, which is ignored by the Ceylonese chroniclers, who probably never heard of it, is known only from the traditions of Northern India, as preserved by Tibetan, Chinese, and Mongolian writers. The accounts of this assembly, like those of the earlier councils, are discrepant, and the place of meeting is named variously as the Kundalavana Vihara, somewhere in Kashmir, the Kuvana monastery at Jalandhar in the north of the Panjab, or Kandahar.

According to some authorities, the assembly, like its predecessors, was concerned with the compilation and expurgation of the scriptures purporting to be the very words of Buddha, while, according to others, its business was restricted to the preparation of elaborate commentaries on all the three pitakas, or main divisions, of the pre-existing canon. Comparison of the different authorities may be held to justify the conclusion that the council was a reality; that it met first

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somewhere in Kashmir, and adjourned to Jalandhar (or, possibly, met first in Jalandhar, and adjourned to Kashmir), where it completed its sittings; and that it set the stamp of its approval on certain commentaries prepared in accordance with the teaching of the Sarvastivadin school, and its derivative, the Vaibashika. If it be true, as Hiuen Tsang was told, that the works authorized by the council were engraved on copper plates and deposited in a stupa, it is possible that they may yet be revealed by some lucky chance. But the vagueness of the statements concerning the locality of the council precludes the possibility of deliberate search for the alleged records of its decisions. The assembly is said to have been convened by the king on the advice of a saint named Parsvika, and to have sat under the presidency of Vasumitra.

The legends published by M. Sylvain Levi include a strange tale professing to relate the end of Kanishka, which may possibly be founded on fact.

“The king,” so runs the story, “had a minister named Mathara, of unusual intelligence. He addressed Kanishka in these words: Sire, if you wish to follow the advice of your servant, your power will assuredly bring the whole world into subjection. All will submit to you, and the eight regions will take refuge in your merit. Think over what your servant has said, but do not divulge it.’ The king replied: ‘ Very well, it shall be as you say.’ Then the minister called together the able generals and equipped a force of the four arms. Wherever the king turned, all men

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bowed before him like herbage under hail. The peoples of three regions came in to make their submission; under the hoofs of the horse ridden by King Kanishka everything either bent or broke. The king said: ‘ I have subjugated three regions; all men have taken refuge with me; the region of the north alone has not come in to make its submission. If I subjugate it, I shall never again take advantage of an opportunity against any one, be he who he may; but I do not yet know the best way to succeed in this undertaking.’ The king’s people, having heard these words, took counsel together and said: The king is greedy, cruel, and unreasonable; his campaigns and continued conquests have wearied the mass of his servants. He knows not how to be content, but wants to reign over the four quarters. The garrisons are stationed on distant frontiers, and our relatives are far from us. Such being the situation, we must agree among ourselves, and get rid of him. After that we may be happy.’ As he was ill, they covered him with a quilt, a man sat on top of him, and the king died on the spot.”

The reign of Kanishka appears to have lasted some twenty-five or thirty years, and may be assumed to have terminated about 150 A.D.

Very little is known about the successors of Kanishka. He was immediately followed by Huvishka, or Hushka, who was probably his son, and appears to have retained undiminished the great empire to which he succeeded. His dominions certainly included Kabul, Kashmir, Gaya, and Mathura. At the last named city, a

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splendid Buddhist monastery bore his name and no doubt owed its existence to his munificence, for, like Kanishka, he was a liberal patron of Buddhist ecclesiastical institutions. But he also resembled his more famous predecessor in an eclectic taste for a strange medley of Greek, Indian, and Persian deities. The types on the coins of Huvishka include Heracles, Sarapis, Skanda with his son Visakha, Pharro, the fire-god, and many others, but the figure and name of Buddha are wanting. It would seem that the Buddhist convictions of these old Turkish kings were not very deeply seated, and it is probably justifiable to hold that the royal favour was granted to the powerful monastic organization of the Buddhists as much as to their creed. No prudent monarch in those days could afford to neglect the wealthy and influential order, which had spread its ramifications all over the empire.

The town of Hushkapura, founded by Huvishka in Kashmir, occupied a position of exceptional importance just inside the Baramula Pass, then known as the “western gate” of the valley, and continued for centuries to be a place of note. When Hiuen Tsang visited Kashmir about 631 A.D., he enjoyed the liberal hospitality of the Hushkapura monastery for several days, and was escorted thence with all honour to the capital, where he found numerous religious institutions, attended by some five thousand monks. The town of Hushkapura is now represented by the small village of Ushkur, at which the ruins of an ancient stupa are visible.

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The reign of Huvishka was undoubtedly prolonged, but all memory of its political events has perished. His abundant and varied coinage is little inferior in interest or artistic merit to that of Kanishka, with which it is constantly associated, and, like the contemporary sculpture, testifies to the continuance of Hellenistic influence. A few specimens of the gold coinage present well executed and characteristic portraits of the king, who was a determined-looking man, with strongly marked features, large, deep-set eyes, and an aquiline nose. So far as appears, the Kushan power suffered no diminution during his reign.

Huvishka was succeeded by Vasudeva, whose thoroughly Indian name is a proof of the rapidity with which the foreign invaders had succumbed to the influence of their environment. Testimony to the same fact is borne by his coins, almost all of which exhibit on the reverse the figure of the Indian god Siva, attended by his bull Nandi, and accompanied by the noose, trident, and other insignia of Hindu iconography. The inscriptions of Vasudeva, found chiefly at Mathura, certainly range in date from the year 74 to the year 98 of the era used in the Kushan age, and indicate a reign of not less than twenty-five years. If the Sanchi inscription bears the date 68, the reign would have lasted about thirty-five years.

It is evident that the Kushan power must have been decadent during the latter part of the long reign of Vasudeva, and apparently before its close, or immediately after that event, the vast empire of Kanishka

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obeyed the usual law governing Oriental monarchies, and broke up into fragments, after a brief period of splendid unity. Coins bearing the name of Vasudeva continued to be struck long after he had passed away, and ultimately present the royal figure clad in the garb of Persia, and manifestly imitated from the effigy of Sapor (Shahpur) I, the Sasanian monarch who ruled Persia from 238 to 269 A.D.

Absolutely nothing is known positively concerning the means by which this renewed Persian influence made itself felt in the interior of India. Bahram (Varahran) II is known to have conducted a campaign in Sistan at some time between 277 and 294, but there is no record of any Sasanian invasion of India in the third century, during which period all the ordinary sources of historical information dry up. No inscriptions certainly referable to that time have been discovered, and the coinage, issued by merely local rulers, gives little help. Certain it is that two great paramount dynasties, the Kushan in Northern India, and the Andhra in the table-land of the Deccan, disappear together almost at the moment when the Arsakidan dynasty of Persia was superseded by the Sasanian. It is impossible to avoid hazarding the conjecture that the three events were in some way connected, and that the Persianizing of the Kushan coinage of Northern India should be explained by the occurrence of an unrecorded Persian invasion. But the conjecture is unsupported by direct evidence, and the invasion, if it really took place, would seem to have been the work of predatory

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tribes subject to Iranian influence, rather than a regular attack by a Persian king.

So much, however, is clear that Vasudeva was the last Kushan king who continued to hold extensive territories in India. After his death there is no indication of the existence of a paramount power in Northern India. Probably numerous rajas asserted their independence and formed a number of short-lived states, such as commonly arise from the ruins of a great Oriental monarchy; but historical material for the third century is so completely lacking that it is impossible to say what or how many those states were.

The period was evidently one of extreme confusion, associated with foreign invasions from the northwest, which is reflected in the muddled statements of the Vishnu Purana concerning the Abhiras, Gardabhilas, Sakas, Yavanas, Bahlikas, and other outlandish dynasties named as the successors of the Andhras. The dynasties thus enumerated were clearly to a large extent contemporary, not consecutive, and none of them could claim paramount rank. It seems to be quite ‘hopeless to attempt to reduce to order the Puranic accounts of this anarchical period, and nothing would be gained by quoting a long list of names, the very forms of which are uncertain.

Coins indicate that the Kushans held their own in the Panjab and Kabul for a long time. It is certain that the Kushan Kings of Kabul continued to be a considerable power until the fifth century, when they were overthrown by the White Huns. At the beginning of

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the fourth century one of them gave a daughter in marriage to Hormazd II, the Sasanian King of Persia, and when Sapor II besieged Amida, in 360 A.D., his victory over the Roman garrison was won with the aid of Indian elephants and Kushan troops under the command of their aged king, Grumbates, who occupied the place of honour and was supported by the Sakas of Sistan.

Indian palms

It is difficult to judge how far the foreign chiefs who ruled the Panjab during the third century and struck coins similar to those of Vasudeva, yet with a difference, were Kushans, and how far they belonged to other Asiatic tribes. The marginal legends of the coins of this class, which are written in a modified Greek script, preserve the name either of Kanishka or Vasu [deva] Kushan, King of Kings, and so recognize

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the Kushan supremacy; but the name in Indian letters placed by the side of the spear is frequently monosyllabic, like a Chinese name, Bha, Ga, Vi, and so forth. These monosyllabic names seem to belong to chiefs of various Central Asian tribes who invaded India and acknowledged the supremacy of the Kushan or Shahi Kings of Kabul. One coin with the modified Kushan obverse, and the names Bashana, Nu, Pakaldhi (?) in Indian Brahmi characters in various parts of the field, has on the reverse a fire altar of the type found on the coins of the earliest Sasanian kings. It is thus clear that in some way or other, during the third century, the Panjab renewed its ancient connection with Persia.

Nothing definite is recorded concerning the dynasties of Northern India, excluding the Panjab, during the third century, and the early part of the fourth. The imperial city of Pataliputra is known to have continued to be a place of importance as late as the fifth century, but there is not even the slightest indication of the nature of the dynasty which ruled there during the third. The only intelligible dynastic list for the period is that of the Saka satraps of Western India, whose history will be more conveniently noticed in the next chapter in connection with that of the Gupta emperors.

This collection transcribed by Chris Gage
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