Some traces remain of the presence of the Kushan in the area of Bactria and Sogdiana. Archaeological structures are known in Takht-I-Sangin, Surkh Kotal (a monumental temple), and in the palace of Khalchayan. Various sculptures and friezes are known, representing horse-riding archers, and significantly men with artificially deformed skulls, such as the Kushan prince of Khalchayan (a practice well attested in nomadic Central Asia). On the ruins of ancient Hellenistic cities such as Ai-Khanoum, the Kushans are known to have built fortresses. The earliest documented ruler, and the first one to proclaim himself as a Kushan ruler was Heraios. He calls himself a “Tyrant” on his coins, and also exhibits skull deformation. He may have been an ally of the Greeks, and he shared the same style of coinage. Heraios may have been the father of the first Kushan emperor Kujula Kadphises.
In the following century, the Guishuang (Ch: 貴霜) gained prominence over the other Yuezhi tribes, and welded them into a tight confederation under yabgu (Commander) Kujula Kadphises. The name Guishuang was adopted in the West and modified into Kushan to designate the confederation, although the Chinese continued to call them Yuezhi.
Gradually wresting control of the area from the Scythian tribes, the Kushans expanded south into the region traditionally known as Gandhara (An area lying primarily in Pakistan’s Pothowar, and Northwest Frontier Provinces region but going in an arc to include Kabul valley and part of Qandahar in Afghanistan) and established twin capitals near present-day Kabul and Peshawar then known as Kapisa and Pushklavati respectively.
The Kushans adopted elements of the Hellenistic culture of Bactria. They adapted the Greek alphabet to suit their own language (with the additional development of the letter Þ “sh”, as in “Kushan”) and soon began minting coinage on the Greek model. On their coins, they used Greek language legends combined with Pali legends (in the Kharoshthi script), until the first few years of the reign of Kanishka. After that date, they used Kushan language legends (in an adapted Greek script), combined with legends in Greek (Greek script) and legends in Pali (Kharoshthi script).
The Kushans are believed to have been predominantly Zoroastrian and later Buddhist as well. However, from the time of Wima Takto, many Kushans started adopting aspects of Indic culture. Like the Egyptians. they absorbed the strong remnants of the Greek Culture of the Hellenistic Kingdoms, becoming at least partly Hellenised. The first great Kushan emperor, Wima Kadphises, may have embraced Saivism, as surmised by coins minted during the period. The following Kushan emperors represented a wide variety of faiths including Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and possibly Saivism.
The rule of the Kushans linked the seagoing trade of the Indian Ocean with the commerce of the Silk Road through the long-civilized Indus Valley. At the height of the dynasty, the Kushans loosely oversaw a territory that extended to the Aral Sea through present-day Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan into northern India.
The bricks of Qila Mubarak in Bathinda, arguably the oldest fort in India, have been dated back to Kushan times (1st century BCE). The loose unity and comparative peace of such a vast expanse encouraged long-distance trade, brought Chinese silks to Rome, and created strings of flourishing urban centers.
Vima Takto or Vima Taktu was a Kushan emperor around 80-90
The Kushan religious pantheon is extremely varied, as revealed by their coins and their seals, on which more than 30 different gods appear, belonging to the Hellenistic, the Iranian, and to a lesser extent the Indian world. Greek deities, with Greek names are represented on early coins. During Kanishka’s reign, the language of the coinage changes to Bactrian (though it remained in Greek script for all kings). After Huvishka, only two divinities appear on the coins: Ardoxsho and Oesho (see details below).
Representation of entities from Greek mythology and Hellenistic syncretism are:
- Ηλιος (Helios), Ηφαηστος (Hephaistos), Σαληνη (Selene), Ανημος (Anemos). Further, the coins of Huvishka also portray two demi-gods: erakilo Heracles, and sarapo Sarapis.
The Indic entities represented on coinage include:
- Βοδδο (boddo, Buddha)
- Μετραγο Βοδδο (metrago boddo, bodhisattava Maitreya)
- Mαασηνo (maaseno, Mahasena)
- Σκανδo koμαρo (skando komaro, Skanda Kumara)
- Ϸακαμανο Βοδδο (shakamano boddho, Shakyamuni Buddha)
The Iranic entities depicted on coinage include:
- Αρδοχϸο (ardoxsho, Ashi Vanghuhi)
- A?αειχ?o (ashaeixsho, Asha Vahishta)
- Αθϸο (athsho, Atar)
- Φαρρο (pharro, Khwarenah)
- Λροοασπο (lrooaspa, Drvaspa)
- Μαναοβαγο, (manaobago, Vohu Manah)
- Μαο (mao, Mah)
- Μιθρο, Μιιρο, Μιορο, Μιυρο (mithro and variants, Mithra)
- Μοζδοοανο (mozdooano, Mazda *vana “Mazda the victorious?”)
- Νανα, Ναναια, Ναναϸαο (variations of pan-Asiatic nana, Sogdian nny, in a Zoroastrian context Aredvi Sura Anahita)
- Οαδο (oado Vata)
- Oαxϸo (oaxsho, “Oxus”)
- Ooρoμoζδο (ooromozdo, Ahura Mazda)
- Οραλαγνο (orlagno, Verethragna)
- Τιερο (tiero, Tir)
|Religion||Central Asian Cults
Ancient Greek religion
|– 60-80||Kujula Kadphises|
|– Kujula Kadphises unites Yuezhi tribes into a confederation||60s|
|– Subjugated by the Gupta Empire||375|
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