India – History and Society – for those who wish to think and learn for themselves
The Kushan empire was perhaps one of the greatest empires at the time of Christ. Formed by immigrants from north-west China, displaced from their own homelands by other tribes, the Kushans (derived from the Chinese term Guishang) migrated into north-west India, modern day Pakistan and Afghanistan in the region known as Gandhara two thousand years ago. Taking advantage of the weakening Indo-Greek, Scythian (Caspian region) and Parthian (modern day Persian) kingdoms formed after the visit of Alexander the Great, the Kushans established centres of power and learning such as Taxila, Peshawar and Mathura. Art flourished and so did philosophy. Buddhist thought was deliberated and debated even as remarkable doctrines of strategy were enunciated.
Kanishka, the third emperor of the Kushans, remains one of the most revered rulers of India. His capital was Purushpura (modern day Peshawar), with regional centres at Taxila (in Pakistan), Begram (in Afghanistan) and Mathura (on the Delhi-Agra highway in India).
It was under Kanishka’s patronage that the northern Indian subcontinent moved from Greek (Hellenistic) traditions and languages, to Indo-Iranian (Bactrian) traditions and culture. Kanishka’s subsequent interest and adoption of Buddhism, led to Buddhism being introduced into China for the first significant time. He therefore remains venerated by Buddhists as a key individual whose influence helped spread Buddhism beyond India.
Use the link below to read more about the Kushans at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Manhattan:
The Kanishka sthupa near Peshawar (the ruins of which were identified in 1908-1909) was perhaps one of the wonders of world, reportedly rising 600 feet with a base of 87 metres diameter. Several Chinese travelers reported it to be one the grandest towers they had ever encountered. Its probable remnants were identified at Shahji-ki-dheri (The King’s mounds) in Central Peshawar.
A map of Peshawar with the site of the sthupa to the south of the Peshawar Cantonment Railway Station: