Much of the information today, we have about the Kushan empire and its Kings come from the “Rabatak inscription”, which was found in the late 20th century (1993). Rabatak was basically written on a rock in the Bactrian language and the Greek script which was found at the site of Rabatak, near Surkh Kotal in Afghanistan.
The inscription relates to the rule of the Kushan emperor Kanishka and gives remarkable clues on the genealogy of the Kushan dynasty. “Kanishka I” or “Kanishka the Great” was the emperor of the Kushan dynasty in the second century (c. AD 127–150). He is believed to be the third emperor of the Kushan dynasty. He was famous for his military, political, and spiritual achievements.
The Kushan and the Kanishka ruled middle of the world from the Aral Sea to the Bay of Bengal. Over a run of time, Kanishka conquered the plains of India and had his new Indian capital, the city of “Mathura”.
A descendant of Kushan empire founder Kujula Kadphises, Kanishka came to rule an empire in Bactria extending from Turfan in the Tarim Basin to Pataliputra on the Gangetic plain. The main capital of his empire was located at Puruṣapura in Gandhara, with another major capital at Kapisa.
His conquests and patronage of Buddhism played an important role in the development of the Silk Road, and the transmission of Mahayana Buddhism from Gandhara across the Karakoram range to China.
Earlier scholars believed that Kanishka ascended the throne in 78 CE and this date was used as the beginning of the Saka calendar era. However, this date is now not regarded as the historical date of Kanishka’s accession. Kanishka is estimated to have accessed the throne in AD 127.
What did Kanishka’s coins depict?
Kanishka had introduced several coins during his era. Kanishka’s coins portray images of Indian, Greek and Iranian images demonstrating the religious syncretism in his beliefs. Kanishka’s coins from the beginning of his reign bear legends in Greek language and script and depict Greek divinities. Later coins bear legends in Bactrian, the Iranian language that the Kushans evidently spoke, and Greek divinities were replaced by corresponding Iranian ones. All of Kanishka’s coins – even ones with a legend in the Bactrian language – were written in a modified Greek script that had one additional glyph (Ϸ) to represent /š/ (sh), as in the word ‘Kushan’ and ‘Kanishka’.
On his coins, the king is typically depicted as a bearded man in a long coat and trousers gathered at the ankle, with flames emanating from his shoulders. He wears large rounded boots, and is armed with a long sword similar to a scimitar as well as a lance. He is frequently seen to be making a sacrifice on a small altar. The lower half of a life-size limestone relief of Kanishka similarly attired, with a stiff embroidered surplice beneath his coat and spurs attached to his boots under the light gathered folds of his trousers, survived in the Kabul Museum until it was destroyed by the Taliban.
Afghanistan has not forgotten “Samrat Kanishka”!
Have a look at the video below, were former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee shared his experience relating to Samrat Kanishka in Afghanistan. It so happened that, the Hotel in which he stayed there was named after “Kanishka”!!
He talks about how he was astonished looking at it as Afghanistan was an Islamic country. And he says he had Afghanistan’s foreign minister sitting next to him, and Vajpayee asked him, what Kanishka’s name was doing there? And what connection did Afghanistan have with Samrat Kanishka?
What the minister replied was “Kanishka is our ancestor. He was one among our fore fathers”. Vajpayee ji was stunned by this answer. And he replied, in that case our ancestors are the same.
He expresses that Afghanistan might have forgotten their base but have not forgotten their culture and tradition and are still following it. Though India has forgotten doing this duty, Afghanistan did fail to forget it. However, this hotel was later destroyed by the Taliban.
When the Indians have forgotten this great Samrat, Afghanistan has given him the recognition and respect he deserves. Maybe Indians would respect him if he was one among the rulers like Aurangzeb, Alauddin Khilji and other Mughal rulers, who looted Indian treasures and destroyed India though, are honoured in our country. There are certain sold media, intellectuals, secularists and the liberals who will definitely have a problem with giving that importance to Kanishka in India. The agenda of the ones against the nation is more promoted than of those great leaders. It is unfortunate on the part of India and Indians that this fake secularism is promoted from the times of Independence in India.
The true Indians salute you, Samrat Kanishka!