Kanishka was the greatest ruler and king of Kushan Empire in Ancient India. He was a foreigner by birth. But he had deep love for India. He adopted Buddhism as his religion. By his conquests, by religious activities and by patronizing the Indian culture, he made the Kushan period eminently distinguished. Emperor Kanishka had succeeded Kadphises II as the third king of the Kushan dynasty. No direct relationship has been established between Kanishka and his predecessor Kadphises II. But his immediate succession to the throne after him suggests that he was the next in line to rule over the empire.
The era started by King Kanishka came to be known as the Sakabda or Saka era. Hence, the Saka era was founded by Kanishka I. - FOUNDER OF SAKA ERA
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.
Extent of Kanishka Empire: The empire of Kanishka thus extended from Persia to Pataliputra and included Kapisa, Gandhara, Kashmir, Punjab, Sindh and Malwa, besides of course the valley of the Ganges up to Patna. The Chinese territories like Khotan and Yarkand also formed a part of the Kushana Empire. It was a unique empire in the sense that the most of Central Asia, a large area of China beyond the Pamir Passes and a great portion of northern and western India formed its component parts. The southern extent of the empire touched the Vindhya Mountains.
The capital of the empire, Purushapura, was more or less centrally situated. There are evidences to show that Kanishka made it a great city. As a political centre, a military stronghold, and a sacred place of Buddhism, Purushapura attained the status of other notable ancient capitals like Pataliputra. Recent archaeological discoveries show that this famous city of Kanishka was situated near the modern capital of the North-West Frontier Province, Peshawar.
Coins: The coins of Kanishka give a proof that he slowly and gradually drifted from the influence of Greek and Persian religions and adopted Hindu and Buddhist ways of life. The early coins indicate his association with Greeks and their Philosophy. These coins are Greek in character, script and even language. But the later coins replace the Greek ones with the Persian script and the figures of Persian gods. But, later on, he adopted the Hindu gods and soon we find the image of Buddha on some of his coins.
Kanishka and Buddhism
Kanishka's reputation in Buddhist tradition regarded with utmost importance as he not only believed in Buddhism but also encouraged its teachings as well,as a proof of it, he administered the Council's|4th Buddhist Council in Kashmir as the head of the council . Images of the Buddha based on 32 physical signs were made during his time.
He encouraged both Gandhara school of Greco-Buddhist Art and the Mathura school of Hindu art (An inescapable religious syncretism pervades Kushana rule). Kanishka personally seems to have embraced both Buddhism and the Persian attributes but he favored Buddhism more as it can be proven by his devotion to the Buddhist teachings and prayer styles depicted in various books related to kushan empire.
His greatest contribution to Buddhist architecture was the Kanishka stupa at Peshawar, Pakistan. Archaeologists who rediscovered the base of it in 1908–1909 ascertained that this stupa had a diameter of 286 feet (87 metres). Reports of Chinese pilgrims such as Xuanzang indicate that its height was 600 to 700 (Chinese) "feet" (= roughly 180–210 metres or 591–689 ft.) and was covered with jewels. Certainly this immense multi-storied building ranks among the wonders of the ancient world.
Kanishka is said to have been particularly close to the Buddhist scholar Ashvaghosha, who became his religious advisor in his later years. At the time of Kanishka's coronation and when India's first gold coin was minted, Yuz Asaf was the spiritual advisor to the king.
In the manga series, Berserk, the Emperor Ganishka working as Griffith's enemy in Berserk was based on King Kanishka. In the manga, he is also a profound Buddhist and adorned his empire with its respective figures and promoted it vigorously. Like his real-life counterpart, Ganishka also decorates his palace with famous Buddhist figures, but has demonised them to suit his nature. In the story he takes many forms such as an Apostle creature who can control the elements, namely wind and lightning as well as later transforming into a beastly form of himself referred to as "Shiva" by his followers, named after one of the forms of the Hindu God. In this final form he reaches such a heightened sense of euphoria that the denizens of the planet mean little to him as he crushes them with his giant stature in what is perceived by those of the planet as mindless. In his final moments before his defeat at the hands of his enemy, Griffith, he witnesses a bright light and is transformed into a new kingdom for Griffith and his followers.
"Kanishka" is also one of the most popular songs by Argentine rock band Los Brujos, referring to the Kushan King and his wife, released in the album Fin de semana Salvaje (Wild Weekend).
Saka era (Shalivahana era, Sakabda)
The zero year of Saka era (also Shalivahana era, Sakabda) began in 78 A.D.
Kanishka succeeded to the throne of Kushan Empire in 78 A.D.
The Christian year 78 A.D. has been accepted by most historians as the year of the foundation of the Saka Era. For centuries thereafter and till now, this era has continued to dominate the Indian reckoning of the years and time.
It appears paradoxical that though Kanishka was a Kushana Emperor, and not a Saka. Yet the era founded by him became famous as the Saka Era.
This was probably for the fact that to the Indian people of that time the Sakas and the Kushanas appeared as the same type of external tribes to pass under a common name as Saka. Since the Sakas came and settled earlier, and also became Indianized before the Kushans, their name became more familiar to the Indians. Thus that the Kushanas also passed under that name among the common people, and therefore, the era of Kanishka became famous as the Saka Era.
The Sakas in India (Saka Kingdom)
The Sakas were originally nomadic tribes of Central Asia but about 165-160 B.C. they were driven out of their land by another powerful nomadic tribe, the Yeuh-chi. They in turn swooped down on the Bactrian and Parthian empire and conquered a large portion of them between 140 to 120 B.C. As more and more of the Sakas were coming, the earlier ones pressed forward and some of them crossed the Hindukush and the Suleiman ranges and settled in the North-West of India.
Some of them got employment under the Parthian rulers and rose to the rank of “Satraps” or “viceroys.” This title was so much liked by the Sakas that even when they became independent rulers they continued to be called “Satraps”.
Slowly and steadily they established many independent kingdoms in the North-West of India, the chief among them are the following:
1. The Northern Saka Kingdom of Taxila
In fact it is very difficult to distinguish between the later Parthians and the Saka Satraps. Perhaps the first Saka rule of India was Maus, who is also linked with the Parthian history. He made Taxila as his capital and ruled over Gandhara and the territories around it. Towards the end of the first century B.C. he was a powerful king who assumed the title of “the great king of kings.” Maus was followed by Azes I and Azes II who are said to have extended their sway over eastern Punjab. Beyond this nothing definite is known about them.
2. The Northern Sakas Kingdom of Mathura
It is not known as to who the founder of this Saka kingdom of Mathura was or who shifted his capital from North-West of India to this place. But the Saka Satrap of Mathura made a great progress.
3. The Western Sakas Kingdom of Nasik
Because of certain pressure from the Yueh-Chi and Kushan tribes, who followed the Sakas in India, some of the Saka chiefs moved towards south and extended their sway over a vast area including Malwa, Gujarat, Cutch, Kathiawar and Maharashtra. These Satraps who ruled over this western region are known as the Western Satraps or Western Sakas.
4. The Saka Kingdom of Ujjain (Western Satraps)
The most important Saka kingdom was that of Ujjain. The founder of this kingdom was Chastana who came to the throne in about 78 A.D. According to some historians it was he who was the originator of the famous Saka era which begins from 78 A.D. He made Ujjain as his capital and ruled for about thirty two years. There were about twenty successors of Chastana who ruled from Ujjain for many centuries (from 1st Century to 4th Century A.D.).
The most famous successor of Chastana was Rudradaman I who is supposed to have ruled from 120 to 150 A.D. He was a great conqueror whose military exploits are vividly described in the Junagadh Rock Inscription, He defeated the proud Yaudheyas and wrested from them a great portion of their empire including the Eastern Punjab. His most important military achievement was against the Andhras. He conquered back all those territories from the Andhras which were once lost during the life time of his grand-father, Chastana, when Gautamiputra Satakarni conquered them. The Andhra king whom he defeated was Sri Pulmavi. Later on the differences were, however, patched up when Rudradaman married his daughter with the Andhra king. Rudradaman thus ruled over a vast region which included such territories as Gujarat, Saurashtra, Kutch, the lower Indus Valley, North Konkan, and Maru (in Rajputana) and many other parts including Eastern Punjab.
Some of these territories were definitely under Gautamiputra Satakarni. So we can conclude that Rudradaman wrested many parts from the Satavahanas or the Andhras.
After his death or Rudradaman in about 140 A.D.) his seventeen successors tried to maintain their ancestral kingdom, but ultimately their state was annexed by the rising Guptas (Chandragupta II) in the fourth century A.D.
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