The downfall of the Kushans Empire

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The downfall of the Kushana Empire


The Kushana Empire went the way of all other empires in history and fell victim to decay and fall, the inexorable law of Nature.

Kanishka’s rule saw the Kushana Empire reach its meridian but it did not take too long to reach its final setting. Huvishka was the last Kushana King under whom the Kushana Empire did not suffer any diminution. But from Vasudeva’s time decadence set in and as it happened with most of the empires, centrifugal forces began to gain momentum and different parts of the empire fell off from it and the weakness was taken advantage of by foreign invaders. The break up of the empire into fragments after a period of splendid unity must have been hastened by a terrible plague which started in Babylonia, and stalked the Roman empire, Parthia and India.

The final break up of the empire was complete during the weak successors of Vasudeva. It is true that the Kushanas who had become totally Indianised, adopted Indian social customs, religion and culture yet the ruling houses dispossessed by them were not reconciled to their rule and as soon as the Kushan rulers showed signs of weakness, the Indians rose in revolt. The Yaudheyas the Kunindas, the Madras, the Arjunayanas, the Nagas, Padmavati, Acchatra and Kantipuri and Maghas pulled down the mighty edifice.

The Yaudheyas threw off the Kushana allegiance in the south-eastern Punjab where they had been ruling before they were brought under the Kushana suzerainty. The Kunindas made themselves independent in the Sutlej Valley of the Punjab and most probably joined hands with the Yaudheyas in expelling the Kushanas from the eastern Punjab. The Madras or the Madrakas made themselves independent in the region between the Ravi and the Chenub. The Arjunayanas also regained their independence after the collapse of the Kushana power.

In the territory below the confluence of the rivers Jhelum and the Chenab extending towards the Ravi and Malavas who had once put up a brave resistance to Alexander later migrated to the Vidhya plateau where they overthrew the Kushana suzerainty and became independent till the rise of Samudragupta.

From the Allahabad Pillar inscriptions and the Puranas we come across the names of the Naga rulers of northern India. These princes were Nagadatta, Nagasena and Ganapatinaga. Their two different families were ruling at Mathura and at Padmavati in the Navwar district of Gwalior. A third family was ruling at Kautit near Mirzapur in the Uttar Pradesh. According to Altekar the title Bharasiva was adopted by the Nagas who were worshippers of Siva. The Naga kings of Padmavati possibly raided the Kushana territories and temporarily held sway over the Ganges Valley.

The Maghas of Kausambi originally belonged to Rewa in the Vindhya Pradesh but in course of time they extended their sway over Kausambi and neighboring regions. They were originally feudatories of the Kushana kings but later they became independent as their coins prove. They remained independent rulers before Kausambi was annexed by Samudragupta to his empire.

Thus was the Kushana Empire broke into pieces and its different parts fell off from the empire. The weak successors, however, continued to rule in the northern and north-western parts of India and parts of Afghanistan. But with the rise of the Sassanian power in Iran under Ardeshir I there began expansion of the Sassanian power in the east. Ardeshir I came as far as Khorasan whereupon the Kushana king who was still ruling in the north-west of India and beyond sent his envoy and acknowledged the suzerainty of Ardeshir. But in course of time the Sassanian power spread over parts of western and central India and Bactria and the whole of north-western India became provinces of the Sassanian Empire. An attempt at regaining independence by the Kushanas appears to have failed. There is no doubt that the rising empire of the Sassanians administered a staggering blow to the declining strength of the Kushanas who were ruling in northern, north-western parts of India and beyond.

Some remnants of the Kushana rule lingered for sometime more in local areas of some parts of the Punjab, Kashmir, north-western province etc. this is proved by numismatic evidence. They took a new name and were known as Kidara. It is difficult to determine the period of their rule, but under the presence of the Gupta emperors of India and the Sassanians the remnants of the Kushana power faded away.

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