Kushana Empire

The word Kushan derived from the Chinese term Guishuang, which refers to one of the branches of Yuezhi. The Kushan Empire was a Syncretic Empire; this empire was formed during the 1st century CE; in the Bactrian territories. The Kushan dynasty was associated with Indo-European people who lived in northwestern China until they drove to the west by another group, the Xiongnu, in 176–160 B.C. The Kushan Empire was one of the five branches of the Yuezhi confederation. They are also known as Guishuang in Chinese sources. The origin of the Kushan Dynasty was connected to China and also; in Central Asia. They were the nomadic people and are also known as Tocharians; they use to speak Indo-European Languages. For the administrative purpose, they use to make use of the Greek language, but; during the latter part, they use to make use of Bactrian Language.

The Kushan Empire had diplomatic contact with the Roman Empire, Sasanian Persia, the Aksumite Empire, and the Han dynasty in China. They were the center of the trade relationship between the Roman Empire and China. The Kushan Empire became affluent through trade, particularly with Rome, as they had issued a large number of gold coins. During their rule, the political, economic, religious, and cultural contacts between South Asia and Central Asia had boosted greatly. The founder of the Kushan Empire was Kujula Kadphises, first Yuezhi chief. He established this empire; by getting supremacy over the three kingdoms, namely Kabul, Kandahar, and Afghanistan. He was the first Kushan prince who united the Yuezhi confederation during the 1st century CE. King Kujula Kadphises issued the title ‘Great King’ or ‘King of the King’ on all the coins patterned on those of Saka and Parthian rulers.

When the power of Indo-Greek in the north-west borderlands decline, the Yuezhi migration caused some groups of Saka’s got migrated to the Indian Subcontinent. In the middle of the 1st Century CE, the power of the Kushan Empire extended from Bactria across the Hindu Kush to Gandhara and Taxila (in modern Pakistan). By the middle of the first century CE, Kushan power extended from Bactria across The Kushan Empire ruled for about 120 years from 150 CE -270 CE. During the 3rd Century, this dynasty had fragmented into semi-independent kingdoms. When the Sasanians invaded India, they fell into the hands of the Sasanians Empire and; formed the Kushano-Sasanian Kingdom in the areas of Sogdiana, Bactria, and Gandhara.

In India, the Kushan Empire had used its dynamic name as ‘Koshano’ on their coinage. Kaniska, the third ruler of the Kushan Empire, had ruled this kingdom from the late 1st century CE to the early mid-second century CE. It used to administrate from two capitals Purushapura (now Peshawar) near the Khyber pass; and Mathura in northern India.  The introduction of gold coin in the Kushan Empire; was made by King Vima Kadphises. He issued his gold coins by melting down all the Roman coins imported to India in exchange for luxury items.  Some of the numismatic stay that king Kujula Kadphises continued issuing coins that were an imitation of the posthumous type last Indo-Greek ruler in Central Afghanistan. The copper coins issue by him bears the royal portrait on the obverse side imitates the obverse side of the gold coins of the Roman Emperor Augustus.

The Kushan Empire adopted an element of the Hellenistic culture of Bactria. The Hellenistic also referred to as Hellenization; or Hellenism, refers to the spread of Greek culture that began after the conquest of Alexander the Great in the fourth century, B.C.E.  Generally, the Kushan Empire made the use of the corrupt Greek alphabet to suit their language. They issued a coin with added development of letter Þ “sh,” as in “Kushan. In the first few years of King Kanishka, they made use of Greek legend along with Pali legend (in Kharoshthi Script). The Kushan legend was inscribed in Greek script and Kharoshthi script.

The rule of the Kushan Empire was marked for three centuries; until the invasion of Kidarites. They were the feudatories of Western Satraps, the Satavahanas, and the first Gupta Empire rulers.

The rulers of the Kushan Empire are

  • Kujula Kadphises (30 CE-80 CE)
  • Vima Taktu or Sadashkana (80CE-95 CE)
  • Vima Kadphises (95CE-127 CE)
  • Kanishka I (127 CE-150 CE)
  • Huvishka (150 CE-180 CE)
  • Vasudeva I (190 CE-230 CE)
  • Vasishka (247 CE-267 CE)
  • Little Kushans (270 CE-350 CE)


Kujula Kadphises

Kujula Kadphises was the founder and the first ruler of the Kushan Empire. He is also identified with the Yabgu of Guishuang named Qiu Jiuque in Hou Han Shu. He ruled the part of Parthia, Kabul, Kandahar, and a part of Afghanistan, and occupied the Hindu Kush. During his reign Kujula Kadphises issued an extensive series of coins; the coins issued by him are based on Greek, Scythian, and Parthian designs; it was already in current in the territory of present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Kujula Kadphises crossed the Hindu Kush and formed an alliance with the last Greek King Hermaeus in the Kabul Valley in the year 48 CE. Later, it helped Kujula Kadphises son Vima Kadphises to attack and defeat the Scythians in northern India. He also established an empire that he and his successor continued to enlarge until it extended from the Ganges River in the east to the Gobi Desert in the north.

This copper Drachm was issued by king Kujula Kadphises during his reign in the Kushan Empire. This coin is ’posthumous Hermaios’ type.

Weight – 8.70g

Obverse – Diademed bust of the king facing towards the right.

Reverse- Nike with an outstretched hand traces of Kharoshthi legend and a monogram in right field.

Kushan Empire


Vima Taktu or Sadashkana

Vima Taktu sat on the throne after Kujula Kadphises, The inscription found in the Rabatak had mentioned about Sadashkana; which points towards Vima Taktu.

This copper Drachm was issued by Vima Taktu.

Weight – 8.28g

Obverse – Bust of the Kushan ruler facing towards right wielding a spear in front of his face

Reverse- King mounted on a horse to right with Kharoshti legend around

Vima Kadphises

Vima Kadphises ruled this empire from 90 CE to 100 CE, after sitting on the throne of the Kushan Empire he conquers Afghanistan and north-west India. He attacks and defeated the Scythians (Known as Saka) and extended this empire. Later his successor extended this empire from the Ganges River in the east to the Gobi Desert in the North Vima Kadphises was the first emperor to issue gold coinage in India in addition to the existing copper and silver coinage.

He introduces the gold coins by melting down Roman coin that was imported to India in exchange for a variety of luxury items. Coins issued by Vima Kadphises are very distinctive because it portrayed all his glory as a large man with a huge nose and a wart on one cheek.

This gold dinar was issued by king Vima Kadphises during his reign in the Kushan Empire.

This gold dinar was issued by Vima Kadphises during his reign in the Kushan Empire.

Weight – 7.86g

Obverse- Bust of the king facing left, wearing diadem and domed crown, emerging from the clouds, holding mace-scepter in the left hand, flames emerging from the left shoulder, tamgha in right field with legend BACILEYC OOH MO KADFICHC around.

Reverse- Ithyphallic Shiva standing facing head left, holding a composite trident with an axe in the right hand, he-goat skin draped over left arm, tamgha to left, Buddhist Triratna (“Three Jewels”) to right with Kharoshthi legend Maharajasa rajadirajasa Sarvaloga Isvarasa Mahisvarasa Hima Kaphthisasa Tradarasa around.


Kushan Empire


Kanishka I

Kaniska I was the fifth ruler of the Kushan Empire; he ruled this empire for almost 28 years. He was one of the great kings of the Kushan Empire. During that time it was also acknowledged as one of the four great Eurasian powers.

During the rule of Kanishka I the Kushan Empire had reached its highest peak. He was very famous for his military, political, and spiritual achievements. After coming to the power Kanishka I extended his empire to the Pataliputra on the Gangetic plain. One of the main capitals of this kingdom was located in Purusapura in Gandhara and the other major capital was located at Kapisa.

The coins issued by Kanishka I depict Zoroastrian, Greek, and Brahmanic deities as well as the Buddha.

This gold Dinar issued by king Kanishka I during his reign in Kushan Empire

Weight- 7.8g

Obverse- Diademed and crowned king standing facing, head left, holding a spear in his left hand and with right hand sacrificing at an altar, the flame at shoulder, with legend ÞAONANOÞAO KA NhÞKI KOÞANO around.

Reverse- Goddess Ardoksho is radiating and nimbate standing towards the right, extending cornucopia with both hands, tamgha to right.


Huvishka was the son of Kanishka, his reign is also marked as the golden age of the Kushan Empire. He is also known as the founder of the town ‘Hushkpur’ that he founded in Kashmir in his name. Today; this town is known as Uskpur.

The reign of Huvishka was marked as a peaceful, consolidating Kushan power in the parts of northern India. Huvishka was the follower of Lord Shiva; therefore, some of the coins issued by him depict Kartikeya (son of Shiva and Parvati).

Most of the coin issued by Huvishka was in gold and copper. The obverse side of the coins issued by Huvishka is of two types one with a rounded helmet with crescent ornament, the second with conical, jeweled crown, each shown in a variety of postures.

Coins issued by Huvishka is very vast and varied, he issued a coin in gold and bronze. In gold, he issued denomination like Dinar and Quarter Dinar. The obverse side of the gold dinar depicts the bust of the king and the reverse side of this king depicts different deities like Ardochsho, Athsho, Mao, Mithra, Nana, Osho, Pharro, and Shahrevar.

Vasudeva I

Vasudeva I was the last great emperor of Kushan Emperor. King Vasudeva, I ruled the northern part of Indian and issued coins from Balkh (Bactria) region. King Vasudeva I during his reign deal with the rise Sasanians Empire and it was during this period first incursion of Kushano-Sasanian in the northwest of his territory came into being.

Vasudeva I issued coins in gold and copper. In gold, he issued denominations like Dinar and Quarter Dinar. Coins issued by Vasudeva I is a restoration of the Kanishka’s coinage. King Vasudeva might have been the follower of Lord Shiva as the reverse side of his coin depicts Lord Shiva. The obverse side of his coin depicts ‘King standing facing towards left sacrificing at the fire alter’ and holding nimbate in this right hand. In some gold and copper coin issued by him depicts Lord Shiva with his bull Nandi on the reverse side of this coin.

This gold Dinar was issued by Vasudeva I during his reign in the Kushan Empire.

Weight- 7.9g

Obverse- King nimbate standing left, holding a trident to right, making an offering at an altar to left, above which is a garlanded trident with Kharoshti legend Paonanopao Bazoho Kopano.

Reverse- Shiva standing facing before Nandi bull, holding a trident in right and noose in left, tamgha in upper left field with label Ohpo


Vasishka was the elder son of Huvishka, he ruled the Kushan Empire from 247 CE to 265CE. Coins issued by Vasishka were slightly smaller than his predecessors, during his reign quality the coins, debased. The deities that appear on the reverse of his coins were similar to Huvishka and Vasudeva I. The reign of Vasishka marks the end of the Kushana Empire!

The Mintage World Team comprises of experts, researchers and writers from the field of Philately, Notaphily and Numismatics who try to shed light on some of the most interesting aspects of coins, banknotes and stamps from not just India but across the globe as well.

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