Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Contribution of the Kushanas to Indian Culture

The empire of the Kushanas proved a great civilising factor. It opened the way for the spread of Indian civilisation to central and eastern Asia. Trade and commerce flowed between China, India, Persia, Mesopotamia and the Roman-Empire. The Kushana Ambassadors were dispatched to the great Roman Emperors. The sea-borne trade of India was carried, under the Kushanas, through the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea.

The Kushanas were patrons of literature and art. A large volume of Sanskrit literature of high standard, both religious and secular, was produced in the congenial atmosphere of royal patronage. The name of the Kushan Emperor, Kanishka is associated with several eminent Buddhist writers. Asvaghosha, Nagarjuna, Vasumitra and Charak, the reputed count physician of Kanishka, was the celebrated author of the Ayurvedic Science.


[caption id="attachment_1624" align="aligncenter" width="590"]Kushanas Empire Kushanas Empire[/caption]


An important event of the Kushan Empire is that it not only witnessed the extension of Buddhism but also the most serious dissension with the bosom of the Buddhist church itself. It was this changes in the Buddhist creed which permanently divided Buddhist church into two big camps - Hinayan and Mahayan, the former was the original Buddhism and the latter the new school of Buddhism.

In the Kushana Age, Buddhism in its new form spread rapidly to many countries beyond the borders of India to Tibet, China, Burma and Japan. Mahayanism is called the northern school of Buddhism and Sanskrit is the vehicle of its literature. To distinguish it from the old or Hinayan Buddhism which is called the southern school has Pali as the medium of its sacred texts.

Intimately connected with the Mahayana school of Buddhism was a new school of Indian sculpture, known as the Gandhara School. It flourished under the Kushanas, especially Kanishka, during whose time a vast number of Buddhist monasteries, stupas and statues were constructed. They bear a distinct influence of the old Greek school of art. The province of Gandhara, the centre of the new school of Buddhism, was so situated as to be the meeting ground of the Indian, Chinese, Iranian and the Greco-Roman cultures. Hence the art of the province could not but be a mixture of the west and the east.

The main theme of the Gandhara School of Sculpture was the form of Buddhism, and its most important contribution was the evolution of an image of the Buddha.

Kanishka was the founder of that reckoning which commenced in 78 A.D. came to be known as the Saka era. Kanishka, through a Buddhist, continued to honour the Greek, Sumerian, Elamite, Mithraic, Zeroastrian and Hindu Gods worshipped by various communities of his far-flung empire. On his coins the deities of different sects and religions are engraved, bearing testimony to his spirit of religious toleration.


Post a Comment