Let’s read the story of the Kushans.
From the first century A.D, India became a beacon of wealth and power. Dynasties from all the neighbouring places were attracted to the ever-giving lands of India. One of these dynasties was a Chinese tribe of Yuezhi. They had migrated from the borders of present-day China and Mongolia and had reached the border of present-day Afghanistan which was known as Gandhara. They had taken a new identity. Now they called themselves Guishuang or as it would later be known Kushan.
The people of Kushan were nomads. A nomadic lifestyle meant they never associated themselves with any of the cultures around them. They were flexible and malleable. They came to India not to impose their ideas on the people of India but to become a part of a bigger culture, to get an identity. Hence soon after they rose to power, they accepted Hinduism and Buddhism as their main religions. They even adopted Sanskrit as their main language. Historians believe they even used to speak Greek before this.
The Kushans were the key to the development of the famous Silk Route. The silk route was a trade route that connected East Asia to Europe. Silk from China went into Europe and that’s how it got its name. But silk was not the only thing that was traded through these routes. Spices, fabrics, cotton, Sugar, and some precious metals like gold and silver also made the cut. India benefitted from this route immensely. India always had a surplus amount of cotton, sugar, and spices to export. The Kushans played a key role as they had Chinese ancestry, spoke the Greek language, and had now adopted Indian culture as well. They were the missing piece of this puzzle.
The silk route was also a carrier of ideologies across the continent. People migrated and took their faith and religion with them. The silk route helped in the expansion of Buddhism in Europe as well as China.
But the silk route was not one-way. The land of India was exposed to new religions, faiths, and ideologies as well. Judaism and Zoroastrianism are some of the notable religions to come to India via this route.
One more thing of great importance was introduced to India via the silk route, Tea. The unofficial national drink of India, tea also came from China. It was brought to India by Buddhist monks. It is for this reason that Buddhism is closely associated with tea.
This export and import of different ideologies made the base for a multi-religious, multicultural modern India.
Under the Kushan empire, Buddism also held five of its councils. Three different schools of art were also established by the Kushan kings. These places include Varanasi, Lahore, and Jaipur.
But like everything good, the Kushan empire too had to come to an end. It ended because of two very basic reasons. They lacked good leadership and better kingdoms had emerged. The Kushan was stuck between the emerging Gupta dynasty and the established Sassanians.
The Kushans deserve more recognition than they get. Their systems and principles laid the foundations of modern India. The silk route made sure the upcoming dynasties had an established route to trade with. This is the reason behind the economic success of the Gupta empire as well as India. The Kushans also led the foundation of secularism. Hence the Ksuhana deserve as much if not more respect and acknowledgement than the likes of Guptas and Mauryas.