Date of Kanishka Era

Kanishka is the most famous of the Kushan kings, he is preserved in Bhuddist tradition as the king responsible for calling the second great Bhuddist council. His series of coins is also magnificent. His war exploits and the strength of his kingdom are remarkable indeed, and it is felt by most historians that his reign marked the height of Kushan dominance in central Asia.

Unfortunately it has proved beyond the grasp of all those who have studied Kushan history to actually decide when Kanishka came to power, in which year did he become King of the Kushans. Dates have varied hugely, 57BC, 78AD, 115AD, 128AD, 134AD, 144AD, 230AD, and others. The reason it matters, is that inscriptions in India and Central Asia are date for a hundred years in the era that Kanishka founded. Fixing that era would provide a chronological assistance to art and political historians interested in the history of North India and Central Asia. The problem in Kushan studies is not that we lack of evidence for Kanishka's era, but that we have too many compelling pieces of evidence.

Sometime in the reign of Kanishka II, or very shortly afterwards the Kushan kings lose political control of Bactria and Central Asia. We know this because their coins cease to circulate in that region, and the assumption has always been that the region was conquered by the Sasanians.
Since this event takes place between 98 and 129 years after Kanishka it would seem a very powerful tool for dating him. However, we do not know when the Sasanian conquest took place. The earliest possible date would be in the reign of Ardashir I (the first Sasanian king, 226 - 239), whom the Arab writer Al-Tabari tells us made extensive conquests in the east and received tribute from the Kushans. The era of the Bactrian letters, 233AD might be referred to Ardashir's conquest.
The same applies to Shapur I (240-273AD) who is widely seen as the most likely candidate to have conquered the Kushan empire. However, if above statement is correct that the Kushan-Sasanians are ruling by the 4th century then the region must have fallen under Sasanian control by 300AD.
The range of possible dates is shown between a possible conquest in 233AD, and the end of the reign of Shapur. 272AD. With the most likely date considered to be the first decade of Shapur's rule, 250AD.
Kushano -Sassanian rulers.
Piruz I - Hormizd I with Kabad - Hormizd I with Meze - Hormizd II - Piruz II - Unknown King - Shapur II with Kabad - Shapur IIOf these, Piruz I is ruling in AD 242. Hormizd II proceeds 302AD. So Hormizd I with Kabad coins were circulated sometime from AD243 to 301AD, Cribb suggests c. AD276 but any time from AD250 to 280 would seem reasonable. Now it therefore follows that Vasudeva must have overstruck the coins after this period. Since there are eight coins, and no overstrikes of Hormizd I with Meze, it is reasonable to suggest that Vasudeva's overstrike was made at this time and therefore the two kings are contemporaries. But we do not see Hormizd overstriking vasudeva coins. It is intriguing to note that this tends to indicate a lower date than that indicated by examining the invasion theory.

GuptasThe Gupta kings of Eastern India founded an era that begins in 319AD. During the reigns of the early Gupta kings they conquered large parts of Northwest India, and so like the Sasanians they provide a limit on how late we can place Kanishka.
The Gupta king Samudragupta (whose dates are uncertain but must be between 320AD and 375AD) claims on an inscription at Allahabad to have a subordinate Kushan king, named as Shaka. His successor, Chandragupta II, actually has an inscription at the city of Mathura (dated 380AD), which we know was still under Kushan control as late as king Vasishka and possibly as late as Vasudeva II. Chandragupta also mimics the coinage of Vasudeva II which further implies that his take-over of Mathura follows very late Kushan rule there.
I should be noted that the Guptas do not seize Mathura from the Kushans. They may well seize the Kushans eastern domains from Shaka, but the Puranas, and coin finds strongly indicate that a group of local kings ruled at Mathura before the arrival of the Guptas and after the later Kushan kings.
The upshot of this is to imply that there must be at least 200 years between Kanishka and the commencement of Gupta rule at Mathura, certainly at least 150 (which would require it was lost in the reign of Vasishka). Since we can also link Shaka with Samudragupta, he must have begun his rule post-320AD (certainly post 290AD). Linking Shaka to Kanishka is very difficult but it seems implausible, based on the sequence of Kushan kings that he could be more than 200 years later.

The Kushans wrested Gandhara and North west India from the dynasty of Gondophares. Unfortunately, like the Kushan-Sasanians, the Indo-Parthian dynasty has been the subject of heated debates surrounding the order and dates of its kings.
The first, theory assumes is based upon the Azes era of 57/8 AD. This is used in a series of inscriptions of the Indo-Parthians, and the date of the era is widely accepted. If we assume that the three inscriptions of an unknown Kushana (probably Kajula Kadphises) are dated to the Azes era this gives us 45 to 78AD. This cannot happen as we have no Kushan inscriptions in this region until that of Wima Kadphises, dated either 184 or 187. If this is also dated in the Azes era then Kadphises is still in power 126 or 129AD. Unfortunately, while the Azes era is the most popular candidate for these inscriptions it is not the only one, some Kharoshti inscriptions probably belong to a Greek/Yavana era and in 1960 Narian dissented from the Azes interpretation, taking the years mentioned to be in the Pahlava era. Despite these reservations we will take it to imply a date in the 130s.

The second theory is based on the numismatic evidence for the Indo-Parthian to Kushan transition. The key fixed date is Gondophares, who is dated by the Takht-i-Bahi inscription from 23 to 46AD. This date is also supported by other evidence, and is the majority view but others place Gondophares nearly 50 years earlier.
Gondophares is followed by Abdagases, Sarpadnaes, and Sases (and possibly others). Kajula Kadphises overstrikes on the coins of Gondophares, and his successor Vima Taktu follows Sases in Northern India. There is also some evidence that Kajula's coinage briefly follows Sases , which makes his rule contemporary with the period from Gondophares to Sases, the period 46AD to 78AD. If we could be confident of the period of rule from Gondophares to Sases, and the length of the rule of the two Vimas, then Kanishka's era could be confidently dated. If Vima Takpiso ruled for at least 20 years, and then if combined rule shorter than 30 years, or longer than 60 (the reign of Huvishka-Vasudeva). If this is appended to a rough date of 80AD then the period 110-119 looks most promising, but unfortunately the uncertainties allow a considerable period either side.

The first source is from the city of Khotan. This was the subject of Kushan political domination during the period 107AD to 127AD. In particular the Hou Han Shu states that they imposed a new ruler on the city in AD115 . But we do not know which king did this. Buddhist chronicle that names Kanishka, and Cribb fits the Kushan coins, all of Kanishka, into this period. If both are correct then Kanishka must have come to power between 105 and 116AD.
We know Ban Chao activity up to the last decade of the first century, talks about only two Kushan probably Kajula and Vima Takpiso. This excludes Kanishka before 96AD, and implies that Vima Takpiso must have come to power after 96AD, so unless his and Vima Kadphises rule exceeds 50 years, very unlikely, Kanishka must have come to power before 146AD. Buddhist records are unreliable, coins can move around for trade for many reasons and we do not know who the two kings mentioned in the Hou Han Shu are. A report of an embassy from the Kushans (Ta Yu-Chi) in the third century. The San-Kuo Chih reports "On the day Kuei-mao (26 Jan 230AD) the king of the Great Yueh-chih, Po-t'iao, sent an envoy with tribute. (Po-)t'iao was made "King of the Great Yueh-Chih Affectionate Towards the Wei". The problem is identifying the king in question from this chinese writing.

Roman coins
let us examine two finds of Roman coins from the Kushan region. The first is at Manikyala, inside a Tope, one Kajula, two Vima Kadphises, and seven Kanishka coins (all copper) were found. Along with four Kanishka gold quarter dinars, and seven Roman Republican Silver Dinars. We know that Roman coins like this were in circulation for a long period of time, well into the third century. We also know that they were exported to India after 64 AD. The reason being that in 64 AD the emperor Nero reforms the coinage, reducing the amount of gold and silver in the coin. This creates a discrepancy, inside the Roman Empire all coins are worth the same (enforced by the central authority) but outside the empire coins are simply pieces of gold and silver. So it became profitable to export pre-reform pieces.
The second find is at Jalalabad, where seventeen dinars were found, ten of Vima Kadphises, six of Kanishka, one of Huvishka. Also present were three Roman aurei, Domitian, Trajan, Hadrian (in the name of his wife Sabina). The last of these coins can be dated between AD 128 and AD 137.
These coins cannot have been buried prior to AD65, and whenever they were buried Kanishka is likely to have been ruling. In the second case they cannot have been buried prior to AD 129 and this seems likely to represent the early reign of Huvishka. Our most likely period is prior to AD 138 (if the coins had been exported later, we would expect a later coin present).
The Western Ksatraps ruled India in the regions of Madhya Pradesh, Gujurat, and perhaps the southern Indus. They dated both their inscriptions and their coins according to an era beginning in 78AD and usually known as the Saka era.
Considering that they shared a border they do not provide more evidence. There are in fact only two sites which are helpful, Sui Vihar where the Sutlej River joins the Indus, and Eastern Malwa, the region that contains Vidisa and Sanchi.
There are two contradictions. First, Rudraman claims in his inscription of 150AD to have control of the southern Indus valley and to have conquered peoples as far north as the Sutlej River. Yet there is an inscription of Kanishka dated to year 11 from Sui Vihar Secondly, the later inscription of Sridharavarman in year 200 (278AD) is inscribed at Sanchi, but we have two inscriptions of Vasishka of years 22 and 28 from Sanchi, and Rudraman claims Eastern Malwa within his domains. It is possible that Rudraman is simply not telling the truth about the extent of his domains, or that border towns changed hands often and quickly, or that the Kanishka inscription is an inscription of Kanishka II. Due to the uncertainty in the Kushan sequence of kings the second conflict is of little use. But if we assume that Kanishka's rule could not have coincided with the Rudraman's conquest (on the assumption it must have taken place in Wima Kadphises or Huvishka's reign) that rules out the period from 127AD to 150AD.
let us arrive some probable dates, But this is also highly disputed.
King Length of Reign Dates of Inscriptions
Kajula Kadphises min.23 years 103-136
Vima Takpiso min.20 years 279-299
Vima Kadphises 184(7)
Kanishka 23-27 years 1-23
Huvishka 32-40 years 28-60
Vasudeva 34-40 years 64-98
Kanishka II aprox.19 years
Vasishka 8 - 20 years 20-28
Kanishka III unknown 41
Vasudeva II unknown 170 (disputed)
Shaka unknown
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  1. is it based n the recent researches..?
    kindly let me know the references if possible..



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