Exploring ancient Kashmir - II
Published on December 25, 2016

Exploring ancient Kashmir - II

Exploring ancient Kashmir - II

Kushan Period

Who were Kushans? Did they ever rule Kashmir? Who founded the Kanshpura in Baramullah?  Was the first international Buddhist conference held in Kashmir?  Who built the ancient monasteries in Kashmir valley? These are  certain mysteries of ancient history of Kashmir. Much has been already written and said on the Kushan Empire of the subcontinent. Historians dealing with ancient history and culture have written several books and papers on this subject. Broadly speaking the Kushan Empire at other places stands already explored and documented. However, in Kashmir where Kushan empire continued till its last down fall had been left unexplored. This is not any short period of history,  it is a period of about four hundred years which had remained unexplored. The recent researches revealed that like Kabul, Peshawar, Gandhara, Taxila and Muthera, Kashmir also formed a significant province of the Kushan Empire from first century A.D. to fourth Century A.D. It was in the period of Kanishka that fourth Buddhist Council was held in this land. Besides making it an important province, Kushana also made it a permanent political, administrative, and cultural seat. They also established their cities and built their religious edifices. They also had permanent currency and the minted coins were exclusively for use in Kashmir.

This writer has made has made extensive surveys and explorations in collecting the information data about Kushans in Kashmir. After studying numismatic treasures, archaeological sites and artifacts, this writer wrote the book 'Kushans in Kashmir. The book provides a systematic and indepth study of Kushan Empire with special reference to Kashmir chapter.

There are plenty of evidences found of Kushans in Kashmir, which include the remains of ancient monasteries, sculptures  and their coins. The copper coins of Kushans called Dirhams  are commonly known from Kashmir. Numismatists and Archaeologists have found thousands of Kushan dirhams and tetra dirhmas and several dinars from various places of Kashmir. There are several such types, which have been found and believed to have been current here while few of those types are viewed to have been exclusively issued to meet the currency requirements of this province. Such coins are known as provincial series coins, numismatists like Cunningham, Roshan Field, David Macdowell, Michel Mitchner and several others are of this view. This writer, after thorough study, feels that such coin types as are found were not only here in currency but also minted somewhere within Kashmir borders.

One such earlier copper coin type of Kujula Kadphsis is of bull and camel type depicting camel on one side and bull on the other side of the coin. Perhaps, is the earliest Kushan type coin found in Kashmir.  In the year 1987 state Archaeology Department came across three copper pieces of this earlier Kushan coin at village Maidan Chagul in frontier district of Kupwara. These coins are in poor condition but could be deciphered as Bull Camel type coins, carrying the motif of humped bull walking to right on obverse and camel as well walking to right on reverse. The letters of the Kharoshti legend are partly visible. This discovery was followed by a remarkable purchase of small coins of this type called dirhams by the state Museum authorities at Srinagar. About one hundred coins of bull camel type coins were purchased by the Museum management in 1996. These coins could easily be denominated as drachms (dirhams) and this writer is sure that such coins were definitely minted to meet the domestic currency needs of Kashmir province. This theory gets substantiated because such type was found absent in other finds of the empire and also assumed to have been minted somewhere in Kashmir.

The remarkable numismatic discovery of Kushan period came from Bandipura area of North Kashmir in 1987.These were two hoards of provincial series coins of 137 and 339 respectively. I could decipher 238 coins out of these two hoards. The obverse of these coins displayed typical Kushan dressed standing figure of the king and the reverse depicted different Iranian and Indian deities.

Besides the numismatic evidences scores of archaeological sites have also been found in Kashmir which date to Kushan period. The most famous site of Kushans is found at Harwan.  The remains of the Buddhist monastery and pavements  are still well intact at this site . It is in this area  the scholars believe that fourth Buddhist conference was  held during the  rule of Kanishka the most famous Kushan prince. The other remains of Kushan period, Buddhist monasteries and stupas, have been found at scores of places - Darkote, Hionar, Kutbal, Kanshpur,  Ushkar , Harwan and Ambren.

Unfortunately these sites of immense archaeological significance have not been yet explored for include as tourist sites.

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