Indo-Greeks, Shakas, Parthians and Kushans

The Indo- Greeks were forced to attack India after losing to the Scythian tribes. The Mauryan kings who succeeded Ashoka were too weak to stop this invasion. By the start of 2nd century BC, Indo-Greeks managed to acquire a large part of north-western India. Menander (Milinda) was a famous Indo-Greek ruler who ruled from 165 BC to 145 BC. The capital of his kingdom was at Sakala (modern Sialkot, Punjab). He adopted Buddhism by a Buddhist monk called Nagasena alias Nagarjuna.
Created On: Jul 16, 2015 16:12 IST
Modified On: Jul 18, 2015 10:10 IST

Significance of Indo-Greek rule in India

• The Indo-Greeks were the first to issue gold coins in India.

• The Greek rulers introduced features of Hellenistic art in the north-west frontier of India. The best example of it in India was Gandhara art.

The Shakas

The Greeks were followed by the Shakas. Shakas were divided into five branches.

• One branch of Shaka was powerful in upper Deccan

• The second branch was influential in Punjab with Taxila as its capital

• The third one established its hold over western India

• The fourth branch settled in Mathura

• And the fifth branch settled in Afghanistan

Among these five branches, the only branch to maintain its hold over a long time was the branch which ruled in western India.

Rudradaman I

Rudradaman I was the most famous Shaka ruler. He ruled from 130 AD to 150 AD. His kingdom covered areas such as Konkan, the Narmada valley, Malwa, part of Gujarat and Kathiawar.

He had done the repair work to improve the Sudarshana lake in Kathiawar. He also issued the first long inscription in Sanskrit. Earlier, the long inscriptions were composed in Prakrit.


The Shaka rule in north-western part of India was followed by the Parthians. It is said that Parthians had their roots in Iran and from there they migrated to India. However as compared with the Shakas and Greeks, they ruled over only a small portion of north-western India in first century AD.

The most renowned Parthian king was Gondophernes in whose reign St. Thomas came to India to propagate Christianity.


The Parthian rule was followed by Kushans who were also known as Tocharians and Yuechis. In fact, Yuechis tribe was divided into the five clans.

The Kushanas were one of these clans. They originated from the steppes of north Central Asia.

Initially they occupied north Afghanistan and gradually moved to the Kabul valley and conquered Gandhara.

The Kushan Empire extended from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh to Khorasan in Central Asia and from Oxus to the Ganga.

Kushans ruled India in two successive dynasties. First one was called Kadphises who ruled about 50 AD. The first king of this dynasty was Kadphises I. He issued copper coins imitating the Romans. Kadphises II was the second king. He issued a large number of gold coins.

Kadphises were followed by Kanishka. During their reign, the Kushana Empire extended over upper India and the lower Indus basin. In addition to Yamuna and Doab they had established their authority in the middle part of Gangetic basin.

Kanishka was the most famous ruler of Kushan dynasty.


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