• Kushano-Sasanian Kingdom (also called Kushanshahs or Indo-Sasanians) is a historiographic term used by modern scholars, to refer to a branch of the Sasanian Persians who established their rule in Bactria during the 3rd and 4th centuries CE at the expense of the declining Kushans.
  • Shortly after the Sasanian king Ardashir I overthrew the Parthians, he marched to the east and invaded Bactria (circa 230 AD).
    • Under him and his son Shapur I, the Kushans lost the western part of their empire and these provinces in Bactria and Gandhara came under the rule of Sasanian nobles called Kushanshahs.
    • In about 325 AD, Shapur II took direct control of the southern part of the region.
  • The Main Kushano-Sassanid rulers are as follows:
Ardashir I Kushanshah230–245
Peroz I Kushanshah245–275
Hormizd I Kushanshah275–300
Hormizd II Kushanshah300–303
Peroz II Kushanshah303–330
Varahran Kushanshah330-365


Religious life

  • As the evidence of the coins clearly shows, the Zoroastrian faith, enjoyed great popularity among the Kushano-Sasanians
    • The influence of Zoroastrianism can be inferred from the representation of fire altars on the coins.
  • Further, Buddhist missionaries, on the other hand, continued to exert their influence throughout the whole of Afghanistan and Central Asia
    • It seems very likely that Buddhism itself was undergoing a great change in its practices, ideological concepts and rituals.
    • With the acceptance of the image of the Buddha and the expansion of Buddhism and Buddhist monasteries, the educational character of the sangha (Buddhist community) had taken on a new shape.
  • Further, the evidence of coins suggests that the popularity of Shiva and Nandi had caught the popular imagination.



  • In administering this empire, Sassanid rulers took the title of shahanshah (King of Kings), becoming the central overlords and also assumed guardianship of the sacred fire, the symbol of the national religion.
  • On a smaller scale, the territory might also be ruled by a number of petty rulers from a noble family, known as Shahrdar, overseen directly by the shahanshah.
  • The districts of the provinces were ruled by a shahrab and a mowbed (chief priest).
  • Sasanian rule was characterized by considerable centralization, ambitious urban planning, agricultural development, and technological improvements
  • Below the king, a powerful bureaucracy carried out much of the affairs of government



  • The Kushano-Sassanids created an extensive coinage with legend in Brahmi, Pahlavi or Bactrian, sometimes inspired from Kushan coinage
  • The obverse of the coin usually depicts the ruler with elaborate headdress and on the reverse either a Zoroastrian fire altar, or Shiva with the bull Nandi.


Economy, society and trade

  • The economic base may be inferred from the currency.
    • Although gold and silver coins are known for several Kushano-Sasanian prince-governors, it is the copper coinage that was widely current to meet the local demands of the population.
  • Trade continued in the Silk Route as in the earlier period


Languages and scripts

  • In the state of the Kushanshahs, apart from high officials and military personnel, there were inevitably natives of Iran, including both scribes and marginally literate persons.
    • So, It is natural that they wrote their Middle Persian in Pahlavi script.
    • Hence, some issues of the Kushano- Sasanian coinage (see above) have Middle Persian inscriptions in Pahlavi script.
  • Most inscriptions of the Kushan and Kushano-Sasanian periods come from Termez, in particular from the Buddhist monasteries of Kara-tepe and Fayaz-tepe.
    • They are written in the Kharosthi and Brahmıi scripts.



  • Kara-tepe (Presently in Uzbekistan) presents a typical model of cultural material that is syncretistic in nature.
    • The excavations here, have brought to light wall paintings, stone and stucco (ganch in local terminology), sculpture, terracottas, and pottery, metal ware and coins, inscriptions on pottery and graffiti on the walls of the caves and their entrance niches
    • The structures constitute a complex of caves, a courtyard and some grand


  • Many other cities and settlements are known where life developed in the Kushano-Sasanian period on the territory of Bactria
    • At the Yavan site in southern Tajikistan, for example, a section of a small street was unearthed on the citadel.
    • On each side there was a solid area of large house blocks with many rooms. These houses consisted of individual, interconnected premises.
  • There were two trends in the art of the time:
    • Buddhist art developed from traditions going back to the art of Gandhara with local features,
    • Whereas non-Buddhist art displayed a complex fusion of local and Sasanian traditions. This feature is well seen in the sculptures and wall-paintings from Dilberjin.



  • The great strength of Sassanid culture was that it openly drew on, and inter-acted with, the cultures with which it enjoyed contact, creating a synthesis.
  • Following the collapse of the Sassanid Empire, when Islam supplanted Zoroastrianism, Zoroastrians became a persecuted minority. A number of them chose to emigrate.
    • One group of those refugees landed in present Gujarat, where they were allowed greater freedom to observe their old customs and to preserve their faith.
  • Later, the descendants of those Zoroastrians, now known as the Parsis, would play a significant role in the development of India.