Vasudeva I
Kushan emperor
Gold coin of Vasudeva I or II.

Obv: Vasudeva in tall helmet, holding a scepter, and making an offering over an altar. Legend in Kushan language and Greek script (with the Kushan letter Ϸ "sh"): ϷΑΟΝΑΝΟϷΑΟ ΒΑΖΟΔΗΟ ΚΟϷΑΝΟ ("Shaonanoshao Bazodeo Koshano"): "King of kings, Vasudeva the Kushan".

Rev: ΟΗϷΟ (oesho), Hindu god Shiva, holding a trisula scepter, with the bull Nandi. Monogram (tamgha) to the left.
Reign191–232 CE
SuccessorKanishka II
Vasudeva I is located in South Asia
Mamane Dheri
Mamane Dheri
Location of the inscriptions mentioning Vasudeva I as ruler.

Vāsudeva I (Kushano Bactrian: Βαζοδηο Bazodeo; Middle Brahmi script: Vā-su-de-va, Chinese: 波調 Bodiao; fl. 200 CE) was a Kushan emperor, last of the "Great Kushans."[3] Named inscriptions dating from year 64 to 98 of Kanishka's era suggest his reign extended from at least 191 to 232 CE. He ruled in Northern India and Central Asia, where he minted coins in the city of Balkh (Bactria). He probably had to deal with the rise of the Sasanians and the first incursions of the Kushano-Sasanians in the northwest of his territory.[3]

The last named inscription of his predecessor, Huvishka, was in the year 60 of the Kanishka era (187 CE), and the Chinese evidence suggests he was still ruling as late as 229 CE.

His name "Vāsudeva", is that of the popular Hindu God Vāsudeva, which is refer to Krishna, and he was the first Kushan king to be named after the Indian God. He converted to Hinduism during his reign.[1][4] His name reinforces the notion that his center of power was in Mathura.[3]

Contacts with China

In the Chinese historical chronicle Sanguozhi (三國志), he is recorded to have sent tribute to the Chinese emperor Cao Rui of the Wei in 229 CE (3rd year of Taihe 太和), :

"The king of the Da Yuezhi, Bodiao (波調) (Vāsudeva), sent his envoy to present tribute and His Majesty granted him a title of "King of the Da Yuezhi Intimate with Wei (魏)"." (Sanguozhi)

He is the last Kushan ruler to be mentioned in Chinese sources.[3] His rule corresponds to the retreat of Chinese power from Central Asia, and it is thought that Vasudeva may have filled the power vacuum in that area.[3] The great expansion of the Dharmaguptaka Buddhist group in Central Asia during this period has also been related to this event.


The coinage of Vasudeva consisted in gold dinars and quarter dinars, as well as copper coins. Vasudeva almost entirely removed the pantheon of deities displayed in the coinage of Kanishka and Huvishka. Apart from a few coins with the effigies of Mao and Nana, all of Vasudeva's coins feature Oesho on the reverse, who is generally identified as Shiva.[1][2] On the obverse, Vasudeva restored the royal imagery of Kanishka, with the standing, making a sacrifice over an altar, although he holds a trident rather than Kanishka's spear and he appears nimbate. Another trident is sometimes also added over the small sacrificial altar. At the end of his rule, Vasudeva introduced the nandipada symbol () on his coinage.[5][6]

Sassanid invasion in the northwest

Vusadeva I was the last great Kushan emperor, and the end of his rule coincides with the invasion of the Sassanians as far as northwestern India, and the establishment of the Indo-Sassanians or Kushanshahs from around 240 CE.[3] Vasudeva I may have lost the territory of Bactria with its capital in Balkh to Ardashir I Kushanshah. Thereafter, Kushan rule would be restricted to their eastern territories, in western and central Punjab.


Buddha statue of Vasudeva I, pedestal inscription: "In the 93rd year" (𑀲𑀁𑁣𑁔) of "Great King, son of God, Vasudeva" ( Mahārājasya Devaputrasya Vāsudeva, from the start of the first line). Mathura Museum. Photograph of the piedestal.

Main article: Kushan art

The relatively peaceful reign of Vasudeva is marked by an important artistic production, in particular in the area of statuary.[3] Several Buddhist statues are dated to the reign of Vasudeva, and are important markers for the chronology of Buddhist art.[9]

An inscription on the base of the Buddha statue of Vasudeva I is also known from the Mathura Museum: "In the 93rd year of Maharaja Devaputra Vasudeva...", probably corresponding to c. 171 CE, or 220 CE with the more recent definition of the Kanishka era as starting in 127 CE.[10] A partially preserved Sakyamuni statue, also from Mathura, has the date "Year 94", although without mentioning Vasudeva specifically.[11]

Dedications in the name of Vasudeva, with dates, also appear on Jain statuary discovered in Mathura.[12][13]

Statuary dated to the reign of Vasudeva I


  1. ^ a b c Coins of India Calcutta : Association Press ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1922
  2. ^ a b Pal, Pratapaditya. Indian Sculpture: Circa 500 B.C.-A.D. 700. University of California Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-520-05991-7.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Rezakhani, Khodadad (2017). From the Kushans to the Western Turks. p. 202.
  4. ^ Kumar, Raj (1900). Early history of Jammu region. Gyan Publishing House. p. 477. ISBN 9788178357706.
  5. ^ Rosenfield, John M. (1967). The Dynastic Arts of the Kushans. University of California Press. p. 111.
  6. ^ Shrava, Satya (1985). The Kushāṇa Numismatics. Praṇava Prakāshan. p. 11.
  7. ^ CNG Coins
  8. ^ Cribb, Joe (2010). "The Kidarites, the numismatic evidence". Coins, Art and Chronology II: The First Millennium C.E. In the Indo-Iranian Borderlands, Edited by M. Alram et Al.: 98.
  9. ^ a b c d Rhi, Juhyung (2017). Problems of Chronology in Gandharan. Positionning Gandharan Buddhas in Chronology (PDF). Oxford: Archaeopress Archaeology. pp. 35–51.icon of an open green padlock
  10. ^ Sharma, R.C. (1994). The Splendour of Mathura Art and Museum. D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd. p. 140.
  11. ^ Indian Archaeology, 1994-1995 (PDF). p. 100, Plate XLVI.
  12. ^ Burgess, Jas. Epigraphia Indica Vol.-i. p. 392.
  13. ^ Dowson, J.; Cunningham, A. (1871). "Ancient Inscriptions from Mathura". The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. 5 (1): 194. ISSN 0035-869X. JSTOR 44012780.
  14. ^ Problems of Chronology in Gandharan Art p.37
  15. ^ Errington, Elizabeth. Numismatic evidence for dating the Buddhist remains of Gandhara. p. 204.
  16. ^ Indian Archaeology, 1994-1995 (PDF). p. 100, Plate XLVI.


Preceded byHuvishka Kushan Ruler Succeeded byKanishka II