Estimate of Kanishka
Kanishka happens to be one of the few kings in history who came in as a conqueror and won an empire but was conquered by the religion, language and culture of the country of his conquest. He was an intrepid warrior, a mighty conqueror but what was more he was equally great as an administrator.
If King Kanishka was great in war and administration he was greater still in the arts of peace. He was a great patron of art and literature. He built a vast empire which extended from Central Asia to Mathura, Benares and probably to parts of Bengal but he gave it an administration which brought peace and prosperity to the country and the people, which conduced to pursuit of religion, art, architecture and literature. Before his conversion to Buddhism he was eclectic in his religious belief and was a polytheist. After becoming a Buddhist he became an ardent missionary of the Mahayanism. He rendered a great service to Buddhism by convening the fourth Buddhist council which resolved the disputes that arose among the Buddhists about Buddhist religion. He was a great patron of Buddhism as his predecessor of the Maurya Dynasty Asoka. Like Ashoka Maurya, he sent missions for propagation of Buddhism in China, Japan, Tibet, Central Asia etc.
He patronized the Buddhist philosophers like Asvaghosha, Basumitra, Nagarjuna, and Political scientist like Mathara, medical scientist like Charaka and engineer like Greek Agesilaus.
He was a great patron of art and architecture. The city of Purushapura, his capital, Taxila, Mathura were beautified by monasteries, stupas etc. The tall Chaitya at his capital with its sculpture forced the admiration of visitors even after long time.
The beneficence of his rule was seem in the prosperity of the people resulting from the influx of huge quantity of gold by way of trade with foreign countries like China, Rome etc.
Kanishka has been likened to Ashoka as a conqueror, preacher. But although he was definitely a lesser personality than Great Ashoka, he was the nearest emulator of Ashoka in his spirit of toleration of other religions, patronage of Buddhism and missionary zeal. He however, was not an apostle of non-violence as Ashoka had been yet he had initiated a cultural renaissance which reached its zenith under the Guptas. Kanishka’s reign constituted a brilliant epoch in the history of ancient India and the darkness that descended on the Indian History after the fall of the Mauryas and lifted during his reign. Kanishka rightly deserves a place among the best rulers of the ancient history of India.