The fall of the imperial Kushanas in 176 A.D. signalled for a dark age in ancient Indian history.
For more than a century, India suffered from political disunity and disintegration.
No powerful empire rose during that period. A number of small monarchical as well as republican states rose in various parts of eastern, northern and north-western India.
Among the monarchical states, the kingdoms of the Nagas, Ahichhatra, Ayodhya, Kosambi, Vakatakas, and Maukharis became prominent. Among the republics, the states of Malavas, Yaudheyas, Sibis, Kunindas, and Arjunayans were noteworthy. None of these states could rise to become a big power. There were several other small states also.
The coins and inscriptions of that time show that there were petty principalities everywhere after the fall of the Kushanas. Taking advantage of that political turmoil, the Sassanian rulers of Iran conquered Afghanistan and the Indus valley and extended their power over the north-west, and the weaker Kushana chiefs who still ruled over the north west and the Punjab, bowed to the authority of the foreigners.
Through the third century of the Christian era, one finds therefore that even much smaller powers like the Yaudheyas, the Kumindas, the Malavas, the Nagas, and the Maghas were striking coins as independent states. In western India, the Saka Satraps of Malwa and Gujarat were raising their heads as independent powers. Some of the republican tribes in the Punjab and the north-west were also trying to proclaim their independence on the grave of the Kushana Empire.
The political condition of India in third century A.D. and in the opening decades of the fourth century thus presented a picture of confusion and chaos. It is said that the India of that Dark Age passed through the same troubles and turmoil’s as were seen in the sixth century B.C. before the rise of a strong monarchy.
These conditions, however, pointed to the possibility of the rise of a strong empire. Like history repeating itself, out of disharmony and disunity, there arose the necessity for uniting India once again into a powerful state. The veil of darkness was finally lifted with the rise of the imperial Guptas early in the fourth century A.D.