The Kushans were conscious of the fact that the people used various scripts and languages in their dominions, and therefore issued their coins and inscriptions in the Greek, Kharoshthi, and Brahmi scripts.

Similarly, they used Greek, Prakrit, and Sanskrit-influenced Prakrit, and towards the end of their rule pure Sanskrit.

The rulers thus officially recognized three scripts and four languages, and Kushana coins and inscriptions suggest the commingling and coexistence of different scripts and languages.

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The Kushan method of communicating with the people also indicates literacy in their times. More importantly, although the Mauryas and Satavahanas patronized Prakrit, some Central Asian princes patronized and cultivated Sanskrit literature. The earliest specimen of the kavya style is found in the Junagadh inscription of Rudradaman in Kathiawar in about ad 150. From then onwards, inscriptions began to be composed in chaste Sanskrit, although the use of Prakrit in composing inscriptions continued till the fourth century and even later.

It appears that some of the great creative writers such as Ashvaghosha enjoyed the patronage of the Kushans. Ashvaghosha wrote the Buddhcharita, which is a biography of the Buddha, and also composed Saundarananda, a fine example of Sanskrit kavya.

The development of Mahayana Buddhism led to the composition of numerous avadanas (life history and teachings). Most of these texts were composed in what is now known as Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit with the sole objective of communicating the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism to the people. Examples of important books of this genre were Mahavastu and Divyavadana.

It is suggested that Indian theatre owed much to Greek influence. Both outdoor and indoor theatres appear in the caves of Ramgarh hill, 160 miles south of Banaras, and there is also a rest house for an actress. The plan of the theatre is supposed to be of Greek origin.


Some scholars doubt this type of Greek influence, but there is little doubt that the curtain entered Indian theatre under Greek influence. As it was borrowed from the Greeks, it came to be known as yavanika, a word derived from the term yavana, a Sanskritized form of Ionian, a branch of the Greeks known to the ancient Indians. Initially, the term yavana referred to the Greeks, but subsequently it began to be used for all foreigners.

However, India’s contribution to the development of theatre is undeniable. Around 150BC, Patanjali mentions the presentation of such scenes as the binding of Bali or the killing of Kansa. More importantly, Bharata’s Natyasastra was an important work on rhetoric and dramaturgy, and marked the entry of full-fledged theatre into India. The best example of secular literature is the Kamasutra of Vatsyayana. Attributed to the third century AD, it is the earliest work on erotics dealing with sex and lovemaking. It gives us a picture of the life of a city-bred person or nagaraka who lived in a period of thriving urbanism.