Kanishka was a king of the Kushana Empire in South Asia. He was famous for his military, political and spiritual achievements, and along with Ashoka and Harshavardhana is considered to be the greatest king by Buddhists. He had a vast empire, it extended from Oxus in the East to Varanasi in the West, and from Kashmir in
the North to the coast of Gujarat including Malwa in the South. The date of his accession to the throne is not certain, but is believed to be 78 AD. This year marks the beginning of an era, which is known as the Shaka era. Under the reign of Kanishka, Kushana dynasty reached the zenith of its power and became the mighty empire in the world.
Kanishka was tolerant towards all the religions.He issued many coins during his rule. His coins depict Hindu, Buddhist, Greek, Persian and Sumerian-Elemite images of gods, showing his secular religious policy. He is remembered for his association with Buddhism. He himself was a Buddhist convert, and convened the fourth Buddhist council in Kashmir. This council in Kashmir marked the beginning of Mahayana cult of Buddhism. He patronized both the Gandhara School of Greco-Buddhist Art and the Mathura School of Hindu Art. He sent Buddhist missionaries to various parts of the world to spread Buddhism. Kanishka is remembered in Buddhist architecture mainly for the multi storey relic tower, enshrining the relics of the Buddha, constructed by him at Peshawar. The Chinese traveler Xuanzang who came to India in seventh century gives the detailed account of this multi storey Stupa. With the expansion of his territories in China he also spread Buddhism there. Various Buddhist theologians such as Vasumitra, Parshva, Sangharaksha and Ashvaghosha are associated with Kanishka. All the patronage given to Buddhism by Kanishka seems to have been political.
Historians are uncertain about the death of Kanishka. Chinese annals tell the story of a Kushana king who was defeated by the General Pan Chao, towards the end of the first century AD, some people believe it to be the King Kanishka.