In 185 B.C., Pushyamitra Shunga, a general, assassinated the last king of the Mauryan dynasty, Brihadratha. In the years that followed India divided again into a patchwork of kingdoms, as other invaders arrived from central and western Asia. In the process, Hinduism prevailed over Buddhism, which found wide acceptance elsewhere in Asia but remained widely practiced in India, its birthplace. Hindu kingdoms began to appear in what is present-day southern India after the A.D. 4th century. [Source: PBS, The Story of India,, Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations, Thomson Gale, 2007]

During the 200 years of disorder and invasions that followed the collapse of the Mauryan state (c.185 B.C.),southern India enjoyed greater prosperity than the north, despite almost incessant warfare; among the Tamil-speaking kingdoms of the south were the Pandya and Chola states, which maintained an overseas trade with the Roman Empire.

After the disintegration of the Mauryan Empire, South Asia became a collage of regional powers with overlapping boundaries. India's unguarded northwestern border again attracted a series of invaders between 200 B.C. and A.D. 300. As the Aryans had done, the invaders became "Indianized" in the process of their conquest and settlement. Also, this period witnessed remarkable intellectual and artistic achievements inspired by cultural diffusion and syncretism. The Indo-Greeks, or the Bactrians, of the northwest contributed to the development of numismatics; they were followed by another group, the Shakas (or Scythians), from the steppes of Central Asia, who settled in western India. Still other nomadic people, the Yuezhi, who were forced out of the Inner Asian steppes of Mongolia, drove the Shakas out of northwestern India and established the Kushan Kingdom (first century B.C.-third century A.D.). [Source: Library of Congress *]

The Kushan Kingdom controlled parts of Afghanistan and Iran, and in India the realm stretched from Purushapura (modern Peshawar, Pakistan) in the northwest, to Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) in the east, and to Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh) in the south. For a short period, the kingdom reached still farther east, to Pataliputra. The Kushan Kingdom was the crucible of trade among the Indian, Persian, Chinese, and Roman empires and controlled a critical part of the legendary Silk Road. Kanishka, who reigned for two decades starting around A.D. 78, was the most noteworthy Kushan ruler. He converted to Buddhism and convened a great Buddhist council in Kashmir. The Kushanas were patrons of Gandharan art, a synthesis between Greek and Indian styles, and Sanskrit literature. They initiated a new era called Shaka in A.D. 78, and their calendar, which was formally recognized by India for civil purposes starting on March 22, 1957, is still in use. *

Shunga Dynasty (185 B.C. to 72 B.C.)

According to the Puranas, the Maurya dynasty was subverted about 185 B.C. by Pushyamitra Shunga, the principal military officer of the last Mauryan king, who assassinated his ruler and usurped the throne. The circumstances of Brihadratha’s assassination are mentioned in the Harsacarita, which informs us that, while reviewing the army, he was killed by his commander-in-chief. Probably Brihadratha was a very weak ruler and Pusyamitra had the full support of the forces, otherwise he could not have struck down his master on the parade ground itself. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Because the Shungas were the successors to the Mauryans, the period following Mauryan rule is often called the Shunga period. However, except at the beginning, Shunga was not as extensive as the earlier realm but coexisted with other polities throughout the subcontinent. [Source: Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2000]

The Shungas, appear to have been Hindus. The celebrated grammarian, Panini, connects them with the Bharadvaja family. Some texts describe the Shungas as teachers. Further, Taranatha represents Pusyamitra as a Brahman, the family priest (purohita) of a certain monarch; and at one place he expressly calls him a “Brahman king.” Pusyamitra extended his kingdom to Jalandhar and Sakala (Sialkot) in the Punjab, according to the testimony of the Tibetan historian, Taranatha, and the Divyavadana. The latter also indicates that Pataliputra continued to be the royal residence. Pusyamitra’s sway over Ayodhya is proved by an inscription found there. Other sources say his dominions extended as far south as Narmada. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

Pusyamitra passed away in about 148 B. C. after a reign of 36 years. He was succeeded by his son, Agnimitra, who as Viceroy at Vidisa had ample experience of the methods of government. Pie ruled for a brief period of eight years only, and was followed by Sujyestha or Jethamitra (Jyesthamitra) of the coins, perhaps •his brother. After him came Agnimitra’s son, Vasumitra. In his earlier days he defeated the Yavanas, who had tried to obstruct the progress of the sacrificial horse let loose by his grandfather. The Shunga dynasty consisted of ten rulers, but history has not condescended to record anything of note about the rest. One of them, the fifth named Odraka, or, as some think, the last but one called Bhagavata, was identical with king Kasiputra Bhagabhadra of the Besnagar pillar inscription. It was to his court that king Antialkidas (Amtalildta) of Taxila sent his ambassador Heliodorus (Heliodora), son of Dion (Diya), who calls himself a Bhagavata.

The successors of the Shungas are said to have been the Kanvas. It appears from the Purdnas that the Shunga dynasty lasted for 112 years, and we may, therefore, believe that the Kanvayanas or Kanvas, also Hindus, achieved power about 72 B. C. The Harsacarita says that the first Kanva, Vasudeva, became ruler after successfully carrying out the plot to assassinate the “overlibidinous” Devabhuti. This dynasty comprised four kings only, and the total duration of their reigns is 45 years only. They did not distinguish themselves in any manner whatever.[Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

Events During the Shunga Dynasty

War with Vidarbha : The first event of Pusyamitra’s reign was his conflict with Vidarbha. According to the Malavikagnimitram, the kingdom had been newly established, and its ruler Yajnasena, who was related to the minister of the fallen Maurya, is described as a “natural enemy” of the Shungas. Perhaps the former had made himself independent in Vidarbha in the confusion following Brihadratha’s murder, and as soon as Pusyamitra felt his position secure on the throne he demanded the allegiance of Yajnasena. The course of the tussle is obscure, but it seems Agnimitra, who was Pusyamitra’s son and Viceroy at Vidisa, carried on hostilities with great vigour and consummate diplomacy. He won over to his side Yajnasena’s cousin, Madhavascna, and, at last, when the struggle ended, Vidarbha was apportioned between the two cousins. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

The Yavana incursions : During the time of Pusyamitra, India was in the grips of serious Yavana inroads. The great grammarian Patanjali, who was a contemporary of Pusyamitra, as we shall show presently, alludes to their operations against Madhyamika (Nagarl, near Chitor) and Saketa (Ayodhya), for he gives the following illustrations of the use of the imperfect tense to indicate events not seen by the speaker and yet recent enough to have been witnessed by him : Arunad Yovanah Sdketam (the Greek was besieging Saketa); Arunad Yavano Madhydmikdm (the Greek was besieging Madhyamika). The GdrgJ-Samhitd also testifies that the “viciously valiant Greeks” reduced Mathura, the Pancala country (Gangetic Doab), and Saketa, and even reached Kusumadhvaja (Pataliputra). Similarly, the Mdlavikdgnimitra refers to the defeat of the Yavanas — perhaps their advance body — on the banks of the river Sindhu 2 by Vasumitra. We do not know exactly who was the Yavana general to attack India at this time. Some scholars identify him with Deme trios and others with Menander. According to Strabo, they were both great conquerors, and carried the Greek standards to distant lands.

The Ahamedha sacrifice : The performance of the Ahamedha was one of the notable events of Pusyamitra’s reign. It is referred to in the Malavikagnimitra, and by Patanjali. Indeed, the latter officiated as priest in this sacrifice, as would appear from the passage — “iha Pusyamitram yajayamah” (here we are sacrificing for Pusyamitra) — which Patanjali mentions as an instance of the use of the present tense to denote an incomplete action. The Ayodhya inscription 1 further informs us that Pusyamitra performed not one but two horse-sacrifices. In the opinion of Jayasval, the second Ahamedha was celebrated because Pusyamitra. suffered a reverse at the hands of king Kharavela of Kalinga. We shall, however, show below that the contemporaneity of these two rulers is extremely doubtful.

Shunga Religion, Art, and Literature

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Shunga “period saw a flowering of the visual arts, including small terracotta images, larger stone sculptures, and architectural monuments such as the chaitya hall at Bhaja, the stupa at Bharhut, and the renowned Great Stupa at Sanchi. Under Shunga patronage, the core of the Great Stupa, thought to date from the era of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka (r. ca. 273–232 B.C.), was enlarged to its present diameter of 120 feet, covered with a stone casing, topped with a balcony and umbrella, and encircled with a stone railing. Four famous gateways, each about 35 feet high, were carved during the first half of the first century A.D. Decorated with images of auspicious fertility spirits, known as yakshas and yakshis, the gateways also feature narratives depicting moments from the past lives and final existence of Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism . Motifs such as wheels, thrones, and footprints are used to symbolize the Buddha, who is not represented in human form until later. [Source: Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2000]

t is suggested that the ivoryworkers of Vidisa were responsible for one of the exquisite gateways of Sanchi (Foucher). Literature must have flourished during the time of the Shungas. Patanjali, a native of Gonarda, wrote his Mahabhasya, the great commentary on Panini’s grammar; and perhaps there were other literary celebrities, but their names have not yet been rescued from the limbo of oblivion. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

According to the Divyavadana, Pusyamitra was a persecutor of Buddhism and he is represented to have made the notorious declaration at Salcala setting a price of one hundred gold dinar as on the head of every Buddhist monk. Taranatha also affirms that Pusyamitra was the ally of unbelievers and himself burnt monasteries and slew monks. Pusyamitra was no doubt a zealous champion of Brahmanism, but the Buddhist Stupas and railings erected at Bharhut (Nagod State) “during the sovereignty of the Suiigas” would hardly corroborate the literary evidence regarding his ebullitions of sectarian rancour. Of course, this conclusion will have to be modified, if the above expression is not taken to refer to the time of Pusyamitra.

Satavahanas (72 B.C. to A.D. 195)

During the Kushan Dynasty, an indigenous power, the Satavahana Kingdom (first century B.C.-third century A.D.), rose in the Deccan in southern India. The Satavahana, or Andhra, Kingdom was considerably influenced by the Mauryan political model, although power was decentralized in the hands of local chieftains, who used the symbols of Vedic religion and upheld the varnashramadharma . The rulers, however, were eclectic and patronized Buddhist monuments, such as those in Ellora (Maharashtra) and Amaravati (Andhra Pradesh). Thus, the Deccan served as a bridge through which politics, trade, and religious ideas could spread from the north to the south. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Dravidian social order was based on different ecoregions rather than on the Aryan varna paradigm, although the Brahmans had a high status at a very early stage. Segments of society were characterized by matriarchy and matrilineal succession — which survived well into the nineteenth century — cross-cousin marriage, and strong regional identity. Tribal chieftains emerged as "kings" just as people moved from pastoralism toward agriculture, sustained by irrigation based on rivers, small-scale tanks (as man-made ponds are called in India) and wells, and brisk maritime trade with Rome and Southeast Asia. *

Discoveries of Roman gold coins in various sites attest to extensive South Indian links with the outside world. As with Pataliputra in the northeast and Taxila in the northwest (in modern Pakistan), the city of Madurai, the Pandyan capital (in modern Tamil Nadu), was the center of intellectual and literary activities. Poets and bards assembled there under royal patronage at successive concourses and composed anthologies of poems, most of which have been lost. By the end of the first century B.C., South Asia was crisscrossed by overland trade routes, which facilitated the movements of Buddhist and Jain missionaries and other travelers and opened the area to a synthesis of many cultures. *

Origin and Names of the Satavahanas

The origin of the Satavahanas is obscure. Some scholars connect them with the Satiyaputas of Ashokan edicts, and the Setai mentioned by Pliny. Others give fanciful derivations of the name. Whatever the exact significance of the terms Satakarni or Satavahana, the inscriptions of the dynasty suggest a Brahmanical ancestry. For in the Nasik inscription Gautamiputra is described as “the unique Brahman in prowess equal to Rama.” This obtains further confirmation from the fact that he is called “the destroyer of the pride and conceit of the Ksatriyas.” The author of the inscription thus regarded Gautamiputra as a great Brahman, a veritable Parasurama. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

The Satavahanas are called Andhras in the Puranas. The latter were an ancient people, occupying the Telugu country between the Godavari and the Krisna. They are mentioned in the Aitareja Brahmana as beyond the pale of Aryanism, and Megasthenes gives some details of their power and wealth. In the edicts of Ashoka they are included among the peoples within his sphere of influence. What happened to them after the decline of the Mauryan Empire is not known, but presumably they asserted their independence. Let us now examine the relation between the Satavahanas and the Andhras. The former uniformly call themselves Satavahana or Satakarni in their epigrapbic documents, and the name Andhra is conspicuous by its absence. Besides, their earliest inscriptions are found in Nanaghat (Poona district) and Sanchl (Central India). This raises a strong suspicion that the Andhras and the Satavahanas did not belong to the same stock. Indeed, it appears that the Satavahanas started from the Deccan, and after a short time conquered Andhradesa. But when they lost their western and northern territories on account of the Saka and Abhira invasions, their power was limited to the regions of the Godavari and the Krisna, and then they became known as the Andhras.

The date of the rise of the Satavahanas has been a frequent source of controversy. Some scholars, relying on the Pauranic (Matsya) testimony that the Andhras ruled for about four centuries and a half, assign the beginnings of their power to the last quarter of the third century B. C. Much stress should not, however, be laid on this date, for another tradition preserved in the Vayu Purdrta mentions 300 years only as the duration of their rule. Dr. Bhandarkar, on the other hand, believes that the Satavahana dynasty was founded about 72-73 B. C. In his opinion the statement of the Vurdnas that Simuka or Sisuka, the first Satavahana, “will obtain the earth after uprooting Susarman Kanvayana and what was left of the Shunga power,” proves that the “Sungabhritya” Kanvas ruled, like the Peshwas, simultaneously with their masters. But if this view is accepted, how are we to reconcile it with the other Pauranic reference that Vasudeva Kanva killed the last Shunga Devabhuti?

Satavahana Rulers

Not much is known about Simuka, the founder of the line, except that he subverted the Kanvas and the remnants of the Shunga power. He was succeeded by his brother Kanha (Krisna), and a Nasik inscription informs us that during his reign an inhabitant of the place had a cave made there. This clearly indicates that Krisna’s authority was recognised in the Nasik region. The third king, Satakarni, son of Simuka, appears to have been a considerable figure. According to the Nanaghat inscription, he made extensive conquests and performed two Ahamedha sacrifices. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

The exploits of Gautamiputra Satakarni are detailed in a Nasik inscription of the queen-mother, Gautami BalaSri. He is said to have crushed the pride and conceit of the Ksatriyas, and to have restored the observance of caste rules. He overthrew the Sakas, Yavanas, and the Pahlavas; destroyed the Ksaharatas; and re-established the glory of the Satavahana race. The above claims obtain some confirmation from the names of the various countries that were under his domination; they correspond roughly to modern Gujatat, Saurastra, Malwa, Berar, North Konkan, and the region around Poona and Nasik. That he deprived the Ksaharatas of their possessions is also apparent from the large Jogalthambi (Nasik) hoard containing silver coins of Nahapana and his other pieces restruck by Gautamtputra Satakarni He dedicated a cave at Pandu-lena, near Nasik, in the 18th year of his reign; and he issued another inscription in the 24th year, granting a field to certain ascetics. The latter record proves that he ruled for at least 24 years.

Gautamiputra was succeeded by his son Vasisthiputra Sri Pulamavi in about A.D. 30. He extended the Satavahana sway over AndhradeSa; and he has been rightly identified with Siropolemaiou, whom Ptolemy calls king of Baithan or Paithan (Pratisthana), which may have been the capital of the later Satavahanas. It is further believed that Pulamavi is the Satakarni, lord of Daksinapatha, mentioned in the Junagadh Rock inscription as having been twice defeated by Rudrada,man. We also learn that the rival’s mutual relation was “not remote.” Probably Pulamavi was the victor’s son-in-law, if Rapson is correct in identifying him with Vasisthiputra Sri Satakarni, represented in a Kanheri (Thana district) inscription to have married the daughter of Mahaksatrapa Rudra (Rudradaman). But though the latter spared the Satavahana ruler, he annexed a good deal of his territories, as would appear from the list of countries, over which, according to the Junagadh inscription, the Saka Mahaksatrapa ruled. Sri Pulamavi died about 155 A. D.

Yajna Sri Satakarni or Sri Yajna Satakarni was the last great monarch of the dynasty. He ruled from circa A. D. 165 to 195 — an inscription discovered at Chinna in the Krisna district being dated in the 27th year of his reign. This record as well as those found in Kanheri and Pandu-lena (Nasik), and the provenance of his coins, prove that his dominions extended east to west from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian sea. Thus he regained much of the land, which the Sakas had conquered earlier; and presumably the pieces he issued in imitation of the Western Ksatrapa coinage were meant for circulation in these regions. Further, the maritime power and activity of Sri Yajna Satakarni are indicated by a coin having a two -masted ship with a fish and a conch and the legend (Ra) na Samasa sar (i) YaHa Satakanasa i.e., Kan a Samisa Siri Yana Satakanisa on the obverse and the Ujjaini symbol on the reverse.Yajna Sri’s successors were mere nonentities. During their time the Satavahana power rapidly declined, and it collapsed when the Abhlras seized Maharastra, and the Iksvakus and the Pallavas appropriated the eastern provinces.

Satavahana Society, Religion and Literature

There were at least four classes of social divisions. The Mahabhojas, the Maharathis, and the Mabaser.dpatis, who controlled the rastras or districts, comprised the highest rank of society. The second class included officials like the Atnatyas, Mahdmatras, and the Bhandagarikas-, such non-officials as the Naigama (merchant), Sdrthavaha (head of the traders), and the Sresthin (chief of the trade-guild). The third class consisted of the Vaidya (physician), Lekhaka (scribe), Suvarnahdra (goldsmith), Gandhika (perfumer), HalakJya (cultivator), etc. The fourth class comprehended the Md/dkara (gardener), Vardbaki (carpenter), Ddsaka (fisherman), Tohavanija (blacksmith), etC. The head of a family.(kula) was called Kutumbin or Grihapati; his position was certainly one of authority. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

Both Brahmanism and Buddhism prospered under the tolerant rule of the Satavahanas. Pious donors excavated Caitya-grihas (temples) or caused caves to be made for the residence (layanas) of the Bhiksus, and also adequately provided for their maintenance by depositing money on interest with guilds. Brahmanism was showing signs of vigour. Asvamedha, Rajasuya, Aptoryama, and other sacrifices were performed by the Royalty, and Hindus got decent Daksinas or fees. The worship of Siva and Krisna was popular, and votaries of the different faiths lived in harmony. Sometimes they even gave grants to one another. Foreigners adopted either religion — Brahmanism or Buddhism — and were being assimilated into the Hindu society. Indeed, their names had become thoroughly Hinduised. Thus, in a Karle inscription two Yavanas are called Sihadaya (Simhadvaja) and Dharma respectively. Similarly, the Saka Usavadata is represented as a staunch Brahmanist.

The Satavahana kings were great patrons of Prakrit, The Njlnaghat inscription refers to other gods like Dharma, which is used in all their documents. One of them, Hala, was even the author of a Prakrit anthology called the Sattasai (Saptahtaka). About the same time Gunadhya is said to have written his original Bribatkatha in Prakrit. Further, Mr. Allan points out that Sarvavarman produced the Katantra for die benefit of an Andhra king who was “ashamed of his ignorance of Sanskrit and found Panini too difficult.” One need not unduly emphasise these traditions. It appears rather strange, however, that the Brahman Satavahanas neglected Sanskrit in favour of Prakrit literature. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

Guilds (Srenis) were a normal feature of the age. We learn of such organisations of corn-dealers (dham nikas), potters, weavers (kolika-nikdyas), oil-pressers (tilapisaka), braziers (kasakaras), bamboo -workers (vamsakaras), etc. Besides bringing members of the same craft together, they served as banks, in which money (aksaya nm) could be invested on interest. The currency consisted of Karsapanas, both silver andcopper, and gold Suvarnas. Each Suvarna was equivalent to 55 silver Kdrsapana pieces. Trade flourished; and ships from the West, laden ( with merchandise, visited the ports of Broach, Sopara, and Kalyan. The two important inland marts were Tagara and Paithan. Communications were generally good, and people freely went from one part of the Deccan to another on business.

Saka Migrations

About 165-160 B.C. there were momentous movements of nomadic tribes in Central Asia. The Yuezhi were dislodged from their position in North-western China, and were forced to migrate westwards. In the course of their wandering they encountered the Sakas or Sse, who occupied the lands to the north of the Jaxartes (Syr Darya). The latter, having been pushed south, swooped down on Bactria and the Parthian kingdom in the period between 140 and 120 B.C. Weakened by foreign wars and internal dissensions, the Bactrian monarchy fell an easy prey to the invasion of these hordes. Then the Sakas pressed towards the south-west, and in the struggle, which followed with Parthia, Phraates II was killed in 128 B.C., and Artabanus I lost his life a few years later in 123 B.C. Mithridates II (123-88 B.C.), however, reasserted the Parthian power, which naturally diverted the Sakas eastwards. As their expansion was impeded in the Kabul valley, where the attenuated Greek kingdom lay like a wedge, they spread themselves in the territory, afterwards called Seistan or Sakastan. Sometime later, they moved through Arachosia (Kandahar) and Baluchistan into the lower Indus country, which consequently became known as Saka-dvlpa to Hindu writers and Indo-Scythia to Greek geographers. From this base the Sakas established their settlements in several parts of India. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

The earliest Saka ruler of India appears to have been Maues, who is probably identical with Moa (cf. “Moasa”) of the Maira (Salt Range) well inscription, and with Moga of the Taxila plate of Satrap Patika. Maues was followed by Azes, who maintained his predecessor’s conquests intact, as is clear from the continuance of his coin-types. He also restruck the coins of Hippostratus, thereby indicating that Azes extended the Saka rule over eastern Punjab. Some believe that he was the originator of the era commencing from B.C. 58. This view is, however, not at all convincing.

According to numismatic evidence Azilises came after Azes I, although there was a period in which both were associated in the government. The former was in turn succeeded by another Azes, designated Azes II. Some scholars identify the two Azes, but better opinion takes them as separate rulers. As we shall see below, after Azes II the Saka territories passed under the sway of Gondophernes.

Satraps of the North-West

In the government by Satraps, it was the usual practice of the Mahaksatrapa to rule in association with a Ksatrapa, generally his son, who in due course succeeded to the higher position. The Taxila copperplate of the year 78 gives us two such names — Liaka Kusulaka and his son Patika. They were Satraps,. under Maharaya Moga, of the districts of Chhahara and Chuksha, perhaps near Taxila. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

The earliest known members of this family were Hagana and Hagamasa, who appear to have for some time ruled conjointly. Their successor was probably Ranjubula or Rajuvula, called Mahaksatrapa in the Mora (near Mathura) inscription. He copied the coins of Strato I and Strato II, and it may, therefore, be reasonable to suppose that Ranjubula put an end to Greek rule in eastern Punjab. After him, his Ksatrapa son, Sodasa, succeeded to the dignity of Mahakstrapa. According to the Mathura Lion Capital inscription he was satrap when Padika, or Patika, identified with Patika of the Taxila record, was great Satrap or Mahaksatrapa. So we may regard them as contemporaries. In the Amohini votive tablet inscription, Sodasa is called a Mahaksatrapa, and if its date 42 (Rapson) is to be referred to the Vikrama era, ' he must have flourished about 17-16 B.C. Not much is known about his successors. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

The first known Ksatrapa of Western India was Bhumaka, who belonged to the Ksaharata family. He held sway in Saurastra. The type and fabric of his coins as well as the legends on them clearly indicate that Bhumaka preceded Nahapana; and their insignia “arrow, discus, and thunderbolt” may be com pared with certain pieces having “discus, bow and arrow” on the reverse, issued “conjointly by Spalirises and Azes.” [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

The next Ksaharata ruler was Nahapana whose precise relation with Bhumaka is uncertain. There can, however, be no doubt about the former’s Saka nationality. For his daughter bearing a Hindu name, Daksamitra, was married to Usavadata (Risabhadatra), who is expressly called a Saka in one of his inscriptions. The records of the latter, discovered at Pandu-lena (near Nasik), Junnar and Karle (Poona district), show that Nahapana was master of a large part of Maharastra. He must have wrested this region from the Satavahanas. He also sent his son-in-law to help the Uttamabhadras in repelling the aggressions of the Malayas or Malavas. After his victory, Usavadata made certain benefactions in the Puskara tlrtha (Pokhara), which may indicate the extension of Nahapana’s influence as far as Ajmer. The inscriptions of his reign are dated in the years 41 to 46 of an unspecified era. On the assumption that these dates refer to the Saka era, although Dubreuil would assign them to the' Vikrama era, Nahapana was ruling in 1 19-124 A.D. But if he is identical with Mambarus or Mambanos of the Per ip Jus, as has sometimes been supposed, he must have flourished about the third quarter of the first century A.D. It appears from the evidence of the Nasik inscription and the Jogalthambi (near Nasik) hoard of coins that the power of Nahapana, or perhaps one of his successors, was crushed by Gautamlputra Satakarni. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

Satraps of Ujjain

The founder of this line, which exercised sway in western India for several centuries, was Castana, son of Ysamotika. Some scholars regard him as the originator of the Saka era beginning from 78 A.D. Others deny this, but they admit that the year 5 2 of the Andhau (Cutcb) inscriptions is to be referred to this reckoning — a theory which would fix the year 130 A.D. as a date in Castana’s reign. He has been identified with Ptolemy’s Tiastenes of Ozene; and his coins were copied from those of Nahapana. Castana first ruled as a Ksatrapa, and subsequently as a Mahaksatrapa. Was he then “a vassal of Gautamlputra,” as G. Jouveau Dubreuil believed, or of the Kushans? [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

Castana’s son, Jayadaman, was only a Ksatrapa, and he died without achieving any distinction. The latter’s son, Rudradaman, was, however, a great figure. His exploits are described in the Junagadh Rock ins- cription dated year 72 or ijo A.D. It represents him as having won for himself the title of Mahaksatrapa; conquered the “proud” Yaudheyas; and twice vanquished Satakarni, lord of Daksinapatha, to whom his relation was “not remote.” That these claims were not mere boasts is also evident from the names of lands, where his authority was recognised. They included northern Gujarat, Saurastra, Cutch, the lower Indus valley, north Konkan, Mandhata region, eastern and western Malwa, Kukura and Maru i.e., parts of Rajputana, etc. Some of these territories, as we have elsewhere noted, were under Gautamiputra Satakarni. Thus the power of Rudradaman grew at the cost of the Satavahanas. Another important event of his reign was the bursting of the embankment of the SudarSana lake. But it was rebuilt three times stronger mainly by the efforts of his Pahlava governor of “the whole of Anartta and Surastra,” named SuviSakha, son of Kulaipa. We further learn that Rudradaman himself bore the entire expenses of its repairs, and did not resort to the usual royal device of imposing additional taxation. How solicitous he was indeed for the welfare of his people [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

Several members of the dynasty ruled after Riv dradaman, but nothing of moment is known about them. About the fourth decade of the third century A.D. the fortunes of the Ksatrapas suffered a temporary eclipse owing to the irruption of the Abhlras under perhaps Isvaradatta, who usurped a portion of their dominions. The family, however, soon reasserted itself, and carried on its existence amidst vicissitudes till Saka A.D. 78), a date occurring on the coins of Rudrasimha III, who is perhaps identical with the Saka sovereign, mentioned in the Harasacarita as having been killed by Chandragupta Vikramaditya. The Guptas then annexed the Saka territories, and issued silver coins of the Ksatrapa type, substituting the Garuda emblem on the reverse for the Ksatrapa symbols. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

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Text Sources: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942; New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated September 2020

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