The Satvahana Dynasty (Post Mauryan Dynasties)
Simuka was the founder of the Satavahana Dynasty and he is believed to have destroyed the Shunga Power. He did so with the aid of the Rathikas and Bhojakas. He reigned for around 23 years and was beheaded by his brother Kanha, who succeeded him.
Kanha was the second ruler of the Satavahana Dynasty. He extended the empire to further south. He was succeeded by Simuka’s son Satkarni-I.
- Satkarni-I or Sri Satkarni was son of Simuka and was a great ruler among the Early Satavahanas.
- Naganika was the name of his queen and he has been described as the Lord of Dakshinpatha.
- Kanha extended the empire to further south, Malwa and Narmada valley. He performed Ashvamedha Yajna and Rajsuya Yajna.
- Satkarni II was the longest ruling king of the Satavahana Dynasty and date of his accession is considered to be 166 BC.
- He has been mentioned in the Hathigumpha inscription of the kharvela, in which he is depicted as enemy of Kharvela.
- In this inscription, it is mentioned that Kharvela disregarded Satkarni and dispatched to the western regions an army of strong cavalry. Satkarni II was succeeded by Lamobodara followed by Apilaka and some other rulers like Hala.
- Hala was one more great king of the Satavahanas who was 17th King of the Satavahana line.
- He had compiled the “Gatha saptasati” or Gaha Sattasai which mainly a text on love theme. Gatha saptasati is in Prakrat. He is also mentioned in another text Lilavati.
- These rulers were small rulers only and are considered to be under the suzerainty of Kanvas. The expansion of the Satavahanas was checked just after Satkarni II.
- The Shakas pushed them southwards and the western Deccan was occupied by the Shaka King Nahapana.
Gautamiputra Satkarni (Reign 78-102 AD)
- The lost power of Satavahana was revived by Gautamiputra Satkarni who is described as the Destroyer of the Shaka, Pahalava and Yavana Power.
- Gautamiputra Satkarni is known to have made a total and sharp recovery of the Satvahans.
- His achievements have been mentioned in the Nasik Inscription, by his mother Gautami.
- His empire extended from Eastern Malwa, Western Malwa, Narmada Valley, Vidarbha, Western Rajputana, Saurastra and even Kalinga.
- Nasik Prasasti describes Gautamiputra as the ruler of the Aparanta, Anupa, Saurashtra, Kukura, Akara, and Avanti.
- In south his reign was up to Kanchi in South. He assumed the title of raja-raja and Maharaja.
- After Gautamiputra Satkarni, the Puranic inscription name other Satavahanas such as Pulumayi, Sri Satkarni, Siva Sri, Sivaskanda Satkarni , Madhariptra Sakasena, Sri Yajna Satkarni. One more important is Vasithiputra Pulumavi-II.
- Pulumayi-II is known as Vasithiputta or Vashishthi Putra Satkarni. He was son of Gautamiputra Satkarni and was an efficient king like his father.
- He extended the power of Satvahanas to further south and it was now extended up to Bellary district of Modern Karnataka.
- The Girnar Inscription of Rudradaman mentions that Rudradaman defeated the Dakshinapathpati Satkarni twice, but did not kill him because of the close family relationship.
- This has been corroborated as “that Pulumavi-II was married to daughter of Rudradaman. Pulumayi-II has been described in largest number of inscription and this proves that he had a vast empire.
- In the reign of Pulumayi-II ‘s life, the Shaka revived under Chastana.
- The last Satavahana Ruler was Pulumavi-IV. Not many details have been found about him except that he built a tank in Vepura.
- The Satavahana coins, inscriptions and literature are the rich source of our knowledge about their administrative system.
- In this period the South was ruled over by the monarchies. King was the highest official of the Government and his office was hereditary.
- They did not assume high sounding titles. Similarly, the Satavahana rulers did not believe in divine rights of a king and they carried administration in accordance with the directives of the Dharma Shastras and the social customs. The king himself led his armies in the battle-field and was commander-in-chief of his forces.
- There was also a council of ministers to aid and advise him for carrying out the administration properly.
- The king was the head of the Government as well as the protector to his people.
- The Satavahana kings regarded their subjects as their own children and always looked after their welfare.
- The Satavahana Empire was very vast. Their administrative system was feudal. They had divided their empire among a number of feudal chiefs who managed the land revenue system and looked after the administration.
- There were three grades of feudatories: the ‘Raja’, the ‘Mahabhoja’ and the ‘Maharathi or ‘Senapati”. The ‘Raja’ belonged to the highest grade. He had the right to impose taxes and to strike coins. The kingdom was divided into provinces and ‘Janapadas’ for administrative efficiency.
- The highest official in a province was ‘Amatya’ or minister. His office was not hereditary. Men of proven ability were appointed to this official. Each unit had several villages. A village was administered by a ‘Gramika’. There we several officials to help the king. Out of them, the most important were ‘Senapati, ‘Mahabhoja’, ‘Koshadhyaksha’, ‘Rajadoof, ‘Amatya’ etc.
- There was also a special official called ‘Uparakshita’ who was charged with the duty of building caves etc. for the monks. The ‘bhikshus’ (monks) and Brahmanas were held in high esteem and they too observed and preached high standards of conduct. They were beyond the ordinary laws of the Government.
- There were separate organization to look after the administration of the towns and the villages.
- The towns were administered by a body called the ‘Nagarsabha’ while in villages there were ‘Gram Sabhas’.
- These organizations carried their functions independently without any interference.
- The military administration of the Satavahanas was also quite efficient.
- Their army consisted of foot soldiers, cavalry and elephants.
- Foot soldiers or infantry was the backbone of the army and they formed the vanguard and were flanked on either side by horses and elephants. The soldiers used swords, spears, axes and armours as weapons of war.
- It was by dint of efficient military administration that the Satavahanas succeeded in expanding their empires. They kept a regiment posted in each village for maintaining peace and order. They were maintained at the expense of the rural inhabitants.
- The Satavahana society was divided into four classes. This division was based on economic activity and status.
- The first class consisted of high officials and feudatory chief who ruled over provinces and districts.
- The second class included petty officers like Amatyas Mahamatras and wealthy traders.
- The third class were the middle class peoples such as Vaidyas or physicians, writers, peasants, goldsmiths, perfumers etc.
- The fourth were constituted of the lowest vocations such as carpenters, blacksmiths, fishermen and gardeners. There were the four divisions of the society. The smallest unit was the family in which the eldest living member commanded the greatest respect. He was called the ‘Grihapati and was obeyed by all the other members of the family.
- Women were honoured. They were given higher education and they took part in religious functions. Some of the rulers even added their mother’s name to their own name, such as Gautamiputra, Vashishthiputra, Pulumavi, Kaushakiputra etc.
- This practice itself reveals that the status of women was much high. Sometimes, women assumed guardianship of their minor sons and acted as their regents. They also took part in the Ashvamedhas. The Satavahanas were Brahmanas.
- Therefore, Brahmansnism made rapid strides under their rule. The Brahmanas were accorded the highest place. Effort was also made to revice the Varna system. In their bid to exalt Brahmanism the Smritis declared that a ten years old Brahman would be more revered than a 100 years old Kshatriya.
- Mixed marriages were considered obnoxious though there are some instances of such marriages. Vashishthiputra Pulumavi himself married the daughter of the Saka ruler Rudradaman thus giving respectability to such marriages.
- In this period, inter marriages among the Hindus and foreign tribes of the Sakas, the parthians and the Greeks were freely consummated so that these foreigners were absorbed forever in the Hindu social order.
- Agriculture and trade were prosperous. Life of the common man was happy as he was well- provided with all facilities of life. They were economically well-off. They inherited many traits of the material culture of the Mauryas and made their life better and well off. There was a free fusion of local elements and northern ingredients under them.
- They learnt the use of coins, burnt bricks and ring wells from the Mauryas and added much to the advancement of their material life.
- Under the Satavahanas, agriculture was prosperous and the village’s economy was developed. Rice was cultivated in the territory between the Krishna and Godavari rivers.
- Cotton was also produced. The peasants used implements made of iron which were extensively used particularly in Carnatic. There were also wells for irrigation.
- Encouragement was given to trade and industry.
- The traders and those engaged in other professions had their own guilds or ‘sanghas’. Coin dealers, potters, oil pressers and metal workers had their own guilds.
- These guilds looked after the collective interests of their trade and worked for their common uplift. These guilds were recognized by the Government and worked as bankers also.
- Both internal and external to trade and industry. The external or foreign trade was carried through the famous ports of Supara, Broach and Kalyan. India and trade relations with countries like Arabia, Egypt and Rome.
- In the far eastern countries, Indian traders established their own settlements and preach Indian culture.
- They referred to these countries as ‘Swargabhoomi’ or paradise. India exported cotton, textiles, spices etc. India imported wine, glass and items of luxury. The inland trade was also prosperous. Travel between the north and south of India were much easy as the roads and transport were better.
- Several towns sprang up in Maharashtra during this period. Paithan, Nasik and Junar were big markets and centers of trade.
- In the south-east Vijaypur and Narsela were well-known trade centers. There were guilds of traders as well and they carried trade in groups.
- To encourage trade, the Satavahna kings struck numerous coins of gold, silver, copper and bronze.
- During the Satavahana period, both Hinduism and Buddhism spread rapidly.
- The Satavahana rulers were the followers of Brahmanism. They performed Aswamedha Yajnas and gave donations to Brahmanas.
- Indra, Surya (The Sun God), Chandra, (the Moon God), Vasudeva, Krishna, Pasupati and Gauri etc. were various Gods and Goddesses worshipped by the people. Shaivism and Vaishnavism were most popular form of Hinduism.
- Beautiful temples were built. The Brahmans occupied the highest position in the society.
- The Satavahana kings were Brahmanas but they showed tolerance towards other faiths such as to Buddhism as well. They gave similar donations to Buddhism as they did for the Hinduism. Consequently, Buddhism too spread in this period. At many places, the Buddhist caves, chaityas and stupas were built.
- Almost all the caves in the south belonged to the Buddhists. Sometimes, grants of land were made for the maintenance of these chaityas, viharas and stupas as well as for the monks or bhikshus. In this period, there were several sects of Buddhism in the south and various classes of monks were always busy to preach the Buddhist doctrines.
- One significant development of this period was the admission of the foreign races of the Sakas, Greeks, Kushans and Abhiras to the folds of Hinduism or Buddhism. They became an integral part of the Indian society. They were quite tolerant and exchanged gifts on religious festivals and other occasions.
- The Satavahana rulers were lovers of literature. Under their patronage, great progress was made in the field of literature.
- Most of the Satavahana rulers were themselves learned and had special interest in literature. In this period, the Prakrit language and literature developed significantly.
- They extended patronage to the Prakrit language and wrote most of their inscriptions in that language. The Satvahana King Hala was a poet of high order. He composed ‘Gatha Saptasatf in Prakrti.
- It has 700 shloakas. He also patronized several scholars who lived in his court. Gunadhya, the great scholar who wrote ‘Brihat Katha’ lived in his court. Another scholar Sarva Varman wrote a treatise on the Sanskrit Grammar.
- . The Satvahana rulers took interest in building caves, viharas or monasteries, chaityas or large halls with a number of columns and stupas.
- Most of the rock caves in the Deccan were cut during this period. These caves were big and beautiful.
- The caves, monasteries, chaityas and stupas of Orissa, Nasik, Karle and Bhuj are fine specimen of contemporary architecture and decoration.
- Chaitya was a large hall with a number of columns. The Vihara had a central Hall. One could enter this hall by a doorway from a varandah in front. The Chaitya of Karle was most famous. It is 40 metres long, 15 metres wide and 15 metres high. It has rows of 15 columns on each side.
- Each of these columns is built on a stair like square plinth. Each pillar has a capital figure of an elephant, a horse or a rider on the top. The roof-tops are also decorated with elegant carvings.The viharas were meant as places of residence for the monks. At Nasik, there are three viharas carrying the inscriptions of Gautmiputra and Nahapana.
- The most famous of these monuments are the stupas. Among them the Amravati Stupa and the Nagarjunakonda Stupa are most famous. The stupa was a large round structure built over some relic of the Buddha.
- The Amravati Stupa measures 162 metres across the base and its height is 100 feet. Both these stupas are full of sculptures. The Nagarjunakonda town contains not only the Buddhist monuments but also some ancient Hindu brick temples.
- Many sculptures were made during this period. Most of the sculptures of this period depict scenes from the life of the Buddha. At Amravati, there is a beautiful scene showing Buddha’s feet being worshipped. The scene, showing Buddha preaching at Nagarjunakonda, is pervaded with serenity and calm.
Achievements of the Satavahana Rulers:
- The Satavahana rulers were great kings. They recorded significant achievements in various fields which are described as under:
- The Satavahana Rulers and their Conquests:
- There were about 19 Satavahana rulers of whom the most important were Simuka who conquered Magadha and Krishna who occupied Nasik. Sri Satakarni conquered Berarand Madhya Pradesh. Little is known about their successors for about a century except Hala the 17th ruler of this dynasty.
- Shri Gautamiputra Satakarni conquered Malwa, Kathiawar, Gujarat and part of the Rajputana. Shri Pulumavi had perpetual conflict with Rudradaman. The last king was Yagya Sri Satakarni who was a strong ruler. He waged wars to recover the territories conquered previously by the Saka rulers.
- Political Condition and Administration:
- The system of administration was monarchical. The king himself was the commander of his force. He sought advice from his council of ministers to carry out his administration efficiently. The administration was feudal. The whole kingdom was divided into provinces, districts and villages.
- The king was always prepared to take steps for the welfare of his subjects. The main sources of income were land tax, salt tax, property tax, justice- cess and income from import and export trade. The military administration was efficient. The army which consisted of infantry or foot soldiers, cavalry or horses and elephants were well-equipped.
- Literary Progress:
- The Satavahana kings were lovers of literature. They also patronized learning. The Prakrit language prospered well during this period. Hala wrote ‘Gatha – Saptasati, Gunadhya wrote ‘Brihat Katha’ and Sarva Varman wrote a treatise on the Sanskrit Grammar.
- Progress in the Field of Architecture:
- Under the Satavahanas great progress was made in the field of architecture as well.
- Progress in the Field of Sculpture:
- Many statues and images were also made during this period. Most of the images depict scenes from the life of the Buddha.
- The scene depicting Buddha’s feet being worshipped is particularly a unique sculpture at the Amravati Stupa while at Nagarjunakonda the sculpture, depicting the Buddha giving a sermon, cast a spell of serenity and calm.