- The Early Satavahanas ruled Telangana and Andhra Pradesh regions which were always their heartland. The Puranas list 30 rulers. Many are known from their coins and inscriptions as well.
- The founder of the Satavahana dynasty was Simuka.
Simuka (230–207 BCE):
- After becoming independent around 230 BCE, Simuka, the founder of the dynasty, conquered the present-day Maharashtra and parts of Madhya Pradesh (including Malwa).
- He and his successors established their authority from the mouth of the Krishna to the entire Deccan plateau.
- Later, Simuka made srikakulam as his capital.He was succeeded by his brother Kanha (207–189 BCE), who further extended his state to the present day Andhra Pradesh.
Satakarni (180–124 BCE):
- The earliest of the Satavahana kings to receive wide recognition was Satakarni I, and this was due to his policy of military expansion in all directions. He is the Lord of the west who defied Kharavela of Kalinga(mentions him in the Hathigumpha inscription). According to the Yuga Purana he conquered Kalinga following the death of Kharavela. He extended Satavahana rule over Madhya Pradesh and pushed back the Sunga from Pataliputra (he is thought to be the Yuga Purana’s “Shata”, an abbreviation of the full name “Shri Sata” that occurs on coins from Ujjain), where he subsequently ruled for 10 years. His conquests took him north of the Narmada into eastern Malva, which at the time was being threatened by the Shakas and the Greeks.
- Satakarni I gained control of the region of Sanchi, and an inscription there refers to him as Rajan Shri Satakarni.
- His next move was in the southerly direction and on conquering the Godavari valley he felt entitled to call himself Lord of the Southern Regions’ (Dakshina – pathapati).
- The description of Satakarni I as ‘Dakshina -pathapati in the Nanaghat inscription of Nayanika proves that the Satavahana dominion was not confined to western Deccan alone, but included other areas of the Deccan and beyond.
- Satakarni I performed two Asvamedha sacrifices and one Rajasuya sacrifice.
- By this time the dynasty was well established, with its capital at kotilingala and Pratishthanapura (Paithan).
- Many small rulers succeeded Satakarni, who are thought to have been under the suzerainty of the Kanva dynasty.
- 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
- According to the Puranas (Matsya Purana, Vayu Purana, Brahmanda Purana,Vishnu Purana), the Satavahana king killed the last Kanva ruler of Magadha and presumably took possession of his kingdom. This feat is usually thought to have been accomplished by Pulomavi (30–6 BCE), who then ruled over Pataliputra.
- The 1st century CE saw another incursion of the Sakas of Central Asia into India, where they formed the dynasty of the Western Kshatrapas. During the reign of the Western Satrap Nahapana, the Satavahanas lost a considerable territory to the satraps, including eastern Malwa, Southern Gujarat, and Northern Konkan, from Broach to Sopara and the Nasik and Pune. Coins and inscriptions of the Shaka Chief Nahapana have been found around Nasik, indicating the Shaka dominance in the area towards the close of the first century A.D.
- But it must have been soon after this that the Satavahanas regained their western possessions, for the coins of Nahapana are often found over-struck by the name Gautamiputra Satakarni, the king who was responsible for re-establishing Satavahana power in this region by driving out the Shakas.
Gautamiputra Satakarni (A.D. 106 -130):
- Gautamiputra Satakarni is said to have destroyed the power of the Shakas and the pride of the Khastriyas, promoted the interests of the twice-born and stopped the mixing of the four varnas. His achievements are recorded in glowing terms in the Nasik prasasti by his mother Gautami Balasri.
- According to the Nasik inscription,
he is the one who crushed down the pride and conceit of the Kshatriyas (the native Indian princes, the Rajputs of Rajputana, Gujarat and Central India); who destroyed the Shakas (Western Kshatrapas), Yavanas (Indo-Greeks) and Pahlavas (Indo-Parthians),… who rooted the Khakharata family (The Kshaharata family of Nahapana); who restored the glory of the Satavahana race
- He ruled over a wide area extending from the Krishna in the south to Malwa and Saurashtra in the north and from Berar in the east to the Konkan in the west.
- To the Buddhists he made munificent donations. His patronage to Brahmanism is revealed by the epithet ‘Ekabrahmana’.
- Gautamiputra was the first Satavahana ruler to issue the portrait-type coinage, in a style derived from the Western Satraps.
- After conquering Malwa from a Saka ruler, Gautamiputra Satakarni issued local type of coins, particularly in Malwa for convenience of the people. On the obverse, there is the figure of an elephant with its trunk and on the reverse, the peculiar device of Ujjain symbol.This latter, not known on any Satavahana coins. It was prevalent only on the coins of Malwa.
- Gautamiputra Satakarni took the titles of: Trisamudrapibatohayavahana (one whose horses had drunk waters from 3 oceans) and Sakayavanapallavanisudana (destroyer of Saka, Yavana and Pahlavas)
- He was succeeded by his son, Vasisthiputra Sri Pulamavi.
Vasisthiputra Sri Pulamavi(78–114 CE):
- He was mentioned by Ptolemy under the name Siriptolemaios (Shri-Pulumayi).He was a contemporary of the Western satrap Chastana.
- Some of the lead coins of Sri Pulamavi depict two-masted ships, a testimony to the seafaring and trading capabilities of the Satavahanas during the 1st-2nd century CE.
- He was succeeded by his brother Vashishtiputra Satakarni.
Vashishtiputra Sātakarni (130-160 CE):
- Vashishtiputra Sātakarni was in great conflict with the Scythian Western Kshatrapas in the West, but he eventually married the daughter of Rudradaman I of the Western Kshatrapa dynasty, in order to forge an alliance.
- Later however, he was defeated by Rudradaman I, with serious effect on Satavahana power and prestige as mentioned in Junagadh rock inscription: “Rudradaman, who obtained good report because he, in spite of having twice in fair fight completely defeated Satakarni, the lord of Dakshinapatha, on account of the nearness of their connection did not destroy him.”
- He was one of the last rulers of the Satavahana dynasty in India. He succeeded Vashishtiputra Satakarni in 145 CE, but he was defeated twice in battle by his Western Satrap enemy Rudradaman
Yajna Sri Satakarni(167-196 CE):
- He is considered to be the last great king of the Satavahana Dynasty.He is known from his coins, and from the mention of his name in the regnal lists of the Matsya Purana.
- Victory over the Shakas: Yajna Sri Satakarni, defeated the Western Satraps and reconquered their southern regions in western and central India which led to the decline of the Western Satraps.
- The coins, sculpture and literature of the Satavahana period are the source of our knowledge not only in respect of the contemporary administration but also about the political, social, economic and religious and cultural conditions.
- 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.They had no absolute power. Their power was checked in practice by customs and shastras.
- 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.
- A peculiar feature of the Satavahana administration was the presence of feudatories of different grade.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. Next in rank was the mahabhoja and maharathi. Both titles from the beginning were hereditary and restricted to a few families in a few localities. Probably mahabhoja ranked higher than that of maharathi.
- The mahabhojas were primarily located in western Deccan. They were related by blood to the feudatory maharathi.
- Towards the close of the Satavahana period two more feudatories were created Mahasenapathi and them mahataralavara.
- Satvahana started the practice of granting tax free villages to brahamanas and Buddhist monks. The cultivated fields and villages granted to them were declared free from molestation by royal policemen, soldiers etc. Brahamanas helped enforce the rules of Varna system which made society stable and Buddhist monks preached peace and rule of good conduct among people and taught them to respect political authority.
Administrative Units and officers:
- They retained soe of the admin units found in Ashokan times. Like districts were called Ahara (Mahamatta as officer of Ahara). Officers were known as Amatya and Mahamatta.
- Barring districts that were controlled by feudatories, the empire was divided into janapadas and aharas, the latter corresponding to modern districts. The division below that of ahara was grama. Non-hereditary governors were subject to periodical transfers.
- The highest official in a province was ‘Amatya’ or minister. His office was not hereditary. Men of proven ability were appointed to this official. 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.
- In this period, the local administration had its own importance. 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 administrator of rural areas was gaulmika, who was the head of a military regiment of 9 chariots, 9 elephants, 25 horses and 45 foot soldiers. The head of army platoon was therefore posted in the countryside to maintain peace and order.Kataka and Skandhavaras were military camps and settlements.
- Thus coercion played a ky role in the Satavahana admin.
- 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. Satavahanas were first rulers to make land grant to Brahmanas.
- The orthodox brahamanas of the north looked upon Andhras as a mixed caste. This shows that Andhras might be earlier tribal people who were brought within the fold of brahmanical society.
- 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. In the third class were the middle class peoples such as Vaidyas or physicians, writers, peasants, goldsmiths, perfumers etc. The fourth class were constituted of the lowest vocations such as carpenters, blacksmiths, fishermen and gardeners.
- Increasing craft and commerce n this period brought many merchants and artisans to the forefront.Merchants took pride in naming themselves after the towns they belonged.
- Artisans and merchants made generous donation to Buddhist cause.
- Among artisans, gandhikas or perfumers are mentioned as donors in small memorial tablet set up by them. At later stage, the term gandhika became so general a to connote all kinds of shopkeepers. (Modern title Gandhi is derived from it).
- 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.
- Gautamiutra Satakarni established 4 fold Varna system and put an end to the intermarriage between people of different social order. Such a confusion was probably caused by saka infiltration and by superficial brahmanisation of the tribe living in Deccan.
- 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 mostly as Kshatriyas.
- 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.
Town and other material Culture:
- They learnt the use of coins, burnt bricks, art of writing and ring wells from the Mauryas and ontacts with north and added much to the advancement of their material life.
- In Peddabankur in Karimnagar district, we find regular use of fire baked bricks and use of flat, perforated roof tiles, which contributed to the longevity of construction.
- Towns appeared in Maharshtra by 1st century BC and in the astern deccan a century later. Pliny informs us that the Andhra in the eastern deccan included 30 walled town.
- The taxes were neither heavy nor many. The sources of income were proceeds from the royal domain, salt monopoly ordinary and extraordinary taxes both soldiers and officials were paid in kind.
- 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. There were also wells for irrigation.
Trade and Industry:
- 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.
- Increasing trade is indicated by Roman and Satavahana coins.
- The Satavahanas are the first native Indian rulers to issue their own coins with portraits of their rulers, starting with king Gautamiputra Satakarni, a practice derived from that of the Western Satraps he defeated, itself originating with the Indo-Greek kings to the northwest.
- Satavahana coins give unique indications as to their chronology, language, and even facial features (curly hair, long ears and strong lips). They issued mainly lead, copper, bronze coins; their portrait-style silver coins were usually struck over coins of the Western Kshatrapa kings.
- The Ikshvakus, who succeded the Satavahanas in the early 3rd century AD in eeastern Deccan also issued their coins.
- The coin legends of the Satavahanas, in all areas and all periods, used a Prakrit dialect without exception. Some reverse coin legends are in Kannada & Telugu language,which seems to have been in use in their heartland abutting the Godavari, Kotilingala, Karimnagar in Telangana, Krishna, Amaravati, Guntur in Andhra Pradesh.
- Their coins also display various traditional symbols, such as elephants, lions, horses and chaityas (stupas), as well as the “Ujjain symbol“, a cross with four circles at the end.
- The legendary Ujjayini Emperor Vikramditiya on whose name the Vikram Samvat is initiated might be Satakarni II a Satavahana emperor as the Ujjayini symbol also appeared on the Satavahana coins.
- 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. 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.
- They built great stupas in the Krishna River Valley, including the stupa at Amaravati. The stupas were decorated in marble slabs and sculpted with scenes from the life of the Buddha, portrayed in a characteristic slim and elegant style. The Satavahana empire colonized Southeast Asia and spread Indian culture to those parts. The Amaravati style of sculpture spread to Southeast Asia at this time.
- Nagarjunakonda and Amravati in Andhra Padesh became important seats of Buddhist Culture under Satavahanas and more so under their successors, the Ikshvakus.
- Similarly Buddhism flourished in Nasik and Junar areas in Western Deccan in Maharashtra supported by traders.
- The Satavahanas contributed greatly to the embellishment of the Buddhist stupa of Sanchi. The gateways and the balustrade were built after 70 BCE, and appear to have been commissioned by them. An inscription records the gift of one of the top architraves of the Southern Gateway by the artisans of the Satavahana Emperor Satakarni:
- 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.
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- 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.
- Languages were: Prakrit, Sanskrit and Local languages. 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 Saptasati(700 stories) in Prakrti. It has 700 shloakas.
- Hala also patronized several scholars who lived in his court. Gunadhya, the great scholar who wrote ‘Brihat Katha- manjari’ lived in his court. Brihat Katha was in Paisachi language. It narrates the story of Naravahanadatta (Kuber- the God with Nara as vehicle)
- Another scholar Sarva Varman wrote a treatise on the Sanskrit Grammar.
- Marked progress was made in the field of architecture as well. 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. (More about Sculptures will be discussed in Amaravati and other School of Arts in separate chapter)
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