Topic: History of India - Ancient India.
Timeline: 185 BCE - 225 CE
In this episode of Namaskar India, we will talk about the Indian Dynasties, who, after the fall of the Maurya Empire, ruled various parts of India, while foreign invaders were lurking around the corners of the subcontinent.
In 185 BCE, the rule of the Maurya family ended when an army commander-in-chief, Pushyamitra Shunga, murdered the last Mauryan king during a parade of his troops. Pushyamitra's rise to power has been described as a reaction by Brahmins to the Buddhism of the Maurya family. However accurate or inaccurate this description, Pushyamitra gave his support to orthodox Brahminism and appointed Brahmins to state offices. And, with Pusyamitra's rule, animal sacrifices, yagnas and havanas and other outlawed activities returned.
The last ruler of the Shunga Dynasty, Devabhuti, was overthrown by his minister Vasudeva, who founded the Kanva Dynasty in 75 BCE. After a short stint, their dynasty was brought to an end by the Satavahana Empire of the south around 30 BCE.
After the downfall of the vast Mauryan Empire when Magadha saw the rise of the Shunga and the Kanva dynasties. Kalinga saw the rise of the Chedi Mahameghavahana Dynasty, and South India saw the rise of the Satavahana Dynasty in its Andhra region.
The founder of the Satavahana Dynasty was a King named Simuka. The term “Satavahana” originated from the Prakrit which means ”driven by seven” which is an implication of the Sun God’s chariot that is driven by seven horses as per the Hindu mythology. The Satavahana kingdom comprised modern-day Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra.
After the death of Simuka, the next King of the Dynasty named Krishna ruled over the Satavahana Kingdom for eighteen Years. After him, Sri Satakarni came to the throne. He was a powerful king. He tried to conquer new territories in the Deccan and succeeded in his attempts. It is for his new conquests that his queen Nayanika described her husband in the Nanaghat inscription as the ‘Dakshinapatha-Pati’ or the Lord of Southern India. Sri Satakarni ruled over many portions of the Godavari Valley and the northern regions of the Deccan. But, when he was trying to become the paramount lord of the South, the Kalinga Emperor Mahameghavahana Aira Kharavela led his aggressive military expeditions towards the South to conquer new territories for the Kalinga Empire. As a result, war broke out between the armies of the Kalinga Mahameghavahana Dynasty and the Andhra Satavahana Dynasty. In that struggle for supremacy, it was the Kalinga power which won victory after victory. Kharavela annexed a large part of the Satavahana territory to his Kalinga Empire.
By the time King Satakarni died, his sons were minor in age. His wife, Queen Nayanika, therefore, looked after the administration of the kingdom. But, it was difficult for her to save the kingdom from decline. By the 1st century CE, the foreign invaders, Sakas invaded the Satavahana Kingdom and took possession of the north-western regions of that Kingdom.
It was during the first half of the 2nd century CE that the Satavahana power once again rose into eminence in the South. The man of destiny this time was a king named Gautamiputra Satakarni. By his achievements as a conqueror and as an able administrator he raised the prestige of the Satavahana Dynasty to a new height and came to be regarded as its greatest monarch. He led expeditions against the foreign Saka rulers and drove them out of the Maharashtra region. After liberating that area, he fought against the Yavanas and the Palhavas and conquered their territories in the west.