The Age of Satavahanas

The Age of Satavahanas: According to most modern scholars the age of the Satavahana began in the late second century BCE and lasted until the early third century CE.

In the Deccan and in central India, the Satavahanas succeeded the Mauryas although after a gap of 100 years. They were considered to be identical to the Andhras who were mentioned in Puranas, however, the name Andhra does not occur in Satavahana inscriptions.

Founder of the Kingdom: The founder of the Satvahana dynasty was Simuka, who was succeeded by Krishna.

Sources of history of the Age of Satavahanas:

Their rule lasted for about 450 years. The Puranas and inscriptions remain important sources for the history of Satavahans.

Among the inscriptions, the Nasik and Nanaghad inscriptions throw much light on the reign of Gautamiputra Satakarni.

The Satavahanas issued coins, that are helpful to know the economic condition of their reign.

Political History of Satavahana:

According to some Puranas, altogether the Andhras ruled for 300 years and this period is assigned to the rule of the Satavahana dynasty.

Important facts of political history:

  • The earliest inscription of the Satavahanas belonged to the first century B.C. when they defeated the Kanvas and established their power in the parts of Central
  • The earliest coins and inscriptions of Satvahanas were found in north Maharashtra.
  • They set up their power in the Upper Godavari Valley.
  • Gradually they extended their power over Karnataka and Andhra.
  • The Shakas were the greatest competition of Satavahanas.
Emperors of the Satavahana Dynasty:
GautamiPutra Satakarni (A.D 106-130)

Gautamiputra Satakarni called himself the only Brahmana. He defeated Shakas and destroyed many Kshatriya rulers. He claims to have destroyed the Kshaharata lineage to which his adversary Nahapana belonged, and this claim is true because more than 8000 silver coins of Nahapanna, found near Nasik, bear the mark of restruck by Satavahana king.

Gautamiputra Satakarni also occupied Malwa, and Kathiawar which lay under the control of the Shakas.

  • It seems that the empire of Gautamiputra Satakarni extended from Malwa in the north to Karnataka in the South.
  • The Successors of Gautamiputra Satakarni ruled till 220 A.D
Vashisthiputra Pulumayi: (A.D 130-154)
  • The coins and inscriptions of his immediate successor Vashishthiputra Pulumayi (130 to 154 A.D) are found in Andhra and show that by the middle of the second century, this area had become a part of the Satavahana Kingdom.
  • He set up his capital at Paithan or Pratishthan on the Godavari in the Aurangabad district.

The Shakas resumed their conflict with Satavahanas for the possession of the Konkan coast and Malwa.

Rudradaman I (A.D. 130-150), the Shakas ruler of Saurashtra (Kathiawar), defeated the Satavahanas twice but did not destroy them on account of matrimonial relations.

Yajna Sri Satakarni: (A.D 165-194)

Yajna Sri Satakarni one of the later kings recovered north Konkan and Malwa from the Shaka rulers.

  • Yajna Sri Satakarni was a lover of trade and navigation.
  • His coins have been found in Andhra, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat.
  • His love for navigation and overseas trade is shown by the representation of a ship on his coins.
Aspects of Material Culture:

Under the Satvahanas the material culture of the Deccan was a fusion of local elements and northern ingredients.

  • The megalith builder of Deccan was fairly acquainted with the use of iron and agriculture.
  • Socketed hoes, sickles, spades, plowshares, axes, adzes, razors, etc., belonged to the Satavahana layers of the excavated sites.
  • Tanged and socketed arrowheads as well as daggers have also been discovered.
  • At a site in the Karimnagar district, a blacksmith’s shop has been discovered.
  • Evidence of ancient gold workings has been found in the Kolar fields in the pre-Christian centuries. The Satavahanas may have used gold as bullion, for they did not issue gold coins as the Kushans did.
  • They issued mostly coins of lead, which is found in the Deccan. They also issued Potin, copper, and bronze money.
  • The people of Deccan the art of Paddy transplantation, they also produced cotton. according to foreign accounts, Andhra is considered to be famous for its cotton products.
  • According to Pliny, the Andhra Kingdom maintained an army of 100,000 infantries, 2000 cavalry, and 1000 elephants.
  • In Peddabankur (200 B.C. – A.D. 200) in Karimnagar district, regular use of fire-baked bricks, and use of flat, perforated roof tiles are found.
  • Pliny informs that the Andhra country in the eastern Deccan included 30 walled towns, besides numerous villages.
  • By the coins of Satavahanas and Romans, the increasing trade is indicated which was found in eastern Deccan in the Godavari-Krishna area.
Social Organization of the Age of Satavahanas:
  • The Satavahanas originally seems to have been a tribe of the Deccan. They adopted Brahmanism and the most famous king of Satavahans was Gautamiputra Satakarni, who established the four-fold varna system.
  • The Satavahanas were also the first rulers to make land grants to the Brahmans.
  • According to Dharmashastras, it was the function of the Kshatriyas to rule, but the Satavahanas rulers called themselves Brahmanas.
  • Gautamiputra boasts that he was the true Brahmana.
  • Since the Andhras are identified with the early Satvahanas, probably they were a local tribe who were converted to Brahmanism.
  • The Satvahanas show traces of a matrilineal social structure, the kings were named after the name of their mothers such as Gautamiputra, and Vashisthiputra. It shows that in society the mother enjoyed a great deal of importance.
  • But basically, the Satvahana ruling family was patriarchal because succession to the throne was passed to the male member.
Administration of the Age of Satavahanas:
  • The Satvahana rulers strove for the royal ideal set forth in the Dharmashastras, kings were represented as the upholder of dharma.
  • The Satvahana king is represented as possessing the qualities of mythical heroes such as Rama, Bhima, Keshava, Arjuna, etc. The kings were compared in power and luster to these legendary figures and to supernatural forces.
  • They retained some of the administrative units found in Ashokan times.
  • Their district was called ahara, as it was named in the time of Ashoka.
  • The officials of Satvahana were called Amatya, and Mahamatras as in Mauryan times.
  • The Senapati was appointed provincial governor.
  • Gaulmika: The administration in the rural areas was placed in the hands of gaulmika, the head of the military regiment consisting of nine chariots, nine elephants, twenty-five horses, and forty-five foot-soldiers.
  • The head of the army platoon was posted in the countryside to maintain peace and order.
  • Some terms of Satvahanas such as kataka, skandhavaras are found in their inscriptions, these were military camps and settlements that served as administrative centers as long as the king was there.
  • Coercion played a key role in the Satavahana administration.
  • They granted tax-free villages to Brahmanas and Buddhist monks.
  • The Satvahana kingdom had three grades of feudatories; the high grade was formed by the king who was called raja, and possessed the right to strike coins; the second grade was formed by mahabhoja, and the third grade was by Senapati.
Religion in the Age of Satavahanas:

The Satvahanas were Brahman and represented the march of triumphant Brahmanism. The main religious aspects of Satavahans were:

  • They performed the Vedic sacrifices such as Ashvamedha Vajapeya, etc.
  • The Satvahanas also worshiped a large number of Vaishnava gods such as Krishna, Vasudeva, and others.
  • They paid liberal sacrificial fees to Brahmanas.
  • They also promoted Buddhism by granting land to the monks. Nagarjunakonda and Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh became important seats of Buddhist culture under the Satvahanas and their successor Ikshvankus.
  • Buddhism flourished in the Nasik and Junar areas in the western Deccan in Maharashtra, here it was also supported by traders.

Many Chaityas and monasteries were cut out of solid rock in northwestern Deccan or Maharashtra and are found that belongs to the Satavahanas phase.

  • The Buddhist temples were called Chaityas and the monasteries were called viharas.
  • The most famous chaitya is Karle in the western Deccan. It is about 40 meters long, 15 meters wide, and 15 meters high.
  • The viharas were excavated near chaityas for the residence of monks in the rainy season.
  • Three viharas are present at Nasik. They carry the inscriptions of Nahapana, and Gautamiputra, it seems that they belong to the first century A.D.
  • The rock-cut architecture is also to be found in Andhra in the Krishna –Godavari region. The Krishna-Godavari region is famous for independent Buddhist structures, mostly in the form of stupas.
  • The Amravati stupa began in about 200 B.C. but was completely reconstructed in the second half of the second century A.D. Its dome measured 53 meters across the base, and seems to have been 33 meters in height.
    • The Amravati stupa is full of sculptures and depicts various scenes from the life of the Buddha.
  • Nagarjonakonda contains Buddhist monuments, and it consists of the earliest Brahmanical brick temples. Nearly two dozen monasteries are here.

Prakrit was the official language of Satavahans. All inscriptions of the Satavahans period were composed in Prakrit and written in Brahmi as in the time of Asoka.

  • Some Satvahanas kings may have composed Prakrit books.
  • Hala: One Prakrit text called Gathasattasai is attributed to a Satavahana king called Hala. It consisted of 700 verses, but it seems to have finally been retouched much later, maybe after the sixth century A.D.


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