History Files
 

 

Far East Kingdoms

South Asia

 

 

 

Satvahanas
c.240 BC - AD 200

If the Mauryas are credited with forming the first empire in northern India, then the credit for forming the first southern empire should go to the Satvahanas. The Satvahanas (Satavahanas, or Sattvahana) are also called the Andhras, mainly because one of their clansmen, King Puloma, is considered to have been the first amongst Andhra kings (the Andhras are a community residing in present day Andhra Pradesh state in southern India, and Puloma was the first to capture the territory which later made up the Andhras).

They belonged to Dravidian stock, Indians who predated the arrival of the Aryan Indo-Europeans from the north. The were essentially Brahmins who were later accepted in the Aryan fold. They probably remained regional chieftains under Mauryan rule. After the death of Ashoka they declared their independence from the Mauryas and founded their own empire.

The kingdom of the Satvahanas lay to the west of Iron Age Kalinga. One of the most important areas within the confines of their territory was the city of Musikanagara, but the kingdom also encompassed territories which made up the later states of Berar, Ahmednagar, and Goa, and the region of Khandesh, extending as it did from present day Andhra Pradesh to parts of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajputana and Gujarat. The capital was at Pratishthana (or Paithan, in present day Maharashtra state). It survived well into the early years of the first millennium AD, and fought the invading Indo-Scythians in the west.

(Information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha. Additional information by Manjiri Bhalerao.)

Puloma

Captured territory for the Andhra homeland.

c.230 - 207 BC

Simuka / Sisuka

Alternate dates of rule 271-248 BC. Ruled 23 years.

Simuka is instrumental in destroying the rule of the Kanavas of Magadha and the Sungas of Vidisha. He further acquires large territories in central India.

207 - 189 BC

Krishna

Brother. Ruled 18 years. Added Nasik (Maharastra) to kingdom.

Malia Satkarni

Ruled 10 years.

Purnothsanga

Ruled 18 years.

? - 133 BC

Shathakarni / Sātakarnī I / Satkarni I

Son. Ruled 56 years.

Shathakarni proves to be a great king, conquering western Malwa, Vidharba (Berar) and parts of the south. For this he is called Dakshina Pathapati (lord of the south). He performs the Rajasuya Yagna and two Ashwamegha Yagnas (Vedic fire rituals to declare oneself the emperor).

c.175 BC

Shathakarni is a valiant king and a conquer, and a powerful enemy of King Kharavela of Kalinga. In the second year of Kharavela's reign the Kalingan marches his army to the bank of Krishnabena and threatens the city of Musikanagara. However the expedition fails to produce any concrete result because Kharvela is unable to take Musikanagara from the Satvahanas. Moreover the Hatigumpha Pillar inscription does not mention any battles between the two, contrary to some claims. It simply states: 'in the second year his [Kharavela's] strong army of the four-fold units of cavalry, elephants, infantry and chariots was sent against the western regions controlled by Satkarni, and also threatened the city of the Mushika people'.

Naneghat
Naganika, the wife of Shathakarni, commissioned the cave inscriptions in the Naneghat, or 'coin pass', an important toll for travellers passing though this Western Ghats trade route

c.173 BC

Kalinga takes the areas of Berar, Ahmednagar and Khandesh.

133 BC

After Shathakarni's death, his wife Nayanika (Naganika) rules the kingdom on the behalf of her young sons, Satkarni II and Vedashree. She has to face simultaneous onslaughts by the Indo-Greeks, the Sakas and the Parthians.

133 - ? BC

Satkarni II

Son.

Satkarni II rules for a long period of time, capturing Pataliputra, capital of Magadha, during his reign. He further extends his empire by conquering Vidisa and Kalinga. He also foils an attempt by the Sakas to capture Kalinga following their conquest of Ujjain and Pataliputra. Towards the end of his reign, the Sakas conquer the Western Deccan. During his own subsequent reign, Vedishree, his brother, makes Junnar, thirty miles north of Pune, his capital.

Vedashree

Brother.

133 - ? BC

Nayanika / Naganika

Mother and regent.

This is the point at which confusion arises. Renowned historians such as Majumdar, Thapar, and Prasad have named Satkarni and Vedashree as the successors to Shathakarni. However, some of the old texts (especially the Matsya Puranas), give a different post-Shathakarni lineage as far as Gautamiputra Satkarni (shown below).

There are also differing references to the actual number of Satvahana rulers and the time of their rule. The Matsya Purana states that the Satvahana family ruled for 400 years and had thirty kings (only nineteen of which are actually named), whereas the Vayu Purana states that the Satvahanas ruled for 300 years and had nineteen rulers. Historian Dr Roychoudhary concludes that the main family ruled for 300 years and had nineteen rulers, while some of the family offshoots ruled for another hundred years and had eleven more rulers.

Skanda Sthambi

Ruled 18 years.

87 - 67 BC

Lambodara

Ruled 18 years.

75 - 35 BC

The Satvahanas are probably vassals of the Kanavas during this period, although this regional dominance is apparently brief.

Map of Central Asia & India c.50 BC
By the period between 100-50 BC the Greek kingdom of Bactria had fallen and the remaining Indo-Greek territories (shown in white) had been squeezed towards Eastern Punjab. India was partially fragmented, and the once tribal Sakas were coming to the end of a period of domination of a large swathe of territory in modern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and north-western India. The dates within their lands (shown in yellow) show their defeats of the Greeks that had gained them those lands, but they were very soon to be overthrown in the north by the Kushans while still battling for survival against the Satvahanas of India (click on map to show full sized)

c.50? BC

The Kushans capture the territory of the Sakas in modern Afghanistan, and probably cause the downfall of Indo-Greek king Hermaeus, conquering Paropamisadae in the process. The Sakas consolidate their rule in northern India as compensation, where they come into competition with the Satvahanas, and later enter into matrimonial alliances with them.

Apitaka

Ruled 12 years.

Meghasvati (or Saudasa)

Ruled 18 years.

Saata Svati / Svami

Ruled 18 years.

Skanea Skandasvati

Ruled 7 years.

Mrigenendra Satakarni / Satakarni III

Ruled 8 years. Also known as Mrgendra Svatikarna.

Kuntala Satakarni / Kuntala Svatikarna

Ruled 8 years.

Soumya Satkarni

Ruled 12 years.

Saata Satkarni

Ruled 1 year.

Pulomavi / Patumavi

Ruled 36 years.

Megha Satkarni

Ruled 38 years.

Riktavarna / Aristakarman

Ruled 25 years.

AD 20 - 24

Hala

Ruled 5 years. Author of the Gathasaptasati literature classic.

Hala, the seventeenth king of the Satvahanas, is mentioned by Vatsyayana in his Kamasutra and Rajasekhara in his Kavya Mimamsa. Hala patronises literature and the arts, and the Prakrit work, Saptasati, is ascribed to him. Gunadhya, the author of Brihat Katha, is his contemporary. As he is a patron of poets, he is known by the title 'Kavivatsala'. He marries a Ceylonese princess on the banks of the River Sapta-Godavari-Bhima.

Mandalaka / Bhavaka / Puttalaka

Ruled 5 years.

Purindrasena

Ruled 5 years.

Sundara Satakarni

Ruled 1 year.

Cakora Satakarni / Cakora Svatikarna

Ruled 6 months.

Mahendra Satkarni

Ruled 6 months.

Sivasvati

Ruled 28 years.

1st century AD

By the first century AD, the Sakas have wrested away the northern Satvahana territories of Kathiawar, Malwa and Nasik. The empire slowly contracts. The later Satvahana kings prove very vulnerable against their enemies. But just when it seems as though the glory of the Satvahanas is going to fade away, an illustrious king takes control. King Gautamiputra Satkarni holds the fort against the various invaders on his borders.

106 - 130

Gautamiputra Satkarni / Shalivahan

119

Following the Kushan collapse, the western kshatrapas (satraps) of the Sakas once again rise in prominence, especially under King Nahapana, who occupies large swathes of Satvahana territory in western and central India.

According to the Nasik inscription, the king's mother, Gautami Balsari, writes about her son as follows: '...who crushed the pride and conceit of the Kshatriyas [the native Indian princes / Rajputs of Rajputana, Gujarat and central India]; who destroyed the Shakas [Western Kshatrapas], Yavanas [Indo-Greeks] and Pahlavas [Indo-Parthians]... who rooted out the Khakharata family [the Kshatrapas of Nahapana]...'

From this it can be concluded that Gautamiputra Satkarni manages to drive from his territories all invaders and annexes to his kingdom the regions of Gujarat, Kathiawar, Saurashtra, western Rajputana, Malwa, Berar and North Konkan. Gautamiputra has often been referred to as 'Rajaraja' and Vindhya Raja (lord of the Vindhya mountains). The Sakas accept the power of the Satvahanas in AD 124 and agree to act as their vassals, entering into matrimonial alliances with them. The date given here for this war has been recalculated in recent years, with a date of AD 78 generally being accepted. As a result of the defeat, the Sakas lose Malwa and western Maharashtra and are forced to concentrate on Gujarat.

130

Gautamiputra Satkarni's death is the signal for the Sakas to reclaim their lost territory from Satvahanas. The Saka king, Chastana, goes on to rule a large area of western India, especially the area of Ujjain (Ozene), during the reign of Satvahana King Vasisthiputra Sri Pulamavi.

130 - 159

Vasisthiputra Sri Pulamavi / Puloma

Son. Also known as Puliman. Ruled 29 years.

In spite of his matrimonial relations with the Sakas, Vasisthiputra fights various wars against them and is twice defeated by his father-in-law, Rudradaman I (as related by the Junagadh rock inscription). Puloma does manage to capture present day Andhra Pradesh and extend his kingdom to the south-east, but he loses much territory to the Sakas including the north-western parts of his kingdom.

Confusion has existed amongst historians about the exact period of rule of the Satvahana kings or the order in which they rule (except in regard to Simuka, Krishna, and Satkarni being followed after a gap by Gautamiputra Satkarni and his son, Puloma. This is where firm records end and the Matsya Purana list takes over.

Sivasri Satakarni / Shiva Sri / Sivasri

Saka vassal. Ruled 7 years.

Shivaskanda Satakarni

Saka vassal. Ruled 7 years.

167 - 196

Yajna Sri Satakarni

Ruled 29 years.

Yajna Sri Satakarni is the last great Satvahana ruler. He conquers Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and North Konkan, defeats the Western Kshatrapas, taking their southern provinces and re-establishing the glory of the Satvahanas.

Satvahana coins
Satvahana coins which are typical of the type produced during the period of empire

Vijaya

Ruled 6 years.

Chandra Sri Satakarni

Ruled 10 years.

Puloma II

Ruled 7 years.

fl c.220

Madhariputra Svami Sakasena?

early-3rd century

By the middle of the third century the Satvahana kingdom has fragmented into many parts, each having a ruler of its own who claims to be the true Satvahana descendant.

Western Satraps

In the north-western part of the former kingdom.

220 - 320

Andhra Ikshvakus (or Srīparvatiyas)

In the Krishna-Guntur region.

Abhiras

In the western part of the kingdom (Konkan, S Gujarat).

The Abhiras ultimately succeed the Satvahanas in ruling from the ancient capital of Pratishthana.

Chutus

Of Banavasi in North Karnatka.

Pallavas

Of Kanchipuram, founders of the Pallava dynasty.

After the fall of the Satvahanas, the Vakataka dynasty rises to prominence in the Deccan in the fourth century. Some historians claim the Pallavas descend from Satvahana governors.

Much later, areas of Satvahana territory become part of the Bahamani sultanate in the fourteenth century. A section of it emerges in sixteenth century India as the state of Ahmednagar, and later forms part of the Maratha empire.