Satavahana Dynasty (200 B.C. to 250 A.D.)

Who is Satavahanas ?

The Satavahana lasted for 200 B.C. to 250 A.D. Satavahana dynasty or Andhra Empire endure for 460 years in unbroken continuity, it ran parallel to the Kushan Empire peaceful period of trade and industry increased tremendously especially with roam, foreign influence brought sophistication to the way of life, racially deccan people were hybrid ethnic group, aboriginal Dravidians, saka , Pallavas and Greeks. Ajanta Caves, Sanchi gateways and structural stupas of Amravati Goli and jaggayyapet are some of the architectural achievements of this period.

The Satavahanas were the first to establish a dynasty in the Deccan and settle in the land between river Godavari and river Krishna. Which are the present day regions of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra.

The Satavahanas originally were the vassals of Chandragupta Maurya and paid tributes to him.

Simuka is the founder of this dynasty, and then Simuka became independent in 220 B.C. and established his capital is Srikakulam.

King of the Satavahana Dynasty

Gautamiputra Satakarni was a prominent king of the Satavahana dynasty. He expanded his kingdom to include Konkan, Berar, Saurashtra, Malwa and many new areas. Gautamiputra Satakarni held titles like, Trisamudrapibatohayavahana (one whose horses had drunk waters from three oceans), Sakayavanapallavanisudana (destroyer of Saka, Yavana and Pahlavas). He had defeated Sakas and begun the Shalivahana Saka era.


The last king of Satavahanas dynasty was Sri Yajna Satakarni. During his time, the empire stood divested on account of continual attacks by the akas. The king was supreme during the Satavahana rule but for purpose of administration the kingdom had beed divided into provinces called Janapadas. Officers were appointed to look after the Janapadas. Self-governing institutions looked after the cities and villages.

Discrimination on the basis of the varna system did not exist in this society and women had status and held high offices. People of different occupation like farmers, merchants, goldsmiths, fishermen, carpenters, weavers and medicine men had formed occupational associations. These associations later emerged as commercial and trade organisations. Bharuch, Nasik, Kalyan and Bhatkal were trade centers, even foreign trade was given encouragement.

The Satavahanas followed the Vedic traditions. But they believed in harmony and encouraged other religions like Buddhism and Jainism. The Satavahanas promoted art, literature and education. Literature was created in Prakrit language which was the language of both scholars and common people.

The collections of poem in Maharashtra Prakrit called Gathasaptashati were written by King Hala in this period. This period also saw the creation of the paintings at Ajanta and Amravati.

Many temples, viharas and chaityalayas were built. The Banavasi merchant Bhootapala built a chaitya griha at Karle.

Satavahanas - Contribution to Indian Art and Culture

  • The satavahana period was a heyday in the history of Buddhism.
  • Though the kings were champions of Vedic religion, Buddhism was popular in the kingdom.
  • There was harmony between the two religions.
  • Satakarni 1 performed numerous Vedic sacrifices.
  • Gautamiputra satakarni was a believer in the Varna system.
  • His titles 'Ekabrahmana' (one and only brahmin) and 'Agamanilaya' (stop house) reveal his interest in Vedic religion.
  • The Nanaghat inscription mentions the names of Vasudeva, samkarshana and other agamic Gods besides the vedic gods. Nuns - vasu, samkarsh.
  • The Gadhasaptasati refers to the temples of Amba Ganapati, etc gods. However the available information shows the predominance of Buddhism during the period. The kings were tolerant towards Buddhism and made liberal donations.
  • Craftsman, woman, monks and nuns struggle for superiority with one another in making costly donations to Buddhist church.
  • These donations include among other things, rock cut Chaityas and Viharas, bhojana mantapas, upathanasala (hall of reception).
  • The last two are attached to viharas; The monuments at Karle, Nashik, Bhaja, Bedsa, Kanheri on the west and Bhattiprolu, Amaravathi and Nagarjunakonda on the east belong to the Satavahana period.
  • These monuments show the prevalence of Chaitya cult in the south. In this cult the Buddhist worship the, Bodhitree, Dharmachakra and the foot prints of the Buddha.
  • There were two schools of Buddhist church, that is Theravadin and Mahasanghika, which later on came to be known as Hinayana and Mahayana schools respectively.
  • Acharya Nagarjuna, the prophet of Mahayana Buddhism received patronage from the Satavahana king Yagnasri. Acharya Yagna.
  • Amaravathi and Nagarjunakonda became great centres of Buddhism and attracted pilgrims from far off places like China, Gandhara, Kashmir and Ceylon.
  • The buddhists organised themselves into groups like Sihagothi, Sakasathigothi, Vandanamagothi and bBodhagothi. Siha (sila) - sakasathi (saka ka sathimani) - vandana:ma - bodha.
  • There were many teachers among the Buddhists.In western Deccan Mahasthaviras, Sathaviras,Charakas and Tevijas walked the land enlightening the faith on the religion.
  • In Eastern Deccan monks, nuns and leymen flocked to teachers versed in the Vinaya and Dhamma Pitakas. Even nuns were teachers and had many female pupils under them.

Language and Literature in the Satavahana Period

  • Prakrit, Sanskrit and Desi (DSP) were the languages prevalent in the Satavahana period.
  • The Satavahanas patronized Prakrit literature. Their inscriptions were mostly written in Prarit. They encouraged the language so that local people also followed it. The kings were scholars themselves and patronized many scholars.
  • Hala the 17th king of the dynasty compiled the work Gadha Saptasati in prakrit. He gathered around, himself a large number of Prakrit poets and was known as 'Kavi Vatsala'. He encouraged Sanskrit studies also. HALA - VATSALA.
  • His minister Servavarma wrote a grammar in Sanskrit - Katantra Vyakarana. Sarva - kutantra.
  • Gunadhya another famous writer wrote 'Brihat kadha' in Paisachi language. The original Brihatkadha is lost and we find its stories retold in Kathasaritsagar and other later works. prakrit, Sanskrit and Desi flourished during the period. Guna is wearing brinjal hat.
  • Desi is considered as native language and might be parent of the South Indian languages like Telugu and Kannada. We find Desi terms in Gadha Saptasati.
  • Due to the revival of Brahmanism in the later part of the Satavahan rule, Sanskrit became prodominant language. The Mahayana Buddhists wrote all their Philosophical works in that language only.
  • Acharaya Nagarjuna wrote his work 'Suhrullekha' in Sanskrit. Nagarjuna - Srilekha.

Art and Architecture

  • The Satavahana period is famous for building activity especially the Buddhist constructions, because Buddhism was the source of inspiration. So we find Stupas, Chaityas, Viharas and Sangharamas belonging to the period.
  • Gadhasaptasati mentions temples of Amba, and Ganapathi. We do not find any traces of these temples.
  • The Buddhist architecture can be divided into two categories - Roc cut architecture of western Deccan and Brick built Structure of eastern Deccan.
  • The Rock out group contains a Chaitya and Vihar or a number of Viharas.
  • In the west Karle, Nasic, Bhaja, Mahad are famous for rock out Chaitya Grihas.
  • The Karle Chaitya is regarded as the most famous monument of the group.
  • In the east at Chejarla and Nagaijunakonda we find brick built Chaitya Grihas.
  • Among the Stupas the Amaravathi Stupa is the best example of brick built Stupas.

Expansion of Indian Culture

  • The account of Ptolemy and the Periplus mentioned Indian settlements in the Far East.
  • The peace and progress established by the rulers encouraged trade and colonial activities.
  • There are other reasons also for the expansion. For example the Roman need for articles of luxury like spices, fragrant woods and resins, Sandals, camphor Benzoin etc.
  • Another reason is the inner impulse of the Aryan culture to spread far and wide.
  • The south Indians knew the golden Burma and Sumatra, silver Arakan and copper Champa.
  • Many Indian colonies sprang up in these countries.
  • Indian religion, Sanskrit language, custom and manners, the Vengi Script, the Salivahana Saka travelled to these colonies.
  • So Indian culture spread to South East Asian countries and far East during the period.


No Comments
Back to top