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Post Mauryan Empires

After the death of king Ashoka, in fifty years the Mauryan empire disintegrated and gave rise to numerous local rulers.

  1. In Magadh, Mauryas were succeeded by Sungas followed by Kanvas
  2. In Deccan, Satavahans succeeded.
  3. In Kalinga region Chedis ruled.

And many foreign invasions came to India who ruled north-western part of subcontinent from time to time. These include Greeks, Shakas (Sycthians), Parthians, Kushanas. Although we do not have exact dates for invasion of these powers, this is the exact order in which they arrived i.e. Greeks followed by Shakas, Parthians and Kushanas.

1. Various Post Mauryan Dynasties

1st phase of Post Mauryan empire

2. Sunga Dynasty

  1. Pataliputra was capital.
  2. Pusyamitra Sunga was founder. He followed Bramhinical religion and paid attention to sacrifices and rituals. Ashvamedha sacrifice was performed by them.
  3. Earlier Sungas are said to have supressed Buddhism but contrary to assumption, Saanchi Stupa was repaired at the time of Sungas. Barhat Stupa was completed under Sungas. (Started by Ashoka).
  4. Kalidas, who composed Malvikagnimitram under Guptas talks about Agnimitra, who was the son and successor of Pusyamitra Sunga.
  5. Besnagar pillar inscription also talks about one of Sunga ruler Bhagbhadra.
  6. Patanjali, who was the author of Mahabhashya, lived under Sungas.
  7. Devabhuti, who was killed by Vasudeva (different than last ruler of Kushanas who also bears the same name) was the last ruler.

3. Kanva Dynasty

Vasudeva established Kanva dynasty after killing Devabhuti Sunga.
Susaraman was last Kanva ruler who was killed by one of the Satavahans.

4. Chedis (Chetas) of Kalinga

  1. In Odisha region.
  2. Mahameghvarman founded it.
  3. Kharvela, who was patronizer of Jainism was important Chedi ruler.
  4. He also patronized Haathigumfa and Ranigumfa caves.
  5. Caves talk about Mahapadmananda’s defeat of Kalinga and taking ‘Jina’ statue there.
  6. Kharavela king brought back that Jina image, which is als referred in Hathi Gumfa inscription. Inscriptions are in Prakrit language, Bramhi script.
  7. These were Jain caves, dedicated to Jain monks.
The situation after Greek invasion

5. Indo Greeks

5.1 Indo Greeks ruled from 3 areas in India

  1. Bactria in Afghanistan
  2. Taxila (Pakistan)
  3. Sialkot (Punjab, Pakistan)

The most important Greek ruler was Antialcidas who would send the ambassador Heliodorus who constructed a pillar at Vidisha (Madhyapradesh) in honour of God Vasudeva (Krishna). This pillar is known as Besnagar Pillar Inscription/Vasudeva Pillar.

Menander was also important ruler who was converted to a follower of Mahayana Buddhism by Nagasena. Milind Panho book contains discussion between king and Nagasena.

5.2 Contribution of Indo Greeks

  1. Patronized Gandhar school of art.
  2. 1st one to issue gold coins in India
  3. Promoted Indian religion and culture as evident from Milind Panho and Heliodorus.
  4. Promoted trade and commerce, growth of medicine and astronomy.
  5. Heliodorus Pillar, Vidisha, MP. Aka Vasudev Pillar / Basenagar pillar.
Vasudev Pillar constructed by Heliodorus.

6. Shakas

  1. They belonged to the central Asian tribe Scythians.
  2. Most imp ruler would be Rudraman I, whose Junagarh inscription talks about repair of Sudarshana Lake, which was earlier constructed by Pushyagupta under Chandragupta Maurya.
  3. Rudraman patronized Sanskrit. He also carried out multiple military conquests.

7. Parthians (Persians)

  1. Originally coming from northern Iran, they replaced the Shakas in North Western India but controlled much smaller area than Indo-Greeks and Shakas.
  2. Gondophernes was the most important ruler during whose reign St. Thomas had come to India to propagate Christianity.
Shaka, Parthians and Kushanas

8. Kushanas

  1. Most important rulers among invaders. They belonged to the tribe of Yuchi.
  2. They created an extensive empire stretching from Khorasan in Central Asia to Varanasi in UP.
  3. Kajula Kadphesis (Kadphesis I) was the first Kushana ruler to use imperial titles. Issued coins in imitation of Roman coins.
  4. Weima Kadphesis (Kadphesis II) – he was devotee of Shiva and issued coin with symbols of Shiva, Nandi and Trident.
  5. Kanishka was the greatest Kushana ruler, who started the Shaka era in 78AD after defeating Shakas. His achievements are in Sarnath Pillar inscription.
  6. 4th Buddhist council held under him.
  7. Headless image of Kanishka found from Mathura.
  8. He was greatest patronizer of Gandhar school of Art. He issued largest number of gold coins and also issued largest number of copper coins.
  9. He also Introduced saddle for horse riding.
  10. Vasudeva was the last ruler.

9. Satavahanas

Occupying the region of contemporary Maharashtra and Telangana, they have been credited for establishing first empire in South India. Their capital was at Paithan / Pratisthan. They claimed to be of solar origin (suryavamshi). They were bramhanas, but liberal towards other religions.

  1. Simuka was founder of Satavahana dynasty.
  2. Important ruler – Satakarni I, whose Nanaghat inscription, inscribed by his wife says that he was Dakshinapatha Pati (sovereign ruler of southern kingdoms).
  3. Satakarni I also perfomed Vedic sacrifices like Ashvamedha and Rajasuya.
  4. King Hala – composed Gathasaptasati, which is an anthology of 700 erotic verses in Prakrit language.
  5. King Gautamiputra Satakarni – most important Satavahana ruler. His Nashik inscription, inscribed by his mother says that my son’s horse drunk water of 3 seas. He also patronized Buddhist and Bramhins on large scale. He was called Ekbramhana.
  6. Yajnashri Satakarni – he issued Ujjain type of coins, bearing fish symbol and boat symbol.
  7. Pulamayi IV. Last Satavahana ruler

10. Contribution/Significance of Satavahanas

  1. Satavahanas patronized Amaravati school of art.
  2. Issued large number of coins. Silver, Copper and Gold.
  3. Promoted the growth of trade and commerce. They had many ports on the west like Bharuch, Sopara and Kalyani and many on east like Golighantshala, Amaravati.
  4. Ajanta caves started under them.
  5. Satavahanas contributed to the growth of Prakrit language e.g. Hala’s Gathasaptasati.
  6. They patronized Bramhinical religion and culture.
  7. The position of women was quite high in society. The widow of Gautamiputra Satakarni looked after the administration.

11. Society and Economy in Post Mauryan Era

11.1 Post Mauryan Society

  1. Acclimatization / accommodation of foreigners into Indian society. There was a practice called Vratya Stoma, which meant purification of foreigners.
  2. e.g. Foreigners like Kushanas, Shakas were labelled as 2nd class Ksatriyas in Indian society.
  3. Manusmriti composed in 2nd century BC. It would be an attempt by Bramhanas to impose social rigidity in the society.

Position of women saw decline during this age

  1. Child marriage is mentioned. Sati custom became prevalent during this age.
  2. Manu smriti was mainly harsh towards women, imposing many restrictions.
  3. The position of woman, giving birth to male child was higher.
  1. Position of Vaisyas improved, given the large focus on trade and commerce.
  2. Untouchability continued.
  3. Slavery became more prominent.

12. Economy

  1. Development of guilds /shrenis (merchant association) was highly important feature and contributor in economic growth.
  2. Monetization of economy on large scale as witnessed from largest number of copper and gold coins issued during this period.
  3. Large number of art and craft activities developed as evident from multiple varieties mentioned in Milinda Panho.
  4. External trade was the most important feature owing to the patronization of trade under Indo Greeks, Shakas and Kushanas
  5. Internal trade was also flourishing to high extent with large number of goods being shared among the kingdoms.
  6. Many ports developed under Satavahanas.
  7. Items of export – spices from Malabar coast, cotton and silk produced in Pratisthan and Amaravati, Mathura also being leading cotton manufacturing centre, Pearls, from Korkai port in Pandya kingdom,
  8. Items of import – Gold, Silver, Copper, Slaves from Madagascar and Zanzibar, Luxurious pottery from Rome, Horses from Central Asia and West Asia.
Ancient namesModern name of port
Barygaza, Bharukachha, BroachBharuch, GJ
PuharKaveripatanam, TN
CannanoreNaura, AP
CranganoreMuzirius, Kerala
PodukaArikamedu, Puducherry
KolchoiKorkai, TN
MosaliaMasulipatanam, AP
SupparikaSopara, MH

12.1 Various Ports in Deccan Region

  1. Malaya Peninsula was known as Suvarnabhoomi.
  2. Indonesia was called Suvarnadwip.
  3. Cambodia as Kambuja.

13. Vikram Samvat Era

According to popular tradition, the legendary king Vikramaditya of Ujjain established the Vikrama Samvat era after defeating the Śakas.
Vikramaditya invaded Ujjain and drove away from the Śakas. To commemorate this event, he started a new era called the “Vikrama era”. The Ujjain calendar started around 58–56 BCE i.e. ahead of Gregarian calender.

Please visit next page for art, architecture and religion under post Mauryan rulers.

14. Art, Architecture and Religion

14.1 Post Mauryan Religion

14.1.1 Mahayana Buddhism Appeared

  1. Bhagawatism, which is related to modern Hinduism also emerged.
  2. It started with Narayana worship and Krishna cult. It was more liberal and dealt with personal devotion.
  3. We see shift in emphasis from ritual worship to personal devotion between God and devotee.
  4. Nishkama Karma (mentioned in Gita) also emerged during this time. It focuses on ‘work without expecting result’.
  5. Philosophy of Bhagawata revolves around Karma, Bhakti & Tyaga.
  6. More liberal in nature, more progressive.
  7. Vasudev Krishna as the main deity.

15. Schools of Art

2nd century BC, but after Mathura school.Oldest one, emerged around 2nd century BC1st century BC
Prominent sites : Taxila, Peshawar, Bamiyan, Shaha-ji-ki-Dheri, JalalabadAround Mathura region. Mathura and Jamalpur were prominent sites.Golighantshala, Nagarjunkonda, Amaravati etc.
Patronised by Indo Greeks, Sakas, KushanasEarlier under local rulers, later under Kushanas.Under Satavahanas and Ikshvakus.
Earlier – bluish grey sandstone. Later – mud and stucco.Red sandstone.White marble.
Mainly only Buddhist images would be found, influenced by Greko Roman art.All 3 religions – Hindusim, Jainism and Buddhism deities were found.Mainly Buddhist.
Buddha is in a spiritual state. Wavy hair, sitting like yogi, only few ornaments. Protuberance on the head.    Smiling Buddha in a delighted mood. Head and face shaven. Wearing tight dress.More of narrative art and less emphasis on individual feature of Buddha. Jataka tales are depicted.  
Buddha alone.Buddha surrounded by Yaksha, Yakshini, Padmapani, VajrapaniMany characters and Buddha being one of them.
Halo is emptyHalo has floral motifs 
Eyes half closed  
Cloth around both shouldersCloth on one shoulder only 
Wavy hairHairs tied in bun. 
MathuraSarnath School
Oldest one, emerged around 2nd century BCDerived from Mathura School
Around Mathura region. Mathura and Jamalpur were prominent sites.Around Sarnath (Varanasi) region.
Earlier under local rulers, later under Kushanas.It emerged under Guptas.
Red sandstone.White Sandstone
All 3 religions – Hindusim, Jainism and Buddhism deities were found. 
Smiling Buddha in a delighted mood. Head and face shaven. Wearing tight dress.Intense carvings on halo. Buddha wearing very fine cloth, around both the shoulders. Padmapani, Vajrapani present.
Buddha sitting on lion throne.The bottomline of throne would indicate 1st sermon of Buddha. Buddha in form of tree, surrounded by disciples.

16. Other Developments

  1. The place of wood and bricks was taken by slate, sandstone and marble.
  2. Saanchi Stupa was elongated and repaired with stone railings added.
  3. Barhat stupa, started during Ashoka was completed during Sungas.
  4. Hathigumfa and Ranigumfa caves built during this period. Ranigumfa is a two storied cave, rectangular shaped, largest.
  5. Ajanta caves started during period of Satavahanas.
  6. Karle and Bhaja caves were also constructed during this period.
  7. Karle is rectangular with curved roof.
  8. Bhaja is circular with curved roof. These both are Chaityas

Chaityas and Vihara are both Buddhist structures. Chaityas were places of worship, while Viharas were place of residence for monks.

Ajanta Caves
InscriptionBy whomSignificance
JunagarhaRudradamanaRepairmen of Sudarshana lake
Besnagar pillar inscriptionHeliodorusVasudeva Pillar
NanaghatSatakarni I’s wifeSatakarni I was Dakshinpathi.
NasikGautamiMy son’s horse drank water of 3 oceans
Hathigumfa and RanigumfaKharavelaHow Mahapadmananda took Jina statues after defeating Kalinga.
And Kharavla brought back those images.

Various inscriptions during post Mauryan rule.

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