Post Mauryan Age

  • Indo Greek Invasion



    • The Indo-Greek Kingdom, or Graeco-Indian Kingdom, also known historically as the Yavana Kingdom, was a Hellenistic-era Greek kingdom covering various parts of Afghanistan, the northwest regions of the Indian subcontinent, (all of present Pakistan), and a small part of Iran; from 180 B.C.E. to around 10 C.E.
    • The kingdom began when the Greco-Bactrian king Demetrius invaded India in 180 B.C.E., ultimately creating an entity which seceded from the powerful Greco-Bactrian Kingdom cantered in Bactria.



    • Preliminary Greek presence in India
      • In 326 B.C.E. Alexander III conquered the north-western part of the Indian subcontinent as far as the Hyphasis River, and established satrapies.
      • Later in 303 B.C.E., Seleucus ceded to Chandragupta his north-western territories
        • Also several Greeks, such as the historian Megasthenes followed by Deimachus and Dionysius, went to reside at the Mauryan court. The two rulers continued to exchange presents.
      • On these occasions, Greek populations apparently remained in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent under Mauryan rule.
      • Further, In his edicts, Ashoka claims he sent Buddhist emissaries to Greek rulers as far as the Mediterranean
      • The Greeks in India even seem to have played an active role in the propagation of Buddhism
    • Greek rule in Bactria
      • Bactria or Bactriana, was an ancient region in Central Asia.
      • Alexander also had established in neighboring Bactria several cities (Ai-Khanoum, Begram) and an administration that lasted more than two centuries under the Seleucids and the Greco-Bactrians, all the time in direct contact with Indian territory.
    • Rise of the Sungas (185 B.C.E.)
      • In India, the overthrow of Maurya Dynasty occurred around 185 B.C.E. when Pusyamitra Sunga, described as a “senapati”, was the commander-in-chief of Mauryan Imperial forces and a Brahmin, who assassinated the last of the Mauryan emperors Brhadrata.
      • Pusyamitra Sunga then ascended the throne and established the Sunga Empire, which extended its control as far west as the Punjab.


    History of the Indo-Greek kingdom

    • The invasion of northern India, and the establishment of the “Indo-Greek kingdom,” started around 180 B.C.E. when Demetrius I, son of the Greco-Bactrian king Euthydemus I, led his troops across the Hindu Kush.
    • Apollodotus, seemingly a relative of Demetrius, led the invasion to the south, while Menander, led the invasion to the east.
      • Possibly at a later period, the Greeks advanced to the Ganges River, apparently as far as the capital Pataliputra, under the orders of Menander
    • According to Strabo (Greek Geographer), Greek advances temporarily went as far as the Sunga capital Pataliputra (today Patna) in eastern India.
    • To the south, the Greeks may have occupied the areas of the Sindh and Gujarat down to the region of Surat (Greek: Saraostus) near Mumbai (Bombay), including the strategic harbor of Barygaza (Bharuch)
    • The majority of historians consider Menander (reigned c.165/155 –130 BC) the most successful Indo-Greek king, and the conqueror of the greatest territory.
    • Following Menander’s reign, about 20 Indo-Greek kings ruled in succession in the eastern parts of the Indo-Greek territory.
    • Later at around 125 B.C.E., The Indo-Greeks thus suffered encroachments by the Greco-Bactrians in their western territories.
    • The Indo-Greeks may have ruled as far as the area of Mathura until sometime in the first century B.C.E., the Maghera inscription, from a village near Mathura records.
    • An inscription on a signet ring of the first century C.E. in the name of a king Theodamas, from the Bajaur area of Gandhara, in modern Pakistan constitutes the last known mention of an Indo-Greek ruler.



    • Buddhism flourished under the Indo-Greek kings, and their rule, especially that of Menander, has been remembered as benevolent.
    • The Greek expansion into Indian territory may have been intended to protect Greek populations in India, and to protect the Buddhist faith from the religious persecutions of the Sungas
      • Alternatively, some described the Greek invasions in India as purely materialistic, only taking advantage of the ruin of the Maurya Empire to acquire territory and wealth.
    • Most coins of the Greek kings in India in Greek on the front and in Pali on the back (in the Kharoshthi script), which indicate a tremendous concession to another culture never before made in the Hellenic world.



    • In addition to the worship of the Classical pantheon of the Greek deities found on their coins (Zeus, Herakles, Athena, Apollo…), the Indo-Greeks involved with local faiths, particularly with Buddhism, but also with Hinduism and Zoroastrianism.
      • Histories describe Menander I, the “Saviour king,” seemingly a convert to Buddhism, as a great benefactor of the religion, on a par with Ashoka or the future Kushan emperor Kanishka



    • Historians generally consider the coinage of the Indo-Greeks as some of the most artistically brilliant of Antiquity.
    • The Hellenistic heritage (Ai-Khanoum) and artistic proficiency of the Indo-Greek would suggest a rich sculptural tradition as well, but traditionally very few sculptural remains have been attributed to them.
    • Further, the possibility of a direct connection between the Indo-Greeks and Greco-Buddhist art has been reaffirmed recently as the dating of the rule of Indo-Greek kings has been extended to the first decades of the first century C.E., with the reign of Strato II in the Punjab.



    • Very little is known about the economy of the Indo-Greeks.
    • The abundance of their coins would tend to suggest large mining operations, particularly in the mountainous area of the Hindu-Kush, and an important monetary economy.
    • The Indo-Greek did strike bilingual coins both in the Greek “round” standard and in the Indian “square” standard, suggesting that monetary circulation extended to all parts of society.
    • The adoption of Indo-Greek monetary conventions by neighbouring kingdoms, such as the Satavahanas, also suggest that Indo-Greek coins were used extensively for cross-border trade.
    • An indirect testimony by the Chinese explorer Zhang Qian, who visited Bactria around 128 B.C.E., suggests that intense trade with Southern China went through northern India.
      • Zhang Qian explains that he found Chinese products in the Bactrian markets, transiting through North-western India, which he incidentally describes as a civilization similar to that of Bactria
    • Maritime relations across the Indian Ocean started in the third century B.C.E., and further developed during the time of the Indo-Greeks together with their territorial expansion along the western coast of India, along the Indus delta and Kathiawar peninsula or Muziris.


    Armed forces

    • The coins of the Indo-Greeks provide rich clues on their uniforms and weapons depicting typical Hellenistic uniforms, with helmets being either round in the Greco-Bactrian style, or the flat Kausia of the Macedonians.
    • The Milinda Panha, in the questions of Nagasena to king Menander, provides a rare glimpse of the military methods of the period

    Thus, presently 36 Indo-Greek kings are known. Several of them are also recorded in Western and Indian historical sources, but the majority are known through numismatic evidence only. The exact chronology and sequencing of their rule is still a matter of scholarly inquiry, with adjustments regular being made with new analysis and coin finds




    • Parthia is an ancient land corresponding roughly to the modern region of Khorāsān in Iran.
    • The Parthians ruled from 247 BCE to 224 CE, creating a vast empire that stretched from the Mediterranean in the west to India and China in the east.
    • East of the Caspian Sea there emerged from the steppe of Central Asia a nomadic Scythian tribe called the Parni.
      • Later called the Parthians and taking over the Seleucid Empire and fending off the Romans, they established themselves as a superpower in their own right.
    • The Parthian Empire was founded by Arsaces I of Parthia, when he rebelled against the Seleucid Empire
      • The Parthian kingdom had its reach from Turkey to eastern Iran.
    • The largest of these sub-kingdoms, the Indo Parthian kingdom, located west of the Parthian homeland, was founded in the late 1st century BC by the first of several kings named Gondophares, who was a Scythian (Saka) king
      • Their first capital city was Taxila in present- day South Central Pakistan. Later they shifted their capital city between Kabul and Peshawar.


    • Gondophares at around 20–10 BC, made conquests in the former Indo-Scythian kingdom, perhaps after the death of the important ruler Azes.
      • Gondophares became the ruler of areas comprising Arachosia, Seistan, Sindh, Punjab, and the Kabul valley.
    • After the death of Gondophares I, the empire started to fragment.
    • Later, the name or title Gondophares was adapted by Sarpedones, who become Gondophares II and was possibly son of the first Gondophares.
    • After a short reign, Sarpedones seems to have been succeeded by Orthagnes, who became Gondophares III Gadana
    • Despite many successors, the Indo-Parthians never regained the position of Gondophares I; as from the middle of the 1st century AD the Kushans under Kujula Kadphises began absorbing the northern Indian part of the kingdom.


    Archaeology and sources

    • The city of Taxila is thought to have been a capital of the Indo-Parthians.
      • The nearby temple of Jandial is usually interpreted as a Zoroastrian fire temple from the period of the Indo-Parthians.
    • The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea is a surviving 1st century guide to the routes commonly being used for navigating the Arabian Sea.
      • It describes the presence of Parthian kings fighting with each other in the area of Sindh, a region traditionally known at that time as “Scythia” due to the previous rule of the Indo-Scythians.
    • Further, an inscription from Takht-i-Bahi bears two dates, one in the regnal year 26 of the Maharaja Guduvhara (thought to be a Gondophares)
    Main Indo-Parthian RulersPeriod
    Gondophares Ic. 19 – 46
    Gondophares II Sarpedonesfirst years AD – c. 20 AD
    Abdagases Ifirst years AD – mid-1st century AD
    Gondophares III Gudana, previously Orthagnesc. 20 AD – 30 AD
    Gondophares IV Sasesmid-1st century AD
    Ubouzaneslate-1st century AD
    Pacoreslate 1st century AD


    • Unlike the Indo-Greeks or Indo-Scythians, there are no explicit records of Indo-Parthian rulers supporting Buddhism, such as religious dedications, inscriptions, or even legendary accounts.
      • Also, although Indo-Parthian coins generally closely follow Greek numismatics, they never display the Buddhist triratna symbol (apart from the later Sases), nor do they ever use depictions of the elephant or the bull, possible religious symbols which were profusely used by their predecessors.
    • Hence, they are thought to have retained Zoroastrianism, being of Iranian extraction themselves.
    • Further, Coins of the Hindu deity Shiva have also been found issued in the reign of Gondophares I


    Buddhist sculptures

    • The statues found at Sirkap in the late Scythian to Parthian level (level 2, 1–60 AD) suggest an already developed state of Gandharan art at the time or even before Parthian rule.
    • A multiplicity of statues, ranging from Hellenistic gods, to various Gandharan lay devotees, are combined with what are thought as some of the early representations of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas.
    • Today, it is still unclear when the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara exactly emerged, but the findings in Sirkap do indicate that this art was already highly developed before the advent of the Kushans.

    Stone palettes

    • Numerous stone palettes found in Gandhara are considered as good representatives of Indo-Parthian art.
      • These palettes combine Greek and Persian influences, together with a frontality in representations which is considered as characteristic of Parthian art.


    Other known facts

    • Local and foreign texts and also artifacts have proved useful in knowing more about Parthian history but there is still a lot left unknown.
    • Further, The Chinese explorer Zang Qian described Parthia as an advanced urban civilization. Trade between India and China was flourishing under the silk trade route. Parthians were known to supply Chinese silk to the Romans.



    • Indo-Scythians is a term used to refer to Scythians (Sakas), who migrated into parts of Central Asia and north-western South Asia, from the middle of the 2nd century BCE to the 4th century CE.
    • Generally, they were pastoralists and good horsemen. They often attacked sedentary societies with the intention of acquiring pastoral grazing land and livestock – typical cattle-centric steppe nomad behaviour.
    • Following the death of Alexander the Great and the gradual diminution of his eastern empire, the Sakas infiltrated those lands to create states of their own.
      • They settled down in Bactria and Parthia, overrunning the Parthians (the Pahlavas or Indo-Parthians), and forcing remnants of their people into India, one of a complex series of incursions and migrations from Central Asia into India in this period.


    • According to Historians, the first Saka King in India was known as Maues or Moga.
      • He established his power in Gandhara and spread out his power and supremacy in almost all regions of Northwest India.
      • He defeated the Indo-Greek territories (in modern Pakistan) and established his governance as far as the River Jhelum
    • Maues was succeeded by Vonones (75-65 BC), who ruled along with his brother,
    • The brother was succeeded in turn by his son, Spalagadames (50 BC) who ruled areas between Central Asia and South Asia.
    • Spalagadames’ successor, Azes (57-35 BC), increased his importance by capturing the kingdom of the last great Indo-Greek king, Hippostratus.


    Extent and Expansion

    • The Sakas ruled over the north-west frontier, and in Punjab, Sindh, Kashmir, western Uttar Pradesh, Saurashtra, Kathiawar, Rajputana, Malwa, and the north Konkan belt of Maharashtra.
    • They also fought against the Satvahanas in India, and later entered into matrimonial alliances with them, furthering their own integration into Indian society.
    • Benefiting from their earlier interaction with the Greeks, the Sakas kings employed the Greek system of rule and appointed kshatrapas (satraps, governors) to govern each region.
    • The Sakas were later overpowered by the Kushans when they succeeded in taking control from the Sakas.
      • The Sakas were forced to accept their suzerainty but, after the Kushans themselves faded.
    • The Sakas were finally finished off as a regional power by the rulers of the Gupta dynasty.
      • In time the remnants of the Sakas, now without any political power, blended into Indian society.



    • Indo-Scythian coinage is generally of a high artistic quality, although it clearly deteriorates towards the disintegration of Indo-Scythian rule around AD 20.
    • Indo-Scythian coinage is generally quite realistic, artistically somewhere between Indo-Greek and Kushan coinage.
    • They continued the Indo-Greek tradition, by using the Greek language on the obverse and the Kharoshthi language on the reverse.
      • The portrait of the king is never shown however, and is replaced by depictions of the king on horse (and sometimes on camel), or sometimes sitting cross-legged on a cushion.
      • The reverse of their coins typically show Greek divinities.
    • Buddhist symbolism is present throughout Indo-Scythian coinage.



    Buner reliefs

    • Indo-Scythian soldiers in military attire are sometimes represented in Buddhist friezes in the art of Gandhara.
    • They are depicted in ample tunics with trousers, and have heavy straight swords as weapons.
    • In Gandhara, such friezes were used as decorations on the pedestals of Buddhist stupas.

    One of the Buner reliefs showing Scythian soldiers dancing


    Stone palettes

    • Numerous stone palettes found in Gandhara are considered good representatives of Indo-Scythian art. These palettes combine Greek and Iranian influences, and are often realized in a simple, archaic style.
    • Very often these palettes represent people in Greek dress in mythological scenes, a few in Parthian dress, and even fewer in Indo-Scythian dress
    • A palette found in Sirkap and now in the New Delhi Museum shows a winged Indo-Scythian horseman riding winged deer, and being attacked by a lion.

    Gandhara stone palette with Scythians playing music


    The Indo-Scythians and Buddhism

    • The Indo-Scythians seem to have been followers of Buddhism, and many of their practices apparently continued those of the Indo-Greeks.
    • Excavations at the Butkara Stupa in Swat (Region in Pakistan), by an Italian archaeological team have yielded various Buddhist sculptures thought to belong to the Indo-Scythian period.
    • The Mathura lion capital, which associates many of the Indo-Scythian rulers from Maues, mentions a dedication of a relic of the Buddha in a stupa.


    Indo-Scythians in Indian literature

    • The Indo-Scythians were named “Shaka” in India, an extension on the name Saka used by the Persians to designate Scythians.
    • Shakas receive numerous mentions in texts like the Puranas, the Manusmriti, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Mahabhasiya of Patanjali, the Brhat Samhita of Vraha Mihira, etc.


    Decline of Shaka

    • The Saka Empire started declining after their defeat at the hands of the Satavahana Emperor Gautamiputra Satakarni.
    • Eventually, the Saka rule in northwest India and Pakistan came to an end after the death of Azes II (12 BC) when the region came under the Kushanas.



    • The Kushan Empire (c. First–Third Centuries) reached its cultural zenith circa 105 – 250 C.E., extended from Tajikistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and into the Ganges River valley in northern India
    • The Kushan tribe of the Yuezhi confederation, believed to be Indo-European people from the eastern Tarim Basin, China, possibly related to the Tocharians, created the empire.
      • They were the furthest eastern Indo-European speaking people.
    • The emergence of the vast Kushan Empire from the first century AD until its decline in the third century saw the political unification of much of Central Asia, from modern day India and Pakistan to the Iranian borders.



    The Glimpse of Kushan rulers is as follows:

    KingPeriodNotable achievements
    Kujula Kadphises30–80 C.E.·         He laid the basis for the Kushan Empire which was rapidly expanded by his descendants.
    Vima Taktu80–105 C.E.·         He expanded the Kushan Empire into the northwest of the Indian subcontinent.
    Vima Kadphises105–127 C.E.·         He  added to the Kushan territory by his conquests in Afghanistan and north-west India.

    ·         He was the first to introduce gold coinage in India, in addition to the existing copper and silver coinage.

    Kanishka I127–147 C.E.·         The rule of Kanishka, fifth Kushan king, flourished for at least 28 years

    ·         Upon his accession, Kanishka ruled a massive territory, covering virtually all of northern India, south to Ujjain and Kundina and east beyond Pataliputra

    ·         He administered the territory from two capitals: Purushapura (now Peshawar in northern Pakistan) and Mathura, in northern India.

    ·         Kanishka’s era began in 127 C.E., which is used as a calendar reference by the Kushans for about a century, until the decline of the Kushan realm.

    VāsishkaDated to the year 22 and Year 28·         Vāsishka had been a Kushan emperor, who had a short reign following Kanishka

    ·          His rule extended as far south as Sanchi

    Huvishka140–183 C.E.·         His rule was a period of retrenchment and consolidation for the Empire.

    ·         In particular he devoted time and effort early in his reign to the exertion of greater control over the city of Mathura.

    Vasudeva I191–225 C.E.·         Vasudeva I ruled as the last of the “Great Kushans.”

    ·          The last great Kushan emperor, the end of his rule coincides with the invasion of the Sassanids as far as northwestern India, and the establishment of the Indo-Sassanids or Kushanshahs from around 240 C.E.-



    • Cultural exchanges flourished, encouraging the development of Greco-Buddhism, a fusion of Hellenistic and Buddhist cultural elements, expanding into central and northern Asia as Mahayana Buddhism.
    • Kanishka has earned renown in Buddhist tradition for having convened a great Buddhist council in Kashmir, in 72A.D.
    • Kanishka also had the original Gandhari vernacular, or Prakrit, Buddhist texts translated into the language of Sanskrit.



    • The art and culture of Gandhara, at the crossroads of the Kushan hegemony, constitute the best known expressions of Kushan influences to Westerners.
    • Several direct depictions of Kushans from Gandhara have been discovered, represented with a tunic, belt and trousers and play the role of devotees to the Buddha, as well as the Bodhisattva and future Buddha Maitreya
    • The style of these friezes incorporating Kushan devotees, already strongly Indianized, are quite remote from earlier Hellenistic depictions of the Buddha.





    • The vast Kushan Empire, extending from Central Asia to Bihar and from Kashmir to Sind, containing peoples of different nationalities and religions with a heterogeneous socioeconomic background, was governed through an organized administrative system, probably in three tiers, at central, provincial and local levels.
    • The Kushans seem to have followed the earlier existing pattern of the Indo-Greeks and Parthians by appointing ksatrapas and mahaksatrapas for different units of the empire.
    • Other inscriptions mention other officials performing both civil and military functions, called ‘dandanayaka’ and ‘mahadandanayaka’, indicating prevalant feudal elements.
    • Further, inscriptions mention two terms –‘gramika ’ and ‘padrapala’, both signifying ‘village headman’, who collected the king’s dues and took cognizance of crimes in his area.
    • Thus, the information available suggests that the Kushan rulers accepted the prevalent Indian and Chinese concept of the divinity of kingship, and borrowed the Achaemenid and subsequently Indo-Grcek and Indo-Parthian system of appointing satraps as provincial governors, while the feudal lord (dandanayaka) was their own creation.



    • Kushan kings introduced gold and copper coins, a large number of them have survived till today.
      • It was the Kushan emperor, Vima Kadaphises who introduced the first gold coins of India.
    • During this period, the main coins issued were of
    • The coin designs usually broadly follow the styles of the preceding Greco-Bactrian rulers in using Hellenistic styles of image, with a deity on one side and the king on the other.
    • Further, towards the end of Kushan rule, the first coinage of the Gupta Empire was also derived from the coinage of the Kushan Empire.





    • The inscriptions issued by the Kushan rulers or in areas under their rule include texts in Bactrian, written in Greek script, and in Prakrit written in Brāhmī or Kharoṣṭhī script.
    • The most important of this, is the Rabatak Inscription, which established Kanishka’s geneaology, with Kujula Kadphises, Vima Takto (or Takha) and Vima Kadphises being named as his immediate ancestors.


    External Contacts

    • Several Roman sources describe the visit of ambassadors from the Kings of Bactria and India during the second century, probably referring to the Kushans
    • The Chinese Historical Chronicles also describes the exchange of goods between north-western India and the Roman Empire at that time.
    • Further, they collaborated militarily with the Chinese against nomadic incursion.



    • After the death of Vasudeva I in 225 A.D., the Kushan empire split into western and eastern halves.
    • The Persian Sassanid Empire soon subjugated the Western Kushans (in Afghanistan), losing Bactria and other territories.
      • In 248 A.D., the Persians defeated them again, deposing the Western dynasty and replacing them with Persian vassals known as the Kushanshas (or Indo-Sassanids).
    • The Eastern Kushan kingdom based in the Punjab.
      • Around 270, their territories on the Gangetic plain became independent under local dynasties such as the Yaudheyas
      • Further, in the mid fourth century the Gupta Empire under Samudragupta subjugated them.
    • Later, the invasions of the White Huns in the fifth century, and later the expansion of Islam, ultimately wiped out those remnants of the Kushan empire.




    • Kushano-Sasanian Kingdom (also called Kushanshahs or Indo-Sasanians) is a historiographic term used by modern scholars, to refer to a branch of the Sasanian Persians who established their rule in Bactria during the 3rd and 4th centuries CE at the expense of the declining Kushans.
    • Shortly after the Sasanian king Ardashir I overthrew the Parthians, he marched to the east and invaded Bactria (circa 230 AD).
      • Under him and his son Shapur I, the Kushans lost the western part of their empire and these provinces in Bactria and Gandhara came under the rule of Sasanian nobles called Kushanshahs.
      • In about 325 AD, Shapur II took direct control of the southern part of the region.
    • The Main Kushano-Sassanid rulers are as follows:
    Ardashir I Kushanshah230–245
    Peroz I Kushanshah245–275
    Hormizd I Kushanshah275–300
    Hormizd II Kushanshah300–303
    Peroz II Kushanshah303–330
    Varahran Kushanshah330-365


    Religious life

    • As the evidence of the coins clearly shows, the Zoroastrian faith, enjoyed great popularity among the Kushano-Sasanians
      • The influence of Zoroastrianism can be inferred from the representation of fire altars on the coins.
    • Further, Buddhist missionaries, on the other hand, continued to exert their influence throughout the whole of Afghanistan and Central Asia
      • It seems very likely that Buddhism itself was undergoing a great change in its practices, ideological concepts and rituals.
      • With the acceptance of the image of the Buddha and the expansion of Buddhism and Buddhist monasteries, the educational character of the sangha (Buddhist community) had taken on a new shape.
    • Further, the evidence of coins suggests that the popularity of Shiva and Nandi had caught the popular imagination.



    • In administering this empire, Sassanid rulers took the title of shahanshah (King of Kings), becoming the central overlords and also assumed guardianship of the sacred fire, the symbol of the national religion.
    • On a smaller scale, the territory might also be ruled by a number of petty rulers from a noble family, known as Shahrdar, overseen directly by the shahanshah.
    • The districts of the provinces were ruled by a shahrab and a mowbed (chief priest).
    • Sasanian rule was characterized by considerable centralization, ambitious urban planning, agricultural development, and technological improvements
    • Below the king, a powerful bureaucracy carried out much of the affairs of government



    • The Kushano-Sassanids created an extensive coinage with legend in Brahmi, Pahlavi or Bactrian, sometimes inspired from Kushan coinage
    • The obverse of the coin usually depicts the ruler with elaborate headdress and on the reverse either a Zoroastrian fire altar, or Shiva with the bull Nandi.


    Economy, society and trade

    • The economic base may be inferred from the currency.
      • Although gold and silver coins are known for several Kushano-Sasanian prince-governors, it is the copper coinage that was widely current to meet the local demands of the population.
    • Trade continued in the Silk Route as in the earlier period


    Languages and scripts

    • In the state of the Kushanshahs, apart from high officials and military personnel, there were inevitably natives of Iran, including both scribes and marginally literate persons.
      • So, It is natural that they wrote their Middle Persian in Pahlavi script.
      • Hence, some issues of the Kushano- Sasanian coinage (see above) have Middle Persian inscriptions in Pahlavi script.
    • Most inscriptions of the Kushan and Kushano-Sasanian periods come from Termez, in particular from the Buddhist monasteries of Kara-tepe and Fayaz-tepe.
      • They are written in the Kharosthi and Brahmıi scripts.



    • Kara-tepe (Presently in Uzbekistan) presents a typical model of cultural material that is syncretistic in nature.
      • The excavations here, have brought to light wall paintings, stone and stucco (ganch in local terminology), sculpture, terracottas, and pottery, metal ware and coins, inscriptions on pottery and graffiti on the walls of the caves and their entrance niches
      • The structures constitute a complex of caves, a courtyard and some grand


    • Many other cities and settlements are known where life developed in the Kushano-Sasanian period on the territory of Bactria
      • At the Yavan site in southern Tajikistan, for example, a section of a small street was unearthed on the citadel.
      • On each side there was a solid area of large house blocks with many rooms. These houses consisted of individual, interconnected premises.
    • There were two trends in the art of the time:
      • Buddhist art developed from traditions going back to the art of Gandhara with local features,
      • Whereas non-Buddhist art displayed a complex fusion of local and Sasanian traditions. This feature is well seen in the sculptures and wall-paintings from Dilberjin.



    • The great strength of Sassanid culture was that it openly drew on, and inter-acted with, the cultures with which it enjoyed contact, creating a synthesis.
    • Following the collapse of the Sassanid Empire, when Islam supplanted Zoroastrianism, Zoroastrians became a persecuted minority. A number of them chose to emigrate.
      • One group of those refugees landed in present Gujarat, where they were allowed greater freedom to observe their old customs and to preserve their faith.
    • Later, the descendants of those Zoroastrians, now known as the Parsis, would play a significant role in the development of India.


  • Sungas


    • The collapse of the Mauryan rule in 187 BCE paved the way for the emergence of several powers in the Indian subcontinent
    • The period from the decline of the Mauryas to the rise of the Guptas (2nd century BCE to 3rd century CE) is known in Indian history as the post – Mauryan period.
    • The Sunga Empire (or Shunga Empire) is a Magadha dynasty that controlled North-central and Eastern India as well as parts of the northwest (now Pakistan) from around 185 to 73 B.C.E.
      • It was established after the fall of the Indian Mauryan Empire.
      • The capital of the Sungas was Pataliputra.


    History of the Sungas

    • The Sunga dynasty was established in 185 B.C.E., about 50 years after Ashoka’s death, when the king Brhadrata, the last of the Mauryan rulers, was assassinated by the then commander-in-chief of the Mauryan armed forces, Pusyamitra Sunga
      • Pushyamitra Sunga became the ruler of the Magadha and neighbouring territories.
      • He died after ruling for 36 years (187-151 B.C.E.).
      • He was succeeded by son Agnimitra.
    • The Sungas were succeeded by the Kanva dynasty around 73 B.C.E.
    • Extent of Empire
      • The kingdom of Pushyamitra was extended up to Narmada in the south, and controlled Jalandhar and Sialkot in the Punjab in the north-western regions, and the city of Ujjain in central India.
    • Sunga rule in India according to the Puranas lasted for 112 years. Magadha was the nucleus of the kingdom
    • The last of the Sunga kings was Devabhuti (83-73 B.C.E.).
      • He was assassinated by his minister (Vasudeva Kanva)
      • The Sunga dynasty was then replaced by the subsequent Kanvas.


    Conflicts and Sacrifices

    • According to Patanjali’s Mahabhasya , there were Greek incursions during the rule of the Sungas.
      • Also the Hindu text of the Yuga Purana, describes Indian historical events in the form of a prophecy, and relates the attack of the Indo-Greeks on the capital Pataliputra, a magnificent fortified city.
    • Malavikagnimitra refers to the conflict between Pushyamitra and Yajnasena, King of Vidarbha(the eastern Maharashtra area) and the victory of the Shungas
    • Patanjali also mentions sacrifices performed for Pushyamitra
    • The Malavikagnimitra narrates the story of military encounter between prince Vasumitra and Yavana army on the banks of Sindhu
      • According to the play, Pushpamitra (Pushyamitra) sent his grandson Vasumitra (Agnimitra’s son) who escorted the sacrificial horse during its travels through different areas prior to the performance of the Asvamedha yajya.
      • Vasumitra defeated the Yavanas on the banks of the Sindhu river.
      • The sacrifice was performed after Vasumitra returned victorious along with the horse.


    Religious Policy

    • After Ashoka’s tryst with Dhamma and Buddhism, the Sungas are known for having reverted to Brahmanical orthodoxy
      • Buddhist sources claim that Pushyamitra Sunga persecuted the Buddhists.
    • The Divyavadana gives stories of Pushyamitra’s cruelty and his animosity towards Buddhism.
    • Later Sunga kings were seen as amenable to Buddhism and as having contributed to the building of the stupa at Bharhut


    Cultural Contributions

    • While there is much debate on the religious policies of the Sunga dynasty, it is recognized for a number of contributions.
    • Art, education, philosophy, and other learning flowered during this period.
      • Most notably, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and Mahabhasya were composed in this period.
      • It is also noted for its subsequent mention in the Malavikaagnimitra – work composed by Kalidasa in the later Gupta period, and romanticized the love of Malavika and King Agnimitra, with a background of court intrigue
    • During the historical Sunga period (185 to 73 B.C.E.), Buddhist activity also managed to survive somewhat in central India (Madhya Pradesh) as suggested by some architectural expansions undertaken at the stupas of Sanchi and Barhut, originally started under King Ashoka.
      • However, it remains uncertain whether these works were due to the weakness of the control of the Sungas in these areas, or a sign of tolerance on their part.



    • The script used by the Sunga was a variant of Brahmi, and was used to write the Sanskrit language.
    • The script is thought to be an intermediary between the Maurya and the Kalinga brahmi scripts



    • The Sunga Empire played an important role in patronizing Indian culture at a time when some of the most important developments in Hindu thought were taking place.
    • The richness of India’s spiritual tradition, from which the whole world has gained insight, owes much to this period.
    • The Sunga rulers helped to establish the tradition of royal sponsorship of learning and art that would be continued by later dynasties, ensuring that Indian culture remained vital and creative.



  • Kavas



    • Kanva dynasty, also called Kanvayanas, the successors of the Shungas in the North Indian kingdom of Magadha, who ruled about 72–28 BCE
    • The Puranic literature shows that the Kanva Dynasty ruled from Pataliputra, Magadha in Eastern India, the former capital of the Shunga Empire. Their coins are primarily found in and around the region of Vidisha in Central India, the capital of later Shunga rulers.



    • The Kanva dynasty was established by Vasudeva Kanva in 73 BCE.
      • Vasudeva was initially a minister of the Shunga Emperor Devabhuti, who then assassinated the former emperor and usurped the throne
    • Vasudeva was succeeded by his son Bhumimitra.
    • Bhumimitra ruled for fourteen years and was later succeeded by his son Narayana; later by Susharman who was the last king of the Kanva dynasty.
    • According to the Puranas, the last king of the Kanva dynasty was killed by Balipuccha, who founded the Andhra dynasty.
    • Further, The extent of Kanva territory was confined to the areas of Sunga rule.


    Other known facts of Kanva Dynasty

    • The Kanva kings were Brahmins. They were descendants of Sage Saubhari.
    • The defeat of the Kanva dynasty by the Satavahana dynasty was a localised event in Central India.
      • However, numismatic and epigraphic evidence suggests that Magadha itself came under the hegemony of the Mitra dynasty of Kaushambi from the 1st century BCE until the 2nd century CE.
    • Thus after a short reign of about 45 years the Kanva dynasty disappeared from the political field of India and with them vanished the name and fame of the Magadhan empire.


  • Satavahanas



    • Satavahana dynasty, was an Indian family that, according to some interpretations based on the Puranas, belonged to the Andhra jati (a tribe) and was the first Deccanese dynasty to build an empire in Daksinapatha—i.e., the southern region.
    • At the height of their power, the Satavahanas held distant areas of western and central India.
    • On the strength of Puranic evidence, the beginnings of Satavahana ascendancy can be dated to late in the 1st century BCE, although some authorities trace the family to the 3rd century BCE.
    • The Satavahanas emerged as a critical dynasty in the post-Mauryan age; and most of our knowledge about the Satavahanas comes from inscriptional and numismatic evidence found in regions like Nasik and Nanaghat.


     Political History

    • The Satavahanas emerged out of the ruins of the Mauryan Empire that declined and disintegrated by the first half of the 2nd century BCE.
      • The Andhra country and the Deccan at large had been under the sway of the Mauryans, and the baton was passed on to the Satavahanas and Chedi rulers of Odisha.
    • Puranic lists suggest that the first king, Simuka began to reign about 230 BCE.
    • The history of any empire is often characterised by its conflicts with other contemporary forces, and in the case of the Satavahanas, the Sakas of Seistan proved to be a constant threat.
      • The expansion of the Saka power at the expense of the Satavahans probably occurred in the period AD 40-80
    • However later, Gotami-putra Satakarni is often credited with reviving the fortunes of the Satavahanas after acceding to the throne in 106 AD.
      • He is described as the destroyer of the Sakas, Pahlavas and Yavanas .
      • The Nashik inscription of Gautami Balashri suggest that Satakarnis rule extended from Malwa and Saurashtra in the North to the Krishna in the south and from Berar in the east to Konkan in the West.
    • Further, Gotami Putra passed on the throne to his son Vaishishtiputra Pulumavi, who ruled from c. AD 130-159.
      • He was followed by Yajnashri Satakarni, who was the last significant Satavahana ruler.(170–199 CE)
    • After his reign, the empire gradually declined, for hitherto unestablished reasons.
      • However, it can be surmised, that the succeeding monarchs weren’t able to maintain their control over feudatories, who in turn may have gained in strength.
      • All in all, the illustrious Satavahana empire came to an end around the mid-3rd century BCE.
    • The Satavahanas were followed by Abhiras in Maharashtra, Kadambas in Mysore, Vakatakas in the Deccan and Bruhatpalayanas in Andhra Pradesh. Later, the Vishnukundins and Chalukyas emerged and became dominant in the region that had earlier been in the possession of the Satavahanas.


    • The Satavahana polity was extensively decentralized, as local administration was left largely to feudatories subject to the general control of royal officials.
    • The king was at the apex of the administrative hierarchy and considered the guardian of the established social order.
    • Feudatories were of three grades:
      • Rajas(who stuck coins in their names)
      • Mahanhojas and Maharathis. These were skilled in warfare and had a lot of clout in the administrative set-up.
      • Mahasenapati
    • Further, the state was divided into aharas, each being governed by a minister called Amatya.
      • The villages came below these administrative divisions, and came to be headed by a gramika.
    • Trade also formed a critical component of the Satavahana economy.
      • Sopara and Bharuch were import trading outposts.
      • Imports included luxuries like wine, cloth, choice unguents, glass and sweet clover.
      • Exports were common cloth, cornelian, muslin and mallow cloth. Each group of specialized traders was organized into a guild, and each guild in turn had a Sethi and an office called


    • The Satavahanas participated in (and benefited from) economic expansion through intensification of agriculture, increased production of other commodities, and trade within and beyond the Indian subcontinent.
    • During the Satavahana period, several large settlements emerged in the fertile areas, especially along the major rivers.
      • The amount of land under agricultural use also expanded significantly, as a result of forest clearance and construction of irrigation reservoirs.
    • The Satavahanas controlled the Indian sea coast, and as a result, they dominated the growing Indian trade with the Roman Empire.
      • The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea mentions two important Satavahana trade centres: Pratishthana and Tagara.
      • Other important urban centres included Kondapur, Banavasi and Madhavpur

    Culture and religion

    • The Satavahanas made significant contributions towards Indian culture at large.
    • They were the first Indian kings to give royal grants of land to those practicing Buddhism and Brahmanism.
    • Historians suggest that initially the Satavahanas were of a lower caste, but as they consolidated their foothold over the Deccan, they cast in stone their Brahminical credentials.
      • A Nasik inscription reflects this concern as Gotami-putra Satkarni attributed to himself the title of Kshatriyadarpa Mardana (Destroyer of the Pride of Kshatriyas).
    • Hala, a famous Satavahana ruler, is said to have composed a treatise called Saptasati, which opens with a passage in adoration of Shiva.
      • It also refers to temples being constructed for Gauri, and vratas of fire and water.
    • All in all, inscriptions as well as evidence from the Puranas clearly establishes the efforts taken by the Satavahanas to revive Vedic Brahmanism in the Deccan.
    • Sage Vidnyaneshwar also wrote a commentary on the Yadnyavalkya Smriti during the Satavahana period.
    • Further, the most intriguing practice instituted by the Satavahanas was that of metronymics, i.e, the name of emperors was often derived from the female lineage.
      • This is particularly evident through names like Gautami-putra and Vaishishti-putra.
      • It will be an oversimplification to conclude that the Satavahana society was matriarchal or matrilineal.
      • Nonetheless, it does shed some light on the status of women in India, that may have been far superior to what it was in other parts of the country and even in the world.
    • Sculptures show women worshipping Buddhist emblems, taking part in assemblies and entertaining guests alongside their husbands.
      • Moreover, many women gave grants of land to monks, showing that they had considerable agency.


    • Most of the Satavahana inscriptions and coin legends are in a Middle Indo-Aryan language.
      • This language has been termed “Prakrit” by some modern scholars, however conflict still exists to the reference language.
    • The Satvahanas also used Sanskrit in political inscriptions, but rarely.
    • The Satavahanas also issued bilingual coins featuring Middle Indo-Aryan language on one side, and Tamil language on the other side.


    • The Satavahanas were the earliest Indian rulers to issue their own coins with portraits of their rulers, starting with king Gautamiputra Satakarni, a practice derived from that of the Western Kshatrapas he defeated.
    • Thousands of lead, and copper Satavahana coins have been discovered in the Deccan region; a few gold and silver coins are also available.


    • The sculptures of the Amaravati Stupa represent the architectural development of the Satavahana periods.
      • They built Buddhist stupas in Amravati (95 feet high).
    • They also constructed a large number of stupas at Goli, Jaggiahpeta, Gantasala, Amravati Bhattiprolu, and Shri Parvatam.
    • Caves IX and X, containing Ajanta paintings, were patronised by Satavahana, and the painting throughout the caves appear to have started with them.
    • Ashokan Stupas were enlarged, the earlier bricks and wood works being replaced with stone works. The most famous of these monuments are the stupas, the most famous among them being the Amravati Stupa and the Nagarjunakonda Stupa.


    • The Satavahana paintings are the earliest surviving specimens (excluding prehistoric rock art) in India, and they are to be found only at the Ajanta Caves.
    • Vagaries of nature and some vandalism have taken a heavy toll on the Ajanta Caves.
      • Only a few fragments related to the Satavahanas have survived in Caves No. 9 and 10, both of which are chaitya-grihas with stupas.


    • The Satavahanas left a rich legacy that was inherited by many other lineages in the Ancient and Early Medieval era
    • As evident above, they revived Vedic Brahmanism and the corresponding rituals like the Ashvamedha yajna.
    • Their assimilation of faiths, military power and trading prowess makes them one of the most important empires in the history of the Deccan region and at large, that of Bharatavarsha.