- 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.
- 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.
- 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.