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Satavahana dynasty

Satavahana Empire

230 BCE–220 CE Vakataka|

Territorial extent of the Satavahana Empire (continuous line) and conquests (dotted line).
Capital Pratishthana, Amaravati, Koti Lingala
Languages Telugu, Maharashtri Prakrit, Kannada, Tamil
Religion Hinduism Buddhism
Government Monarchy
 •  230–207 BC Simuka
 •  190s AD Madhariputra Svami Sakasena (?)
Historical era Antiquity
 •  Established 230 BCE
 •  Disestablished 220 CE
Today part of  India

The Sātavāhana Empire was an Indian dynasty based from Dharanikota and Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh as well as Junnar (Pune) and Prathisthan (Paithan) in Maharashtra.[1] The territory of the empire covered much of India from 230 BCE onward. Although there is some controversy about when the dynasty came to an end, the most liberal estimates suggest that it lasted about 450 years, until around 220 CE. The Satavahanas are credited for establishing peace in the country, resisting the onslaught of foreigners after the decline of the Mauryan Empire.

The Sātavāhanas were vassals to the Mauryan dynasty until the decline of the latter. They are known for their patronage of Hinduism. The Sātavāhanas were early issuers of Indian state coinage struck with images of their rulers. They formed a cultural bridge and played a vital role in trade and the transfer of ideas and culture to and from the Indo-Gangetic Plain to the southern tip of India.

They had to compete with the Shungas and then the Kanvas of Magadha to establish their rule. Later, they played a crucial role to protect a huge part of India against foreign invaders like the Sakas, Yavanas and Pahlavas. In particular their struggles with the Western Kshatrapas went on for a long time. The great rulers of the Satavahana Dynasty Gautamiputra Satakarni and Sri Yajna Sātakarni were able to defeat the foreign invaders like the Western Kshatrapas and stop their expansion. In the 3rd century CE the empire was split into smaller states. According to ancient Sangam literature the Satavahana rulers were allied with the Tamil rulers of the Chera dynasty, Chola dynasty and Pandyan Dynasty to defeat the foreign invaders like the Scythians.[2]


  • Origins 1
  • Etymology 2
  • Early rulers 3
    • Simuka (c. 230–207 BCE) 3.1
    • Satakarni (c. 180–124 BCE) 3.2
    • Kanva suzerainty (75–35 BCE) 3.3
  • Victory over the Shakas, Yavanas and Pahlavas 4
    • Gautamiputra Satakarni (78–102 CE) 4.1
  • Successors 5
    • Decline of the Satavahanas 5.1
  • Coinage 6
  • Cultural achievements 7
    • Art of Amaravati 7.1
    • Art of Sanchi 7.2
  • List of rulers 8
  • Images 9
  • See also 10
  • Notes 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13


In the Pūrānas and on their coins the Andhra dynasty is variously referred to as the Sātavāhanas or Sālavāhaṇa, Sātakarnīs.[3][4][5][6] A reference to the Sātavāhanas by the Greek traveler Megasthenes indicates that they possessed 100,000 infantry, 1,000 elephants, and had more than 30 well built fortified towns:

There is a very large island in the Ganges which is inhabited by a single tribe called Modogalingae. Beyond are situated the Modubae, Molindae, the Uberae with a handsome town of the same name, the Galmodroësi, Preti, Calissae, Sasuri, Passalae, Colubae, Orxulae, Abali, Taluctae. The king of [S. 138] these keeps under arms 50,000 foot-soldiers, 4000 cavalry, and 400 elephants. Next come the Andarae, still more powerful race, which possesses numerous villages, and thirty towns defended by walls and towers, and which supplies its king with an army of 100,000 infantry, 2000 cavalry, and 1000 elephants. Gold is very abundant among the Dardae, and silver among the Setae. [S. 139] .
— Plin. Hist. Nat. VI. 21. 8–23. 11., quoting Megasthenes[7]

The Sātavāhanas ruled a large and powerful empire that withstood the onslaughts from Central Asia. Aside from their military power, their commercialism and naval activity is evidenced by establishment of Indian colonies in Southeast Asia.

The Sātavāhanas began as feudatories to the Mauryan Empire. They seem to have been under the control of Emperor Ashoka, who claims they were in his domain. among them:

Here in the king's domain among the Yavanas (Greeks), the Kambojas, the Nabhakas, the Nabhapamkits, the Bhojas, the Pitinikas, the Andhras and the Palidas, everywhere people are following Beloved-of-the-Gods' instructions in Dhamma.
— Rock Edict Nb13 (S. Dhammika)

The Satavahanas declared independence some time after the death of Ashoka (232 BCE), as the Maurya Empire began to weaken.

It is believed that they were originally practicing Sanatana Dharma (as per Sthala Purana of Amaravati).[8] Some rulers like Maharaja Satakarni are believed to have performed Vedic sacrifices as well.[8]

They were not only worshipers of Vishnu and Shiva but also other incarnations of Gauri, Indra, the sun and moon.[9][10]


Śātavāhana, Śālivāhana, Śātakarṇi seem to be Sanskritised versions of the dravidian word Sātakaṇi and appears as Sālavāhaṇa in Prakrit vernacular then.[1]

Early rulers

Satvahans laid foundations to Buddhist rock-cut architecture during this period, Ajanta caves.

The Early Satavahanas ruled from what is now Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra regions. The Pūrānas list 30 rulers. Many are known from their coins and inscriptions as well.

Simuka (c. 230–207 BCE)

After becoming independent around 230 BCE, Simuka, the founder of the dynasty, conquered the present-day Maharashtra and parts of Madhya Pradesh (including Malwa). He was succeeded by his brother Kanha (or Krishna) (r. 207–189 BCE), who further extended his state to the present day Andhra Pradesh. Later, Simuka made Srikakulam, Krishna as his capital.

Satakarni (c. 180–124 BCE)

His successor Sātakarnī I was the sixth ruler of the Satavahana. He is said to have ruled for 56 years.

Satakarni defeated the Shunga dynasty of North India by wresting Western Malwa from them, and performed several Vedic sacrifices at huge cost, including the horse sacrifice – Ashwamedha yajna. He also was in conflict with the Kalinga ruler Kharavela, who mentions him in the Hathigumpha inscription. According to the Yuga Purana he conquered Kalinga following the death of Kharavela. He extended Satavahana rule over Madhya Pradesh and pushed back the Sakas from Pataliputra (he is thought to be the Yuga Purana's "Shata", an abbreviation of the full name "Shri Sata" that occurs on coins from Ujjain), where he subsequently ruled for 10 years.

Kanva suzerainty (75–35 BCE)

Many small rulers succeeded Satakarni, such as Lambodara, Apilaka, Meghasvati and Kuntala Satakarni, who are thought to have been under the suzerainty of the Kanva dynasty. The Puranas (the Matsya Purana, the Vayu Purana, the Brahmanda Purana, the Vishnu Purana) all state that the first of the Andhra rulers rose to power in the 1st century BCE, by slaying Susarman, the last ruler of the Kanvas.[11] This feat is usually thought to have been accomplished by Pulomavi (c. 30–6 BCE), who then ruled over Pataliputra.

Victory over the Shakas, Yavanas and Pahlavas

The 1st century CE saw another incursion of the Sakas of Central Asia into India, where they formed the dynasty of the Western Kshatrapas. The four immediate successors of Hāla (r. 20–24 CE) had short reigns totalling about a dozen years. During the reign of the Western Satrap Nahapana, the Satavahanas lost a considerable territory to the satraps, including eastern Malwa, Southern Gujarat, and Northern Konkan, from Broach to Sopara and the Nasik and Pune.[12]

Gautamiputra Satakarni (78–102 CE)

Fragment of Amaravati Stupa.

Eventually Gautamiputra (Sri Yagna) Sātakarni (also known as Shalivahan) (r. 78–102 CE)defeated the Western Satrap ruler Nahapana, restoring the prestige of his dynasty by reconquering a large part of the former dominions of the Sātavāhanas.

According to the Nasik inscription made by his mother Gautami Balasri, he is the one...

...who crushed down the pride and conceit of the Kshatriyas; who destroyed the Sakas (Western Kshatrapas), Yavanas (Indo-Greeks) and Pahlavas (Indo-Parthians),... who rooted out the Khakharata family (the Kshaharata family of Nahapana); who restored the glory of the Satavahana race.[13]

Gautamiputra Satakarni may also have defeated Sakas in 78 CE (ref ?) and started the calendar known as Shalivahana era or Shaka era, which is followed by the Telugu people, Gujarati, Marathi and Kannadiga is the Indian national calendar. Earlier in 56 BCE, Vikramaditya king of Ujjain defeated Sakas and started Vikram Samvat era. His mother mentioned his title to be "Satavahana-kula-yasa-pratisthapanakara".

Gautamiputra Sātakarni's son, Vashishtiputra Pulumāyi (r. 102–130 CE), succeeded him. Gautamiputra was the first Sātavāhana ruler to issue the portrait-type coinage, in a style derived from the Western Satraps.[14]


Royal earrings, 1st Century BCE.

Gautamiputra's brother, Vashishtiputra Sātakarni, married the daughter of Rudradaman I of the Western Satraps dynasty. Around 150 CE, Rudradaman I, now his father-in-law, waged war against the Satavahanas, who were defeated twice in these conflicts. Vashishtiputra Satakarni was only spared his life because of his family links with Rudradaman:[15]

"Rudradaman (...) who obtained good report because he, in spite of having twice in fair fight completely defeated Satakarni, the lord of Dakshinapatha, on account of the nearness of their connection did not destroy him."
— Junagadh rock inscription[16]

As a result of his victories, Rudradaman regained all the former territories previously held by Nahapana, except for the extreme south territories of Pune and Nasik.[14] Satavahana dominions were limited to their original base in the Deccan and eastern central India around Amaravati. However, the last great king of this dynasty, Yajna Satakarni, defeated the Western Satraps and reconquered their southern regions in western and central India which led to the decline of the Western Satraps Dynasty.[17] During the reign of Sri Yajna Sātakarni (170–199 CE) the Sātavāhanas regained some prosperity, and some of his coins have been found in Saurashtra[18] but around the middle of the 3rd century, the dynasty came to an end.

Decline of the Satavahanas

Amaravati Marbles, fragments of Buddhist stupa

Four or five kings of Yajna Satakarni's line succeeded him, and continued to rule till about the mid 3rd century. However, the dynasty was soon extinguished following the rise of its feudatories, perhaps on account of a decline in central power.[19]

Several dynasties divided the lands of the kingdom among themselves. Among them were:


Coin of Gautamiputra Yajna Satakarni (r. 167–196 CE).

The Satavahanas are the first native 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 Satraps he defeated, itself originating with the Indo-Greek kings to the northwest.

Satavahana coins give unique indications as to their chronology, language, and even facial features (curly hair, long ears and strong lips). They issued mainly lead and copper coins; their portrait-style silver coins were usually struck over coins of the Western Kshatrapa kings.

The coin legends of the Satavahanas, in all areas and all periods, used a Prakrit dialect without exception. Some reverse coin legends are in Tamil,[20] Kannada & Telugu language,[21] which seems to have been in use in their heartland abutting the Godavari, Kotilingala, Karimnagar in Telangana, Krishna, Amaravati, Guntur in Andhra Pradesh.[22]

Their coins also display various traditional symbols, such as elephants, lions, horses and chaityas (stupas), as well as the "Ujjain symbol", a cross with four circles at the end. The legendary Ujjayini Emperor Vikramditiya on whose name the Vikram Samvat is initiated might be Satakarni II a Satavahana emperor as the Ujjayini symbol also appeared on the Satavahana coins.

Cultural achievements

An aniconic representation of Mara's assault on the Buddha, 2nd century, Amaravati.

Of the Sātavāhana kings, Hāla (r. 20–24 CE) is famous for compiling the collection of Maharashtri poems known as the Gaha Sattasai (Sanskrit: Gāthā Saptashatī), although from linguistic evidence it seems that the work now extant must have been re-edited in the succeeding century or two. The Lilavati describes his marriage with a Ceylonese Princess.

The Satavahanas influenced South-East Asia to a great extent, spreading Hindu culture, language and religion into that part of the world. Their coins had images of ships.

Art of Amaravati

The Sātavāhana rulers are also remarkable for their contributions to Buddhist art and architecture. They built great stupas in the Krishna River Valley, including the stupa at Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh. The stupas were decorated in marble slabs and sculpted with scenes from the life of the Buddha, portrayed in a characteristic slim and elegant style. The Satavahana empire colonized Southeast Asia and spread Indian culture to those parts. The Amaravati style of sculpture spread to Southeast Asia at this time.

Art of Sanchi

The Satavahanas contributed greatly to the embellishment of the Buddhist stupa of Sanchi. The gateways and the balustrade were built after 70 BCE, and appear to have been commissioned by them. An inscription records the gift of one of the top architraves of the Southern Gateway by the artisans of the Satavahana Emperor Satakarni:

Gift of Ananda, the son of Vasithi, the foreman of the artisans of rajan Siri Satakarni[23]

List of rulers

Indian ship on lead coin of Vasisthiputra Sri Pulamavi, testimony to the naval, seafaring and trading capabilities of the Satavahanas during the 1st–2nd century CE.

Puranic list of Satavahana rulers.[24] This list, the most complete one with 30 kings, is based on the Matsya Purana.

  • Simuka or Sisuka (r. 230–207 BCE).
  • Krishna (r. 207–189 BCE), ruled 18 years.
  • Sri Mallakarni (or Sri Satakarni) (r. 189–179 BCE), ruled 10 years.
  • Purnotsanga (r. 179–161 BCE), ruled 18 years
  • Skandhastambhi (r. 161–143 BCE), ruled 18 years
  • Sātakarnī I (r. 143–87 BCE), ruled 56 years
  • Lambodara, ruled 18 years.(r. 87–67 BCE)

Probably as vassals of Kanva dynasty (75–35 BCE):


See also


  1. ^ a b Kosambi, Damodar Dharmanand (1956). "Satavahana Origins". Introduction to the study of India history (second 1975 ed.). Mumbai: Popular prakashan. pp. 243, 244.  
  2. ^ Ancient India: Collected Essays on the Literary and Political History of southern India by Sakkottai Krishnaswami Aiyangar p.42
  3. ^ INDIAN HISTORY by Dr. Sanjeevkumar Tandle p.152
  4. ^ G. Durga Prasad, History of the Andhras up to 1565 A. D., P.G. Publishers, Guntur, p. 116, (
  5. ^ "History of the Andhras" (PDF). Durga Prasad. P. G. PUBLISHERS. Retrieved 2014-06-09. 
  6. ^ "A Journey Through India's Past". Chandra Mauli Mani. Northern Book Centre.  
  7. ^ Source:fragment LVI.
  9. ^ Mahajan, P. 400 Ancient India
  10. ^ [2] G. Durga Prasad, History of the Andhras up to 1565 A. D., P.G. Publishers, Guntur
  11. ^ Rapson, LXIV
  12. ^ "The Satavahanas did not hold the western Deccan for long. They were gradually pushed out of the west by the Sakas (Western Khatrapas). The Kshaharata Nahapana's coins in the Nasik area indicate that the Western Kshatrapas controlled this region by the 1st century CE. By becoming master of wide regions including Malwa, Southern Gujarat, and Northern Konkan, from Broach to Sopara and the Nasik and Pune, Nahapana rose from the status of a mere Kshatrapa in the year 41 (58 CE) to that of Mahakshatrapa in the year 46 (63 CE)." in "History of the Andhras"
  13. ^ Rapson, XXXVII, Original Prakrit, line 5 and 6 of the inscription: "Khatiya-dapa-mana-madanasa Saka-Yavana-Palhava-nisudanasa — Khakharatavamsa-niravasesa-karasa Satavahana-kula-yasa patithapana-karasa"
  14. ^ a b Rapson
  15. ^ "Satakarni, Lord of the Deccan, [whom Rudradaman] (inscription dated Saka 72-150 CE) twice in a fair fight was completely defeated, but did not destroy on account of the nearness of their connection" Rapson, XXXVIII, quoting the Junagadh inscription
  16. ^ "Junagadh Rock Inscription of Rudradaman". 
  17. ^ "later Satavahana named Yajna Satakarni seems to have conquered the Southern Dominions of the Western Satraps. His coins contain figures of ships, probably indicating the naval power of the Andhras. He not only ruled Aparanta, but probably also the eastern part of the Central Provinces". Majumdar, p. 135
  18. ^ Rapson, CLXXXVI
  19. ^ ""The different branches of the Satavahana family, which ruled in different parts of the kingdom after the decline in central authority, weres soon ousted by new powers some of which were probably feudatories at the outset." Majumdar
  20. ^ Religion and Public Culture: Encounters and Identities in Modern South India by Keith E. Yandell Keith E. Yandell,John J. Paul p.253
  21. ^ Pollock, Sheldon (2003). The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India. University of California Press.   p. 291
  22. ^ Rapson, CLXXXVII
  23. ^ Original text "L1: Rano Siri Satakarnisa L2: avesanisa vasithiputasa L3: Anamdasa danam",  
  24. ^ "A Catalogue of Indian coins in the British Museum. Andhras etc...", Rapson


  • Sastri, Kallidaikurichi Aiyah Nilakanta (1976). A History of South India. Madras: Oxford University Press. 
  • Rapson, E. J. (1990). A Catalogue of Indian coins in the British Museum. Coins of Andhra Dynasty, the Western Ksatrapas etc. Patna. 
  • Majumdar, Ramesh Chandra (2003). Ancient India. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. 

External links

  • Andhra Vaibhavam (History of Satavahanas)
  • History of the Andhras, by Durga Prasad
  • Satavahana Rule In Telangana
  • Indian dynasties
  • (November 5, 2006). History of Ajanta Caves. The New York Times , "In the Holy Caves of India",Simon Winchester
  • Short history of the Satavahanas.
  • The Satavahanas
  • "A gap in Puranic history bridged" (Satavahanas) –
  • "Telmun language Telugu – by Samyuktha Kooniah
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