CHAPTER-21 : The Satavahana Phase

Ancient History of India
Short Notes or Revision Notes 


Successors of the Mauryas: The Satavahanas

Origin and Expansion:

  • Successors to Mauryas in Deccan and Central India (after a 100-year gap).
  • Considered descendants of the Andhras mentioned in Puranas.
  • Gradually expanded into Karnataka and Andhra.

Struggles with the Shakas:

  • Main rivals were Shakas who controlled upper Deccan and western India.
  • Gautamiputra Satakarni (106-130 AD) revived Satavahana power:
    • Defeated Shakas and many Kshatriya rulers.
    • Ended the Shaka Kshaharata lineage (including Nahapana).
    • Expanded empire to Malwa, Kathiawar, possibly Andhra.

Later Satavahanas:

  • Ruled until 220 AD.
  • Vashishthiputra Pulumayi (130-154 AD):
    • Ruled from Paithan (Pratishthan) on the Godavari River.
    • Andhra became part of the Satavahana kingdom.
  • Continued conflict with Shakas for Konkan coast and Malwa.
  • Yajna Sri Satakarni (165-194 AD):
    • Last great Satavahana king.
    • Recovered north Konkan and Malwa from Shakas.
    • Patron of trade and navigation.
  • Decline and Fall: Successors couldn’t maintain the empire. Destroyed by 220 AD.

The Satavahanas: Material Culture and Social Organization

Material Culture:

  • Blend of local Deccan and northern influences.
  • Ironworking:
    • Megalith builders used iron.
    • Blacksmith’s shop found in Karimnagar district.
    • Satavahanas may have exploited local iron ores.
  • Gold:
    • Evidence of ancient gold workings in Kolar fields.
    • Satavahanas used gold but didn’t issue gold coins (unlike Kushans).
  • Construction:
    • Regular use of fire-baked bricks at Peddabankur (200 BC – 200 AD).
    • Flat, perforated roof tiles more common under Satavahanas than Kushans.
    • Many brick wells from the 2nd century discovered at Peddabankur.

Social Organization:

  • Brahmanical Influences:
    • Satavahanas claimed Brahmin status despite tribal origins.
    • Gautamiputra Satakarni:
      • Described himself as a Brahmin.
      • Claimed to have re-established the varna system.
    • First rulers to make land grants to Brahmins.
  • Artisans:
    • Gandhakas (perfumers) mentioned as donors in inscriptions.
    • “Gandhi” derived from the term “gandhika” (became general term for shopkeeper).
  • Importance of Mothers:
    • Kings often named after mothers (e.g., Gautamiputra, Vashishthiputra).
    • Suggests high status for mothers in Satavahana society.

The Satavahanas: Administration and Religion


  • Inherited structures from Mauryas:
    • Districts (ahara)
  • Officials (amatya, mahamatra)
  • Administrative divisions (rashtra)
  • High officials (maharashtrika)
  • Rural administration:
    • Gaulmika – head of military regiment (9 chariots, 9 elephants, 25 horses, 45 foot soldiers)
    • Maintained peace and order
  • Military influence:
    • Terms like “kataka” and “skandhavara” used for military camps and settlements
    • Coercion as a key element


  • Introduced tax-free land grants to Brahmins and Buddhist monks.
  • Three grades of feudatories:
    • Raja (highest grade, king with right to mint coins)
    • Mahabhoja
    • Senapati
    • Enjoyed some local authority


  • Promoted Brahmanism:
    • Rulers performed Vedic sacrifices.
    • Worshipped Vaishnava gods (Krishna, Vasudeva).
  • Supported Buddhism:
    • Nagarjunakonda and Amaravati (AP) flourished under Satavahanas and Ikshvakus.
    • Nasik and Junar (Maharashtra) supported by traders.

Satavahana Architecture

Rock-cut Architecture (Maharashtra):

  • Chaitya (shrine): large halls with columns (e.g., Karle Chaitya – 40m long, 15m wide, 15m high)
  • Vihara (monastery): central hall with a verandah entrance (e.g., Nasik caves with inscriptions from 1st-2nd century AD)

Stupas (Andhra Pradesh):

  • Large round structures built over Buddhist relics.
  • Amaravati Stupa:
    • Begun around 200 BC, reconstructed in 2nd century AD.
    • 53m diameter at base, 33m tall.
    • Decorated with sculptures depicting Buddha’s life.
  • Nagarjunakonda (under Satavahana successors, Ikshvakus):
    • Flourished 2nd-3rd century AD.
    • Both Buddhist monuments and early Brahmanical brick temples.
    • Nearly 20 monasteries, stupas, and mahachaityas.

Satavahana Language

  • Official language: Prakrit
  • Inscriptions: Prakrit in Brahmi script (like Ashoka)
  • Possible literary contribution:
    • Gathasattasai (700 Prakrit verses) attributed to King Hala

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