UPSC History Early empire (6 BCE to 1 CE) NCERT Extracts - Satavahanas

NCERT Extracts - Satavahanas

Category : UPSC

Political History


  • The most important of the native successors of the Mauryas in the north were the Shungas followed by the Kanvas. In Deccan and in central India, the Satavahanas succeeded the Mauryas although after a gap of about 100 years.
  • The Satavahanas are considered to be identical with the Andhras who are mentioned in the Puranas. The Puranas speak only of the Andhra rule and not of the Satavahana rule. On the other hand the name Andhra does not occur in Satavahana inscriptions.
  • According to some Puranas, altogether the Andhras ruled for 300 years and this period is assigned to the rule of the Satavahana dynasty.
  • The earliest inscriptions of the Satavahanas belong to the first century B.C., when they defeated the Kanvas and established their power in parts of central India.
  • The early Satavahana kings appeared not in Andhra, but in north Maharashtra where their earliest coins and inscriptions have been found.
  • They set up their power in the upper Godavari valley.
  • Gradually the Satavahanas extended their power over Kamataka and Andhra,
  • Gautamiputra Satakarni (A.D. 106-130) called himself the only brahmana.
  • He defeated the Shakas and destroyed many Kshatriya rulers. He claims to have destroyed the Kshaharata lineage to which his adversary Nahapana belonged.
  • This claim is true because more than 8000 silver coins of Nahapana, found near Nasik, bear marks of being restmck by the Satavahana king.
  • The coins and inscriptions of Gautamiputra's immediate successor Vashishthiputra Pulumayi (A.D. 130-154) are found in Andhra.
  • He set up his capital at Paithan on the Godavari in Aurangabad district.
  • Rudradaman I (A.D. 130-150), the Shaka ruler of Saurashtra (Kathiawar), defeated the Satavahanas twice, but did not destroy them on account of matrimonial relations.
  • Yajna Sri Satakarni recovered north Konkan and Malwa from the Shaka rulers.
  • He was a lover of trade and navigation. His coins have been found not only in Andhra but also in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. His love for navigation and overseas trade is shown by the representation of a ship on his coins.


Aspects of Material Culture


  • The material culture of the Deccan under the Satavahanas was a fusion of local elements and northern ingredients. The megalith builders of the Deccan were fairly acquainted with the use of iron and agriculture.
  • At a site in ICarimnagar district even a blacksmith^ shop has been discovered.
  • The Satavahanas may have exploited the iron workings as early as the megalithic phases have been found.
  • Evidence of ancient gold workings has been found in the Kolar fields in the pre-Christian centuries and later.
  • The Satavahanas may have used gold as bullion, for they did not issue gold coins as the Kushans did. They issued mostly coins of lead.
  • They also issued potin, copper and bronze money.
  • In foreign accounts, Andhra is considered to be famous for its cotton products. A good portion of the Deccan developed a very advanced rural economy.
  • According to Pliny, the Andhra Kingdom maintained an army of 1,00,000 infantry, 2000 cavalry and 1000 elephants. This presupposes a large rural population, and apparently the peasants produced enough to support this military strength.
  • Pliny informs us that the Andhra country in the eastern Deccan included 30 walled towns, besides numerous villages. Increasing trade in indicated by numerous Roman and Satavahana coins.


Social Organization


  • The Satavahanas originally seem to have been a tribe of the Deccan.
  • But they were brahmanized and their most famous king Gautamiputra Satakami claims to have established the four-fold vama system which had fallen into disorder.
  • He boasts that he put an end to the intermixture between the people of different social orders. Such confusion was probably caused by the Shaka infiltration and by the thin and superficial brahmanization of the tribes living in the Deccan.
  • The absorption of the Shakas in brahmanical society as kshatriyas was facilitated by intermarriage between the Shakas and the Satavahanas.
  • The Satavahanas were also the first rulers to make land grants to the brahmanas, although we have more instances of grants being made to Buddhist monks.
  • The Satavahana rulers called themselves brahmanas.
  • Gautamiputra boasts that he was the true brahmana.
  • Increasing craft and commerce in this period brought many merchants and artisans to the forefront. Both artisans and merchants made generous donations to the Buddhist cause.
  • Among the artisans the gandhikas or the perfumers are repeatedly mentioned as donors. At a later stage the term gandhika became so general as to connote all kinds of shopkeepers. The modem title Gandhi is derived from this ancient term.              
  • Satavahanas show traces of a matrilineal social structure,              
  • It was customary for their king to be named after his mother
  • Such names as Gautamiputra and Vashishthiputra indicate that in their society mother enjoyed a great deal of importance.                     
  • The Satavahanas retained some of the administrative units found in Ashokan times.
  • Their district was called Ahara, as it was known in the time of Ashoka. Their officials were known as Amatyas and Mahamatras.
  • There were certain military and feudal traits in the administration of the Satavahanas.
  • The administration in the rural areas was placed in the hands of
  • He was the head of a military regiment consisting of 9 chariots, 9 elephants, 25 horses and 45 foot-soldiers.
  • The military character of the Satavahana rule is also evident from the common use of such terms as Kataka and Skandhavaras in their inscriptions.
  • These were military camps and settlements which served as administrative centers so long as the king was there.
  • The Satavahanas started the practice of granting tax-free villages to brahmanas and Buddhist monks. These areas therefore became small independent islands within the Satavahana kingdom.
  • The Satavahana kingdom had three grades of feudatories. The highest grade was formed by the king who was called raja and who had the right to strike coins.
  • The second grade was formed by the mahabhoja, and the third grade by the senapati.
  • It seems that these feudatories and landed beneficiaries enjoyed some authority in their respective localities.




  • The Satavahana rulers were brahmanas, and they represented the march of triumphant brahmanism. Kings and Queens performed the Vedic sacrifices.
  • They also worshipped a large number of Vaishnava gods.
  • However, the Satavahana rulers promoted Buddhism by granting land to the monks.
  • In their kingdom the Mahayana form of Buddhism commanded considerable following especially in the artisan class.
  • Nagarjunakonda and Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh became important seats of Buddhist culture under the Satavahanas and more so under their successors, the Ikshvakus.
  • Buddhism flourished in the Nasik and Junar areas in the western Deccan in Maharashtra, where it seems to have been supported by the traders.




  • In the Satavahana phase many chaityas (sacred shrines) and monasteries were cut out of the solid rock in the north-western Deccan or Maharashtra with great skill and patience.
  • The two common religious constructions were the Buddhist temple which was called chaitya and the monastery which was called
  • The chaitya was a large hall with a number of columns, and the vihara consisted of a central hall.
  • The most famous chaitya is that of Karle in the western Deccan.
  • It is about 40 metres long, 15 metres wide and 15 metres high. It is a most impressive specimen of massive rock architecture.
  • The viharas or monasteries were excavated near the chaityas for the residence of monks in the rainy season.
  • Rock-cut architecture is also to be found in Andhra in the Krishna-Godavari region but the region is really famous for independent Buddhist structures, mostly in the form of stupas. The most famous of them are Amaravati and nagarjunakonda.
  • The stupa was a large round structure erected over some relic of the Buddha.
  • The amaravati stupa began in about 200 B.C. but was completely reconstructed in the second half of the second century A.D.
  • Its dome measured 53 metres across the base, and it seems to have been 33 metres in height. The amaravati stupa is full of sculptures which depict the various scenes from the life of the Buddha.
  • Nagarjunakonda prospered most in the scond- third centuries. It contains not only Buddhist monuments but also the earliest brahmanical brick temple.
  • Nearly two dozen monasteries can be counted here. Together with its stupas and mahachaityas it appears to be the richest in structure in the early centuries of the christain era.




  • The official language of the satavahanas was All inscriptions were composed in this language and written in the brahmi script, as was the case in ashokan times.
  • Some satavahana king may have composed prakrit text called gathasattasai or the gathasaptasati is attributed to a satavahana king called



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