Rise of the Satavahana Empire




Rise of the Satavahana Empire:

  • The Satavahanas dynasty played the most significant role in Indian history in the period between the fall of the Mauryas and the rise of the Gupta Empire. They were also called the Andhras in Deccan and their capital was at Paithan or Pratishthan. The Andhras were ancient people and they are mentioned in the Aitareya Brahmana. 
  • The inscriptions of the Satavahanas, found at Nashik, Junnar, Kanheri, and Konkan to some extent provide us valuable information regarding the political, social, religious, and economic conditions of the Deccan during the long rule of the Satavahanas.
  • The copper, silver, and lead coins minted by them and the Shaka coins stamped by them provide us some important information.
  • The sculptures and paintings of this period throw some light on the attire, ornaments, and hairstyle of this period.
  • Along with the official records, the Buddhist records give us an interesting insight into the Satavahana polity and government.
  • Some information can also be gathered from the Dharmashastras, Puranas, and foreign accounts.
  • The Prakrit work Gatha Saptashati of Hala also provides important information about cultural life.

Foundation of Satavahana:

  • Many Satavahana inscriptions are found in North Maharashtra. Simuka, the first Satavahana king, is mentioned in the Naneghat inscription. Shri Satakarni, Hala, Gautamiputra Satakarni, Yajna Satakarni were among the important kings of the Satavahana dynasty. Before Gautamiputra Satakarni, some of the Satavahaha kings were not capable. Taking advantage of this situation, the Shaka Satrapas established their rule in the western regions of India. Gautamiputra Satakarni, the Satavahana king, conquered the Shakas. Satavahana dynasty regained its strength with this victory.
    Gautamiputra Satakarni conquered Central India and the entire regions of Dakshinapatha. He defeated the southern kingdoms of Avanti, Surashtra (Saurashtra), and the Shaka kings in Maharashtra. Similarly, he established his dominance over the Republic states in Central India and Rajasthan. A hoard of coins is found at Jogaltembi in Nashik district. These coins belong to Shaka Kshatrapa King Nahapana on which Gautamiputra restruck his own emblem. This clearly indicates that Gautamiputra proved his strength by gaining victory over Nahapana. After Gautamiputra, Vashishthiputra Pulumavi and Yajnashree Satakarni were the important kings. But after their rule, Satavahana's rule began to decline. They became weak due to the constant struggle between Shakas and Satavahanas..

Krishna Satavahana :

According to the Puranic genealogy, Krishna (also called Kanha) was the brother of the first Satavahana king Simuka. Besides the legendary Puranas, Krishna’s existence is also supported by an epigraphic record at Cave No.19 in the Nasik Caves. He is identified with the ‘Kanha-raja’ (King Kanha) of ‘Satavahana-kula’ (Satavahana family) mentioned in a Nashik cave inscription.

Hala Satavahana :

Hala was a Satavahana king who ruled in the present-day Deccan region from 20 -  24 CE. The Matsya Purana mentions him as the 17th ruler of the Satavahana dynasty.

  • He compiled Gatha Saptashati (a collection of 700 poems in a rural setting) in the Prakrit language.
  • He is also mentioned in the Maharashtrian Prakrit novel Lilavati

Western Kshatrapas:

  • Like Hala, his four successors also ruled for very short periods (a total of 12 years), indicating troubled times for the Satavahanas.
  • During 15-40 CE, their northern neighbours - the Western Kshatrapas - extended their influence into these regions.
  • The Western Kshatrapa ruler Nahapana is known to have ruled the former Satavahana territory, as attested by the inscriptions of his governor and son-in-law, Rishabhadatta.

Gautami Satakarni:

Gautamiputra Satakarni was a ruler of the Satavahana Empire in the present-day Deccan region of India. He ruled in the 1st or 2nd century CE, although his exact period is uncertain.

  • It was during the first half of the 2nd century A.D. that the Satavahana power once again rose into eminence in the South. The man of destiny this time was a king named Gautamiputra Satakarni. By his achievements as a conqueror and as an able administrator he raised the prestige of the Satavahana Dynasty to a new height and came to be regarded as its greatest monarch.

  • Gautamiputra first increased the size of his army and made it a strong fighting force. Next, he led expeditions against the foreign Saka rulers and drove them out of the Maharashtra region. After liberating that area, he fought against the Yavanas and the Palhavas and conquered their territories in the west. Like Emperor Kharavela of Kalinga, Gautamiputra Satakarni recorded his victory over others in his inscriptions.

  • He was succeeded by his son Vasishthiputra Pulamavi, who extended the Satavahana power up to the mouth of the Krishna river and conquered the Bellary district in Karnataka.

Vasishthiputra Satakarni:

  • The old stupa at Amaravati was renovated during his reign. A richly sculptured marble slab was encased within the Stupa and the railings were erected around it.
  • Pulamavi was succeeded by his brother Vasishthiputra Satakarni, who formed a marital alliance by marrying the daughter of the Rudradaman I.


  • The Junagadh inscription of Rudradaman I states that he defeated Vasishthiputra Satakarni twice. It also states that he spared the life of the defeated ruler because of close relations.
  • 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.

Yajan Sri Satakarni:

  • Yajna Sri Satakarni, also known as Gautamiputra Yajna Sri, was an Indian ruler of the Satavahana dynasty.
  • He is considered to be the last great king of the Satavahana dynasty.
  • He defeated the Western Satraps and reconquered their southern regions in western and central India.
  • The Satavahana started to decline after Yajna Sri Satakarni, while the Western Satraps would continue to prosper for another two centuries.

The decline of Satavahanas:

After Yajna Sri, the dynasty was soon extinguished following the rise of its feudatories, perhaps on account of a decline in central power. He was succeeded by Madhariputra Swami Isvarasena.

  • The next king Vijaya ruled for 6 years. His son Vasishthiputra Sri Chadha Satakarni ruled for 10 years. Pulamavi IV, the last king of the mainline, ruled until c. 225 CE. After his death, the Satavahana empire fragmented into five smaller kingdoms:
  • The northern part, ruled by a collateral branch of the Satavahanas
  • The western part around Nashik, ruled by the Abhiras
  • Eastern part (Krishna-Guntur region), ruled by the Andhra Ikshvaku
  • South-western parts (northern Karnataka), ruled by the Chutus of Banavasi
  • South-eastern part, ruled by the Pallavas.
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