During the time when Maurya dynasty was flourishing in Magadha under the leadership of Emperor Ashok, a new dynasty was evolving in Southern India, this dynasty would later become the most significant dynasty of India for 450 years and would be known as the Satavahana Dynasty.
Around 235 BC, the kingdom of Satavahana was a province in the Southern part of Mauryan Dynasty but as the Maurya Empire grew weaker, after the death of Ashoka the great, the Satavahana Kingdom declared their independence around 230 BC under the leadership of Simuka who ruled for 23 years. Some of the other important rulers were Satakarni, who ruled for 56 years, Pulomavi, who defeated the Kanvas to capture Magadha and Gautamiputa Satkarni, who defeated the western Satrap.
War and Peace
Satavahana Empire managed to do really well to stay on Indian map for 450 years, considering that it was the most unstable era of Indian history. Just like the Kanva Dynasty in Magadha, the Satavahana Dynasty also had to indulge into constant warfare with their neighbors. During the first 40 years Emperor Satkarni had to fight against Pushaymitra Sunga of the Sunga Dynasty (this dynasty overthrew the Maurya Dynasty at Magadha). They waged numerous wars against the Kanva Dynasty and were finally able to conquer Magadha in 26 BC in the reign of Pulomavi.
In the latter half of their rule, the Satavahans had to save their kingdom from constant attacks of Sakas, Yavanas and Pahlavas. Their struggle with the western Kshatrapas weakened them and was the cause of their downfall.
Religion and Culture
The earlier rulers of Satavahana Dynasty were under the influence of Maurya Dynasty and their religious ideologies. Therefore they followed Buddhism. It is debated that Satavahanas were Hindus by origin and had a lot of respect for Buddhist beliefs. It can be said that their religious belief was a mix of both Hindu and Buddhist religion. The caves of Ellora give a perfect example of Buddhist influence on Satvahanas.
There have been a number of Buddhist Sculptures and Stupas constructed by Gautamiputra Satakarni on the banks of Krishna River. After capturing Magadha the Satavahanas did a major restoration of Sanchi Stupa.
Major Ruler of Satavahana Dynasty
Simuka (230 BC – 207 BC): He was the first ruler of Satavahana Dynasty. Initially he was giving taxes to the Mauryan Empire centered at Magadha, but later seeing the weakening of the Mauryan Dynasty he declared independence. On his death several other rulers ruled for smaller period.
Satakarni (180 BC – 124 BC): He was peaceful ruler who ruled for 56 years. All his attempts to increase Satavahana territories failed. During his reign, art and culture was at its epitome. He initiated the building of Ellora Caves.
Pulomavi: He is credited the annex of Magadha. Pulomavi defeated Susarman and Magadha fell under the Satavahana. He ruled for 36 years.
Gautamiputra Satakarni (Shalivahan) (78 – 106 AD): He was the most aggressive and most successful ruler of Satavahana dynasty. Under his leadership Satavahanas quieted all their neighbors. The waged wars against Shakas, Yavanas and Pahlavas, and defeated all three. He also defeated the Rajputs of Rajputanas and Kshatriyas (the native princes of India). Gautamiputra Satakarni was the first Indian ruler to have his name embedded on the coins.
The Decline of Satavahana Dynasty
The last great king of Satavahanas was Yajna Satakarni. After his death his successors split the kingdom in five smaller kingdoms. The Attacks from Western Satraps were consistent and strong. As a result 4 out 5 kingdom fell to the Satraps. Only Andra Ikshvakus in the Krishna-Guntur region (220 BC -320 BC) were able to establish a significant empire.
There were many other significant dynasties in Southern India. Some of them will be written about shortly.