The Sunga Dynasty – Rulers of Magadha 185 BC – 73 BC

The Sunga Dynasty, Unlike their predecessors (the Mauryas) who ruled all over India under a single unified rule, did not rule all over the country but just a few parts of it including Magadha, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh Punjab and West Bengal.

Once the major ruler of that empire Samrat Ashoka died the kingdom disintegrated into small independent kingdoms. Yavanas (Indo-Greeks) captured the North-West frontiers (Pakistan and Afghanistan). The Peninsula was captured by Satavahanas.

The Sunga Empire in 185 BC

During the last few years of Maurya Dynasty, king Brihadratha Maurya faced a number of rebellions. The North-Western Provinces of the kingdom were captured by the Yavanas (Indo-Greeks). This was a major cause of resentment in the Army of Mauryas. As a result, the Mauryan Commander-in-chief, Pushyamitra Sunga, assassinated King Brihadratha, while he was taking the guard of honor of his forces and claimed the throne. He was the founder of the Sunga Empire.

Constant Wars

As soon as Pushayamitra came to power, he decided to wage war against all the hostile kingdoms. Unfortunately, Sungas did not have good relations with any of their neighbors. Pushyamitra Sunga waged a few wars to strengthen his position. He defeated Yavanas in the North Western and recaptured Punjab. He was supposed to have been by defeated Kharvela of Kalinga. He also fought wars against the Satavahana Dynasty.

Pushyamitra’s son Agnimitra further expanded the kingdom waging constant wars in Vidarbha. Agnimitra is also portrayed as a courageous heroic king in the compositions of Kalidasa, a Sanskrit Playwright and Poet.

Culture and Religion

Sunga were the followers of Hinduism. Ashokavadana which is the primary source of information of the culture of that era states that Pushayamitra hated Buddhism and wished to undo all that was done by Ashoka Maurya. He ordered to kill 84,000 Buddhists in one day. He also ordered that he will monetarily reward anyone who brings the head of a Buddhist Monk. Consequently, many Buddhist Monks lost their lives. He also destroyed thousands of monasteries and Stupa all over India.

Coins of Pushyamitra Sunga

Though, there have been debate on the authenticity of Ashokavandana and its interpretation.

Some of the scholars do believe that in fact, Pushyamitra was tolerant for all the religions in India. Agnimitra gave funds for the restoration of famous Sanchi Stupa.

Sungas were instrumental in re-enforcing Hinduism in India. Hindu Art, Education and Philosophy fostered in this era. Sanskrit Grammar was found under this civilization. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra was also developed in this period.


The last ruler of Sunga Empire was Devabhuti. It is said that he was least interested in ruling the kingdom and more fond of  the company of women. King Devabhuti Sunga was assassinated by Vasudeva Kanva in 73 BC (one of the royal minister), who later found the Kanva Dynasty.

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