Peek Into History: The Satavahana Dynasty

The rule of Satavahanas is a glorious chapter in the history of Andhras and Andhra desa. But unfortunately there is no unanimity of opinion amongst scholars regarding the origin and original home of the Satavahanas. It has been held by some historians that they were Aryans, but migrated to the Deccan and mixed with the local inhabitants and imbibed their culture. 

Others thought that they were of the Dravidian stock and inhabited originally in the Deccan and the other adjacent regions. Whatever be the controversy regarding the origin it is accepted that Satavahanas ruled the Deccan for four and a half centuries from about 230 B.C. According to Puranas, thirty of them ruled for about 450 years.

The Satavahana dynasty’s history is divided into two parts, the early rulers and the later rulers. The break in their rule is Western Maharashtra, Gujarat and Malwa explains this division. Thus, the rulers of this dynasty from Simukha to Gautamiputra Satakarni are treated as early Satavahana rulers and the rest later Satavahanas.

The Satavahanas came to power after the extermination of the Sunga, Kanva rule over Vidisha and Andhra. P.V.P. Sastry states that the Kanva kings who overthrew the Sungas in Magadha might have made an attempt to subdue the Sungas at Vidisha by sending an expedition to the Vindhayan region. 

Simuka and his younger brother Kanha who were nominally in their service took advantage of their rivalry and succeeded in driving both the powers from the Deccan. These exploits of the early Satavahana rulers are referred to in the Puranas.

Thus, Simuka or Srimukha, the first king in the Puranic lists, is the real founder of Andhra Satavahana imperialism. He provided a solid base for his successors to exploit. Simuka was succeeded by his younger brother Kanha. He followed the footsteps of his brother in extensive conquest and his empire seems to have extended as far as Nasik in the west.

This is clear from an inscription found on the upper sill of the right window in a cave at Nasik which refers to his reign with words “Sadvadhankule Kanhe rajini.” The legend of Satakarni’s rule Satakarni, the third ruler of the dynasty, ascended the throne after Kanha, was a great conqueror and his titles Apratihata-chakra and Dokshinapathapati clearly indicate that he established his undisputed mastery over Dakshinapatha or Deccan after capturing several kingdoms, founded the greatness of the Satavahana power.

The Hatigumpha inscription of Kharavela  indicates that Satakarni-I extended the boundaries of his dominion up to the western frontier of the kingdom of Kharavela. 

He probably extended his influence over a large area of the upper Deccan as well as some portions of central and western India — Khatiawar and northern Konkan too came under his control. Satakarni seems to have been the first prince to raise the Satavahanas to the position of paramount sovereigns of Trans-Vindhyan India. 

Thus, this is the first empire in the Godavari valley which rivalled in extent and power the Sunga empire in the Ganges valley and the Greek empire in the Land of the Five Rivers. The brilliant reign of the Dahhinapathapati Satakarni was short. After his death his wife Nayanika or Naganika governed the kingdom as regent during the minority of his two surviving sons Vedasri (also called Khandasiri) and Saktisri (Satisiri). 

The Puranas give the lists of the names of kings, who ruled afterwards between Satakarni-I (i.e. end of the I century B.C.) and Gautamiputra Satakarni (i.e. beginning of the 2nd century A.D.). But little is known of the kings who succeeded Satakarni-I. 

One of his successors Satakarni-II, appears to have conquered Malwa. During his reign, the protracted Saka-Satavahana continued with varying fortunes, till the overthrow of the Satavahana dynasty. 

It is evident in the inscriptions and the later date literary works that Satakarni-XI (after the death of Kharavela) attacked and occupied Kalinga. The discovery of his inscription at Sanchi shows that he was the master of the Vidisha region.

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