Satavahana Dynasty: History, Rulers and Decline

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Satavahana Dynasty

The Satavahana dynasty also known as the Andhra Dynasty, emerged as independent rulers in the post-Mauryan era. They flourished from around 230 BC to 220 AD (mid-1st century BCE to the early 3rd century CE). They ruled over the Deccan Plateau including states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana and some parts of Odisha and Madhya Pradesh. Their rule lasted for about 450 years. In this blog, we will delve into this topic of ancient history and learn more facts about the dynasty.

About Satavahana Dynasty History

The dynasty’s name is derived from the Prakrit word “Satavahana”, which means “driven by seven”, referring to the seven horses of the chariot of the Sun god. The origins of the dynasty are shrouded in mystery, but historical evidence tells that their ascent to the throne began in the Western Deccan Plateau. 

Pratishthana, the present-day Paithan, served as the capital of their reign, but it is also believed that they had Amravati as their capital too. The Satavahanas came into power after the Sunga Dynasty ended around the 73rd BCE and the Kanva Dynasty’s rule over Magadha for 45 years. Before the expansion of the Satavahanas, South India was spread into small kingdoms, each ruled by independent rulers resulting in political instability. Thus, Satavahanas took advantage by unifying these regional powers and establishing a stable empire. The founder of the Satavahana Dynasty was Simuka.

Also Read – Pala Dynasty: Rise, Rulers, Administration & Decline

Who were the Rulers of the Satavahana Dynasty?

Some of the notable rulers of the Satavahana Dynasty are – 

Rulers                Contribution

Simuka (235/228 BCE – 218 BCE)
Credited with establishing the Satavahana Dynasty immediately after the death of Ashoka

Expanded the territory and built several Jain and Buddhist Temples.

The second ruler of the dynasty who succeeded Simuka was Krishna or Kanha.
Extended the boundaries of the kingdom up to Nasik in the west.

Satakarni I ( 70-60 BC) 
The third important ruler of the Satavahanas was Satakarni I
He became the first king of the dynasty to annex an empire by military conquests.
Annexed the Godavari Valley and earned the title of “Lord Dakshinapatha”
During his reign too, there was major expansion of the kingdom. 
After the death of Kharvela, he conquered Kalinga.
Defeated the Sungas in Pataliputra and ruled over Madhya Pradesh.

Hala (2nd century CE)
The seventeenth king of the Satavahanas was Hala.
He reigned for 5 years.
Hala became famous for his book Gatha Saptashati also called Gaha Sattasai. It contained 700 verses in Prakrit Langage and was a book of the collection of poems with mostly Love as the theme. 
Gunadhya, the minister of Hala composed Brihatkatha.

Gautamiputra Satakarni ( 106 – 130 AD)
Gautamiputra Satakarni was the greatest ruler of the Satavahana kingdom.
He ruled for 24 years.
His achievements were recorded in the Nasik inscription by his mother Gautami Balasri as the destroyer of the Shakas, Pahlavas and Yavanas. He is also described as the uprooter of the Kshaharatas and the restorer of the glory of the Satavahanas.
She also gave him the title of Ekabrahmna and Khatiya-dapa-manamada meaning the destroyer of the pride of Kshatriya.
Gautami was bestowed with the titles of Maharaja and Rajaraja.
He captured the whole of Deccan and called himself the only Brahmana who destroyed the Kshatriya rulers. 
His victory over Nagapana, the ruler of Malwa was remarkable and expanded his empire from the south of Krishna to Malwa, from Berar in the east to Saurashtra in the north and Konkan in the west.
Gautamiputra patronized Brahmanism but also gave donations of land to the Buddhist monks.

Vashishthiputra Pulumayi ( c. 130- 154 CE)
After Gautamiputra Satakarni, his son ascended the throne named – Vashishthiputra Pulumayi.
He expanded the power of the Satavahanas to the mouth of the river Krishna.
He issued coins which were inscribed with the images of ships. These coins reveal the maritime trade and naval power of the Satavahanas.

Yajna Sri Satakarni( c. 165- 194 CE)
The last great ruler of the Satavahanas was Yajna Sri Satakarni.
He was famous because of his love for trade and navigation. 
He also issues many coins in his name. His coins can be still found in Andhra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujrat and Maharashtra.
He is believed to have restored their rule on the north Konkan and recovered the area of Malwa from the Shakas.

 Map of the Satavahanas

How was the Administration of the Satavahana Dynasty? 

The administration of the Satavahana Dynasty has many features, some of them are – 

  • The administration was mainly based on the Shastras.
  • The king was the Supreme leader and the guardian of the kingdom.
  • They left the administration of the local in the hands of the feudatories, which were subject to the control of royal officials.
  • Their kingdom was divided into small districts and were called Ahara. 
  • The officials were called Amatyas and Mahamatras.
  • A Senapati was also appointed as the governor of the province.
The defeated “Saka-Yavana-Palhava” is mentioned in the Nasik cave. Inscription of Queen Gotami Balasiri.

Economy of the Satavahana Empire

During the reign of the Satavahana rulers, agriculture was the backbone of the economy. Nonetheless, they also relied on trade practices and the production of different commodities. 

Satavahana coins

  • Coins used during the rule of the Satavahana dynasty have been excavated from Vidarbha, Western and Eastern Ghats, Deccan, etc.
  • While most of these coins were die-struck, there also excised punch-marked coins.
  • Additionally, cast coins also existed which were produced using different techniques. 
  • The most commonly observed shapes of these coins included round, rectangular, square, etc.
  • Satavahana coins were also made from silver, lead, potin, and copper.
  • They used the Dravidian language and Brahmi script on the coins.
  • Many Satavahana coins had the names of Satakarni and Pulumavi. 
  • The most commonly appearing symbols on Satavahan coins include the lotus symbol, nandipada symbol, chaitya symbol, Swastik symbol, chakra symbol, conch shell symbol, and ship symbol.

Architecture of the Satavahana Empire

Satavahana architecture is characterized by a plethora of temples called chaityas and monasteries called viharas which were cut out of solid rock in northwestern Deccan or Maharashtra.

  • Among others, the Karle chaitya is the most famous architectural achievement of the Satavahana Empire.
  • The three viharas located in Nasik contain engraved inscriptions of Gautamiputra and Nahapana.
  • The most prominent stupas of this period are Amravati which depicts the life of Buddha through sculptures and Nagarjunakonda which contains Buddhist monuments.

How did the Satavahana Dynasty Decline?

Like many empires, the Satavahanas also faced decline and succumbed to external pressures. Some factors for their decline are – 

  1. Foreign Invasions – Due to the invasion of Indo-Greeks, Sakas and other regional powers, the Satavahanas faced many challenges which eventually weakened their hold on the entire kingdom
  2. Internal Conflicts – As the empire grew in size, power struggles and internal conflicts became rampant among the Satavahana rulers and the nobles created division within the dynasty further complicating the administration.

Also Read – Chera Dynasty: Kings, Administration, Religion & Conquests 

The last ruler of the Satavahana was Pulamavi IV and his rule lasted until 225 AD. The kingdom further fragmented into five smaller kingdoms by the 3rd century CE. The kingdom was taken over by the Abhira dynasty, Ikshavakus and Chutus of Banvasi.


Who is the founder of the Satavahana Dynasty?

The founder of the Satavahana Dynasty was King Simuka Satavahana​. Satavahanas were the independent local Indian rulers who issued their coins and represented a rich Brahmanical culture but respected the Jainism and Buddhism philosophy as well. 

Who was the most famous Satavahana Dynasty?

The most famous king was Gautamiputra Satakarni, the greatest Satavahana ruler. He ruled from 106 A.D. to 130 A.D. His mother’s name was Gautami hence, he was called Gautamiputra. He was a great ruler as he conquered many kingdoms and was also known as the Lord of the West.

Which dynasty ruled India after the Satavahana Dynasty?

The northern region of the empire was under the governance of a branch of the Satavahanas, a prominent dynasty of ancient India. The western part, encompassing the Nashik region, was taken over by the Abhira dynasty, who ruled over the area with their unique style and traditions. The eastern part of the empire was under the rule of the Ikshvakus, a powerful dynasty that held sway over a vast expanse of land. Meanwhile, the southwestern area was governed by the Chutus of Banavasi, who were known for their administrative prowess and strategic acumen.

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