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Post Mauryan period/Pre-Gupta Period (185 BC-319 AD)


• After the decline of Mauryas, the regional kingdoms were formed. Unlike Mauryas none of these regional kingdoms could extend their political authority over the large area equivalent to that of Mauryan Empire.
• The downfall of Mauryas & their great empire witnessed rise of multiple regional kingdoms.
• The important regional kingdoms and their area of influence were as:
1. Sunga dynasty ruled from Videsha in Madhya Pradesh.
2. The Kanvas ruled from Patliputra.
3. The Indo-Greek rulers ruled over the north western part of the country.
4. The Satvahanas became the dominant power in Deccan and Central India with Pratishtana or Paithan as the capital
5. The Chedi dynasty ruled over Kalinga.

Native Successors of Mauryans

Sunga dynasty: (185–73 B.C., Capital- Vidisha, M.P.)

Sunga Dynasty was established by Pushymitra Sunga, a Brahmin Commander-in-Chief of last Mauryan ruler named Brihadratha in 185 BC.
• Pushyamitra didn‘t adopt any royal title and ruled with the name of Senani
• He performed two horse sacrifices (Ashmedha) and one of these was performed by Patanjli, the great grammarian.
• During the reign of Sungas, there was a revival of Brahminical influence. The Bhagavata religion became important.
• The great Buddhist Stupa at Bharhut (in M.P.) was built during the reign of Sungas.
• The fine gateway railing which surrounds the Sanchi stupa, built by Ashoka, was constructed during the Sunga period.
• Pushyamitra was succeeded by his son Agnimitra, the hero of Kalidasa‘s drama ‗Malvikagnimitra‘.
• The Greek king Antialcidas ‗I‘sent his ambassador named Herodotus to the court of Sungas. Herodotus constructed a pillar ―Garudadhwaja‖ in the honour of God Vasudeva
• the great Sanskrit grammarian patanjali was patronized
• “manusmriti” also compiled in this period
• Last sung ruler was Devabhuti.

Kanva Dynasty: (73 to 28 B.C., Capital-Patliputra)

• In 73 BC, Devabhuti, the last ruler of the Sunga dynasty, was murdered by his minister Vasudeva, who usurped the throne and founded the Kavana dynasty.
• The dynasty was confined to Magadha only
• The period of Kanva rule came to an end in 28 BC when their kingdom was annexed by Satvahanas.
• Last ruler was killed by the Simuka. (Satvahan)

Satavahana Dynasty: (60 B.C. to 225 A.D., Capital- Pratishtana/Paithan, Maharashtra)

• The most important of the native successors of the Mauryas in the Deccan and Central India were the Satvahanas.
• Their capital was Pratishtana or Paithan while Bhrauch was the most important port city.
• The early Satvahanas kings appeared not in Andhra but in Maharashtra but most of their early inscriptions have been found in Andhra.
• Simuka (60 BC – 37 BC) was the founder of the Satvahanas dynasty. He was immediate successor of Ashoka in this region.
• The third ruler of the dynasty Satakarni I, raise the power and prestige of the dynasty by conquests. He performed Vedic sacrifices.
• Hala, its 17th ruler, was the author of ‗Gathasaptasati‘ or, Sattasai in Prakrit. The text contains the love lures.
• The 23rd ruler of the dynasty was Gautamiputra Satakarni (106 – 130 A.D.) who revived the Satavahana power and defeated the Saka Ksatrap Nahapana. He was the greatest Satavahana ruler.
• The achievements of Gautamiputra Satakarni are recorded in the Nasik inscription by his mother, Gautami Balasri.
• Vasishthiputra Sri Satakarni, its 24th ruler, was married to the daughter of Saka Kstrapa Rudradaman, but the former was defeated twice by the latter.
• Yajna Sri Satakarni, its 27th ruler, was the dynasty‘s last great ruler.
• Pulamavi III, its 30th ruler, was the last Satavahana rulers.
• Satavahanas were finally succeeded by the Vakataka dynasty in Maharashtra and Ishuvaku dynasty in Andhara Pradesh.
• Satavahanas started the practice of donating land with fiscal and administrative rights to Brahmanas and Buddhist monks, which eventually weakened their authority and resulted in the rise of feudalism in the later period.
• The famous Stupas built during the Satavahana period are located at Amravati and Nagarjunakonda.
• The official language of the Satavahanas was Prakrit.
• The Satavahanas issued their coins in lead (mainly), copper and bronze.
• Two important religious construction was

1) chaitya = bhudh temple
2) Vihar= monasteries

Chedi Dynasty

• After Mauryas, the Chedi dynasty emerged in the Kalinga region, i.e. modern Odisha
• The capital city of this dynasty was Sisupalgarh
• The important ruler of this dynasty was Kharwela.
• Kharavela patronized Jainism and the Hathigumpha inscription gives a reference of his victories.

Foreign Successors of Mauryans

The Indo-Greek kings

• Indo-Greeks (Bacterian Greeks) were the first foreign rulers of North-Western India in the Post-Maurya period.
• The most famous Indo-Greek ruler was Menander (165 BC – 145 BC), also known as Milinda.
• His capital was Sialkot
• He is mentioned in the famous Buddhist text Milind-Panaho.
• He was converted to Buddhism by Nagasena or Nagarjuna.
• The Indo-Greek kings introduced the regular coinage in India in large number
• the last Indo-Greek king was Hesatrius.
• Demtrius was the first came after Alexendar. (Greek)
• First issued gold coin in India

The Sakas

• The Sakas, also known as Scythians, replaced the Indo-Greeks in India.
• Among the five branches of Sakas with their seats of power in different parts of India, the most important was the one which ruled in Western India till the 4th Century AD.
The five seats of power or Satraps were:
1. Kapisa (Afghanistan) 2. Taxila (Pakistan)
3. Mathura (Uttar Pradesh) 4. Upper Deccan 5. Ujjain
• The most famous Saka ruler in India was Rudradaman (130 AD -150 AD). He is famous not only for his military conquests but also for his public works.
• He repaired the famous Sudarsan lake of the Mauryan period and gave patronage to Sanskrit language
• The Junagarh inscription in Gujarat is attributed to Rudradaman is first ever inscription written in Sanskrit
• In about 58 BC a king of Ujjain, Vikramaditya – is supposed to have fought effectively against the Sakas. An era called Vikrama Samvat is reckoned from 58 B.C.

The Parthians

• Originally the Parthians (Pahlavas) lived in Iran
• They replaced the Sakas in North-Western India, but controlled an area much smaller than the Sakas.
• Famous Parthian king was Gondaphernes in whose reign St. Thomas is said to have come to India from Israel for the propagation of Christianity.
• Pahlavas restricted themselves to issuing copper coins and in rare instance silver money

The Kushans

The Kushans were one of the five Yeuchi clans of Central Asia.
• They replaced the Parthians in North-Western India and then expanded to the lower Indus basin and the upper and middle Gangetic basin.
• The Kushans controlled famous silk route starting from China, passing through their empire on to Iran & Western Asia. This route was a source of great income to the Kushans.
• The dynasty was founded by Kadphises I or Kujul Kadhphises.
• The Kushans were the first rulers in India to issue gold coins on a wide scale..
• The most famous Kushan ruler was Kanishka (78 AD – 101 AD), also known as Second Ashoka‘. He started an era in 78 AD which is now known as the Saka era and is used officially by the Government of India.
• The empire of Kanshika was spread over a large area in the portion of five countries i.e. Russia, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and India.
• His capital was Peshawar.
• Kanishka was a great patron of Mahayana Buddhism. In his reign 4th Buddhist council was held in   Kundalavana, Kashmir where the doctrines of the Mahayana form of Buddhism were finalized.
• Large size headless statue of Kanishka is found at Mathura
• The last great Kushan ruler was Vasudeva I.

Impact of Central Asian Contact (Foreign Successors)

  • Central Asia was open to trade routes traversing through oases and valleys. One of these routes was the Old Silk route. This route was of great income to the Kushanas. Traders were required to pay taxes for using this route. They then established trade in colonies along the route.
  • Buddhist missionaries followed the traders and reached central Asia and South East Asia through these routes.
  • The contact with foreigner brought newer war techniques like cavalry warfare and introduction of reins, saddles, caps, helmets and boots for the military.

Contacts with foreigners also enriched the Indian culture. Gandhar school of art emerged which was influenced by Greek and roman art. Widening of knowledge in the fields of medicine and astronomy is also reflected. Considerable effects were seen.

Post Mauryan Art and Architecture

With the decline of the Mauryan Empire several small dynasties rose to power. Among them, Shungas, Kanvas, Kushanas and Shakas in the north and Satvahanas, Ikshavakus, Abhiras, and Vakatakas in Southern and Western India gained prominence.

  • The architecture in the form of rock-cut caves and stupas continued, with each dynasty introducing some unique features of their own.
  • Similarly, different schools of sculpture emerged and the art of sculpture reached its climax in the post-Mauryan period.

1) Rock-cut Caves: The construction of rock caves continued as in the Mauryan period. However, this period saw the development of two types of rock caves – Chaitya and Viharas.

Chaitya was a rectangular prayer hall with a stupa placed in the centre, for the purpose of prayer and Viharas were used as the residences of the monks.


Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves in Bhubaneswar, Odisha were patronized by the Kalinga king Kharavela and are also known for the Hathigumpha inscription (in Brahmi script).

Ranigumpha cave in Udayagiri is double-storied and has some beautiful sculptures.

2) Stupas: Post Mauryan period stupas became larger and more decorative and wood and brickwork were replaced by stone.

Torans: In the post-Mauryan period, the Shunga dynasty introduced the idea of Torans (Torans reflect the Hellenisti influence) which were beautifully decorated gateways to the stupas.


  • Bharhut stupa in Madhya Pradesh.

3) Sculpture: Post Mauryan empire three prominent schools of the sculpture came into prominence in three different regions of India namely Gandhara, Mathura, and Amravati schools.