Updated December 20, 2022
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The centralized Mauryan power ended during a Coup d’état in 185 BCE leading to the foundation of the Sunga Empire. The vast and centralized Maurya Empire was broken into numerous new polities. In the east, the newly formed Sunga Empire utilized the industries pre-established in Pataliputra.
Yona kings, which were once incorporated by or allied with the Mauryan Empire, settled in the Indus forming Indo-Greek Kingdoms bringing new coinage practices. These techniques were utilized by the Indo-Scythian Kingdoms and Kushan Empire.
In the south the Satavahana Empire appeared, all with their specific coinage. The unified coinage, made of punch-marked coins, also broke up. In the northwest, several small independent entities were formed, which started to strike their own coins.
Some Important Points about the Post-Mauryan Period / Pre-Gupta Period (185 BC- 319 AD) related, Native Successor of Mauryas & Foreign Successor of Mauryas.
I.Native Successor of Mauryas
Some of the Native Successors of Mauryas are Sunga Dynasty (185 BC – 73 BC), Kanva Dynasty (73 BC- 28 AD), Satavahana Dynasty (60 BC- 225 AD) and Cheti/Chedi Dynasty of Kalinga.
Sunga Dynasty (185 BC – 73 BC)
1. Sunga Dynasty was established by Pushya Mitra Sunga, a Brahmin Commander-in-Chief of last Mauryan ruler named Brihadrashta in 185 BC.
2. PushyaMitra was a staunch adherent of orthodox Hiduism. However, the great Buddhist stupa at Bharhut (in M.P.) was built during the reign of Sungas.
3. Pushyamitra was succeeded by his son Agnimitra, the hero of Kalidasa’s drama ‘Malvikagnimitra’.
4. After Agnimitra, a series of weak rulers such as Vasumitra, Vajramitra, Bhagabhadra, Devabhuti followed leading the decline of the dynasty.
5. During their rule there was a revival of Brahminical influence. The Bhagavata religion became important.
6. Patanjali, author of the ‘Mahabhasya’ was born at Gonardo in Central India. Patanjali was the priest of 2 Ashvamedha Yajnas performed by Pushymitra Sunga.
7. In arts, the Bharhut Stupa is the most famous monument of the Sunga period.
8. The fine gateway railing which surrounds the Sanchi stupa built by Ashoka which was constructed during the Sunga period.
9. Other examples of Sunga art are Vihar, Chaitya & Stupa of Bhaja (Poona), Amravati Stupa, Nasika Chaitya etc.
Kanva Dynasty (73 BC- 28 AD)
10. In 73 BC, Devrahuti the ruler of the Sunga dynasty was murdered by his minister Vasudeva who usurped the throne and founded the Kanva dynasty.
11. The period of Kanva rule came to an end in 28 BC.
Satavahana Dynasty (60 BC- 225 AD)
12. the most important of the native successor of Mauryas in the Deccan and Central India were the Satavahanas.
13. The Satvahanas are considered to be the identical with the Andhras who were mentioned in the Puranas.
14. The early Satavahana kings appeared not in Andhra but in Maharashtra where most of their early inscripyions have been found.
15. Simuka (60 BC- 37 BC) was the founder of the Satvahana dynasty.
16. Satkarni I, its 3rd ruler raised its power and prestige by conquest.
17. Hala, its 17th ruler was the author of ‘Gathasaptasati’ or ‘Sattasai’ in Prakrit. Gunadhya, the author of ‘Vrihat Katha’ (in Prakrit) was contemporary of Hala.
18. It was Gautamiputra Satkarni (106- 130 AD) who revived the Satavahana power and defeated the Saka Ksatrap Nahapana. He was the greatest Satavahana ruler (23rd Satavahana ruler).
Cheti/Chedi Dynasty of Kalinga
19. The history of Kalinga after the death of Ashoka is shrouded in obscurity. A new dynasty known as the Cheti or Chedi dynasty rose in the region probably in the 1st century BC.
20. Our information about this dynasty is derived solely from the Hathigumpha inscription (near Bhubaneshwar, Orissa) of Kharavela, the 3rd ruler of dynasty.
21. A follower of Jainism, Kharavela was liberal patron of Jain Monks for whose residence he constructed caves on the Udaygiri hill near Bhubaneshwar in Orissa.
II.Foreign successor of Mauryas
Some of the Foreign Successor of Mauryas are: The Indo-Greeks (2nd Century BC), The Sakas (1St Century BC – 4Th Century AD), The Parthians (1st century BC – 1st Century AD) and The Kushanas (1st Century AD- 3rd Century AD).
The Indo-Greeks (2nd Century BC)
22. Indo-Greeks (Bacterian Greeks) were the first foreign rulers of North-Western India in the Post-Maurya period.
23. The most famous Indo- Greek ruler was Menander (165 BC-145 BC), also known as Milinda. He was converted to buddhism by Nagasena or Nagarjuna.
24. The Indo- Greek rule is important in the history of India because of the large number of coins which they issued.
25. The Indo – Greeks were the first rulers in India to issue coins which can be definitely attributed to the kings.
26. They were the first to issue gold coins.
27. They introduced Hellenic i.e. Greek features in art giving rise to Gandhar school in the North – Western India.
The Sakas (1St Century BC – 4Th Century AD)
28 The Sakas, also known as Scythians, replaced the Indo – Greeks in India.
29. 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.
30. The most famous Saka ruler in India was Rudradaman (130 AD- 150 AD). He is famous not only for military conquests (particularly against the satavahanas) but also for his public works (he repaired the famous Sudarsan lake of the Maurya period) and his patrongage of Sanskrit (he issued the first- ever long inscription in chaste Sanskrit).
31. Other important Saka ruler in India were Nahapana, Ushavadeva, Ghamatika, Chashtana etc.
32. In about 58 BC a king of Ujjain – Vikramaditya – is supposed to have fought effectively against the Sakas. An era called Vikrama Samvat is recknoed from 58 BC.
The Parthians (1st century BC – 1st Century AD)
33. Originally the Pratihians (Pahlvas) lived in Iran, they replaced the Sakas in the North-Western India but controlled an area much smaller than the Sakas.
34. The most famous Parthians king was Gondaphernes in whose reign St. Thomas is said to have come to India for the propagation of Christianity.
The Kushanas (1st Century AD- 3rd Century AD)
35. The Kushanas were one of the five Yeuchi clans of Central Asia.
36. They replaced Parthians in North-Western India and then expanded to the lower Indus basin and the upper & middle Gangetic basin.
37. The first Kushan dynasty was founded by Kadphises I / Kujul Kadphises. The second king was Kadphises II / Vema Kadphises who issued gold coins.
38. The second Kushan dynasty was founded by Kanishka. Its kings extended Kushan power over upper India. Their capitals were at Peshawar (Purushapura) and Mathura.
39. The most famous Kushan ruler was Kanishka (78 AD- 102 AD), also known as second ‘Ashoka’. He started an era in 78 AD which is now known as the Saka era and is used by the Government of India.