The Satavahana Rule
There are divergent views regarding the starting period of the Satavahana chronology and the total duration of the dynasty. According to D. R. Bhandarkar the Satavahana rule commenced in the 6 th or 5 th century B.C. But other scholars did not accept this view. Dr. M. Rama Rao held the view that the Satavahanas flourished between 221A.D.
Simukha (221-198 B.C.)
After the death of Ashoka the Mauryan Empire declined rapidly. Taking advantage of the confusion in north India, the Satavahanas asserted their independence. Under the able rule of Simukha, the founder of the dynasty, the Satavahana power extended towards western Deccan. He ruled for about 23 years and was succeeded by his younger brother Krishna in 198 B.C.
Krishna (198-180 B.C. )
Krishna continued the policy of his brother and extended the empire towards the west as far as Nasik. It is unfortunate that very few details are available about him. Even his figure is not found among the Naneghat relievos. These relievos constructed under the order of Naganika, the queen of Satakarni 1 who succeeded Krishna, contain the figures of Naganika, her children, her father, her husband and his father. The absence of Krishna’s figure in Naneghat relievos led many to believe that he had usurped the throne.
Satakarni (180-170 B.C.)
We know many details about the reign of Satakarni from the Naneghat inscription issued by his wife Naganika or Nayanika. She was the daughter of Maharathi Tranakayior and made her personality felt in the affairs of the kingdom. Satakarni was the contemporary of Pusyamitra Sunga of Magadha and Kharavela of kalinga. From the Naneghat inscription it is evident that Satakarni conquer western Malwa, Anupa or the Narmada valley and Vidarbha. The inscription further states that Satakarni performed the Aswamedha sacrifices and one Rajasuya sacrifice in commemoration of these victories and proclaimed himself Samrat and assumed the titles of ‘Dakshinapathi’ and ‘Aprathihatahachakra’. He succeeded by his minor son Vedasri. Naganika acted as regent and carried on the administration. Vedasri died a minor and was succeeded by is brother Satisri. Not much is known about these kings and their successors. The next important ruler was Satakarni 2 who ruled from 152-96 B.C.
Satakarni II (152-96 B.C.)
The long rule of Satakarni II is memorable in the history of the Satavahanas since Pataliputra; the famous capital of Magadha came under their control for the first time. Satakarni II extended his empire by conquering Vidisa and Kalinga. But towards the end of his reign, the Sakas had conquered western Deccan. Very little is known about the successors of Satakarni II. The next important king was Hala who from 19-24 A.D.
Hala (19-24 A.D.)
Hala, the seventeenth king of the Satavahanas is mentioned by Vatsyayana in his Kamasutra and Rajasekhara in his Kavya Mimamsa. Hala patronized literature and arts. The Prakrit work Saptasati is ascribed to him. Gunadhya the author of Brihat Katha was his contemporary. As he was a patron of poets, he was known by the title Kavivatsala. He married a Ceylonese princess on the banks of the Sapta-Godavari-Bhima River. After Hala, once again there is a break in the history of the Satavahanas. They lost their province in central and western India and also Magadha. They were confined to their home territories in the Andhra Desa.
Gautamiputra Satakarni (78-102 A.D.)
Gautamiputra Satakarni was one of the outstanding rulers of ancient India. He was the son of Sivasvati and Gautami Balasri. His achievements and personality is known from the Nasik inscription of Balasri. At the time of his accession the situation was very gloomy for the Satavahanas. In the indo-Gangetic plain, the Kushans were making great progress. Western Deccan was in the hands of the Ksharatas the foreign tribes, Sakas, Yavanas and Phalavas who had embraced Hinduism and settled in India disturbed peace and order in the Deccan. In such a gloomy situation Satakarni did not lose heart. He rose to the occasion and destroyed the Sakas, Yavanas and Phalavas. He uprooted the Ksatrapa dynasty of Nahapana and re established the glory of the Satavahana family. He is credited to have conquered the territories of Anupa, Aparantha, Saurastra, Kukra and Avanthi from Nahapana. Further, he conquered Vidarbha, Asmaka and Muluka. (These are the territories in western India and the Deccan, Present Gujarat and Maharastra States.). The boundaries of empire extended from the river Krishna in the south to Malwa and Kathiawar in the north, from the Bay of Bengal in the east, to the Konkan in the west. One of his titles, ‘Thrisamudra Toya Pitavahabna’ (one whose horses drink waters of three oceans), suggests the fact that his armies had touched the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Satavahana rulers patronized both Sanskrit and Prakrit literatures. Hala, the Satavahana ruler was the author of Saptasati- a work in Prakrit. Brihat Katha, written by Gunadhya was in the Paisachi dialect.
Trade and Commerce
The Satavahana rulers developed both internal and maritime trade. The figure of a ship found on Satavahana coins clearly testify to the fact of their maritime activity. Further, the discovery of a large number of Roman coins in the Krishna river valley strengthens the above fact. An important feature of Satavahana economic life was the development of Srenis or trade guilds. These Srenis acted as banks and facilitated the development of trade.
The study of the Satavahanas would be incomplete without reference to Acharya Nagarjuna, the founder of Madhyamika doctrine. He liver at Sriparvata, now known as Nagarjuna Konda and for some time adorned the court of Gauthamiputra Yagnasri. Besides being a philosopher, Nagarjuna was also a reputed chemist. In a word the culture contribution of the Satavahanas was immense and varied Gautamiputra Satakarni was the champion of the Hindu religion and treated the four castes on an equal footing. He and his wife Vasisti were firmly devoted to Dharma. The Raja Mata, Gautami Balasri was a great personality. Satakarni took pride in calling himself Gautamiputra or the son of Gouthami. He was succeeded by his son Vasistiputra Pulomavi who ruled from 102-130 A.D. he maintained intact a greater part of the wide empire inherited from his father. He was succeeded by Satakarni who ruled from 130-154A.D. Rudradaman, the Saka ruler, defeated Satakarni and annexed some territories of the Satavahana Empire.
Gautamiputra Yajnasri (174-203 A.D.)
Gautamiputra Yajnasri was the last king of the Satavahanas. He took advantage of the confusion at Ujjain after the death of Rudradaman and invaded the dominion. He re-established Satavahana authority over a great part of western Deccan and Central India. He enlarged the famous Amaravati Stupa and constructed the famous railing round the Mahachaitya. Acharya Nagarjuna lived at his court for some time. After his death the empire began to decline and disappeared from the political scene in the 3 rd century A.D.