The political history between 200 BC to 300 AD

The political history between 200 BC to 300 AD

After the disappearance of the Mauryan Empire, the concept of a big centralized Empire came to an end. The period from the end of the Mauryan rule to the Rise of the Guptas is marked by the appearance of smaller kingdoms more regional in nature and spread. many important changes took place in the economic, social, and religious fields.

The Sungas:

The Sunga dynasty was the first Brahmin dynasty to rule India. The Sunga rule lasted from 185 BC – 73 BC and was founded by Pushyamitra sunga who was the commander in chief of the last Mauryan ruler Brihadratha. Pushyamitra was a very capable ruler and protected his Kingdom from great invaders. The reign of Pushyamitra saw the revival of Brahmanism. He said to have performed Asvamedha sacrifices and the second one was probably performed by Patanjali the author of Mahabhashya. 

Pushyamitra was succeeded by his able son Agnimitra.  His reign was short and the successors were weak. The last ruler too was murdered by his Minister Vasudeva Who usurped the Throne and founded the Kanva dynasty. The convert dynasty ruled only for 45 years from 73 BC to 28 BC and was probably overthrown by the Andhras or Satavahanas.

The Satavahanas:

The Satavahanas ruled the area around the Deccan and were one of the most powerful dynasties of the time. Their original home seems to be in modern Andhra.

The founder of the Satavahana dynasty was Simuka but the first great ruler was who bought most of Western India under his control.  the next important ruler was Hala 17th in the line.  he is known to be e a poet king and is said to be the author of the Prakrit work Saptasati.

The most outstanding ruler of the Satavahana royal house was Gautamiputra Satakarni.  His achievement was the defeat of the Saka king Nahapana from whom he ceded Malwa, Vidarbha, Katiyavar, and Konkan to The Empire. Gautamiputra was a Patron of the brahminical region and strive to preserve social purity.  he was succeeded by his able son Vasishtaputra Pulmayi who enlarge the Amaravati stupa.  but after him, Rudra Daman started the conflict with Satavahanas.  The last ruler was Pulmayi IV  during whose reign the Satavahana territory was broken up by various small dynasties.

The Satavahana administration was very simple.  The law as laid down by the dharmashastras was followed which also acted as a check on the king.  the king himself was the commander in chief.  The Princes were groomed early by being made yuvarajas and were also appointed as viceroys. The Empire was divided into Janapadas and they were in turn divided into Aharas and then the gramas. The janapadas had Viceroy and the ahara had amatyas and gramas had gramika.

The Indo Greeks:

From about 200 BC there were a series of military movements on the northwestern borders of India.  Among the first to cross the Hindu Kush were the Greeks who ruled bacteria.  south of the Oxus in Northern Afghanistan.  Before them, Alexander too had made his entry into the Indian region but Alexander’s invasion did not result in the intermingling of Greek and Indian culture.  The blending of the two cultures came about in the second century BC, when the Greek rulers of bacteria moved into northwestern India therefore in history they have been termed as indo-greeks.

One of the most famous Indo-Greek rulers was Menander or Milinda  (165 BC to 150 BC).  during the period of his rule, the indo-greek power extended from the Swat Valley to Punjab as far as the Ravi river.  he had his capital at Sakala in Punjab.  Menander is best remembered for his conversion to Buddhism by Nagasena, a Buddhist monk and philosopher. Menander asked Nagasena the main questions related to Buddhism. these questions and answers were recorded in the form of a book known as Melinda Panha or the Questions of Milinda. 

The Sakas were the Scythians, Who were Nomadic tribes belonging to Central Asia. in 165 BC they were driven from their home by the Yeu-chi tribe the and they forced their way into India. there were four sucker ruling houses ruling from Taxila, Mathura. Maharashtra and Ujjain. Nothing much is known about the first two houses. the greatest ruler of the Maharashtra branch was Nahapana of the Bhumika dynasty. Nahapana territories were in the modern Gujarat and Rajasthan area. he was probably defeated by the Satavahana king Gautamiputra Satakarni who turned him out from Maharashtra.

Rudradaman was probably the greatest ruler of the Ujjain line and is said to have composed the Junagarh rock inscription in classical Sanskrit and we get a lot of information from it. he is said to have repaired the dam built across lake Sudarshana in Saurashtra by Chandragupta Maurya. he maintained an efficient administration and gained proficiency in fine arts as well.

After Rudradaman his Successors were weak and there is not much information regarding them. but it is clear that the last Saka ruler Rudra Simhadri III was defeated and killed by the Gupta Monarch Chandragupta II.

The Kushans:

The Kushans belonged to Yeu-chi tribe of China and in search of fresh pasture grounds, they defeated the Indians and occupied bactria.  they then moved to India and settle down in northwest India. Kadphises- I was the first ruler. The greatest ruler was undoubtedly Kanishka who defeated the Sakas and started the Saka era in 78 AD. his empire consisted of entire North-Western India and he also conquered the three Chinese provinces of Kashgar, Khotan, and Yarkand, Thereby gaining access to the famous Silk Route. because of his occupation of the Chinese provinces, he is referred to as the first Indo Asiatic king. he founded a new capital called Purushapura or modern Peshawar.

Kanishka converted to Buddhism and he did yeoman service to the spread of Buddhism in China and Tibet.  he was called as second Ashoka the title does seem to be very deserving. he held the fourth Buddhist council in Kashmir where Buddhism witnessed a schism for the second time by splitting into Hinayana and Mahayana schools.  he extended patronage to the Mahayana cult and the Gandhara school of art which had emerged due to the rise of the Mahayana school. the first images of the Buddha were produced by the Gandhara school and this gave rise to the idea of Idol worship in Buddhism which was later adopted by the Vedic religion.

Kanishka also patronized Sanskrit which was the language adopted by the Mahayana school as all Mahayana texts were composed in Sanskrit. the greatest scholar in Kanishka’s court was Asvogosha, who wrote Buddhacharitra and Sutralankara in SanskritWhile Nagarjuna founded the Madhyamik school of Mahayana Buddhism. Pali was relegated to the background and Idol worship and the use of Sanskrit brought Mahayana Buddhism close to the Vedic religion. 

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