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Karnataka History

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The Satavahanas were the political successors of the Mauryas in the Deccan and their rule lasted for four and a half centuries from about 230 B.C. their empire seems to have extended from the Konkan Coast in the West to the Godavari and Krishna Deltas in the East, while to the South it must have reached as far as Chandravalli.

The Puranas like Matsya, Vayu, Vishnu, Bhagvata and Brahmanda provide important, if confusing, data for the reconstruction of the Satavahana history. Literary works like Brihatkatha of Gunadya, Gathasaptasati of Hala, or Lilavati yield useful information on the period. Foreign literary sources like the 'Indica' of Megastanese, Pliny's 'Natural History', the 'Periplus of the Erythrean Sea' or the 'Geography' of Ptolemy provide useful sources of information. The study of the Satavahana coins, particularly the Jogalthambi hoard of Nahapana's coins, most of them restruck by Gautamiputra Satakarni, can help the historian of the period. The Satavahana inscriptions, all of them inscribed on stone, provide valuable data for the reconstruction of their history.

'Satavahana' and 'Satakarni' are the two standard names by which the rulers of that dynasty are referred to in their inscriptions and coins. Various explanations have been given for these names: Satkarni means " the son of a horse", and explained in terms of the Aswamedha tradition. Barnett explained Satkarni as meaning the son of Sata. Sometime it is taken to mean as one who has a hundred ships, or one whose vehicle is drawn by hundred bulls or the one with his ears bored. The Kathasaritsagara mentions the story of a king named Dipakarni who saw a boy riding a Sata or lion, adopted him and named him Satavahana or the one who had a lion for his vehicle. It is also suggested that Satavahana is only a variant of 'Saptavahana', meaning the sun, and that they were so called because they were the worshippers of the sun. these theories, however, have been discarded by Dr. M. Rama Rao, who has argued that the dynasty has been named after the founder of the dynasty, who ruled before Simukha.

Some writers like V.S. Sukthankar, H. C. Raychaudhury and K. P. Jayaswal have not accepted the identification of Satavahanas with the Andhras. They have argued that the inscriptions mention these rulers as Satavahanas and not as Andhras, and that the language of the inscriptions is Prakrit and not Andhra. Moreover, the early evidences of the Satavahana rule are not found in Maharashtra, and they might only have drifted into Andhradesa towards the end of their rule. But the modern scholars like Dr. O. Ramachandraiya or Dr. M. Rama Rao have found compelling reasons for considering the Satavahanas as belonging to the Andhra people.

Diverse views have also been expressed regarding the original home of the Satavahanas. Dr. R.G. Bhandarkar, Vincent Smith and Rapson believed that Andhradesa was the original home of the Satavahanas. Vincent Smith and Burgess have located their capital at Srikakulam while Dr. Bhandarkar preferred to locate it at Dhanyakataka. Sukthankar held the view that Bellary district was the original home of the Satavahanas. Dr. Gopalachari has refuted Sukthankar's contention and has put forth the theory that they might have been nobles or fortune hunters from Andhra who readily passed into the service of the Mauryan Suzerains and moved upto western Deccan. Srinivas Iyengar postulated the theory of the Maharashtra home of the Satavahanas, and S.A. Joglekar argued that they were associated with Paithan which is in Maharashtra. Raychaudhury also advocated the theory of the Maharashtra origin, while V.V. Mirashi thought that Vidharba was the original home of the Satavahanas. Sri Vidyasagar Bakhale proposed that 'Satiyaputras' of Asokan edicts were the ancestors of the Satavahanas. P. V. Ranade prefers to identify them with a branch of Andhaka-Vrisnis who came to Maharashtra either from Gujarat or Mathura. The theories of Maharashtra origin, however seem to be losing ground these days, and it is generally accepted that the Satavahanas originally lived in Andhradesa.

The Puranic lists suggest that Simukha (C. 221-198 B.C) was the first ruler of the dynasty, although on the basis of numismatic evidence some scholars have argued that he was preceded by Satavahana (C.236-221 B.C) after whom the dynasty was named. Simukha is said to have entered into matrimonial alliance with the Pallavas and the Chutus of Kuntala to consolidate his power. according to Jain traditions, he grew so wicked towards the end of his rein that he was dethroned and killed. He was succeeded by his younger brother Kanha or Krishna, after whom Simukha's son Satakarni I (C. 180-170 B.C) came to the throne. He was one of the successful rulers of the dynasty. He wrested western Malwa from the Sungas and clashed with the powerful Kalinga ruler Kharavela. Twice he proclaimed his suzerainty by performing Aswamedhas. Besides celebrating a Rajasuya. His queen Naganika was a distinguished lady of the Maharathi family, and her Naneghat inscription describes him as " Lord of Dakshinapatha, wielder of the unchecked wheel of Sovereignty".

The sixth ruler of the dynasty Satakarni II (C. 152-96 B.C) had a long and eventful rule. According to the Yuga-Purana he annexed Kalinga after the death of Kharavela. He is said to have extended the Satavahana power over Madhya Pradesh, drove the intruding Sakas out of Pataliputra, which he held for ten years. He was succeeded by many rulers like Lambodara, Apilaka, Meghasvati and Kuntala Satakarni, who is mentioned in Vatsyayana's Kamasutra. Pulamavi I (C. 30-6 B.C) seems to have overthrown Susarman and the Kanva dynasty, and annexed Pataliputra. Hala (C. 19-24 A.D) the seventeenth ruler is famous in literature as the compiler of Saptasati in Prakrit, and as a hero of a later day Prakrit work; Lilavati which describes his marriage with a Ceylonese Princess.

At this stage, the expansion of the Satavahana power received a setback. The Ksaharatas ( Ksatrapas or Sakas) under Bhumaka and Nahapana occupied Malwa, Gujarat, Kathiawar and Maharashtra. The Satavahana power seemed to have been practically obliterated in the Western India. The eclipse of their power was further aided by the weakness of their rulers.

Gautamiputra Satakarni (C. 78-102 A.D.):
Gautamiputra Satakarni, the twenty-third ruler of this family, is acknowledged as the greatest of the Satavahana sovereigns. He won great fame as the retriever of the fallen fortunes of the dynasty. The Nasik inscription describes him as the destroyer of the Sakas, Yavanas and the Pahlavas. He overthrew Nahapana and restruck a large number of Ksaharata coins of the Jogalthembi hoard. The Nasik Prasasti describes Gautamiputra as the ruler of the Aparanta, Anupa, Saurashtra, Kukura, Akara and Avanti, and he must have wrested them from Nahapana. He also seems to have recovered the territories in Central Deccan, which had been lost to the Satavahanas during the inept rule of his predecessors. Under him, the Satavahana arms must have reached as far south as Kanchi. He is also credited with the conquest of territories in the Kolhapur area in the Southern Maharashtra, which he seized from the Ananda rulers. Gautamiputra also annexed the Banavasi area, thus established his sway over portions of Karnataka.

The manifold achievements and accomplishments of Gautamiputra Satakarni are recorded in glowing terms by his mother, Gautami Balasri in an inscription at Nasik. He was an unequalled military leader, a benevolent and diligent ruler. Handsome in appearance with a radiant face and a well-built body, he possessed an impressive personality. He evinced keen interest in the welfare of his subjects and helped them in their sorrows and difficulties. He is also described as " The unique Brahmana who crushed the pride and conceit of the Kshatriyas". He dedicated a cave at Pandulena, near Nasik, in the 18th year of his reign, and in the 24th year granted a field to certain ascetics. Indeed, Gautamiputra's monumental deeds lingered on long in the memory of generations.

Some Scholars have argued that the last days of Gautamiputra witnessed the proverbial reversal of fortunes. Dr. D. C. Sircar is of the opinion that he lost most of his dominions to the Sakas of Ujjain before his death. But this view is not accepted by Dr. M. Rama Rao. However, it is possible that Gautamiputra died at an early age.

Gautamiputra Satakarni was succeeded by his son Vasistiputra Sri Pulamavi, who assumed the title of ' Daksinapateswara'. He appears to have lost some of his territories to Nahapana's son, Mahakshatrapa Rudradaman though he was connected with him by matrimonial alliance. The last distinguished Monarch of this dynasty was Sri Yagna Satakarni ( C. 174-203 A.D) who regained some of the territories from the Sakas. His rare silver coins imitating the satrap coinage must have been struck for circulation in the newly conquered territories. His successors, however, were weaklings, under whom the Satavahana power rapidly declined. It soon succumbed to the growing power of the Abhiras who seized Maharashtra or of the Isksavkus and Pallavas who appropriated the eastern provinces.

The Satavahana rulers continued the administrative tradition of the Mauryas. The King was the pivot of administration who was expected to protect the people from the enemies, levy and spend the taxes justly, maintain the social order and promote the welfare of the poor and rich alike. He was assisted in administration by a council of ministers, whose number is not known. Kingship was hereditary in the male line, though matronymics were freely prefixed to the names of the Kings and Nobles. One original feature of the Satavahana administration was the association of Queens like Naganika and Gautami Balasri in public life.

There were three categories of feudatories under the Satavahanas; Rajas who struck coins in their own names; Mahabhojas and Maharathis who were blood-relations of the royal family in the Western Deccan; and relatively late in the history of the Satavahana rule was created the office of Mahasenapathis, some of whom were in charge of certain outlying provinces while others served at the centre.

For administrative convenience, the empire was divided into Aharas, each under an officer known as the Amatya. Aharas were divided into the Nigamas (towns) and Gramas (villages), which must have enjoyed much autonomy. The village affairs must have been looked after by headmen or Gramikas. The town had an assembly known as the Nigamasabha which voiced the views of the citizens. Inscriptions refer to officials like treasurers, stewards, record-keepers and administrators or Mahamatras.

Varnasramadharma was the bed-rock of social organization, which the Satavahana rulers sought to maintain with great care. "………checking the contamination of the four Varnas" was considered to be one of the primary duties of the ruler. Brahmins must have achieved considerable ascendancy under the Satavahana rulers who professed to champion the Vaidika-Dharma. During this period, many new sub-castes were formed on an occupational basis such as the Golikas (Shepherds), Halikas (Ploughmen), Kolikas (Weavers), Swarnakaras (Goldsmiths), Malakaras (Garland-makers) and others.

Another interesting feature of the Satavahana society was the total assimilation of foreigners like the Sakas and the Yavanas either as Buddhists or as degraded Kshatriyas. Many of them assumed such Indian names as Dharmadeva, Agnivarma or Rishabhadatta. Some Scholars believe that Graeco-Roman influences have a great share in fashioning the Stupas at Amaravati and other places in the Krishna Valley, and Greek lamps are mentioned in an inscription from Alluru.

Women enjoyed a prominent position in the Satavahana Society. Intelligent and educated women like Naganika and Gautami Balasri played important roles in running the administration. Women held property in their own right. The Amaravati sculptures depict women offering worship along with men, taking part in assemblies and entertaining guests. They are even said to participate in religious disputation. Men vied with women in the scantiness of their dress and in the profusion of their ornaments. Music was popular, and people used Vina, Venu (flute), conch, Mridanga and other musical instruments. Sculptures also indicate the popularity of dancing. The Saptasati contains numerous verses depicting rural life in vivid detail. The people, by and large, led a life of comfort, and even the cottage had its share of such comparative luxuries as jugs, jars, chairs, tables, and other household furnishings of attractive designs.

to be continued...
Mr. Arthikaje

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