Satavahana Dynasty – The History of the Satavahanas

Table of contents

Satavahana Dynasty: origins

  • The Satavahanas occupied a very vast territory in India. 
  • The founder of the Satavahanas was King Simuka 
  • In fact, they were generally designated as the Lords of the Dakshinapatha, and their territory included the whole of Karnataka, Almaka (the original Mabinistra). Apstanta, Anupa, Sautisim, Malwa, (Akaravanti),Bhilsa and Chanda
  • The capital towns of the Satavahanas were Pratisthan also known as paithan
  •  The total number of the Sätavāhana kings was thirty,
  • the time period of the satavahanas was 460 years

Kings of the satavahanas dynasty

king Simuka of the satavahanas (230 BCE – 207 BCE)

  • Founder of the satavahana dynasty 
  • immediately active after Ashoka’s death.
  • Built Jain and Buddhist temples

king Satakarni I of the satavahanas (70- 60 BC)

Who was he?:

  • Satakarni I was the 3rd king of the Satavahanas.

  • Sätakarni was a powerful king. 

 Military campaign:

  • he assumed the title of ‘Lord of Dakshinapatha’
  • Decided to extend his kingdom in North India.
  •  The Sungas had then a fairly large empire north of the Narmadā. 
  • Their capital had been shifted from Påtaliputra to Vidišă in Central India. 
  • Satakarni seems to have invaded Vidiša and occupied it for some time. This invasion seems to have struck a blow to the prestige of the Sungas and paved the way for the rise of the Kanvas.
  •  His rule in Central India does not seem to have lasted long.
  •  Satakarni himself had to face an invasion of his kingdom by an enemy the-west

Religious beliefs: 

  • Satakarni was as religious minded as he was brave.
  •  He performed several Vedic sacrifices and made gifts of thousands of cows, hundreds of horses, elephants, garments, kärshapana coins and heaps of grains to Brahmapas, servants and others
  •  In this he received the cooperation and support of his pious queen Näganika,
  • Sātakarni performed two Asvamedha and thereby established his supremacy in the country. 

king Hala of the satavahanas 

  • King Hala compiled the Gatha Saptashati. Called Gaha Sattasai in Prakrit, it is a collection of poems with mostly love as the theme
  •  Around forty of the poems are attributed to Hala himself.
  • Hala’s minister Gunadhya composed Brihatkatha.

king Gautamiputra Sri -Sätakarni of the satavahanas (106 – 130 AD)

Who was he? :

  •  He is considered the greatest king of the Satavahana dynasty.
  • In the first fifteen or sixteen years of his reign he consolidated his rule and increased his military power. 
  • He then resolved to free his country from foreign domination of Western Kshatrapas.

 Military campaign: 

  •  He first invaded Vidarbha, an outlying province of Kanishka’s empire, and occupied its chief city Kušavati (modernPauni) on the Benă (or the Vaingangā).
  • He then marched against Nahapana. He defeated him in a fierce battle fought in the vicinity of Govardhana near Näsik. 
  • Nahapana fled to the hilly region of Mavala after this ignominious defeat. 
  • He would extend to the Buddhist Sangha at Näsik the same royal support which he had just before given to the Sangha of Benákata in Vidarbha. 
  • The battle of Govardhana was fought just before the commencement of the second fortnight of the rainy season in the eighteenth regnal year of Gautamiputra.
  • Gautamiputra’s kingdom extended from the southern part of Rajputana, Käthiawad and Malwa in the north to Krishna in the south, and from the Arabian Sea in the West to the Bay of Bengal in the east. The Kuntala country was probably not included in it. 
  • His administration was based on twin foundations of Sastric Laws and humanism
  • .He destroyed the Sakas, Yavanas, Pahlavas, rooted out the Saka race and restored the Sätavä hana family (C. 119 A.D.). He was a king of Asika, Asaka,Mulaka Suratha, Kukura, Aparanta, Anupa, Vidarbha and Akaravanti (Malwa).

 Religious beliefs:  

  • He re-established the system of caste, as against the casteless foreigners Sakas,Yavanas, and Pahlavas.
  •  He was a champion of Buddhism and Hinduism. 
  • Restored About 9270 out of 13250 coins of Nahapana discovered at Jogaltembhi

Satahavana dynasty administration 

The royal duty of a king

  • The primary duty of a king is to protect the country from foreign aggression, and the subjects in it from all calamities such as those from thieves, carnivorous beasts and epidemics. 
  • Another main duty of a king is to levy only just taxes on his subjects and to utilise the money thus obtained for their welfare. 
  • Some other duties mentioned in the inscriptions are to construct public works of utility such as tanks and wells
  • to encourage advancement of learning
  • to abstain from all violence except on the battlefield etc.
  • Another important duty of a king is to administer justice.
  •  One of the important principles of justice is that none should be punished on mere suspicion.

Administration of the royal court

  • The king appointed several ministers and executive officers to assist him in administration.
  •  The Junagadh inscription of Rudradâman divides these dignitaries into two classes
  1. matisachivas’ or ministers
  2. karma chivas or executive officers
  • The duty of the ministers was to advise the king
  •  the executive officers were to execute the king’s orders. 
  • officials were known as amatyas and mahamatras (same as in Mauryan times.
  • The Amatyas (administrative personnel or civil servants who filled the highest admin­istrative and judicial appointments) were placed in charge of the different districts. 
  • Those who were included in the king’s ministry were known as Raj-amatyas.

Administration of a local village

  • There was generally a Nigama-Sabha which looked after local administration
  • Apastamba says that the king should appoint honest, righteous and venerable men for the administration of the towns and villages.”
  • The village headman was called Grāmani. He was like the modern Police-Pätil. 
  • The kurumbins referred to in some gathäs are evidently the Kunabis or farmers of modern times.
  •  The grihapati was a well-to-do resident of a village.

Administrations of a State

Janapada (settlements) denoted the largest territorial division, viz., ‘a country’. It was divided into

  1. Rashtras : The Hirahadagalli plates of the Pallava Sivaskandavarman, mention Sätähani-rattha’ (Satavahana rashtra) whose name was evidently applied to it after the Sätavahanas settled there for some time. The head of a rashtra was known as Rashtrika, (Prakrit, Rathika). If the rashtra division was of a large size, the head of it was known as Maharathi. In the Satavahana age the Maharathis and Mahabhojas were great feudatories or jamindars. They could issue coins in their own names.
  2. ähära: The Mämalähära comprised the territory now known as Mavala. The Sorpárakähära was the name of the region around modern Sopärä in North Konkan. The Kapurahara which roughly comprised the territory of the Surat District was in Gujarät. Aharas were apparently divided into vishayas.

Administration of the social system

The brahmana

  • The Brahmana occupied a venerable place in this system. 
  • He was expected to spend his entire life in the study of the Vedas, the performance of sacrifices and the imparting of religious instruction to others. 
  • Those who did not live such self-controlled life did not receive such honour; nay, they were despised as degraded Brahmanas. 
  • Ordinarily a Brahmana was not to handle a weapon even for examining it

The kshatriyas

  • The duties laid down for the Kshatriyas were the study of the Vedas, performance of sacrifices, making of gifts, use of arms and protection of the people

The Vaishyas

  • The third class was of the Vailyas.
  • Besides the duties of Vedic study, performance of sacrifices and making of gifts which they shared with
  •  other twice born people, they had agriculture, tending of cattle and trading assigned to them.

The sudras

  • The Sudra was the fourth caste. 
  • The duty of the Sudras was to serve other classes.
  • They were proficient in various arts and crafts.

Administration of the economic system


Gold coins

  • Gold coins also were then in circulation. 
  • Two thousand gold coins were equivalent to seventy thousand silver kārshāpaṇas. 
  • This works out to the ratio of one gold coin to thirty-five silver karshapana.

Silver coins

  • Silver had to be imported, while gold freely flowed into India from Rome as the balance of trade was then favourable to the former. 
  • This explains how silver had appreciated in value at that age.

Lead coins

  • The Sätavāhanas minted potin and lead coins also. 
  • Lead coins were much larger in size than potin coins, though both were found in shape.


  • In ancient times trade was usually carried on through the śrenis (or guilds). The following guilds are mentioned in inscriptions:
  1. dhanikas (traders in corn), 
  2. gandhikas (sellers of perfumes)
  3. mäläkäras (florists)
  4. suvarnakäras (goldsmiths)
  5. selavadhakis (stonemasons),
  6. odayantrikas (manufacturers of hydraulic machines)
  7. tilapishakas (oilmen)
  8. kularikas(potters)
  9. kolikas (weavers)
  10.  vamsakäras (bamboo-workers), etc. 
  • These guilds were engaged not only in the production and transport of merchandise, they also did banking business.
  • They used to receive endowments and pay monthly interest on them..

Exports and Imports

  • The Indians carried on flourishing trade with foreign countries like Egypt, Greece and Italy. Among the exports were included 
  1. sesame oil
  2.  Sugar
  3. animal-skins
  4. cotton fabrics
  5.  Silk
  6. Muslin
  7.  Pepper
  8.  Cardamom
  9.  Cinamon
  10.  Jewels
  11.  Ornaments
  •  The imports were of:
  1.  Roman wine, 
  2. Copper
  3. tin
  4. lead
  5. glass etc
    • . The balance of trade was favourable to India and so Roman gold flowed into India. Pliny, a contemporary of the author of the Periplus, deplored the drain of Roman gold to India in exchange for costly luxurious goods.

Important Offices

o Uparika – An officer of the rank of a Provincial Governor, Uparika had the power to appointment. Kumara Matyas. He seems to have held the rank of the head of a territorial division called bhukti.

o Kumaramatya – A Kumaramatya is known to be managing various departments. In modern day terms, he may have been the rank of an IAS.

o Dandapasika – Police Commissioner

o Chata and Bhata – policemen and soldiers

o Dutapreshanika – They arranged for the dispatch of Dutakas. The latter are mentioned generally at the end of the charters of grants. They had to arrange for the transfer of the ownership of granted villages and fields to the rightful donces.

o Viniyuktaka – He denoted a royal servant who was entrusted with any task.

o Käshthika – he corresponds to the modern peon.

Archeological sources of the satahavana dynasty 

Excavation at bhokardan

what were the findings

The total habitation deposit was distinguished by five structural phases, all belonging to the Satavahana period, as evidenced by over four hundred coins of that dynasty.


  • The houses had no planned layout and a group of five houses were, found to have been, separated by irregular alleys. 
  • The houses had rubble foundations set in black clay,walls, partly built of bricks and partly of clay, roof held in position by wooden posts and covered with typical Satavahana tiles and floors of rammed clay and tile pieces.


  • The pottery comprised bowls and dishes in black-and-red ware; basins, kujas, handis, storage jars, stands and storage pots in red-slipped and red-washed wares; a range of utilitarian pots, in blotchy black-and-red ware; and a series of miniature pots in coarse handmade red ware. In the upper horizon sherds of amphorae, Red Polished and Megarian Wares were recovered.

The items of material culture are comprised of:

  1. Copper, potin and lead coins
  2. Terracotta bullae with Greek legends
  3. Coin moulds and seals, beads, pendants and amulets of agate, carnelian, crystal, lapis, jade,

glass, jasper, faience and terracotta along with bead-moulds.

  1. Votive tanks in terracotta of different shapes.
  2. Human and animal figurines, ivory and shell bangles, and the shell stopper with bird motif at the top with its neck upraised perched on a round base decorated with crisscross design.

other findings

  1. kohl sticks
  2. terracotta ear ornaments
  3. stone rotary querns and saddle querns with Buddhist symbols
  4. burnt grains comprising wheat, jowar, gram, ber and rice.

Excavation at paunar

The excavation revealed four cultural periods Period I, Period IIA, Period IIB, Period III of which Period III is important.

Period III

Witnessing the prosperity of Paunar, this period could be roughly assigned to late Satavahana and Vakataka times.


The ceramic evidence comprised the black-and-red ware, the Red Polished Ware, the amphora, associated with beautifully made beads of semi-precious stones, late Satavahana coins and a variety of stone plaques and fragmentary stone sculptures.


The structures associated with this period, included brick constructions with well-made foundations, ring-wells for soakage purposes and floorings made of rammed clay.


the houses had tiled roofs. The tiles bore impressions of rice and wheat husk. A Shell Stopper with couched lion motif was found from this level.

 Excavation at paithan

The first excavations at the site began in 1937 when four trenches were opened on the northern bank of the Godavari. The excavations identified six strata or layers of occupation: The excavations identified six strata or layers of occupation, which can be summarised as:

 Sixth Stratum

  • This layer, dated to the Satavahana period on the basis of coins, was characterised by a monumental architectural phase with the richest cultural assemblage of the sequence. 
  • Two rectangular brick structures were uncovered side by side, with a narrow passage between them.
  •  These structures are the two Early Hindu temples that became a key focus of the present excavations. 
  • To the south, at a slightly greater depth, a length of drain was discovered

Fifth Stratum

This layer appears to represent a gap in occupation or a major re-levelling of the site. It is up to 2.4 m deep and contains only a few minor antiquities of the Satavahana period. Above this layer, the collapsed structures of the fourth stratum were found.

In 1965 excavations in the vicinity of the Narasimha Temple on top of the ancient mound revealed a four-period sequence.

 Period I

In these layers, two supposedly early Satavahana coins with a Gaja-Lakshmi motif were found together with:

  1.  glass beads, 
  2. crystal ear-reels
  3. legged querns 
  4. a fine bone or ivory lion capital
  5. kaolin figurines of a nude goddess 
  6. an ivory kohl applicator.
  • Small fragments of worn Northern Black Polished ware (NBP) were als found in the upper levels. 
  • This period is dated roughly to 300 bc–ad 100, probably based on the coins and NBP.

Period II

  • At this level, thick deposits of mud and silt came to light to a depth of 1.22m. 
  • These are interpreted as flood deposits, but it is unclear whether this is correct.
  • This period is dated c. ad 100–500, but no evidence is presented to support this date.

Period III

  • A portion of a brick temple in a ruined condition came to light in these levels. 
  • The plinth and jangha were built of very large bricks, but the size is unfortunately, not stated
  • Iron objects and slag were found in the foundations of the structure
  • . This phase is tentatively ascribed to the Rashtrakuta. period (ad 600–800), but no evidence is cited to support this date.

Period IV

  • A disturbed layer in which an underground chamber of a house, approached by a flight of steps in the walls, was found.
  •  The finds included crude and poorly fired pottery, generally of the common red variety. 
  • The period is dated ad 1700– 1800 but again, no supporting evidence is given.


  • The satavahanas decline came under its last king Yajna Sri Satakarni
  • The dynasty was soon extinguished following the rise of its feudatories, perhaps on account of a decline in central power.
  • The entire rule lasted 430 years
  • The dynasty that came after satavahana dynasty is the sunga dynasty

Do you think Satavahanas were one of the greatest dynasties? let us know what you think in the comments below!



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