September 21, 2014

Language and Literature, Religion and Society of the Sathavahanas in Indian history


  • During the Sathavahana period, Prakrit was the court language, the medium of literary efforts and the language of inscriptions. Besides, Telugu language also had its origins in the Sathavahana period, for the Gathasaptasati of Hala, though written in Prakrit language, has several Telugu words. 
  • Sathavahanas patronized several scholars and writers who wrote some commendable works:
    • i) Sarvavarman - Kaatantra vyaharana
    • ii) Gunadhya - Brihatkatha and Dasarupa
    • iii) Somadeva - Kathasaritsagara
    • iv) Nagarjuna (Famous Buddhist scholar) - Sunyavada, Madhyamika Karika, Pragna Parimiti Sastra, Dwadasa Mikaya Sastra, Suhurllekha, etc.,
    • v) Hala (Sathavahana ruler) - Gatha Sapthasati and Sattasi.
  • The Sathavahanas patronized "Brahmanism" and performed various vedic sacrifices, such as Aswamedha, Raasuya, Vajapeya and Agnistoma yagas. They praised themselves as the protectors and upholders of the "Varnasrama Dharma" and gave liberal donations to Brahmins. The Sathavahanas were, infact the first in the ancient Indian history to start the practice of granting revenue-bearing lands to religious persons. 
  • Buddhism also flourished in Andhra Desa during the Sathavahanas period. Appearing in Andhra around the 4th century B.C., it became a popular religion due to the tolerant polices and liberal donations of the Sathavahana rulers and more particular due to the active support given to it by some of the Sathavahana royal ladies who were ardent Buddhists. Several Buddhist thirthas came into existence in Andhra Desa, and most of the monuments at these places were erected during the Sathavahana period. 
  • In the beginning of the Christian era, Andhra become one of the important centres of Mahayana Buddhism and the person who was responsible for this was the great Acharya Nagarjuna. He was a multidimensional personality and contributed immensely to several fields like religion, philosophy, literature, physics, chemistry, astronomy, and education. A resident of Sriparvata (which is now known as Nagarjuna Konda), he was for a while in the court of Gautamiputra Yajnasri. One of the prominent scholars of the Mahayana Buddhism, he expounded "Sunyavada" within its philosophy. Besides, he was the founder of the Nagarjuna University, which attracted Buddhist students not only from different parts of India but also from abroad.
  • The Society was organized on the basis of "Varnasrama Dharma", with the four varnas, namely Brahmin's, Kshatriya's, Vaishya's and Sudra's, supposedly carrying out their respective duties. 
  • The Sathavahana Society was divided into 4 classes on the basis of their official position and social status. The first and the highest was formed by high officials like Maharathas, Mahabhujas and Mahasenadhipathis. The second consisted of middle class officials like Mahamatras, Amatyas, Bhandargarikas, Naigamas, etc., The third comprised of small officials like Lekhakas, and professionals like Suvarnakaras. The fourth and the last class consisted of Lahavanijas, Vardhakis, Dassakas, etc., 
  • It was partriachal in nature, with the father enjoying immense powers over all the members of the family. Women, however, were respected in the family and occupied a good status in the society. Joint family system seems to be norm of the day.

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