September 04, 2014

Sathavahana Dynasty: Literary Sources, Archaeological Sources - Empire history of ancient Sathavahana Era (221 B.C. - 174 A.D.) period

SATHAVAHANAS (221 B.C. – 174 A.D.)


I. Literary Sources
  • Aitareya Brahmana: It is the first and the oldest literary source to mention the Andhras.
  • Puranas: Among all the Puranas, Matsya, Vayu and Vishnu Puranas in particular describe the Sathavahans as “Andhra Desiyah” and “Andhra Jatiyah”, and state that totally 30 Sathavahana Kings ruled for about 400 years.
  • Somadeva's Kathasarit sagara: This secular contemporary source gives us a very good account of the political history of the Sathavahanas.
  • Foreign Accounts:
    • Megasthenese (Greek Ambassador at Chandragupta Mauryas court) was the first foreigner to make a mention of the Andhras. In his “Indica”, he describes 30 Andhra chiefs as having great military strength.
    • Two other Greek works, Ptolemy’s Geography and the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea by an unknown Greek sailor (both belonging to 1st century A.D.) give us a good account of the trade relations between South India, including Andhra, and the Western World.
II. Archaeological Sources
  • Asokan Edicts: The historical period of 'Andhra Desa' is said to have begun with the Mauryan period. The Asokan Edicts in Prakrit language using Brahmi script are found at several places in Andhra such as Erragudi, Rajulamandagiri, Amaravati and Kottam. They reveal the extent of Mauryan authority and its administrative system over Andhra Desa. They refer to the Sathavahanas as "Andhra Bhrityas". It is held that Asoka approached the 30 chiefs of Andhra Desa (Simukha, the founder of Sathavahana dynasty, being one of them) for help in his war against his brothers to capture the throne of Pataliputra. The Andhra chiefs not only helped him in this war but also remained faithful to him till his death, after which they declared their independence under the leadership of Simukha.
    • Note on Andhra Desa: Andhra Desa, according to "Saktisangama Tantra" (a religious work), is also known as "Trilinga Desa", i.e., the land covered by the three famous Sivalingas of Srisailam (Kurnool District), Kaleswaram (Karimnagar District), and Draksharamam (East Godavari District). At these three places Lord Siva is called Mallikarjuna, Kaleswara and Bhimeswara respectively.
  • Nanaghat Inscription: This inscription in Maharashtra was issued by Naganika, wife of Sri Satakarni. It deals with Sri Satakarni's military achievements.
  • Hathigumpha Inscription: In this inscription of Kharavela, the Chedi ruler of Kalinga, the valour of Sri Satakarni was praised.
  • Nasik inscription: Issued by Gautami Balasri, mother of Gautamiputra Satakarni, it describes the military achievements of her son who is considered as the greatest of all the Sathavahanas.
  • Kanheri and Karle cave inscriptions: Some of the early caves at Kanheri and Karle in Maharashtra were the contribution of the Sathavahanas and the inscriptions in them give us sufficient evidence about the patronage of art and architecture by some of the Sathavahanas.
  • Numismatics: The Sathavahanas issued a good number of coins, some of which were made of potin (mixed metals) and others of lead. Gautamiputra Satakarni's coins, in particular, are very useful of knowing the economic conditions of the Sathavahana empire. Most of them bear shipmast, revealing the brisk maritime trade carrier on by the Sathavahanas with the Western World. The discovery of a good number of Roman gold coins in several parts of Andhra Desa also suggest that the Sathavahans had large scale trade contacts with the Romans.

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