Friday, 5 October 2012


The Golden Age

Satavahana Empire

The fall of the Mauryan empire and the confusion caused due to it gave birth to a new dynasty called Satavahanas, also called as Andhra dynasty. Satavahanas is one of the most celebrated dynasties of ancient India. Satavahanas ruled over large area of modern western and southern India. King Simuka, belonging to the Satavahana family in present day Andhra Pradesh founded the Satavahana dynasty after defeating the Mauryan rule in the Deccan. Satavahana kings ruled much of Deccan plateau from 50 B.C to 250 A.D. But it was his son or nephew Satakarni I who made Satavahanas as most formidable power of western and southern India.

There were twenty-nine rulers of this dynasty according to Matsya Purana. The kings of this dynasty were great patrons of art and architecture. Buddhism flourished throughout the period and the rulers were also devoted to Vedic ritualism. They constructed several Buddhist Stupas, Viharas and Chaityas.

The decline and fall of the Satavahana Empire left the Andhra country in a political chaos. Local rulers as well as invaders tried to carve out small kingdoms for themselves and to establish many dynasties. During the period from AD 180 to AD 624 Ikshvakus, Vishnukundins, Vakatakas, Pallavas, Anandagotras, Kalingas and others ruled over the Andhra area with their small kingdoms.

Kushan Empire (ca. 2nd century b.c.-3rd century a.d.)

The post-Mauryan period from 185 BC to AD 300 saw the emergence of a number of kingdoms all over the Indian subcontinent. Some of these states were small, while others like that of the Kushans were large. This period witnessed a spurt in migrations into India, rise in foreign trade, and development of art. In short, the time scale between 1st century BC and 3rd century AD was a period of flux.

The Kushans originated from the Turkistan region of China. They moved towards Afghanistan in the 1st century AD and after displacing the Indo-Greeks, the Parthians and the Sakas, they established themselves in Taxila and Peshawar. The name Kushan derives from the Chinese term Guishang, used in historical writings to describe one branch of the Yuezhi-a loose confederation of Indo-European people who had been living in northwestern China until they were driven west by another group.

A number of foreigners came to India in successive waves of migrations between 200 BC and AD 100. These people settled down in different parts of India. They brought with them their own distinct cultural flavor, which, after mixing with the local cultures, enriched the cultural ethos of India. The foreigners who came into India were the Bactrian Greeks (also called the 'Indo-Greeks'), the Parthians, the Sakas, and the Kushans. With the exception of the Greeks, all others came from Central Asia. Under the rule of the Kushans, northwest India and adjoining regions participated both in seagoing trade and in commerce along the Silk Road to China.

The rule of Kanishka, the third Kushan emperor who flourished from the late first to the early/mid-second century A.D., was administered from two capitals: Purushapura (now Peshawar) near the Khyber Pass, and Mathura in northern India. Under Kanishka's rule, at the height of the dynasty, Kushan controlled a large territory ranging from the Aral Sea through areas that include present-day Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan into northern India as far east as Benares and as far south as Sanchi.

Gupta Dynasty

Gupta dynasty was ruled from around 320 to 600 CE and covered most of Northern India. It was one of the largest political and military empires in the world. The time of the Gupta Dynasty is referred to as Golden Age of India. It signaled the emergance of a leader, a Magadha ruler, Chandragupta I. Chandragupta successfully combated the foreign invasion and laid foundation of the great Gupta dynasty, the emperors of which ruled for the next 300 years, bringing the most prosperous era in Indian history. Srigupta I (270-290 AD) who was perhaps a petty ruler of Magadha (modern Bihar) established Gupta dynasty with Patliputra or Patna as its capital.

Samudragupta was perhaps the greatest king of Gupta dynasty. He ruled from around 335 to 380 AD. But the most detailed and authentic record of his reign is preserved in the rock pillar of the Allahabad, composed by Harisena.

Samudragupta's son, Chandragupta II tried to be better than his father, and most historians agree he was certainly successful. Vikramaditya is THE LEGENDARY emperor of India. During his reign India was at the prosperity and luxuriousness, so he also took a title of 'Vikramaditya'. Vikramaditya's reign was perhaps the most prosperous and progressive reign in the entire Indian history.

Vikramaditya was succeeded by his able son Kumargupta I. He maintained his hold over the vast empire of his forebears, which covered most of India except southern four states of India. He ruled from 415-455 AD. He performed the Ashwamegha Yagna and proclaimed himself to be Chakrawarti, king of all kings. During his reign the Gupta Empire was at its zenith.

After Kumargupta I, Skandagupta has succeeded the Gupta Dynasty. When Skandagupta took over the Gupta Empire, he had faced formidable enemies, the Huns. He successfully repelled their early invasions and proved to be able king and administrator in time of crisis. In spite of heroic efforts of SkandaGupta, Gupta empire did not survive long the shock it received from invasion of the Huns and internal uprising of Pushyamitras.

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