The Sātavāhanas (Marathi: सातवाहन, Telugu:శాతవాహనులు), were a dynasty which ruled from Junnar (Pune), Prathisthan (Paithan) in Maharashtra and Amaravati (Dharanikota) in Andhra Pradesh over Southern and Central India from around 230 BCE onward. Although there is some controversy about when the dynasty came to an end, the most liberal estimates suggest that it lasted about 450 years, until around 220 CE. The Satavahanas are credited for establishing peace in the country, resisting the onslaught of foreigners after the decline of Mauryan empire.
The traditional Chronology of Kishore Patnaik says that Satavahanas are to be identified with Sreeparvateeya Andhras, a remnant branch of Andhrabhrityus who have ruled Magadha between 766 bce and 316 bce.
In face of such confusions, the Kishore patnaik's chronology fits perfectly into place corroborated by various independent attestations.
For example, Satasri, the husband of Naganika,a powerful Queen from the Konkan house of Maharathi, was not correctly identified. While the majority thinks he was Sri Satakarni, the third ruler of the Puranic lists, reconcilation of the chronology with Demeritus and the Sunga kings will make him the sixth king.
However, the scholars who looked at these identifications closely reject both the possibilities.
Thus, the Satavahanas, who ruled the 'Dakshinapatha" as well as some of the Malwa area , are a later branch of Andhrabhrityus of Magadha. However, we have given the lists of the Kings as accpted by the general majority below.
Puranas variously talk of Andhra/Andhrabhrityu dynasties but they do not identify these lineages with Satavahanas. There are about 24 inscriptions and various numismatic evidences available about Satavahanas but none of these artifacts attest them to be Andhras.
However, it is largely accepted that Satavahanas are Andhras, originating somewhere in Andhra desa. (present Andhra pradesh)
The Sātavāhanas ruled a large and powerful empire that withstood the onslaughts from Central Asia. Aside from their military power, their commercialism and naval activity is evidenced by establishment of Indian colonies in southeast Asia for the first time in history.
It is believed that they were Buddhistic Brahmins. Some rulers like Maharaja Satakarni are believed to have performed Vedic sacrifices as well.
They were not only worshipers of The Buddha, but also other incarnations of Vishnu and Shiva, Gauri, Indra, the sun and moon. They were mostly Buddhistic Vaishnavites. Under their reign, in Amaravati, the historian Durga Prasad notices that Buddha had been worshiped as a form of Vishnu
The Satavahanas/ Andhras initially ruled in the area of Andhradesa, the Telugu name for the people country between the rivers Krishna and Godavari, which was always their heartland. The Pūrānas list 30 Andhra rulers. Many are known from their coins and inscriptions as well.
His successor Sātakarnī I was the sixth ruler of the Satavahana. He is said in the Puranas to have ruled for 56 years.
Satakarni defeated the Sunga dynasty of North India by wrestling Western Malwa from them, and performed several Vedic sacrifices at huge cost, including the Horse Sacrifice. He also was in conflict with the Kalinga ruler Kharavela, who mentions him in the Hathigumpha inscription. According to the Yuga Purana he conquered Kalinga following the death of Kharavela. He extended Satavahana rule over Madhya Pradesh and pushed back the Sakas from Pataliputra (he is thought to be the Yuga Purana's "Shata", an abbreviation of the full name “Shri Sata” that occurs on coins from Ujjain), where he subsequently ruled for 10 years.
Eventually Gautamiputra (Sri Yagna) Sātakarni (also known as Shalivahan) (r. 78-106 CE) defeated the Western Satrap ruler Nahapana, restoring the prestige of his dynasty by reconquering a large part of the former dominions of the Sātavāhanas. He was an ardent supporter of Hinduism.
According to the Nasik inscription made by his mother Gautami Balasri, he is the one...
...who crushed down the pride and conceit of the Kshatriyas (the native Indian princes, the Rajputs of Rajputana, Gujarat and Central India); who destroyed the Shakas (Western Kshatrapas), Yavanas (Indo-Greeks) and Pahlavas (Indo-Parthians),... who rooted the Khakharata familly (The Kshaharata familly of Nahapana); who restored the glory of the Satavahana race
Gautamiputra Satakarni may also have defeated Shaka king Vikramaditya in 78 AD and started the calendar known as Shalivahana era or Shaka era, which is followed by the Marathi and Telugu people even to this day.
Gautamiputra Sātakarni's son, Vashishtiputra Pulumāyi (r. 106-130 CE), succeeded him. Gautamiputra was the first Sātavāhana king to issue the portrait-type coinage, in a style derived from the Western Satraps.
Gautamiputra's brother, Vashishtiputra Sātakarni, married the daughter of Rudradaman I of the Western Satraps dynasty. Around 150 CE, Rudradaman I, now his father-in-law, waged war against the Satavahanas, who were defeated twice in these conflicts. Vashishtiputra Satakarni was only spared his life because of his familly links with Rudradaman:
As a result of his victories, Rudradaman regained all the former territories previously held by Nahapana, except for the extreme south territories of Poona and Nasik. Satavahana dominions were limited to their original base in the Deccan and eastern central India around Amaravati.
However, the last great king of this dynasty, Yajna Satakarni, defeated the Western Satraps and reconquered their southern regions in western and central India. During the reign of Sri Yajna Sātakarni (170-199 CE) the Sātavāhanas regained some prosperity, and some of his coins have been found in Surashtra but around the middle of the third century, the dynasty came to an end.
Four or five kings of Yajna Satakarni's line succeeded him, and continued to rule till about the mid 200s CE. However, the dynasty was soon extinguished following the rise of its feudatories, perhaps on account of a decline in central power.
Several dynasties divided the lands of the kingdom among themselves. Among them were:
The Satavahanas are the first native Indian rulers to issue their own coins with portraits of their rulers, starting with king Gautamiputra Satakarni, a practice derived from that of the Western Satraps he defeated, itself originating with the Indo-Greek kings to the northwest.
Satavahana coins give unique indications as to their chronology, language, and even facial features (curly hair, long ears and strong lips). They issued mainly lead and copper coins; their portrait-style silver coins were usually struck over coins of the Western Kshatrapa kings.
The coin legends of the Satavahanas, in all areas and all periods, used a Prakrit dialect without exception. Some reverse coin legends are in a Dravidian language/Proto-Telugu, which seems to have been in use in their heartland abutting the Kistna, probably Amaravati, Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh.
Their coins also display various traditional symbols, such as elephants, lions, horses and chaityas (stupas), as well as the "Ujjain symbol", a cross with four circles at the end. The legendary Ujjayini emperor Vikramditiya on whose name the Vikram Samvat is initiated might be Satakarni II a Satavahana emperor as the Ujjayini symbol also appeared on the Satavahana coins.
Of the Sātavāhana kings, Hāla (r. 20-24 CE) is famous for compiling the collection of Maharashtri poems known as the Gaha Sattasai (Sanskrit: Gāthā Saptashatī), although from linguistic evidence it seems that the work now extant must have been re-edited in the succeeding century or two. The Lilavati describes his marriage with a Ceylonese Princess.
The Satavahanas influenced South-East Asia to a great extent, spreading Hindu culture, language and religion into that part of the world. Their coins had images of ships.
The Sātavāhana kings are also remarkable for their contributions to Buddhist art and architecture. They built great stupas in the Krishna River Valley, including the stupa at Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh. The stupas were decorated in marble slabs and sculpted with scenes from the life of the Buddha, portrayed in a characteristic slim and elegant style. The Satavahana empire colonized southeast Asia and spread Indian culture to those parts. Mahayana Buddhism, which may have originated in Andhra (northwestern India being the alternative candidate), was carried to many parts of Asia by the rich maritime culture of the Satavahanas. The Amaravati style of sculpture spread to Southeast Asia at this time.
The Satavahanas contributed greatly to the embellishment of the Buddhist stupa of Sanchi. The gateways and the balustrade were built after 70 BCE, and appear to have been commissioned by them. An inscription records the gift of one of the top architraves of the Southern Gateway by the artisans of the Satavahana king Satakarni:
Throughout, the Buddhist art of the Satavahanas remained aniconic, denying any human representation of the Buddha, even in highly descriptive scenes. This remained true until the end of the Satavahana rule, in the 2nd century CE.
Probably as vassals of Kanva dynasty (75-35 BCE):