After the fall of the Mauryan Empire, the history of the Andhras, as a
continuous account of political and cultural events, commences with the rise of
the Satavahanas as a political power. According to Matsya Purana there were 29
rulers of this dynasty. They ruled over the Andhradesa including Deccan for
about 400 years from the 2nd century B.C. to beyond the 2nd century A.D.
Satavahanas were also called Salivahanas and Satakarnis. In the 3rd century
B.C., Simukha, the founder of the Satavahana dynasty, unified the various Andhra
principalities into one kingdom and became its ruler (271 B.C. -- 248 B.C.).
Dharanikota near Amaravati in Guntur district was the first capital of Simukha,
but later he shifted his capital to Pratishtana (Paithan in Aurangabad
Satakarni II, the sixth ruler of the dynasty (184 B.C.) was an able ruler who
extended his kingdom to the west by conquering Malwa. According to inscriptional
evidence, he extended the boundaries of his realm far into central India across
the Vindhyas, perhaps up to the river Ganges. He ruled for a long period of 56
years. The long reign of Satakarni II was followed successively by eight rulers
of whom none can be credited with any notable achievement. It was the accession
of Pulumavi I that brought renewed strength and glory to their kingdom. He
struck down the last of the Kanva rulers, Susarman, in 28 B.C. and occupied
Magadha. The Satavahanas thus assumed an all-India significance as imperial
rulers in succession to the Nandas, Mauryas, Sungas and Kanvas. The kings, who
succeeded him, appear to have been driven, by the Sakas, out of Maharashtra back
to their home land in Andhra. The only silver lining in that murky atmosphere
was the excellent literary work, Gathasaptasati, of Hala, the 17th Satavahana
It was during the time of Gautamiputra Satakarni, the 23rd ruler of this
dynasty, who ascended the throne in A.D.62, their kingdom made a sharp recovery
of the lost territories from the western Kshatrapas. A Nasik record describes
him as the restorer of the glory of the Satavahanas. His kingdom included the
territories of Asika, Assaka, Mulaka, Saurashtra, Kukura, Aparanta, Anupa,
Vidarbha, Akara and Avanti, and the mountainous regions of Vindhya, Achavata,
Pariyatra, Sahya, Kanhagiri, Siritana, Malaya, Mahendra, Sata and Chakora, and
extended as far as seas on either side. Though some of the mountains mentioned
in the inscription cannot be identified at present, it is clear that
Gautamiputra's kingdom covered not only the peninsular India, but also the
southern parts of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. He passed away
in A.D.86, and his successors witnessed the dismemberment of their far flung
empire. Pulumavi II succeeded Gautamiputra and ruled for 28 years. In spite of
serious efforts put forth by him to safeguard the frontiers of his vast empire,
the closing years of his reign witnessed the decline of the Satavahana
authority. Yajnasri Satakarni's accession to the throne in A.D.128 brought
matters to a crisis. He came into conflict with the Saka Satrap, Rudradamana,
and suffered defeat, and consequently, lost all his western possessions.
However, he continued to rule till A.D.157 over a truncated dominion. His
ship-marked coins suggest extensive maritime trade during his days. With him
passed away the age of the great Satavahanas and by the end of the 2nd century
A.D., the rule of the Satavahanas was a matter of past history.
There were different opinions about their capital. Some argue that Srikakulam in
Krishna district was their capital. Evidences show that Dharanikota in Guntur
district, Dharmapuri in Karimnagar district and Paithan in Aurangabad district
of Maharashtra State were used as capitals at various periods.
The Deccan, during this period, was an emporium of inland and maritime trade.
The region between the rivers of Godavari and Krishna was full of ports and
throbbing with activity. There was plentiful currency to facilitate trade and
the Telugus entered upon a period of great industrial, commercial and maritime
Buddhism flourished throughout the period and at the same time the rulers were
devoted to Vedic ritualism. They constructed several Buddhist Stupas, Chaityas
and Viharas. The Stupa at Amaravati is known for its architecture par
excellence. Satavahanas were not only the able rulers but were also lovers of
literacy and architecture. The 17th ruler of this dynasty, Hala was himself a
great poet and his ``Gathasaptasati'' in Prakrit was well received by all.
Gunadhya, the minister of Hala was the author of ``Brihatkadha''.
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 dynasties. During the period from
A.D.180 to A.D.624, Ikshvakus, Brihatphalayanas, Salankayanas, Vishnukundins,
Vakatakas, Pallavas, Anandagotras, Kalingas and others ruled over the Andhra
area with their small kingdoms. Such instability continued to prevail until the
rise of the Eastern Chalukyas.
Important among them were the Ikshvakus. The Puranas mention them as the
Sriparvatiyas. The present Nagarjunakonda was then known as Sriparvata and
Vijayapuri, near it, was their capital. They patronised Buddhism, though they
followed the vedic ritualism. After the Ikshvakus, a part of the Andhra region
north of the river Krishna was ruled over by Jayavarma of Brihatphalayana gotra.
Salankayanas ruled over a part of the East Coast with Vengi as their capital.
Next to rule were the Vishnukundins who occupied the territory between the
Krishna and Godavari. It is believed that their capital was Indrapura, which can
be identified with the modern Indrapalagutta in Ramannapet taluk of Nalgonda
district. By A.D.514, the land north of the Godavari, known, as Kalinga became
independent. The area south of the Krishna fell to the share of the Pallavas,
who ruled from Kanchi. The Vakatakas occupied the present Telangana. This state
of affairs continued with few changes up to the beginning of the 7th century
Buddhism continued, though in a decadent form during this period. Mahayanism
gave wide currency to the belief that the installation and worship of Buddha and
Bodhisattva images, and the erection of stupas conferred great merit. The
Madhyamika School of thought in Mahayana was propounded by Nagarjuna. Sanskrit
came to occupy the place of Prakrit as the language of inscriptions. The
Vishnukundins extended patronage to architecture and sculpture. The cave temples
at Mogalrajapuram and Undavalli near Vijayawada bear testimony to their artistic
The period of Andhra history, between A.D.624 and A.D.1323, spanning over seven
centuries, is significant for the sea-change it brought in all spheres of the
human activity; social, religious, linguistic and literary. During this period,
Desi, the indigenous Telugu language, emerged as a literary medium overthrowing
the domination of Prakrit and Sanskrit. As a result, Andhradesa achieved an
identity and a distinction of its own as an important constituent of Indian
This change was brought by strong historical forces, namely, the Eastern and
Western Chalukyas, the Rashtrakutas and the early Cholas. Kakatiyas came to
power during the later half of this period and extended their rule over the
entire Telugu land with the exception of a small land in the northeast. Arts,
crafts, language and literature flourished under their benevolent patronage.