Previse 2024: Ancient Indian Dynasties

Previse 2024: Ancient Indian Dynasties

GS1 | Ancient Indian History

Table of contents

The tapestry of ancient India is richly woven with the rise and fall of powerful dynasties.

Understanding these dynasties is not just about memorizing dates and rulers; it's about unlocking the essence of governance, cultural shifts, and the subcontinent's very identity.

This article equips you with a strategic approach to deciphering these historical heavyweights. So, sharpen your swords of knowledge and embark on a conquest of ancient Indian dynasties!

The Mauryan Empire (322 BCE – 185 BCE)

  • Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Maurya dynasty who defeated Dhanananda, the last ruler of the Nanda dynasty.
    • Alexander abandoned Indian conquest and Chandragupta defeated Seleucus Nikator.
  • Second ruler was Bindusara, also called Amitraghata or Amitrochates by Greeks who had Deimachus as Greek ambassador.
  • Third ruler was Ashoka who is considered India's greatest ruler.
    • He was ruthless till 265 BC when the victory in battle of Kalinga changed his heart due to the bloodshed.
    • He followed non-violence and embraced and propagated Buddhism.
  • Third Buddhist council took place during his time at Pataliputra, presided over by Moggaliputta Tissa, which saw the compilation of Abhidhamma Pitaka.
  • To propagate dhamma, Ashoka used edicts and installed 14 major rock edicts across India.
    • Written in Prakrit, Aramaic and Greek languages and Brahmi and Kharosthi scripts.

The Gupta Empire (320 CE – 550 CE)

  • The Gupta Dynasty ruled a major portion of the Indian subcontinent from the early 4th century CE to the late 6th century CE. 
  • It was founded by Chandragupta I.
    • He assumed the title Maharajadhiraja and issued gold coins. 
  • Another great ruler was Samudragupta, known as the Napoleon of India, who reigned from 335 AD – 380 AD.
    • He also had titles like Vikramanka and Kaviraja.
    • Samudragupta’s court poet Harisena wrote Prayag Prashasti which gives an idea about his accession, conquests and subjugation of three Aryavarta kings.
  • Chandragupta II or Vikramaditya is one of the greatest rulers of the Gupta dynasty.
    • Many inscriptions attributed to him are at Delhi iron pillar, Sanchi and Supiya stone pillar.
    • He had navaratnas at his court and Chinese traveler Fa-Hien visited India during his reign.
  • Kumaragupta I established Nalanda University and performed Ashvamedha ceremony.

Satavahanas (late 2 BCE to till early 3 CE)

  • In the Deccan, the Satavahanas succeeded the Mauryas.
    • With Pratishthana and Amaravathi as capital, and were also known as the Andhras.
  • Simuka was the founder and is mentioned in the Nanaghat inscription.
  • Next ruler was Satakarni I who is described as Dakshina Pathapati in the Naneghat inscription and in Hathigumpha inscription.
  • Gautamiputra Satakarni was the greatest ruler with title Kshatriyadarpa Mardana in Nasik inscription and patronized Brahmanism and Buddhism.
    • Junagadh inscription states that he was defeated by Rudradaman I.
  • Vashishtaputra Pulamayi was the next ruler who is mentioned in Karla Caves' and Junagadh inscriptions.
    • He repaired the Amaravati stupa.
  • They patronized the Amaravati School of Art and rock-cut architecture and were succeeded by the Ikshvaku dynasty.

Pallavas (275 CE to 897 CE)

  • Early Pallavas came to power during the end of Ikshvaku rule in Andhra when Pallava king Simhavarma defeated the Ikshvaku king Rudrapurushadatta in 300 CE and established ”Karmarashtra”.
  • Sivaskandavarman was the greatest of the early Pallavas as his dominions extended from Krishna to the South Pennar and up to the Bellary district.
  • Nandivarman I was the last ruler of the early Pallava kings as Kalabhras invaded their territories..
  • The first ruler of Imperial Pallavas was Simhavishnu (575 – 590 CE) who defeated the Kalabhras.
  • Narasimhavarman I was the greatest of the Pallavas with the title Mahamalla or Mamalla (constructed Mamallappuram) who led a naval expedition to Sri Lanka.
    • During his reign, Hiuen Tsang visited Kanchi to see that Buddhism and Jainism flourished 
  • Narasimhavarman II with the title ”Rajasimha‟ constructed Shore temple at Mamallapuram and the Kailasanatha temple at Kanchi.

Chola Dynasty (from 850 CE)

  • Vijayalaya founded the Chola kingdom in 850 AD by conquering the Kaveri delta from Muttaraiyar and established the city of Thanjavur.
  • Rajaraja I was the most successful Chola king due to his naval expeditions in Sri Lanka and Maldives and victory over Cheras, Western and Eastern Chalukyas.
  • He constructed a dam across kaveri river and built Rajarajeswara temple or Brihadeeswara temple at Tanjore 
  • Next ruler was Rajendra I who defeated Mahipala 1 of Bengal and founded the city of Gangaikondacholapuram and constructed Rameshwaram temple.
    • He got the title Kadaramgonda. 
  • Chola rulers were Saivite and a philosophical system called Saiva Siddhanta was founded.
  • Practice of sati became widespread and the Devadasi system started..
  • Tamil literature progressed as seen in Kamban Ramayan by Kamban, Periyapuranam or Tiruttondarpuranam by Sekkilar, Kalladam by Kalladanar and Nalavenba by Pugalendi.
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