The Pre-Gupta Period

Sungas (185 BC -75 BC)

  • The Sungas succeeded the Mauryas.
  • Sungas were brahmanas.
  • Patanjali performed an Ashvamedha yajna for Pushyamaitra Sunga.
  • Pushyamitra was succeeded by his son Agnimitra, the hero of Kalidasa's drama, Malvikagnimitram.
  • The Puranas talk of ten kings of the Sunga dynasty.
  • One of the rulers among the later kings was Bhagavata, whose court Heliodorous, the ambassador of Antialkidas, stayed. Heliodoorous and Bhagavata erected the Besnagar Pillar.
  • The last Sunga king was Devabhuti.
  • Sungas were replaced by Kanvas.

Kanvas (75-25 B.C.)

  • They ruled in the western part of India.
  • Vasudeva Kanva killed the last Sunga king and usurped the power.
  • Kanvas were replaced by the Satavahanas.

Foreign Dynasties:

1. The Indo-Greeks or Bactrian Greeks

  • Some important Indo-Greek rulers were Euthydemus, Demetrius, Eucratides and Menander.
  • Menander (165-145 BC) ruled from Pakistan's capital Sakala (modern Sialkot).
  • Antialias was an Indo-greek king, and Heliodorous came from his court.
  • Milindpanho is the book containing the question of Menander (Milinda) to Nagasena and the answers of Nagasena. Later, Menander was converted to Buddhism by Nagasena.
  • The Indo-Greek rulers were the first ones whose coins carried the portrait of kings and their names.
  • They were the first rulers to issue gold coins.
  • They influenced Indian science and astronomy.
  • Gandhara School of Art was developed under Indo-Greeks.

2. The Sakas

  • Scythians or Sakas were nomadic tribes of Central Asia. They destroyed the Indo-Greek rule in northwest India.
  • Sakas entered India through Bolan pass.
  • Sakas ruled from 1st century B.C. to 4th century A.D.
  • The Sakas were divided into five branches and established themselves in various parts of India.
  • The first branch settled in Afghanistan. The second branch settled in Punjab with Taxila as its capital. The third branch settled in Mathura.
  • The fourth branch established its hold over western India, where the Sakas continued to rule until the 4th century A.D.
  • The fifth branch of Sakas established its power in upper Deccan.
  • Rudradaman-I was the most important king who ruled from Ujjain around 150AD.
  • The Sakas fought a war with a king, who called himself Vikramaditya. Vikramaditya emerged victorious in the war, and an era called Vikram Samvat is reckoned from his victory over the Sakas in 57 B.C.
  • Rudradaman-I issued the first-ever inscription in Chaste Sanskrit in Junagarh. From the Junagarh rock inscription, it appears that he undertook the repairs of the Sudarshana Lake.
  • The last Saka ruler Rudrasimha-III was defeated by Chandragupta -II of the Gupta Dynasty in about 390 AD.

3 The Parthians

  • The Parthians are also known as Pahalavas. They were the Iranian people. They ruled from Peshwar.
  • The earliest king of this dynasty was Vonones, who adopted the title of the great king of kings.
  • Gondophernes (19-45 A.D.) was the greatest of the Parthian kings.
  • St. Thomas, a Christian missionary, visited during the reign of Gondophernes.

4. The Kushanas or Yuechis

  • The Kushanas were the most potent foreign invaders who came to India.
  • The Kushanas were one of the five clans into which the Yuechis tribe was divided.
  • The first great Yuechi king was Kujala Kadphises or Kadphises I. He issued many coins with Indian gods and goddesses.
  • Vima Kadphises or Kadphises II succeeded Kadphises I. He issued gold and copper coins.
  • Shiva's devotee was as his coins showed Shiva holding a trident and a bull.


  • Kanishka (78 AD -101 AD) succeeded Kadphises-II. Kanishka was the most well-known and most significant king among the Kushana kings.
  • Kanishka founded the Saka era (78AD).
  • His capital was Purushapur, i.e., modern Peshwar.
  • Kanishka was a follower of Mahayana Buddhism. The Fourth Buddhist Council was held during Kanishka's reign.
  • He sent missionaries outside India for the propagation of Buddhism.
  • He constructed the Peshawar Stupa.
  • Kanishka's court was adorned by eminent scholars such as Parsva, Nagarjuna, Ashvaghosh, Vasumitra, chakra etc.
  • Mathura and Gandhara school of Arts attained their peak in his reign.
  • Sushruta Samhita, a book on surgery, was written by Sushruta during his time.

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