Middle Kingdoms of India, Part 14


Coin of Abhiraka (Aghudaka), King of Western Satraps
Lion and dharmachakra on pedestals
Early 1st Century A.D.

Apr 16, 2015 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of India's great history, religious movements and temple architecture.

The Western Satraps

The 1st Century A.D. saw another incursion of the Sakas of Central Asia into India. This group formed the dynasty known as the Western Kshatrapas, or Satraps. 'The Western Satraps ruled over the western and central part of India comprised of Saurashtra and Malwa: modern Gujarat, Southern Sindh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh states. Their state, or at least part of it, was called "Ariaca" according to the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, a 1st Century Greek manuscript on sea navigation and trade.

The Western Satraps were successors to the Indo-Scythians, and were contemporaneous with the Kushans (our next group), who ruled the northern part of the Indian subcontinent. The Satraps were, at various times, overlords of both the Kushans and Satavahanas (Andhras) who ruled in Central India.

The Satraps are called "Western" in contrast to the "Northern" Indo-Scythian Satraps who ruled in the area of Mathura. Among these rulers were Rajuvula and his successors under the Kushans; the "Great Satrap" Kharapallana, and the Satrap Vanaspara.[14]

Although they called themselves "Satraps" on their coins, leading to their modern designation of "Western Satraps", Ptolemy in his 2nd Century Geographia still called them "Indo-Scythians".[15]

Altogether, there were 27 independent Western Satrap rulers during a period spanning approximately 350 years. The word "Kshatrapa" also stands for Satrap, and its equivalent in Persian, Ksatrapavan, which means viceroy or governor of a province.

During the reign of the Western Satrap ruler Nahapana, the Satavahanas lost a considerable territory to them, including eastern Malwa, Southern Gujarat, and Northern Konkan, from Broach to Sopara and the Nasik and Pune.[15a]

Eventually the ruler Gautamiputra (Sri Yagna) Sātakarni, also known as Shalivahan, (ruled 78–102 A.D.) defeated the Western Satrap ruler Nahapana, restoring the prestige of his dynasty by re-conquering a large part of the former dominions of the Sātavāhanas. 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 family (the Kshaharata family of Nahapana); who restored the glory of the Satavahana race.[15b]


[14] Kharapallana and Vanaspara are known from an inscription discovered in Sarnath, and dated to the 3rd year of Kanishka, in which they were paying allegiance to the Kushanas. Source: "A Catalogue of the Indian Coins in the British Museum. Andhras etc..." Rapson, p ciii

[15] Ptolemy, Geographia, Chap 7 [15a] The Satavahanas did not hold the western Deccan for long. They were gradually pushed out of the west by the Sakas (Western Khatrapas). The Kshaharata Nahapana's coins in the Nasik area indicate that the Western Kshatrapas controlled this region by the 1st Century A.D. [15b] Rapson, XXXVII, Original Prakrit, line 5 and 6 of the inscription: "Khatiya-dapa-mana-madanasa Saka-Yavana-Palhava-nisudanasa — Khakharatavamsa-niravasesa-karasa Satavahana-kula-yasa patithapana-karasa"


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