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 in Telugu or Tamil , which seems to have been in use in their heartland abutting the Godavari, probably Kotilingala, Karimnagar district and Krishna, 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.
The Sātavāhana Empire also known as Andhras were a dynasty which ruled from Junnar (Pune), Prathisthan (Paithan) in Maharashtra and Kotilingala (Karimnagar) 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.
Pre- and early Satavahanas/Andhras came from Kotilingala, Andhra Pradesh.The Satavahana was a Brahmin dynasty first mentioned in the Aitareya Brahmana, dating back to the 8th century BCE mentioning them to be of Vishwamitra's lineage. In the Pūrānas and on their coins the dynasty is variously referred to as the Sātavāhanas, Sātakarnīs, Andhras and Andhrabhrityas.A reference to the Sātavāhanas by the Greek traveller Megasthenes indicates that they possessed 100,000 infantry, 1,000 elephants, and had more than 30 well built fortified towns:
Next come the Andarae, a still more powerful race, which possesses numerous villages, and thirty towns defended by walls and towers, and which supplies its king with an army of 100,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry, and 1,000 elephants.
—Plin. Hist. Nat. VI. 21. 8-23. 11., quoting Megasthenes
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.
The Edicts of Ashoka mention the Sātavāhanas as feudatories of Emperor Ashoka. Fragment of the 6th Pillar Edicts of Ashoka (238 BCE), in Brahmi, sandstone. British Museum.The Sātavāhanas began as feudatories to the Mauryan Empire. They seem to have been under the control of Emperor Ashoka, who claims they were in his domain, and that he introduced Buddhism among them:
Here in the king's domain among the Yavanas (Greeks), the Kambojas, the Nabhakas, the Nabhapamkits, the Bhojas, the Pitinikas, the Andhras and the Palidas, everywhere people are following Beloved-of-the-Gods' instructions in Dhamma.
—Rock Edict Nb13 (S. Dhammika)
The Satavahanas declared independence sometime after the death of Ashoka (232 BCE), as the Maurya Empire began to weaken.
It is believed that they were originally Brahmins, practicing Hindu religion (as per Sthala Purana of Amaravathi. Some rulers like Maharaja Satakarni are believed to have performed Vedic sacrifices as well.
They were not only worshipers of Vishnu and Shiva but also respected Buddha, but also other incarnations of, Gauri, Indra, the sun and moon.They were mostly Buddhistic Vaishnavites. Under their reign, Buddha had been worshiped as a form of Vishnu in Amaravati.
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.
Simuka (c.230-207 BCE)
After becoming independent around 230 BCE, Simuka, the founder of the dynasty, conquered Maharashtra, Malwa and part of Madhya Pradesh. He was succeeded by his brother Kanha (or Krishna) (r. 207-189 BCE), who further extended his kingdom to the west and the south.
Satakarni (c.180-124 BCE)
Early Satakarni issue, Maharashtra - Vidarbha type.
Satavahana 1st century BCE coin inscribed in Brahmi: "(Sataka)Nisa". British Museum.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 - Ashwamedha yajna. 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.
By this time the dynasty was well established, with its capital at Pratishthānapura (Paithan) in Maharashtra, and its power spreading into all of South India.
Kanva suzerainty (75-35 BCE)
Many small rulers succeeded Satakarni, such as Lambodara, Apilaka, Meghasvati and Kuntala Satakarni, who are thought to have been under the suzerainty of the Kanva dynasty. The Puranas (the Matsya Purana, the Vayu Purana, the Brahmanda Purana, the Vishnu Purana) all state that the first of the Andhra kings rose to power in the 1st century BCE, by slaying Susarman, the last ruler of the Kanvas.This feat is usually thought to have been accomplished by Pulomavi (c. 30-6 BCE), who then ruled over Pataliputra.
Victory over the Shakas, Yavanas and Pahlavas
The first century CE saw another incursion of the Sakas of Central Asia into India, where they formed the dynasty of the Western Kshatrapas. The four immediate successors of Hāla (r. 20-24 CE) had short reigns totalling about a dozen years. During the reign of the Western Satrap Nahapana, the Satavahanas lost a considerable territory to the satraps, including eastern Malwa, Southern Gujarat, and Northern Konkan, from Broach to Sopara and the Nasik and Poona districts.
Gautamiputra Satakarni (78-106 CE)
Coin of Gautamiputra Satakarni.
Obv: King in profile. Prakrit legend "Rano Gotamiputasa Siri Yana Satakarnisa": "In the reign of Gautamiputra Sri Yana Satakarni"
Rev: Hill with Satavahana symbol, sun and moon. Dravidian legend "Arahanaku gotami putaku Hiru Yana Hatakanaku".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 family (The Kshaharata family 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 and is the Indian National Calendar.
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.
Silver coin of king Vashishtiputra Sātakarni (c. 160 CE).
Obv: Bust of king. Prakrit legend in the Brahmi script: "Siri Satakanisa Rano ... Vasithiputasa": "King Vasishtiputra Sri Satakarni"
Rev: Ujjain/Sātavāhana symbol left. Crescented six-arch chaitya hill right. River below. Dravidian legend in the Brahmi script: "Arahanaku Vahitti makanaku Tiru Hatakaniko" - rendered as classical Tamil to "The ruler, Vasitti's son, Highness Satakani" - -ko being the royal name suffixGautamiputra'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 family links with Rudradaman
"Rudradaman (...) who obtained good report because he, in spite of having twice in fair fight completely defeated Satakarni, the lord of Dakshinapatha, on account of the nearness of their connection did not destroy him."
—Junagadh rock inscription
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 Saurashtra but around the middle of the third century, the dynasty came to an end.
Decline of the Satavahanas
Coin of Gautamiputra Yajna Satakarni (r. 167-196 CE).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:
Western Satraps in the northwestern part of the kingdom.
Andhra Ikshvakus (or Srīparvatiyas) in the Krishna-Guntur region. (r. 220-320 CE).
Abhiras in the western part of the kingdom. They were ultimately to succeed the Sātavāhanas in their capital Pratishthānapura.
Chutus of Banavasi in North Karnataka.
Kadambas of Banavasi in North Karnataka.
Pallavas of Kanchipuram, of whom the first ruler was Simhavarman I (r. 275-300 CE).