NCERT Notes: Sunga Dynasty [Ancient Indian History Notes For UPSC]

NCERT notes on important topics for the IAS aspirants. These notes will also be useful for other competitive exams like banking PO, SSC, state civil services exams and so on. This article talks about Post-Mauryan India – Sunga Dynasty.

After the death of Ashoka, the Mauryan Empire steadily disintegrated as his successors were not able to keep the vast empire from fracturing away. Independent kingdoms arose out of the provinces. Foreign invasions were occurring in the northwest. Kalinga declared its independence. In the South, the Satavahanas rose to power and in the Gangetic plains, Sunga or Shunga dynasty replaced the Mauryas.

Pushyamitra Sunga
  • Pushyamitra Sunga was Brahmin army chief of Brihadratha, the last king of the Mauryas.
  • During a military parade, he killed Brihadratha and established himself on the throne in 185 or 186 BC.
  • According to some historians, this was an internal revolt against the last Mauryan king. Some say it was a Brahminical reaction to the Mauryan overwhelming patronage of Buddhism.
  • Pushyamitra Sunga’s capital was at Pataliputra.
  • He successfully countered attacks from two Greek kings namely, Menander and Demetrius.
  • He also thwarted an attack from the Kalinga king Kharavela.
  • He conquered Vidarbha.
  • He followed Brahminism. Some accounts portray him as a persecutor of Buddhists and a destroyer of stupas but there has been no authoritative evidence to this claim.
  • During his reign, the Stupas at Sanchi and Barhut were renovated. He built the sculptured stone gateway at Sanchi.
  • He performed Vedic sacrifices such as Ashvamedha, Rajasuya and Vajapeya.
  • Pushyamitra Sunga patronised the Sanskrit grammarian Patanjali.
  • According to the Puranas, his reign lasted for 36 years. He died in 151 BC.

Agnimitra
  • Was Pushyamitra’s son who succeeded him to the throne.
  • His reign lasted from about 149 BC to 141 BC.
  • By this time, Vidarbha broke away from the empire.
  • Agnimitra is the hero of Kalidasa’s poem, Malavikagnimitram.
  • His son Vasumitra succeeded him as king.

Last of the Sunga kings
  • Vasumitra’s successors are not clearly known. Different names crop up in several accounts such as Andhraka, Pulindaka, Vajramitra and Ghosha.
  • The last Sunga king was Devabhuti. He was preceded by Bhagabhadra.
  • Devabhuti was killed by his own minister, Vasudeva Kanva in around 73 BC. This established the Kanva dynasty at Magadha from 73 to 28 BC.

Effects of Sunga rule
  • Hinduism was revived under the Sungas.
  • The caste system was also revived with the rise of the Brahmanas.
  • Another important development during the Sunga reign was the emergence of various mixed castes and the integration of foreigners into Indian society.
  • The language of Sanskrit gained more prominence during this time. Even some Buddhist works of this time were composed in Sanskrit.
  • The Sungas patronised art and architecture. There was an increase in the usage of human figures and symbols in art during this period.

Also Read | UPSC IAS Prelims Examination: Important Dynasties and kingdoms of Ancient India

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