Pre-Gupta Period



  • Demetrius was the first foreign king after Alexander who carried Greek army into India about 190 B.C. & conquered North Western part of the Mauryan Empire.
  • Most famous among Indo-Greek rulers was Menander who reached Pataliputra. His capital was Sakala or Sialkot.
  • He was converted to Buddhism by Nagasena or Nagarjuna & their conversation was recorded in a book, Milindapanho i.e Questions of Milinda.
  • Indo-Greeks were credited with the introduction of Gold coins in India.
  • Practice of military governorship (Strategos).
  • The Greek Ambassador Heliodorus set up a pillar in honour of Vishnu at Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh.
  • Heliocles was the last Greek King to rule over Bactria & India.
  • The first Saka King in India was Maures or Moga with Gandhara as his capital.
  • Sakas introduce Satrap system (appointing provincial governor).
  • Most famous Saka king in Western India was Rudra Daman I whose Junagarh inscription (150 A.D.) records his achievements. He repaired the Sudarshan Lake of Mauryan times in the Kathiawar area.
The Parthians – The most famous Parthian king was Gondophernes, in whose reign St. Thomas is said to have come to India for the propagation of Christianity.

Kushanas :-
  • The name originally meant a tribe or people or family of the Yuch-Chis or Tocharians.
  • Kujula Kadphises was the founder & he minted copper coins with Roman influence.
  • Vima Kadphises started the practice of issuing coins by Indian rulers & his coins contained Siva with his long trident & the monarch himself on the other side.
  • Succeeded by Kanishka, from when the Saka era begins (A.D. 78), Peshawar was his first capital & Mathura, the second.
  • Kanishka was a great patron of Buddhism (Mahayana) & the Fourth Buddhist Council was held under his patronage at Kashmir under the Presidentship of Vasumitra.
  • Succeeded by Vashishka, then Huvishka & so on & the last ruler of the Kushan dynasty was Vasudeva (220 A.D.).
Schools of Art – 
  • Gandhara School of Art – 
  1. This school emerged from 1st century B.C. onwards. It was not patronized by Indo-Greeks but by Sakas & Kushanas. 
  2. Hadda & Bamiyan were main centers.
  3. This was a fusion of Greek & Indian styles from the very beginning. The subjects were Indian & the style was Greco-Roman. Thus the mother of Buddha resembled a Greek Goddess while Buddha himself too had an Apollo like face. Greek gods were depicted as paying obeisance to Buddha.
  4. The Buddha of this school is depicted with focus on bodily features such as muscular body, curly hair & semi-transparent clothes.
  5. Initially they used soft material such as wood & stucco. Later they began to use blue-grey stone.

  • Mathura School of Art – 
  1. It was the oldest & flourished from 2nd century B.C. onwards. It was indigenous in origin & was patronized by local rulers. But later with the advent of Kushanas, foreign influence was visible clearly.
  2. Initial subjects were Buddha, Mahavira & Kanishka. Krishna was ignored before the Gupta period. Beautiful images of Siva as ardh-nariishwar were built. Krishna, balram & surya too were its subjects.
  3. The images have a deep spiritual outlook. Buddha is shown in meditation mode. Focus is not on highlighting the bodily features of Buddha but on his spiritualistic aura & content on face. Popular depictions of Buddha are in the Padmasana-mudra (sitting cossed legged & meditating) & Dharma-chakra-parivartana-mudra (giving sermons).
  4. They used White spotted red sandstone.

  • The Amrawati / Vengi School – 
  1. It flourished from 1st century B.C. onwards in vengi, Nagarjunkonda, kurnool & krishna-godavari region.
  2. It was indigenous throughout & was patronised by Satavahanas, Ikshavakus & later Vakatakas.
  3. It made images of Buddha & brahmanical deities.
  4. These images are famous for their feminine beauty & sensuous appeal.
  5. They used white marble in their images.

Satavahanas :- 

  • Ruled for 460 years continuously.
  • Satavahanas were successor of Mauryas in Deccan & Central India.
  • The kings are mentioned in the Puranas as belonging to the Andhra territory & tribe.
  • Simukha was the first ruler of the dynasty with his capital at Pratishthana or Paithan on the Godavari in Aurangabad district, Maharashtra.
  • Nanaghat inscription mentions Satakarni I as “Dakshinapatha-pathi“, thus implying their control over the Deccan also.
  • The early Satavahana period after Satakarni I did not witness any remarkable activities except for the composition of “Gathasaptasathi” by the ruler Hala.
  • Later Satavahana period beginning with Gautamiputra Satakarni was the period of their revival who defeated the family greatest rivals, sakas.
  • He was called as “Ekabrahmana” in the Nasik inscription/prasasti by his mother Gautami Balasri.
  • Satavahanas were the first rulers to make land grants to the Brahmanas.
Other Dynasty :- 
  • Kharavela of Kalinga belonged to the Mahameghavahana line of the Chetis / Chedis.
  • He is famous for the Hathigumpha inscription which was engraved on the Udaigiri hills near Bhuvaneshwar.
  • He was a Jaina & got cave shelters excavated for the Jania monks in the Udaigiri hills.

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