Pre-Gupta Period

Pre-Gupta Period Important Facts:

pre-gupta period

Indo-Greeks:

  • 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.

Sakas:

  • 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-

  • This school emerged from 1st century B.C. onwards. It was not patronized by Indo-Greeks but by Sakas & Kushanas. 
  • Hadda & Bamiyan were main centers.
  • 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.
  • The Buddha of this school is depicted with focus on bodily features such as muscular body, curly hair & semi-transparent clothes.
  • Initially they used soft material such as wood & stucco. Later they began to use blue-grey stone.

Mathura School of Art – 

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • They used White spotted red sandstone.

The Amrawati / Vengi School- 

  • It flourished from 1st century B.C. onwards in vengi, Nagarjunkonda, kurnool & krishna-godavari region.
  • It was indigenous throughout & was patronised by Satavahanas, Ikshavakus & later Vakatakas.
  • It made images of Buddha & brahmanical deities.
  • These images are famous for their feminine beauty & sensuous appeal.
  • 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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