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The Emergence of Kingdoms and Empires, The Post-Mauryan Kingdoms and Empires

Satavahana, Sungas, Gangetic Plain, Menander, Mauryan Empire

The Mauryan Empire rapidly disintegrated after Ashoka’s death in 232 bc. In its aftermath, invaders fought for outlying territories in the north, while regional monarchies gained power in the south. The Mauryas’ original territorial core on the Gangetic Plain was defended by the Sunga dynasty, which had consolidated its power by about 185 bc. The Sungas reigned over extensive lands and were the most powerful of the north-central kingdoms. Their dynasty lasted about a century, and was succeeded by the Kanvas, whose shrunken kingdom was defeated in 28 bc by the Andhra dynasty, invading from their homeland in the south.

The invasions of northern India came in several waves from Central Asia. Indo-Greeks conquered the northwestern portion of the empire in about 180 bc. Shortly thereafter, Menander, an Indo-Greek king, conquered much of the remainder of northern India. By the 1st century bc, the Shakas of Central Asia had brought numerous tribes in western India under their control. In south and central India, the Andhra dynasty (also known as Satavahana) ruled for almost four centuries. The Maha-Meghavahanas held territories in the southeast, while the Chola and the Pandya dynasties controlled the far south.

The first centuries ad saw the rise and triumph of another major power from Central Asia: the Kushanas. At its height, this empire stretched from Afghanistan to possibly as far as eastern Uttar Pradesh, and included Gujarat and central India. Although it is unclear whether he converted himself, the Kushana ruler Kanishka (who ruled in the late 1st century ad) is considered one of the great patrons of Buddhism. He is credited with convening the fourth council on Buddhism that marked the development of Mahayana Buddhism.

Between the decline of the Mauryas and the emergence of the Gupta Empire, India was at the center of a global economy, with social and religious links to all of Asia. Trade with the Roman Empire brought an abundance of Roman gold coins to India beginning in the 1st century ad. These coins were melted down and reminted by the Kushanas. Buddhism spread through Central Asia and Southeast Asia toward China. Indian art, particularly sculpture, achieved greatness in this era.

Article key phrases:

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