Emergence of States, the Satavahanas, Trade and Commercial Activities

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Emergence of States in Kalinga and Deccan

After the decline of the Mauryan empire, the regions, including Kalinga and Deccan, noticed the emergence of some powerful kingdoms.


After Mauryas, the Kalinga became popular under the Chedi dynasty. Kharavela was the significant and most famous ruler of this dynasty. His achievements were known through the Hathigumpha inscription. The inscription states that the ruler Kharavela was a follower of Jainism and fought many battles with the neighbours. The inscription named thus because of the image of an elephant carved out of stone standing next to the inscription.

The Satavahanas

The Satavahanas became popular during the first century AD after the establishment of the kingdom by Simuka. The empire reached its zenith under Gautamiputra Satakarni and Vasistaputra Pulamavi. He founded the kingdom by defeating the Shaka ruler, Nahapana. Satavahanas had their capital at Pratishthana near Aurangabad. Yajna Sri Satakarni was the last ruler of this dynasty.

Satavahana Polity and Administration

  • The Satavahana kingdom was divided into subdivisions called aharas or rashtras. Grama was the lowest level of administration with gramika as its head. The advisors of the king were called amatyas.

  • Revenue collection was done both in cash and kind. The Satavahanas made tax free gifts to Buddhists and Brahmanas for religious merit.

Trade and Commercial Activities

  • Internal and External trade

  • Trade with West and Central Asia

  • Guilds

  • Crafts and Industries

Internal and External Trade

The growth of trade and commercial activities became the major feature of the post-Maurya period. Trading activities prospered, both internally and externally. The internal trade routes of India were the Uttarapatha connecting, the northern and eastern part of India, and the second one was dakshinapatha, which connected the peninsular India with the western and northern part of India.

  • Dakshinapatha route was the primary route that connected north and south India. This starts from Kausambi through Ujjain and extended up to Broach. This was also connected with Pratishthana (capital of Satavahana)

Internal and External Trade

Internal and External Trade

  • External route trade flourished with the discovery of Hippalus wind by Greek navigator, Hippalus, in 45 AD. Important western coasts was Bharukachchha Sopara, Kalyana, Muziris etc. they had trading contacts with the Roman empire through the Red Sea.

  • Prominent ports on the eastern coast were Tamralipti (West Bengal), Arikamedu (Tamil Nadu). These ports navigate the trading relation with Southeast Asia.

Trade with the West and India

was a prominent feature of the post-Maurya period. Among the Western trading countries, commercial relation with the Roman empire was an important one. The trade was mainly carried through sea route, particularly through the ports on the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.

  • The trading relationship with the Roman empire was enumerated in the book Periplus of the Erythrean Sea, written in first century AD. Indian products like spices, perfumes, jewels, ivory, and fine textiles were exported to Rome, especially from South India.

  • Pepper was the major spice exported from India; hence it is called yavanapriya. Roman import items include semi-precious and precious stones like diamond, carnelian, turquoise, agate, sapphire, pearls, indigo, sandalwood, and steel.

  • Romans exported gold and silver to India. There was a drain of Roman coins to India. This was evident from the hoard of Roman coins excavated in the subcontinent. The wine was another item of export from the Roman empire. This was evident from the wine amphorae, and Roman ware found from Arikamedu in South India. Along with this, they also brought tin, lead, coral, and slave girls.

Export from India To Rome

  • Spices-pepper

  • semi-precious and precious stones like diamond, carnelian, turquoise, agate, sapphire

  • indigo, steel

  • sandal wood

Export from Rome To India

  • Gold and silver

  • Wine

  • tin, lead, coral and slave girls

Crafts and Industries

  • The trade and commerce, both internal and external enhanced craft production. Minlindapanho gave reference to the 60 occupations associated with the craft.

  • There was specialisation in crafts production. Ujjain was the major bead making centre. The textile industry was another famous industry. Mathura and vanga was famous for cotton and silk textile industry. Dying industry also flourished.


  • Guilds were the association of merchants and craftsmen following the same profession. These groups served as banks and received a deposit from the public on a fixed rate of interest.

  • The merchant communities were organised into groups called Shreni or guilds. These guilds were under the head called Sreshthi. Sartha was another type of guild prevalent which signified caravan trading corporations. The head of such a corporation was called sarthavaha.

  • Like the traders, the craftsmen were organised into guilds, under Jyestha.

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