The Satavahana kingdom fell to pieces by the beginning of the third century AD. The pieces in different places were picked up and put together as diminutive kingdoms ruled by short lived dynasties except in the case of the Pallavas as we noticed above.
Among the successors of the Satavahanas are to be mentioned the Abhiras, the Chutus, the Ikshvakus, the Brihatphalalyanas, the Salankayanas, the Vishnukundins, the Anandas, the Kadambas and the Gangas of Talakad.
All accounts are agreed that the Abhiras were foreigners and were employed by the Sakas in their armies. According to the Puranas ten Abhira rulers succeeded the Satavahanas and ruled for 67 years. The Abhira dynasty which ruled in north-western Maharashtra was founded by one is varasena.
An Abhira Vasusena is known now from an inscription of 279 found in Nagarjunikonda. The Abhiras are supposed to be cowherds originally belonging to south Rajasthan, Malwa and other places at the beginning of the Christian era. A.L. Basham with great insight says that they were ‘perhaps responsible for the development of the cult of Krishna in his pastoral aspect’.
The Chutus ruled in the southern part of the Satavahana kingdom. Their coins are found in Mysore. Lead coins of the Chutus bearing the inscription Hariti have been discovered in the Anantapur and Cuddapah districts. The Chutus are treated as a part of the Satavahana dynasty though some historians consider them Nagas. They go out of Indian history with the coming in of the Kadambas.
Out of the ruins of the Satavahana kingdom in the east arose a small dynasty of rulers called the Ikshvakus. Their principality was confined to the Krishna-Guntur region. They are also called Andhrabhrityas just like the Satavahanas themselves. The Puranas call them Sri Parvatiyas, meaning ‘those of Sri Parvata’. According to the Puranas seven Ikshvakus ruled for 57 years. They also bore matronymies like the Satavahanas.
In fact the founder of the line was a Vasishtiputra Sri Santamula; he performed Vedic sacrifices. His son was Virapurisadatta (c.275). He married in the Saka family and contracted matrimonial alliance with the Chutus. The family was noted for its devotion to Buddhism. The ladies of the royal family were profuse in their charity to the Buddhist cause. Nagarjunikonda became a glorious centre for Buddhism, thanks to their philanthropy. We know of two more Ikshvaku rulers, Ehuvula Santamula and Rudrapurushandatta.
There was a short Abhira interregnum before the reign of Ehuvula Santamula. This Santamula completed further religious structures in Nagarjunikonda. During his days Buddhists from Ceylon came to the Andhradesa and were welcomed and accommodated. Ehuvula had two queens, a Saka queen and a local one.
The latter’s son was Vasishtiputra Rudrapurushadatta. With this prince the son of Vasishti, the Ikshvaku line came to an end. It is remembered today only for the sake of its artistic achievements and Buddhist benefactions. The art in Nagarjunikonda reveals undoubted Greek influence. Their reign was confined to the third century AD
After the Ikshvakus in the eastern Andhra region, government passed into the hands of another petty dynasty called the Brihatphalayanas a name derived from the gotra which they sported. We know only one king of this dynasty and he is Jayavarman, known to us from the only copper plate grant of that dynasty which has come down to us. This grant mentions Aharas as administrative divisions of the kingdom and also gifts to Brahmins by the name Brahmadeyas.
The Salankayanas who succeeded the Brihatphalayanas also bore a gotra name. Their first king Devavarman performed the horse sacrifice which indicates that even petty kings of the order of the Salankayanas could claim the privilege of performing asvamedha. Hastivarman of the Salankayana dynasty had the misfortune to be a contemporary of Samudragupta and to be defeatd by him.
Nandivarman I, Chandravarman and Nandivarman II followed by Skandavarman are the other kings of this dynasty known to us. Of these rulers Nandivarman II was a Vaishnava whiles the other were Saivas on whose seals the emblem of Siva’s bull was inscribed.
After the Salankayanas came the Vishnukundins. The Vishnukundins are about the most confused among the dynasties that succeeded the Satavahanas. In Guntur there is a place called Vinnukonda also known as Vishnukundinagara. The rulers who hailed from there bore the name of that place. They were Saivites. The founder of the dynasty was one Madhavavarman I, and we know of about seven rulers of that dynasty.
The founder of the line married a Vakataka princess and performed even the asvamedha and that too eleven times. His son Devavarman was followed by Madhvavarman II who was succeeded by Vikramendravarman I. After him Indrabattaraka, Viramhendra II, Govindavarman, Madhavavarman III in this order succeeded to the throne.
The dynasty started ruling in AD 440 and ended about AD 611 when Pulakesin II, Chalukya luckily put an end to this petty family which is not known to have done anything but perform Vedic sacrifices and assume high sounding titles.
There was a small dynasty of rulers called the Ananda kings named after the Ananda gotra whose inscriptions are found in the Guntur district and who seem to have risen from the ashes of the Ikshvakus. We know of one Kandara probably the founder of the line.
He gave his daughter in marriage to a Pallava and he successfully battled against the Vishnukundins. Damodaravarman and Attivarman were the other members of this dynasty. The founder of the line built also the capital of the kingdom and called it Kandarapura. Among them Damodaravarman was a Buddhist and the rest were Saivites.
In the middle of the 4th century there rose a power in south-western Deccan called the Kadambas. Their rise and spread is interesting not only as a political phenomenon but also as indicative of a sociological trend in South India, nay in the whole of India. The Kadambas of early medieval South India are known to the historians of South India mostly from their inscriptions and occasionally from later literature.
In fact, we must go beyond these and discover their origins two centuries earlier. Their name though known to their inscriptions as Kadhamba is really only Kadamba and they must be related to the Kadambus mentioned in Tamil Sangam literature of the second century AD and as piratical tribes residing in the north-western parts of the Tamil country and decisively defeated on more than one occasion by the great Chera rulers Imayavaramban and his son Senguttuvan.
In fact the Kadhambus of Sangam literature had for their totem the Kadambu tree sacred to Lord Muruga who is himself known as Kadamba. The Kadambas of early medieval history were also worshipppers of Subrahmaniya and they bear the same name; and the name of the founder of the line was Mayura (peacock) sarman.
Now these Kadambas in their inscriptions claim to be Brahmins and of the Manavya gotra and their claim is believed by many modern historians. It was a practice among early medieval dynasties, though they might belong to non-brahmanical varnas or tribal jatis, to claim descent from Vedic rishis and give brahmanical gotras to themselves.
This is part of a process known generally as Sanskritisation and is part of the evolutionary process of gotra-totem mutual influence. An understanding of this broad sociological phenomenon is necessary for the proper identification of the Kadambas.
The origin and early history of the Kadambas as understood by modern historians are derived mostly from a pillar inscription known famously as the Talagunda inscription of Kakusthavarman, actually put up by his son Santivarman. This Kakusthavarman was the fifth ruler of that dynasty and he ruled from 425 to 450.
According to that inscription, the founder of the line Mayurasarman (called sarman to establish the fiction of brahmanical origin) (345-60) went to Kanchi, the capital of the Pallavas, to prosecute his Vedic studies, but in a most unbrahmanical way picked up a quarrel with an equestrian soldier in the Palllava capital and entered a martial career.
He defeated the Pallava army in the west and carved out a small principality for himself. Some of his exploits are mentioned in a Prakrit inscription from Chandravalli. It speaks of his successful relations with the Abhiras, Punnatas and the Maukharis. He is known to have levied tribute from the subordinates of the Pallavas particularly the Brihadbanas who are known to Tamil Sangam literature as the Perumbanar.
The successors of Mayrusarman were Kangavarman (note that now varman has taken the place of sarman) followed by Baghirata and then Raghu and then Kakustavarman. Kakustavarman was a great ruler. He entered into matrimonial alliance with important ruling families not excluding the Guptas.
In all we know of eleven riders of this dynasty from Mayurasarman to Krishnavarma whose reign ended in 565. Among them Santivarman, the son of Kakustavarman, was a great conqueror but he had to face the hostility of the Pallavas. In his times the kingdom was divided into two and the southern districts came under the rule of his younger brother Krishnavarma.
This Krishnavarma, however, fought the Pallavas, was defeated and killed in battle and his son Vishnuvarman became a subordinate ally of the Pallavas, mentioned as Nanakkassa and Santivara whose names are not known to us otherwise. Mrigesavarman, the son of Santivarman tried his best to turn the tables on the Pallavas but could not.
His son Ravivarman was more successful than his immediate predecessor and he brought about the re-unification of the Kadamba kingdom. His successor Harivarman (538-550) was a contemporary of Pulakesin I, the Chalukya who founded his kingdom in 545 in Vatapi. Kirthivarman, the son of Pulakesin I conquered the Kadamba kingdom in about 565.
In the second half of the fourth century in south-eastern Mysore we find the Ganga ruling. We hear about two Ganga dynasties one in south Mysore and the other in Orissa, the former known as the western Gangas and the latter eastern Gangas. The western Ganga kingdom was founded by Konganivarma known also as Madhava I.
The inscriptions of these Gangas claim a descent for them from the Ikshvaku family. The founder of the line ruled from Kolar. He was succeeded by his brother’s son Madhava II. It is said he was a scholar, learned in the Upanishads and that he wrote also a commentary on the Kamasutra of one Dattaka a forerunner of Vatsyayana. Harivarma, the third king of the dynasty, changed the capital to Talakad near Sivasamudram. He was a subordinate of the Pallavas and was succeeded by Vishnugopa who renounced Jainism and embraced Vaishnavism.
His grandson Madhava III succeeded him, married a Kadamba princess and was a Saivite. He was succeeded by Avinita who ruled in the first half of the sixth century. He was a Jain but tolerated other religions. He came to the throne even while he was a baby. Avinita’s successor was Durvinita. He is famous for his scholarship. He is said to have learnt at the feet of Pujyapada, a Jain grammarian, who wrote the Sabdavatara.
The commentary on the fifteenth canto of Bharavi’s Kiratarjuniya said to have been written by this king is treated by responsible scholars as a literary forgery. He is credited with a translation of the Brihatkatha into Sanskrit. But more than these he expended his kingdom at the expense of the Pallavas by force of arms. The later Ganga rulers Trom Harivarman to Madhava III accepted Pallava over lordship to some extent.