Western Satraps

Western Satraps

Infobox Former Country
native_name =
conventional_long_name = Western Satraps (Ariaca)
common_name = Western Satraps (Ariaca)
continent = Asia
region =
country =
era = Antiquity
status = Possibly vassals of Kushan Empire
event_start =
year_start = 35
date_start =
event1 =
date_event1 =
event_end =
year_end = 405
date_end =
p1 = Indo-Scythians
flag_p1 =
s1 = Gupta Empire
flag_s1 =

flag_type =

image_map_caption = Approximate territory of the Western Kshatrapas (35-405).
capital = Ujjain
common_languages = Scythian language
Pali (Kharoshthi script)
Sanskrit, Prakrit (Brahmi script)
Possibly Greek (Greek alphabet)
religion = Zoroastrianism
government_type = Monarchy
leader1 = Yapirajaya
year_leader1 = c. 35
leader2 = Rudrasimha III
year_leader2 = 388-395
title_leader = Satrap, King
legislature =

The Western Satraps, or Western Kshatrapas (35-405) were Saka rulers of the western and central part of India (Saurashtra and Malwa: modern Gujarat, Southern Sindh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh states). Their state, or at least part of it, was called "Ariaca" according to the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.

They were successors to the Indo-Scythians, and were contemporaneous with the Kushans who ruled the northern part of the Indian subcontinent and were possibly their overlords, and the Satavahana (Andhra) who ruled in Central India. They are called "Western" in contrast to the "Northern" Indo-Scythian satraps who ruled in the area of Mathura, such as Rajuvula, and his successors under the Kushans, the "Great Satrap" Kharapallana and the "Satrap" Vanaspara. [Kharapallana and Vanaspara are known from an inscription discovered in Sarnath, and dated to the 3rd year of Kanishka, in which they were paying allegiance to the Kushanas. Source: "A Catalogue of the Indian Coins in the British Museum. Andhras etc..." Rapson, p ciii] Although they called themselves "Satraps" on their coins, leading to their modern designation of "Western Satraps", Ptolemy in his 2nd century "Geographia" still called them "Indo-Scythians". [Ptolemy, "Geographia", Chap 7]

Altogether, there were 27 independent Western Satrap rulers during a period of about 350 years. The word "Kshatrapa" stands for "satrap", and its equivalent in Persian "Ksatrapavan", which means viceroy or governor of a province.


The Indo-Scythians ruled parts of northwestern India as far as Mathura. In the south, they took control of the area of Ujjain in the early 1st century BCE, but the area was recovered by the Malwa Vikramāditya in 57 BCE, an era that was commemorated by the establishment of the Vikrama era.

The Indo-Scythians (called Sakas by the Indians) later regained the area of Ujjain in Malwa around 78 CE, by defeating the dynasty of king Vikramāditya. After this victory, the Sakas established their own Saka era, which became the official era of the Indian national calendar. They also formed the Western Satraps kingdom, which was to rule the region for more than three centuries. ["The dynastic art of the Kushans", John Rosenfield, p130]

It is thought that the Western Satraps may have been viceroys of the Kushans, but later became independent, although they retained the name of Satraps.

Their wars and intermarriage with the Satavahanas are notable aspects of their kingdom.

First expansion: Kshaharata dynasty (2nd century CE)

The Western Satraps formerly started with the rather short-lived "Kshaharata" dynasty (also called "Chaharada", "Khaharata" or "Khakharata" depending on sources). [Rapson, p. CVII] The term "Kshaharata" is also known from the 6 CE Taxila copper plate inscription, in which it qualifies the Indo-Scytian ruler Liaka Kusulaka. The Nasik inscription of the 19th year of Sri Pulamavi also mentions the "Khakharatavasa", or "Kshaharata" race. ["Kharoshthi inscription, Taxila copper plate of Patika", Sten Konow, p25]

The Western Satrap Kshaharata dynasty was founded by Bhumaka (?-119), father of Nahapana, who only used on his coins the title of Satrap, and not that of "Raja" or "Raño" (king). Bhumaka was the father of the great ruler Nahapana, according to one of the latter's coins. His coins bear Buddhist symbols, such as the eight-spoked wheel (dharmachakra), or the lion seated on a capital, a representation of a pilar of Ashoka.

Nahapana succeeded to him, and became a very powerful ruler. He occupied portions of the Satavahana empire in western and central India. Nahapana held sway over Malwa, Southern Gujarat, and Northern Konkan, from Broach to Sopara and the Nasik and Poona districts. ["The Satavahanas did not hold the western Deccan for long. They were gradually pushed out of the west by the Sakas(Western Khatrapas). The Kshaharata Nahapana's coins inthe Nasik area indicate that the Western Kshatrapas controlledthis region by the first century A.D. By becoming master ofwide regions including Malwa, Southern Gujarat, and NorthernKonkan, from Broach to Sopara and the Nasik and Poona districts,Nahapana rose from the status of a mere Kshatrapa inthe year 41 (58 A.D.) to that of Mahakshatrapa in the year46 (63 A.D.)." in "History of the Andhras"] His son-in-law, the Saka Ushavadata (married to his daughter Dakshamitra), is known from inscriptions in Nasik and Karle to have been viceroy of Nahapana, ruling over the southern part of his territory. ["Catalogue of Indian coins of the British Museum. Andhras etc..." Rapson. p. LVII]

Nahapana is mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea under the name "Nambanus", ["History of the Andhras", Durga Prasad [ Source] ] as ruler of the area around Barigaza:

Under the Western Satraps, Barigaza was one of the main centers of Roman trade with India. The Periplus describes the many goods exchanged:

Goods were also brought down in quantity from Ujjain, the capital of the Western Satraps:

Some ships were also fitted out from Barigaza, to export goods westward across the Indian ocean:

Nahapana also established the Kshatrapa coinage.

Nahapana and Ushavadata were ultimately defeated by the powerful Satavahana king Gautamiputra Satakarni in 125. Gautramiputra drove the Sakas from Malwa and Western Maharashtra, forcing Nahapana west to Gujarat. Gautamiputra restruck many of Nahapana's coins.

Kardamaka dynasty, family of Castana (2nd-4th century)

A new dynasty, called the Bhadramukhas or Kardamaka dynasty, was established by the "Satrap" Castana circa 130 CE, which would last continuously until the 4th century. Castana was satrap of Ujjain during that period. A statue found in Mathura together with statues of the Kushan king Kanishka and Vima Kadphises, and bearing the name "Shastana" is often attributed to Castana himself, and suggests Castana may have been a feudatory of the Kushans. Conversely, the Rabatak inscription also claims Kushan dominion over Western Satrap territory (by mentionning Kushan control over the capital Ujjain), during the reign of Kanishka (120-150 CE).

Territory under Chastana

The territory of the Western Satraps at the time of Chastana is described extensively by the geographer Ptolemy in his "Geographia", where he qualifies them as "Indo-Scythians". He describes this territory as starting from Patalene in the West, to Ujjain in the east ("Ozena-Regia Tiastani", "Ozene, capital of king Chastana"), and beyond Barigaza in the south.

Victory against the Satavahanas: Rudradarman I (130-160 CE)

Around 130 CE, Rudradaman I, grandson of Chastana, took the title "Mahakshatrapa" ("Great Satrap"), and defended his kingdom from the Satavahanas. The conflict between Rudradaman and Satavahanas became so gruelling, that in order to contain the conflict, a matrimonial relationship was concluded by giving Rudradaman's daughter to the Satavahana king Vashishtiputra Satakarni.

Obv: Bust of Rudradaman, with corrupted Greek legend "OVONIΛOOCVΛCHΛNO".
Rev: Three-arched hill or Chaitya with river, crescent and sun. Brahmi
16mm, 2.0 grams.] The Satavahanas and the Western Satraps remained at war however, and Rudradaman I defeated the Satavahanas twice in these conflicts, only sparing the life of Vashishtiputra Satakarni due to their family alliance:

Rudradaman regained all the previous territories held by Nahapana, except for the southern areas of Poona and Nasik:

Recently discovered pillar inscriptions describe the presence of a Western Satrap named "Rupiamma" in the Bhandara district of the area of Vidarbha, in the extreme northeastern area of Maharashtra, where he erected the pillars. ["Vidarbha also was under the rule of another Mahakshatrapa named Rupiamma, whose pillar inscription was recently discovered at Pavni in the Bhandara district [Mirashi, Studies in Indology, Vol. IV, p. 109 f.] . It records the erection of a chhaya-stambha or sculptured pillar at the place. The Satavahanas had, Therefore, to leave Western Maharashtra and Vidarbha. They seem to have repaired to their capital Pratishthana where they continued to abide waiting for a favourable opportunity to oust the Shaka invaders." [http://www.maharashtra.gov.in/english/gazetteer/nasik/005%20History/001%20AncientPeriod.htm Source] ] .

Rudradarman is known for his sponsoring of the arts. He is known to have written poetry in the purest of Sanskrit, and made it his court language. His name is forever attached to the inscription by Sudharshini lake.

He had at his court a Greek writer named Yavanesvara ("Lord of the Greeks"), who translated from Greek to Sanskrit the Yavanajataka ("Saying of the Greeks"), an astrological treatise and India's earliest Sanskrit work in horoscopy. [Mc Evilley "The shape of ancient thought", p385 ("The Yavanajataka is the earliest surviving Sanskrit text in astrology, and constitute the basis of all later Indian developments in horoscopy", himself quoting David Pingree "The Yavanajataka of Sphujidhvaja" p5)]

Rudrasena II (256-278 CE)

The Kshatrapa dynasty seems to have reached a high level of prosperity under the rule of Rudrasena II (256-278), 19th ruler of Kshatrapa.

The last Kshatrapa ruler of the Chastana family was Visvasena (Vishwasen), brother and successor to Bhratadarman and son of Rudrasena II. A new family took over, started by the rule of Rudrasimha II, son of Lord (Svami) Jivadaman.

Defeat by the Guptas (c. 400 CE)

A new family took control under Rudrasimha III. A fragment from the Natya-darpana mentions the Gupta king Ramagupta, the elder brother of Chandragupta II, decided to expand his kingdom by attacking the Western Satraps in Gujarat.

The campaign soon took a turn for the worse and the Gupta army was trapped. The Saka king, Rudrasimha III, demanded that Ramagupta hand over his wife Dhruvadevi in exchange for peace. To avoid the ignominy the Guptas decide to send Madhavasena, a courtesan and a beloved of Chandragupta, disguised as the queen. However, Chandragupta changes the plan and himself goes to the Saka King disguised as the queen. He then kills Rudrasimha and later his own brother, Ramagupta. Dhruvadevi is then married to Chandragupta.

The Western Satraps were eventually conquered by emperor Chandragupta II. This brought and end to the rule of the Shakas on the subcontinent.


The Kshatrapas have a very rich and interesting coinage. It was based on the coinage of the earlier Indo-Greek Kings, with Greek or pseudo-Greek legend and life-like profiles of royal busts on the obverse. The reverse of the coins however is original and typically depict a thunderbolt and an arrow, and later, a chaitya or three-arched hill and river symbol with a crescent and the sun, within a legend in Brahmi. These coins are very informative, since they record the name of the King, of his father, and the date of issue, and have helped clarify the early history of India.

Regnal dates

Obv: Bust of Bhratadarman, with corrupted Greek legend "..OHIIOIH.." (Indo-Greek style).
Rev: Three-arched hill or Chaitya, with river, crescent and sun, within Prakrit legend in Brahmi script:"Rajno Mahaksatrapasa Rudrasenaputrasa Rajnah Ksatrapasa Bhartrdamnah" "King and Satrap Bhratadaman, son of King and Great Satrap Rudrasena".] From the reign of Rudrasimha I, the date of minting of each coin, reckoned in the Saka era, is usually written on the obverse behind the king's head in Brahmi numerals, allowing for a quite precise datation of the rule of each king. [Rapson CCVIII] This is a rather uncommon case in Indian numismatics. Some, such as the numismat R.C Senior considered that these dates might correspond to the much earlier Azes era instead.

Also the father of each king is systematically mentioned in the reverse legends, which allows to reconstruct the regnal succession.


Kharoshthi, a script in use in more northern territories (area of Gandhara), is employed together with the Brahmi script and the Greek script on the first coins of the Western Satraps, but is finally abandoned from the time of Chastana. [Rapson p. CIV] From that time, only the Brahmi script would remain, together with the Greek script on the facing, to write the Prakrit language employed by the Western satraps.

The coins of Nahapana bears the Greek script legend "PANNIΩ IAHAPATAC NAHAΠANAC", transliteration of the Prakrit "Raño Kshaharatasa Nahapanasa": "In the reign of Kshaharata Nahapana". The coins of Castana also have a readable legend "PANNIΩ IATPAΠAC CIASTANCA", transliteration of the Prakrit "Raño Kshatrapasa Castana": "In the reign of the Satrap Castana". After these two rulers, the legend in Greek script becomes denaturated, and seems to lose all signification, only retaining an esthetic value. By the 4th century, the coins of Rudrasimha II exhibit the following type of meaningless legend in corrupted Greek script: "...ΛIOΛVICIVIIIΛ...". [Rapson, "A Catalogue of Indian coins in the British Museum. Andhras etc...", p.cxcii]


The coins of the Kshatrapas were also very influential and imitated by neighbouring or later dynasties, such as the Satavahanas, and the Guptas. Silver coins of the Gupta kings Chandragupta II and his son Kumaragupta I adopted the Western Satrap design (itself derived from the Indo-Greeks) with bust of the ruler and pseudo-Greek inscription on the obverse, and a peacock replacing the chaitya hill with star and crescent on the reverse. ["Evidence of the conquest of Saurastra during the reign of Chandragupta II is to be seen in his rare silver coins which are more directly imitated from those of the Western Satraps... they retain some traces of the old inscriptions in Greek characters, while on the reverse, they substitute the Gupta type (a peacock) for the chaitya with crescent and star." in Rapson "A catalogue of Indian coins in the British Museum. The Andhras etc...", p.cli]

The Western Satrap coin design was also adopted by the subsequent dynasty of the Traikutakas (388-456).

Vassalage to the Kushans?

It is still unclear whether the Western Satraps were independent rulers or vassals of the Kushans. The continued use of the word "Satrap" on their coin would suggest a recognized sujetion to a higher ruler, possibly the Kushan emperor. ["The titles "Kshatrap" and "Mahakshatrapa" certainly show that the Western Kshatrapas were originally feudatories" in Rapson, "Coins of the British Museum", p.cv]

Also, a statue of Chastana was found in Mathura at the Temple of Mat together with the famous statues of Vima Kadphises and Kanishka. This also would suggest at least alliance and friendship, if not vassality. Finally Kanishka claims in the Rabatak inscription that his power extends to Ujjain, the classical capital of the Western Satrap realm. This combined with the presence of the Chastana statue side-by-side with Kanishka would also suggest Kushan alliance with the Western Satraps.

Finally, "Northern" Indo-Scythian satraps who ruled in the area of Mathura, the "Great Satrap" Kharapallana and the "Satrap" Vanaspara, are known from an inscription in Sarnath to have been feudatories of the Kushans. [Kharapallana and Vanaspara are known from an inscription discovered in Sarnath, and dated to the 3rd year of Kanishka, in which they were paying allegiance to the Kushanas. Source: "A Catalogue of the Indian Coins in the British Museum. Andhras etc..." Rapson, p ciii]

Generally the orientation taken by modern scholorship is that the Western Satraps were vassals of the Kushan, at least in the early period until Rudradaman I conquered the Yaudheyas who are usually thought themselves as Kushan vassals. The question is not considered as perfectly settled.



*Rapson, "A Catalogue of Indian coins in the British Museum. Andhras etc..."
*John Rosenfield, "The dynastic art of the Kushans", 1976
*Claudius Ptolemy, "The geography", Translated and edited by Edward Luther Stevenson, Dover Publications Inc., New York, ISBN 0486268969

Main rulers

Kshaharata dynasty

* (Yapirajaya)
* (Hospises)
* (Higaraka)
* (Abhiraka) (Aubhirakes)
* Bhumaka (?-119)
* Nahapana (119-124)

Bhadramukhas or Kardamaka dynasty

Family of Chastana:
* Chastana (c 120), son of Ghsamotika
* Jayadaman, son of Chastana
* Rudradaman I (c 130-150), son of Jayadaman
* Damajadasri I (170-175)
* Jivadaman (175 d 199)
* Rudrasimha I (175-188 d 197)
* Isvaradatta (188-191)
* Rudrasimha I (restored) (191-197)
* Jivadaman (restored) (197-199)
* Rudrasena I (200-222)
* Samghadaman (222-223)
* Damasena (223-232)
* Damajadasri II (232-239) with
* Viradaman (234-238)
* Yasodaman I (239)
* Vijayasena (239-250)
* Damajadasri III (251-255)
* Rudrasena II (255-277)
* Visvasimha (277-282)
* Bhratadarman (282-295) with
* Visvasena (293-304)Family of Rudrasimha II:
* Rudrasimha II, son of Lord (Svami) Jivadaman (304-348) with
* Yasodaman II (317-332)
* Rudradaman II (332-348)
* Rudrasena III (348-380)
* Simhasena (380- ?)
* Rudrasena IV (382-388)
* Rudrasimha III (388-395)

External links

* [http://igmlnet.uohyd.ernet.in:8000/gw_44_5/hi-res/hcu_images/G2.pdf History of the Andhras] , with many references to Western Satrap rule.
* [http://www.grifterrec.com/coins/india/ancientindia3.html Coins of the Western Kshatrapas]
* [http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00routesdata/0100_0199/rudradamancoins/rudradamancoins.html Other coins of the Western Kshatrapas]
* [http://www.maharashtra.gov.in/english/gazetteer/nasik/005%20History/001%20AncientPeriod.htm The Kshatrapas in Nasik]

ee also

*Indo-Greek Kingdom
*Kushan Empire
*Rulers of Malwa

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Middle kingdoms of India — History of South Asia and India Stone age (7000–1300 BCE) …   Wikipedia

  • Satavahana — Infobox Former Country native name = सातवाहन శాతవాహనులు conventional long name = Satavahana Empire common name = Satavahana Empire national motto = continent = Asia region = country = era = Antiquity government type = Monarchy year start = 230 BC …   Wikipedia

  • Anatolia — /an euh toh lee euh/, n. a vast plateau between the Black and the Mediterranean seas: in ancient usage, synonymous with the peninsula of Asia Minor; in modern usage, applied to Turkey in Asia. Cf. Asia Minor. * * * or Asia Minor Turkish Anadolu… …   Universalium

  • Legacy of the Indo-Greeks — The Legacy of the Indo Greeks starts with the formal end of the Indo Greek Kingdom from the 1st century CE, as the Greek communities of central Asia and northwestern India lived under the control of the Kushan branch of the Yuezhi, apart from a… …   Wikipedia

  • Maurya Empire — Mauryan Empire ← …   Wikipedia

  • Chastana — Western Satrap Silver coin of Castana, with ruler profile and pseudo Greek legend. British Museum. Reign 130 CE …   Wikipedia

  • Mathura — This article is about the municipality in Uttar Pradesh, India. For its namesake district, see Mathura district. For other uses, see Mathura (disambiguation).   city   …   Wikipedia

  • Rudrasimha III — Infobox Monarch name =Rudrasimha III title =Western Satrap caption = reign =388 395 CE coronation = othertitles = full name = predecessor =Rudrasena IV successor =None suc type = heir = queen = consort = spouse 1 = spouse 2 = spouse 3 = spouse 4 …   Wikipedia

  • Periplus of the Erythraean Sea — Names, routes and locations of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea or Periplus of the Red Sea (Greek: Περίπλους τὴς Ἐρυθράς Θαλάσσης, Latin: Periplus Maris Erythraei) is a Gre …   Wikipedia

  • History of India — This article is about the history of the Indian subcontinent prior to the partition of India in 1947. For the modern Republic of India, see History of the Republic of India. For Pakistan and Bangladesh, see History of Pakistan and History of… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.