The Info List - Western Satraps

The Western Satraps, Western Kshatrapas, or Kshaharatas (35–405 CE) were Indo-Scythian (Saka) rulers of the western and central part of India (Saurashtra and Malwa: modern Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh states). The Western Satraps 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. The power of the Saka rulers started to decline in the 2nd century CE after the Saka rulers were defeated by the south Indian Emperor Gautamiputra Satakarni of the Satavahana dynasty.[1] Later the Saka kingdom was completely destroyed by Chandragupta II of the Gupta Empire in the 4th century CE.[2]

Altogether, there were 27 independent Western Satrap rulers during a period of about 350 years.


They are named Western Satraps in contrast to the "Northern Satraps" who ruled around East Punjab and the area of Mathura, such as Rajuvula, and his successors under the Kushans, the "Great Satrap" Kharapallana and the "Satrap" Vanaspara.[3]

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".[4] The word Kshatrapa stands for satrap, itself descended from Old Persian and which means viceroy or governor of a province.

First expansion: Kshaharata dynasty (1st century CE)

Coin of Bhumaka (?–119). Obv: Arrow, pellet, and thunderbolt. Kharoshthi inscription Chaharasada Chatrapasa Bhumakasa: "Ksaharata Satrap Bhumaka". Rev: Capital of a pillar with seated lion with upraised paw, and wheel (dharmachakra). Brahmi inscription: Kshaharatasa Kshatrapasa Bhumakasa.

The Western Satraps are thought to have started with the rather short-lived Kshaharata dynasty (also called Chaharada, Khaharata or Khakharata depending on sources).[5] The term Kshaharata is also known from the 6 CE Taxila copper plate inscription, in which it qualifies the Indo-Scythian ruler Liaka Kusulaka. The Nasik inscription of the 19th year of Sri Pulamavi also mentions the Khakharatavasa, or Kshaharata race.[6]

The earliest Kshaharata for whom there is evidence is Abhiraka, whose rare coins are known. He was succeeded by Bhumaka, 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 pillar of Ashoka.

Coin of Nahapana (119–124). British Museum.
Location of Western Satrap inscriptions in Buddhist rock-cut caves, indicating the southern extent of their territory, circa 120 CE.[7]

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 Bharuch to Sopara and the Nasik and Poona districts.[8] His son-in-law, the Saka Ushavadata (married to his daughter Dakshamitra), is known from inscriptions in Nasik and Karle and Junnar (Manmodi caves, inscription of the year 46) to have been viceroy of Nahapana, ruling over the southern part of his territory.[9][7]

Nahapana established the silver coinage of the Kshatrapas.

Circa 120 CE, the Western Satraps are known to have allied with the Uttamabhadras in order to repulse an attack by the Malavas, whom they finally crushed.[10] The claim appears in an inscription at the Nashik Caves, made by the Nahapana's viceroy Ushavadata:

...And by order of the lord I went to release the chief of the Uttamabhadras, who had been besieged for the rainy season by the Malayas, and those Malayas fled at the mere roar (of my approaching) as it were, and were all made prisoners of the Uttamabhadra warriors.

— Inscription in Cave No.10 of the Nashik Caves.[11]

Support of Indian religions

An important inscription related to Nahapana in the Great Chaitya at Karla Caves (Valukura is thought to be an ancient name for Karla Caves) shows his support of Buddhist as well as Brahmanical religions:

Karla Caves, inscription of Nahapana.

Success!! By Ushabadata, the son of Dinaka and the son-in-law of the king, the Kshaharata, the Kshatrapa Nahapana, who gave three hundred thousand cows, who made gifts of gold and a tirtha on the river Banasa, who gave to the Devas and Brahmanas sixteen villages, who at the pure tirtha Prabhasa gave eight wives to the Brahmanas, and who also fed annually a hundred thousand Brahmanas- there has been given the village of Karajika for the support of the ascetics living in the caves at Valuraka without any distinction of sect or origin, for all who would keep the varsha.

— Inscription of Nahapana, Karla Caves.[12]

Construction of Buddhist caves

The Western Satraps are known for the construction and dedication of numerous Buddhist caves in Central India, particularly in the areas of Maharashtra and Gujarat.[13][14] It is thought that Nahapana ruled at least 35 years in the region of Karla, Junnar and Nasik, giving him ample time for construction works there.[15]

Numerous inscriptions in the caves are known, which were made by the family of Nahapana: six inscriptions in Nasik caves, one inscription at Karli caves, and one by Nahapana's minister in the Manmodi caves at Junnar.[16][17] At the same time, "Yavanas", Greeks or Indo-Greeks, also left donative inscriptions at the Nasik caves, Karla caves, Lenyadri and Manmodi caves.[18]

Great Chaitya hall at Karla Caves

In particular, the chaitya cave complex of the Karla Caves, the largest in South Asia, was constructed and dedicated in 120 CE by the Western Satraps ruler Nahapana.[13][19][20]

Cave No.10 of Nasik, the 'Nahapana Vihara'

Parts of the Nasik caves, also called Pandavleni Caves, were also carved during the time of Nahapana.[14]

The inscriptions of cave no.10 in the Pandavleni Caves near Nasik, reveal that in 105-106 CE, Kshatrapas defeated the Satavahanas after which Kshatrapa Nahapana’s son-in-law and Dinika’s son- Ushavadata donated 3000 gold coins for this cave as well as for the food and clothing of the monks. Usabhdatta’s wife (Nahapana’s daughter), Dakshmitra also donated one cave for the Buddhist monks. Cave 10 - 'Nahapana Vihara' is spacious with 16 rooms.

Two inscriptions in Cave 10 mentions the building and the gift of the whole cave to the Samgha by Ushavadata, the Saka[22] son-in-law and viceroy of Nahapana:

Nasik Cave inscription No.10. of Nahapana, Cave No.10.
One of the pillars built by Ushavadata, viceroy of Nahapana, circa 120 CE, Pandavleni Caves, cave No10.

"Success ! Ushavadata, son of Dinika, son-in- law of king Nahapana, the Kshaharata Kshatrapa, (...) inspired by (true) religion, in the Trirasmi hills at Govardhana, has caused this cave to be made and these cisterns."

— Inscription No.10 of Nahapana, Cave No.10, Nasik[23]

"Success ! In the year 42, in the month Vesakha, Ushavadata, son of Dinika, son-in- law of king Nahapana, the Kshaharata Kshatrapa, has bestowed this cave on the Samgha generally...."

— Inscription No.12 of Nahapana, Cave No.10, Nasik[24]

According to the inscriptions, Ushavadata accomplished various charities and conquests on behalf of his father-in-law. He constructed rest-houses, gardens and tanks at Bharukachchha (Broach), Dashapura (Mandasor in Malva), Govardhana (near Nasik) and Shorparaga (Sopara in the Thana district).

Junnar dedication

A dedication in the Lenyadri complex of the Junnar caves (inscription No.26 in Cave VI of the Bhimasankar group of caves), mentions a gift by Nahapana's prime minister Ayama in the "year 46":

The meritorious gift.... of Ayama of the Vachhasagotra, prime minister of the King Mahakshatrapa the lord Nahapana"

— Junnar inscription No.26, 124 CE[25]

This inscription, the last one of the reign of Nahapana, suggests that Nahapana may have become an independent ruler since he is described as a King.[25]

International trade: the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea

Nahapana is mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea under the name Nambanus,[26] as ruler of the area around Barigaza:

41. "Beyond the gulf of Baraca is that of Barygaza and the coast of the country of Ariaca, which is the beginning of the Kingdom of Nambanus and of all India. That part of it lying inland and adjoining Scythia is called Abiria, but the coast is called Syrastrene. It is a fertile country, yielding wheat and rice and sesame oil and clarified butter, cotton and the Indian cloths made therefrom, of the coarser sorts. Very many cattle are pastured there, and the men are of great stature and black in color. The metropolis of this country is Minnagara, from which much cotton cloth is brought down to Barygaza."

— Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Chap. 41 [27]
Nahapana coin hoard.

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

49. There are imported into this market-town (Barigaza), wine, Italian preferred, also Laodicean and Arabian; copper, tin, and lead; coral and topaz; thin clothing and inferior sorts of all kinds; bright-colored girdles a cubit wide; storax, sweet clover, flint glass, realgar, antimony, gold and silver coin, on which there is a profit when exchanged for the money of the country; and ointment, but not very costly and not much. And for the King there are brought into those places very costly vessels of silver, singing boys, beautiful maidens for the harem, fine wines, thin clothing of the finest weaves, and the choicest ointments. There are exported from these places spikenard, costus, bdellium, ivory, agate and carnelian, lycium, cotton cloth of all kinds, silk cloth, mallow cloth, yarn, long pepper and such other things as are brought here from the various market-towns. Those bound for this market-town from Egypt make the voyage favorably about the month of July, that is Epiphi."

— Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Chapter 48.[28]
The Western Satraps under Nahapana, with their harbour of Barigaza, were among the main actors of the 1st century CE international trade according to the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.

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

48. Inland from this place and to the east, is the city called Ozene, formerly a royal capital; from this place are brought down all things needed for the welfare of the country about Barygaza, and many things for our trade : agate and carnelian, Indian muslins and mallow cloth, and much ordinary cloth.

— Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Chapter 48.[28]

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

"Ships are also customarily fitted out from the places across this sea, from Ariaca and Barygaza, bringing to these far-side market-towns the products of their own places; wheat, rice, clarified butter, sesame oil, cotton cloth, (the monache and the sagmatogene), and girdles, and honey from the reed called sacchari. Some make the voyage especially to these market-towns, and others exchange their cargoes while sailing along the coast."

— Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Chapter 14.[28]

Defeat by Gautamiputra Satakarni

One of the many coins of Nahapana, re-struck by Gautamiputra Satakarni.

Nahapana and Ushavadata were ultimately defeated by the powerful Satavahana king Gautamiputra Satakarni. Gautramiputra drove the Sakas from Malwa and Western Maharashtra, forcing Nahapana west to Gujarat. His victory is known from the fact that Gautamiputra restruck many of Nahapana's coins, and that he claimed victory on them in an inscription at Cave No.3 of the Pandavleni Caves in Nashik:

Gautamiputra Satakarni (…) who crushed down the pride and conceit of the Kshatriyas; who destroyed the Sakas (Western Satraps), Yavanas (Indo-Greeks) and Pahlavas (Indo-Parthians),... who rooted out the Khakharata family (the Kshaharata family of Nahapana); who restored the glory of the Satavahana race.

— Inscription of Queen Mother Gautami Balashri at Cave No.3 of the Pandavleni Caves in Nashik.

Colonization of Java and Sumatra

It seems that the Indian colonization of the islands of Java and Sumatra took place during the time of the Western Satraps.[29] People may have fled the sub-continent due to the conflicts there. Some foundation legends of Java describe the leader of the colonists as Aji Saka, a prince from Gujarat, at the beginning of the Shaka era (which is also the Java era).[29]

Kardamaka dynasty, family of Castana (1st–4th century)

Coin of the Western Satrap Chastana (c. 130 CE). Obv: King in profile. The legend typically reads "PANNIΩ IATPAΠAC CIASTANCA" (corrupted Greek script), transliteration of the Prakrit Raño Kshatrapasa Castana: "King and Satrap Castana".

A new dynasty, called the Bhadramukhas or Kardamaka dynasty, was established by the "Satrap" Castana. The date of Castana is not certain, but many believe his reign started in the year 78 CE, thus making him the founder of the Saka era.[30] This is consistent with the fact that his descendants (who we know used the Saka era on their coins and inscriptions) would use the date of their founder as their era. Castana was satrap of Ujjain during that period. A statue found in Mathura together with statues of the Kushan king Kanishka and Vima Taktu, 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 mentioning Kushan control over the capital Ujjain), during the reign of Kanishka (c. 127–150 CE).

Territory under Chastana

Statue of Chastana, with costume details. The belt displays designs of horsemen and tritons/anguipeds, the coat has a highly ornate hem. Inscription "Chastana". Mathura Museum.[31]

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/Ujjain, capital of king Chastana"),[32] and beyond Barigaza in the south.

Moreover the region which is next to the western part of India, is called Indoscythia. A part of this region around the (Indus) river mouth is Patalena, above which is Abiria. That which is about the mouth of the Indus and the Canthicolpus bay is called Syrastrena. (...) In the island formed by this river are the cities Pantala, Barbaria. (...) The Larica region of Indoscythia is located eastward from the swamp near the sea, in which on the west of the Namadus river is the interior city of Barygaza emporium. On the east side of the river (...) Ozena-Regia Tiastani (...) Minnagara".

— Ptolemy Geographia, Book Seven, Chapter I

Rudradaman I (130-150 CE)

Victory against the Satavahanas

Silver coin of Rudradaman I (130–150). Obv: Bust of Rudradaman, with corrupted Greek legend "OVONIΛOOCVΛCHΛNO". Rev: Three-arched hill or Chaitya with river, crescent and sun. Brahmi legend: Rajno Ksatrapasa Jayadamasaputrasa Rajno Mahaksatrapasa Rudradamasa: "King and Great Satrap Rudradaman, son of King and Satrap Jayadaman" 16mm, 2.0 grams.
The Junagadh rock contains inscriptions of Ashoka (fourteen of the Edicts of Ashoka), Rudradaman I (the Junagadh rock inscription of Rudradaman)and Skandagupta.[33]

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. The inscription relating the marriage between Rudradaman's daughter and Vashishtiputra Satakarni appears in a cave at Kanheri:

"0f the queen ... of the illustrious Satakarni Vasishthiputra, descended from the race of Karddamaka kings, (and) daughter of the Mahakshatrapa Ru(dra)....... .........of the confidential minister Sateraka, a water-cistern, the meritorious gift."

— Kanheri inscription of Rudradaman I's daughter.[34]

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 (...) who obtained good report because he, in spite of having twice in fair fight completely defeated Satakarni, the lord of Dakshinapatha, on account of the nearness of their connection did not destroy him."

Rudradaman regained all the previous territories held by Nahapana, probably with the exception of the southern areas of Poona and Nasik (epigraphical remains in these two areas at that time are exclusively Satavahana):[36]

"Rudradaman (...) who is the lord of the whole of eastern and western Akaravanti (Akara: East Malwa and Avanti: West Malwa), the Anupa country, Anarta, Surashtra, Svabhra (northern Gujarat), Maru (Marwar), Kachchha (Cutch), Sindhu-Sauvira (Sindh and Multan districts), Kukura (Eastern Rajputana), Aparanta ("Western Border" – Northern Konkan), Nishada (an aboriginal tribe, Malwa and parts of Central India) and other territories gained by his own valour, the towns, marts and rural parts of which are never troubled by robbers, snakes, wild beasts, diseases and the like, where all subjects are attached to him, (and) where through his might the objects of [religion], wealth and pleasure [are duly attained]".

—  Junagadh rock inscription of Rudradaman.[35] Geographical interpretations in parenthesis from Rapson.[37]

Victory against the Yaudheyas

Later, the Junagadh rock inscription (c. 150 CE) of Rudradaman I[38] acknowledged the military might of the Yaudheyas "who would not submit because they were proud of their title "heroes among the Kshatriyas"", before explaining that they were ultimately vanquished by Rudradaman I.[39][40]

Rudradaman (...) who by force destroyed the Yaudheyas who were loath to submit, rendered proud as they were by having manifested their' title of' heroes among all Kshatriyas.

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.[41]

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.[42]

Jivadaman (178-181 CE, 197-198 CE)

A coin dated to the beginning of the first reign of Jivadaman, in the year 100 of the Saka Era (corresponding to 178 CE).

King Jivadaman became king for the centenary of the Saka Era, in the year 100 (corresponding to 178 CE). His reign is otherwise undocumented, but he is the first Western Satrap ruler who started to print the minting date on his coins, using the Brāhmī numerals of the Brāhmī script behind the king's head.[43] This is of immense value to date precisely Western Satrap rulers, and to clarify perfectly the chronology and succession between them, as they also mention their predecessor on their coins. According to his coins, Jivadaman seems to have ruled two times, once between Saka Era 100 and 103 (178-181 CE), before the rule of Rudrasimha I, and once between Saka Era 119 and 120 (197-198 CE).

Rudrasimha I (180-197)

Coin of the Western Kshatrapa ruler Rudrasimha I (178 to 197).

An inscription of Rudrasimha I (178-197) was recently found at Setkhedi in Shajapur district, dated to 107 Saka Era, that is 185 CE, confirming the expansion of the Western Satraps to the east at that date.[44] There is also an earlier inscription related to Saka rule in Ujjain,[44] as well as a later one, the Kanakerha inscription, related to Sala rule in the area of Vidisha, Sanchi and Eran in the early 4th century.[44]

Loss of southern territories to the Satavahanas (end of 2nd century CE)

The south Indian ruler Yajna Sri Satakarni (170-199 CE) of the Satavahana dynasty defeated the Western Satraps in the late 2nd century CE. By defeating the Western Satraps, he reconquered their southern regions in western and central India, which led to the decline of the Western Satraps.[45]

Yajna Sri Satakarni left inscriptions in Nasik caves, Kanheri and Guntur, testifying to the renewed extant of the Satavahanas.[46] There are two inscriptions of Yajna Sri Satakarni at Kanheri, in cave No.81,[47] and in the Chaitya cave No.3.[48] In the Nasik caves, there is one inscription of Sri Yajna Satakarni, in the 7th year of his reign.[49]

There is a possibility however that the areas of Poona and Nasik had remained in the hands of the Satavahanas since the time of Gautamiputra Satakarni after his victory over Nahapana, as there are no epigraphical records of the Kardamakas in this area.[36]

Rudrasena II (256–278)

Rudrasena II (256-278 CE). Head right, wearing close-fitting cap / Three-arched hill; group of five pellets to right.[50]
Western Satrap territory extended from the west coast of India to Vidisha/ Sanchi and Eran, from the time of Rudrasena II (256–278) well into the 4th century.[51]

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 region of Sanchi-Vidisha was again captured from the Satavahanas during the rule of Rudrasena II (255-278 CE), as shown by finds of his coinage in the area.[51]

The last Kshatrapa ruler of the Chastana family was Visvasena (Vishwasen), brother and successor to Bhartrdaman and son of Rudrasena II.

Rudrasimha II family (304-396 CE)

Head of Buddha Shakyamuni, Devnimori, Gujarat (375-400). Derived from the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara, an example of the Western Indian art of the Western Satraps.[52][53]

A new family took over, started by the rule of Rudrasimha II. He declared on his coins to be the son of a Lord (Svami) Jivadaman.[54]

His rule is partly coeval with that of other rulers, who were his sons as written on their coins, and may have been sub-kings: Yasodaman II (317–332) and Rudradaman II (332–348).

Contributions to Buddhism

Under Rudrasimha II, the Western Satraps are known to have maintained their presence in the Central India areas of Vidisha/ Sanchi/ Eran well into the 4th century: during his rule, in 319 CE, a Saka ruler inscribed the Kanakerha inscription,[55] on the hill of Sanchi mentioning the construction of a well by the Saka chief and "righteous conqueror" (dharmaviyagi mahadandanayaka) Sridharavarman (339-368 CE).[51] Another inscription of the same Sridhavarman with his military commander is known from Eran.[51] These inscription point to the extent of Saka rule as the time of Rudrasimha II.

The construction of Buddhist monuments in the area of Gujarat during the later part of Western Satrap rule is attested with the site of Devnimori, which incorporates viharas and a stupa. Coins of Rudrasimha were found inside the Buddhist stupa of Devnimori.[56] The Buddha images in Devnimori clearly show the influence of the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara,[52] and have been described as examples of the Western Indian art of the Western Satraps.[52] It has been suggested that the art of Devnimori represented a Western Indian artistic tradition, that was anterior to the rise of Gupta Empire art, and that it may have influenced it, and have influenced the art of the Ajanta Caves, Sarnath and other places from the 5th century onward.[56]

Overall, the Western Satraps may have played a role in the transmission of the art of Gandhara to the western Deccan region.[57]

Defeat by the Guptas (c. 400)

Rudrasimha III seems to have been the last of the Western Satrap rulers. A fragment from the Natya-darpana mentions that the Gupta king Ramagupta, the elder brother of Chandragupta II, decided to expand his kingdom by attacking the Western Satraps in Gujarat.

Coin of the last Western Satrap ruler Rudrasimha III (388–395).

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. Inscriptions of a victorious Chandragupta II in the year 412-413 CE can be found on the railing near the Eastern Gateway of the Great Stupa in Sanchi.[58]

"The glorious Candragupta (II), (...) who proclaims in the world the good behaviour of the excellent people, namely, the dependents (of the king), and who has acquired banners of victory and fame in many battles"

— Sanchi inscription of Chandragupta II, 412-413 CE.[59]

This brought an end to nearly four centuries of Saka rule 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 stylized 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

Coin of Damasena. The minting date, here 153 (100-50-3 in Brahmi script numerals) of the Saka era, therefore 232 CE, clearly appears behind the head of the king.
Coin of the Western Kshatrapa ruler Rudrasimha I (178–197). Obv: Bust of Rudrasimha, 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 Rudradamnaputrasa Rajna Mahaksatrapasa Rudrasihasa "King and Great Satrap Rudrasimha, son of King and Great Satrap Rudradaman".

From the reigns of Jivadaman and 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.[60] 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.[61] From that time, only the Brahmi script would remain, together with the pseudo-Greek script on the facing, to write the Prakrit language employed by the Western satraps. Occasionally, the legends are in Sanskrit instead.

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...".[62]


The Guptas imitated Western Satrap coins for their silver coinage. Here, a coin of the Gupta king Kumaragupta I (414–455) (Western territories).

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 royal eagle (Garuda, the dynastic symbol of the Guptas) replacing the chaitya hill with star and crescent on the reverse.[63]

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


Sudarshan Lake of Satrap period is mentioned in major rock edicts of Junagadh but no trace of it remains. Six inscription-stones called Lashtis of 1st century were recovered from hillock near Andhau village in Khavda region of Kutch and were moved to Kutch Museum in Bhuj. They are earliest dated monuments of Satrap period and were erected in the time of Rudradaman I.[64]

The large number of stone inscriptions from Kutch and Saurastra as well as hundreds of coins throughout Gujarat are found belonging to Satrap period. The earlier caves at Sana, Junagadh, Dhank, Talaja, Sidhasar, Prabhas Patan and Ranapar in Barada Hills are mostly plain and austere in looks except some carvings in Bava Pyara caves of Junagadh. They are comparable to Andhra-Satrap period caves in Deccan. As they have almost no carvings, the determination of their date and chronology is difficult. Uparkot Caves of Junagadh and Khambhalida Caves belongs to later years of Satraps.[65] The stupas excavated at Boria and Intwa near Junagadh belonged to Satrap period. The stupa excavated at Shamlaji probably belonged to this period or Gupta period.[66]

Possible vassalage to the Kushans

Territories under Western Satraps in 375 AD

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 subjection to a higher ruler, possibly the Kushan emperor.[67]

Inscribed statue of King Chastana in Mathura. Kushan Period.

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 vassalage. 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, following the period of the "Northern 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.[3]

Generally the orientation taken by modern scholarship 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.

Main rulers

Kshaharata dynasty

Bhadramukhas or Kardamaka dynasty

Family of Chastana:

Family of Rudrasimha II:

See also


  1. ^ World history from early times to A D 2000 by B .V. Rao: p.97
  2. ^ Ancient India by Ramesh Chandra Majumdar p. 234
  3. ^ a b 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
  4. ^ Ptolemy, "Geographia", Chap 7
  5. ^ Rapson, p. CVII
  6. ^ "Kharoshthi inscription, Taxila copper plate of Patika", Sten Konow, p25
  7. ^ a b Tripathi, Rama Shankar (1942). History of Ancient India. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 216. ISBN 9788120800182. 
  8. ^ "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 in the Nasik area indicate that the Western Kshatrapas controlled this region by the 1st century CE. By becoming master of wide regions including Malwa, Southern Gujarat, and Northern Konkan, from Broach to Sopara and the Nasik and Poona districts, Nahapana rose from the status of a mere Kshatrapa in the year 41 (58 AD) to that of Mahakshatrapa in the year 46 (63 AD)." in "History of the Andhras"
  9. ^ "Catalogue of Indian coins of the British Museum. Andhras etc." Rapson. p. LVII
  10. ^ Ancient Indian History and Civilization by Sailendra Nath Sen p.188
  11. ^ Epigraphia Indica Vol.8 p.78-79
  12. ^ Epigraphia Indica Vol.7, Hultzsch, E. p.58
  13. ^ a b c World Heritage Monuments and Related Edifices in India, Volume 1 ʻAlī Jāvīd, Tabassum Javeed, Algora Publishing, 2008 p.42
  14. ^ a b Foreign Influence on Ancient India, Krishna Chandra Sagar, Northern Book Centre, 1992 p.150
  15. ^ Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bombay. Asiatic Society of Bombay. 1986. p. 219. If Konow is right, then the length of time for Ksatrapa rule in the Nasik-Karla-Junnar region would be at least thirty-fire years. 
  16. ^ Cultural and Religious Heritage of India: Zoroastrianism, Suresh K. Sharma, Usha Sharma, Mittal Publications, 2004 p.112
  17. ^ The Dynastic Arts of the Kushans, John M. Rosenfield p.131
  18. ^ Religions and Trade: Religious Formation, Transformation and Cross-Cultural Exchange between East and West. BRILL. 2013. p. 97. ISBN 9789004255302. 
  19. ^ Southern India: A Guide to Monuments Sites & Museums, by George Michell, Roli Books Private Limited, 1 mai 2013 p.72
  20. ^ "This hall is assigned to the brief period of Kshatrapas rule in the western Deccan during the 1st century." in Guide to Monuments of India 1: Buddhist, Jain, Hindu - by George Michell, Philip H. Davies, Viking - 1989 Page 374
  21. ^ Epigraphia Indica Vol.18 p.326 Inscription No1
  22. ^ Ushavadata also presents himself as a Saka in inscription 14a of Cave No.10 of the Pandavleni Caves: "[Success !] By permanent charities of Ushavadata, the Saka, [son of Dinika], son-in-law of king Nahapana, the [Kshahara]ta Kshatrapa...." in Epigraphia Indica p.85-86
  23. ^ Epigraphia Indica p.78-79
  24. ^ Epigraphia Indica p.82-83
  25. ^ a b Cultural and Religious Heritage of India: Zoroastrianism, by Suresh K. Sharma,Usha Sharma p.114
  26. ^ "History of the Andhras", Durga Prasad Source
  27. ^ Source
  28. ^ a b c Source
  29. ^ a b Foreign Influence on Ancient India, Krishna Chandra Sagar, Northern Book Centre, 1992 p.131
  30. ^ A. Jha and D. Rajgor: Studies in the Coinage of the Western Ksatraps, Nashik: Indian Institute of Research in Numismatic Studies, 1992, p. 7.
  31. ^ The Dynastic Art of the Kushans, John Rosenfield, University of California Press, xxxiv
  32. ^ Allchin, F. R.; Erdosy, George (1995). The Archaeology of Early Historic South Asia: The Emergence of Cities and States. Cambridge University Press. p. 279. ISBN 9780521376952. 
  33. ^ Artefacts of History: Archaeology, Historiography and Indian Pasts, Sudeshna Guha, SAGE Publications India, 2015 p.50
  34. ^ Burgess, James; Bühler, Georg (1883). Report on the Elura cave temples and the Brahmanical and Jaina caves in western India; completing the results of the fifth, sixth, and seventh seasons' operations of the Archaeological survey, 1877-78, 1878-79, 1879-80. Supplementary to the volume on "The cave temples of India.". London, Trübner & Co. p. 78. 
  35. ^ a b c Source Archived 23 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  36. ^ a b Sircar, D. C. (2005). Studies in Indian Coins. Motilal Banarsidass Publishe. p. 118. ISBN 9788120829732. 
  37. ^ Rapson, "Indian coins of the British Museum" p.lx
  38. ^ Junagadh Rock Inscription of Rudradaman I Archived 23 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine., accessed on 23 March 2007.
  39. ^ Rosenfield, "The dynastic art of the Kushans", p132
  40. ^ Rapson, "A catalogue of the Indian coins in the British Museum", p.lx
  41. ^ "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." Source
  42. ^ 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)
  43. ^ Rapson, p.cxxiv
  44. ^ a b c Misra, Om Prakash (2003). Archaeological Excavations in Central India: Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Mittal Publications. p. 6. ISBN 9788170998747. 
  45. ^ "later Satavahana named Yajna Satakarni seems to have conquered the Southern Dominions of the Western Satraps. His coins contain figures of ships, probably indicating the naval power of the Andras. He not only ruled Aparanta, but probably also the eastern part of the Central Provinces". Majumdar, p. 135
  46. ^ Sen, Sailendra Nath (1999). Ancient Indian History and Civilization. New Age International. p. 174. ISBN 9788122411980. 
  47. ^ Burgess, James; Bühler, Georg (1883). Report on the Elura cave temples and the Brahmanical and Jaina caves in western India; completing the results of the fifth, sixth, and seventh seasons' operations of the Archaeological survey, 1877-78, 1878-79, 1879-80. Supplementary to the volume on "The cave temples of India.". London, Trübner & Co. p. 79. 
  48. ^ Burgess, James; Bühler, Georg (1883). Report on the Elura cave temples and the Brahmanical and Jaina caves in western India; completing the results of the fifth, sixth, and seventh seasons' operations of the Archaeological survey, 1877-78, 1878-79, 1879-80. Supplementary to the volume on "The cave temples of India.". London, Trübner & Co. p. 75. 
  49. ^ Burgess, Jas (1883). Archaeological Survey Of Western India. p. 114. 
  50. ^ CNG Coins Coin image
  51. ^ a b c d Buddhist Landscapes in Central India: Sanchi Hill and Archaeologies of Religious and Social Change, c. Third Century BC to Fifth Century AD, Julia Shaw, Routledge, 2016 p58-59
  52. ^ a b c The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, Volume 4 1981 Number I An Exceptional Group of Painted Buddha Figures at Ajanṭā, p.97 and Note 2
  53. ^ Los Angeles County Museum of Art description
  54. ^ Catalogue of the coins of the Andhra dynasty, the Western Ksatrapas, the Traikutaka dynasty, and the "Bodhi" dynasty, by British Museum. Dept. of Coins and Medals; Rapson, E. J. (Edward James) p.170
  55. ^ Marshall, The Monuments of Sanchi p.392
  56. ^ a b Schastok, Sara L. (1985). The Śāmalājī Sculptures and 6th Century Art in Western India. BRILL. pp. 23–31. ISBN 9004069410. 
  57. ^ Brancaccio, Pia (2010). The Buddhist Caves at Aurangabad: Transformations in Art and Religion. BRILL. p. 107. ISBN 9004185259. 
  58. ^ Marshall, The Monuments of India p.388
  59. ^ Marshall, The Monuments of India p.388 inscription 833
  60. ^ Rapson CCVIII
  61. ^ Rapson p. CIV
  62. ^ Rapson, "A Catalogue of Indian coins in the British Museum. Andhras etc.", p.cxcii
  63. ^ "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 ... for the chaitya with crescent and star." in Rapson "A catalogue of Indian coins in the British Museum. The Andhras etc.", p.cli
  64. ^ Hasmukh Dhirajlal Sankalia (1941). The Archaeology of Gujarat: Including Kathiawar. Natwarlal & Company. p. 46. Archived from the original on 2015. 
  65. ^ Nanavati, J. M.; Dhaky, M. A. (1969-01-01). "The Maitraka and the Saindhava Temples of Gujarat". Artibus Asiae. Supplementum. 26: 15–17. doi:10.2307/1522666. 
  66. ^ Nanavati, J. M. (March 1961). "A Kshatrapa Head from Saurashtra". In Sandesara, B. J. Journal Of Oriental Institute Baroda Vol.10. X. Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. pp. 223–224. 
  67. ^ "The titles "Kshatrap" and "Mahakshatrapa" certainly show that the Western Kshatrapas were originally feudatories" in Rapson, "Coins of the British Museum", p.cv

In foot note number 13 on Rupiamma, I would like to point out that he wasn't from the Kshahartha family or the Kardamaka family of Chashtana. Some rulers used the title Mahakshtrapa without belonging to these dynasties. There is an article in Journal of Epigraphic Society of India Vol 18 by H.S. Thosar that will tell us the history of this Rupiamma. The pillar inscriptions merely mentions his name Mahakshtrapa Rupiamma with a low relief sculpture. There is no date or any other record. Rupiamma should not be included in the Western Satrap history.


  • 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 0-486-26896-9

External links