Pushyamitra Shunga





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Pushyamitra Shunga

Pushyamitra was a great emperor of Shunga dynasty who eliminated the deteriorating Maurya empire and established glorious Shunga empire. He campaigned against Greek Yavanas-descendants of Alexander which were left in some part and eliminated them completely from India.

Pushyamitra was the founder of Shunga dynasty which was a result of deteriorating Maurya empire. The dynasty of the Mauryas was uprooted by Pushpamitra or Pushyamitra, who founded the dynasty of the Shugas. Pushyamitra is several times alluded to by Patanjali in the Mahabhashya. Pushyamitra was a staunch supporter of Vedic philosophy as well as Indian nationality. He was a devotee of lord Shiva.[ref] Pushyamitra, as soon as got the reins of highest military authority, began to enlarge and reorganize the Magadha army.[ref] and assassinated Brihadratha Maurya-the idle and last emperor of Maurya dynasty.

Pushyamitra Shunga is considered one of the greatest emperors of India who fought against foreign powers and eliminated them-especially Greeks left behind by Alexander's failed campaign in India.

Consolidation of Empire

Disintegration of Maurya empire

The progressive disintegration of the Maurya empire during the half century that followed Asokas death is marked by several facts. According to the RajataranginT, Asokas son Jalauka set himself up as an independent ruler in Kashmir and conquered the country up to Kanauj. According to Taranatha another successor of Asoka, Vlrasena by name, set up at Gandhara. Vidarbha also seems to have asserted its independence according to the Malavikdgnimitra of Kalidasa. The Greek writer Polybius, writing about 206 B .C., refers to an independent Indian king on the northwestern frontiers, Sophagasenus (Subhagasena) by name. He, or one of his predecessors, was probably a Viceroy of a Maurya Emperor, and later declared himself an independent king.

Acquiring Throne

The disintegration of the Maurya empire was further speeded up by the Yavana invasions referred to in Sanskrit texts such as the Yuga Purdna section of the Gdrgi-samhitd and the Mahdbhashya of Patanjali. Pushyamitra, (the Commander-in-Chief of Brihadratha), saw this situation and sensed the need to create stable central power in India, killed his master, while reviewing the army, and ascended the throne.[ref] With all the Vedic rituals, Pushyamitra was annointed emperor of Magadha on throne of emperor Ashoka in Patliputra. It marked the end of Maurya dynasty and beginning of reign of Shungas.[ref]

Rejuvenation of Magadha Army

According to sources, after Ashoka's death, Maurya empire became fragile by abandoning war and embracing excessive Ahimsa (non-violence) principles. This resulted in frequent attacks by foreign powers which disturbed the fabric of Indian economy as well as normal life. As soon as Pushyamitra got Magadha throne, he carried forward the pre-Asokan tradition of Magadha. Dharma Vijay a was no longer to be achieved by abjuring war but by building up military strength; politics became real. The Sungas maintained their hold over a vast part of North India, vanquished Greek invaders and were respected by foreign kings. They fostered a revival of art, literature and architecture.[ref]

Invasion and elimination of Yawanas (Greeks)

Attack on Patliputra

The Indo-Greeks, called Yavanas in Indian sources, either led by Demetrius I or Menander I, then invaded India, possibly receiving the help of Buddhists.[ref] The text of the Yuga Purana, which describes historical events, relates the attack of the Greeks on the capital Pataliputra, a magnificent fortified city with 570 towers and 64 gates according to Megasthenes, and describes the impending war for city.[ref]

"Then, after having approached Saketa together with the Panchalas and the Mathuras, the Yavanas, valiant in battle, will reach Kusumadhvaja ["the town of the flower-standard", Pataliputra]. Then, once Puspapura [another name of Pataliputra] has been reached and its celebrated mud[-walls] cast down, all the realm will be in disorder."[ref]

However, the Yuga Purana indicates that the Yavanas (Indo-Greeks) did not remain for long in Patliputra due to strong resistance from Indian warriors.

Triumph against Yawanas (Greeks)

Kalidasa in his Mdlavikdgnimitra refers to the conflict between Prince Vasumitra, son of Agnimitra and general of Pushyamitra, and a Yavana on the southern or right bank of the river Sindhu which may be taken to be either the river in the Punjab or its namesake in Central India. According to Kalidasa, this conflict took place in connection with the horse-sacrifice (Ashwamedha Yagya) of Pushyamitra when his troops, escorting the horse under Vasumitra, were stopped by the Yavanas on the south bank of the Sindhu. The Yavanas were defeated and the horse brought back safely home.

Succession of throne

Pushyamitra ruled for about 36 years and was succeeded by his son Agnimitra.


Pushyamitra stemmed the tide of foreign invasion and maintained his authority over a large part of the empire. He thus arrested, for the time being, the disintegration of the Magadha empire which, throughout the century of Shunga rule, extended as far as Bhilsa in Madhya Bharat. The Bactrian Greeks maintained friendly relations with them. The Shunga period saw the revival of the Vedic influence and the growing importance of the Bhagavata religion which counted even the cultured Greeks among its votaries. It also witnessed a revival in art and literature specially in Central India. The great grammarian Patanjali, born at Gonarda in Central India, was a contemporary of Pushyamitra. The Bharhut stupa is the most famous monument of this period. There was also an important school of art in Vidisha which, was the capital of the later Sunga kings.[ref]

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