Shunga Dynasty – Achievements of Pushyamitra Sunga in Post-Mauryan Period

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Shunga Dynasty was the Magadha dynasty founded by Pushyamitra Sunga in 185 BC. It controlled the Northwest (now Pakistan), Eastern India, and North-central parts of India. The beginning of the Shunga Dynasty marked the fall of the Mauryan Empire. The Sunga Dynasty revived Hinduism and patronized the art and architecture of that time.

The Shunga dynasty lasted till 75 B.C. and was ended by the beginning of the Kanva Dynasty. Below is a brief description of the Shunga Dynasty, its founder, prominent Sunga kings, achievements of Pushyamitra Sunga, successors of Pushyamitra Sunga, and effects of the Shunga Dynasty Rulers.

Shunga Dynasty

The Sunga dynasty was founded by Pushyamitra Sunga after the decline of the Mauryan Empire. After the death of Ashoka, the Mauryan rulers formed independent kingdoms out of the Mauryan Empire.

During this period, foreign invasions occurred in the Northwest that resulted in the independence of Kalinga. At the same time, Satavahanas rose their power in the southern region, and Sunga replaced the Mauryas in the Gangetic plains by forming the Shunga Dynasty.

Founder of Sunga Dynasty – Pushyamitra Shunga

Pushyamitra Shunga was the Brahmin army chief of the last Mauryan king, Brihadratha. He killed Brihadratha during a military parade and established his rule over the kingdom in 185 or 186 B.C. His attack is often considered the first revolt against the Mauryan Empire, the reason being the increasing influence of Buddhism over the empire.

However, certain historians believe that the internal revolt against the last Mauryan king, arose because of the Brahminical reaction. Pushyamitra Sunga ruled the throne for 36 years and died in 151 BC.

Achievements of Pushyamitra Sunga

Pushyamitra Shunga was a powerful king who won many battles in history. The significant achievements of Pushyamitra Sunga are as follows-

  • Pushyamitra Sunga formed his capital at Pataliputra.
  • He fought against two Greek kings, Demetrius and Menander, and successfully countered the attacks.
  • He was successful in thwarting the attack from Kharavela, Kalinga king.
  • Pushyamitra Sunga conquered Vidarbha.

Cultural Achievements of Pushyamitra Sunga

Pushyamitra Sunga was a follower of Brahminism. Specific incidents in history have portrayed him as the persecutor of Buddhists. However, there has been no authoritative evidence, yet it is believed that he destroyed stupas and killed the last Mauryan king because of his interest in Buddhism.

He renovated Barhut and Sanchi Stupas and built stone sculpture gateways at Sanchi. He patronized Patanjali (Sanskrit grammarian) and performed Vedic sacrifices like Vajapeya, Rajasuya, and Ashvamedha.

Successors of Pushyamitra Sunga

The reign of Pushyamitra Sunga lasted for 36 years, and he was succeeded by his son, Agnimitra. He ruled the throne from 149 to 141 BC. During his reign, Vidarbha broke away from the Shunga dynasty. He was a master in Malavikagnimitram (poem of Kalidasa). He was succeeded by his son, Vasumitra. History doesn’t hold a clear account of the kings after the Vasemitra reign. Perhaps Andhraka, Pulindaka, Vajramitra and Ghosha are considered the layer Sunya kings.

Devabhuti was the last king of the Sunga dynasty. He was killed by Vasudeva in 73 B.C., which marked the beginning of the Kanva dynasty at Magadh till 28 B.C.

Effects of the Shunga Dynasty

Sunga kings were believers in Brahminism. Under Sunga’s rule, Hinduism was revived. With the rise of Brahmanas during the Sunga Dynasty, the caste system was also revived in the post-Mauryan period.

  • The integration of foreigners and mixed castes arose in Indian society. During this time, Sanskrit became the primary language, and even Buddhists composed some work in the Sanskrit language.
  • The kings were also in support of the fine arts. They patronized the art and architecture of that time and increased the use of symbols and human figures.

Shunga Dynasty Art and Architecture

The art and architecture of the Shunga dynasty has enthralled all with the remarkable establishment. The Great Stupa No 1 accounts for one of the major architecture during the post-mauryan period. Due to a surge in Buddhism, the Stupas in the Sanchi were built.The art of the Shunga dynasty was inspired by the Persians. The Shungas had an Indian touch in the arts they presented. The art and architecture of a dynasty engrave the culture followed by them in the leaves of history. This period also accounts for the creation of the Yoga sutras of Patanjali, Mahabhashya.

Shunga Dynasty UPSC

The formation of the Sunga Dynasty is marked by the decline of the last Mauryan king. Thus, it has been of great significance in history. The aspirants preparing for the IAS Exam must learn about the Shunga Dynasty UPSC and its rulers, as several questions have been raised by the examiner in the UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains exam. You can download the PDF of the topic from the above-provided link. You can also refer to the NCERT Books for UPSC and Indian History Notes to learn more about the Sunga Dynasty and similar issues.

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