Shunga Dynasty (Post Mauryan India)

Extents of Shunga Empire

The Shunga dynasty emerged in India after the decline of the Mauryan Empire following the death of Emperor Ashoka. It existed from 185 BCE to 73 BCE and had ten rulers.

Pushyamitra Shunga

  • Pushyamitra Shunga, a Brahmin army chief, assassinated Brihadratha Maurya, the last Mauryan ruler, and established the Shunga dynasty in 185 BCE.
  • Capital: Pataliputra.
  • He successfully defended against Greek kings Menander and Demetrius, as well as the Kalinga king Kharavela.
  • Pushyamitra is associated with the conquest of Vidarbha and the renovation of the Stupas at Sanchi and Barhut.
  • He is also credited with building the sculptured stone gateway at Sanchi.
  • Pushyamitra Shunga followed Brahminism and patronized the Sanskrit grammarian Patanjali.
  • He performed Vedic sacrifices, including Ashvamedha, Rajasuya, and Vajapeya.
  • The length of his reign is mentioned as 36 years, with his death occurring in 151 BCE.


  • Agnimitra, the son of Pushyamitra Shunga, succeeded him and ruled from 149 BCE to 141 BCE.
  • During his reign, the region of Vidarbha broke away from the Shunga Empire.
  • Agnimitra is prominently featured in Kalidasa's play, Malavikagnimitram.


  • Vasumitra, the son of Agnimitra, became the fourth ruler of the Shunga dynasty.
  • He succeeded Vasujyestha and reigned from 131 BCE to 124 BCE.
  • Vasumitra is mentioned as Sumitra in the Matsya Purana and Bana's Harshacharita.
  • According to the play Malavikagnimitram, Vasumitra defeated the cavalry of the Indo-Greek Yona on the banks of the River Indus while guarding the sacrificial horse set loose by Pushyamitra Shunga.
  • Bhadraka succeeded Vasumitra in 124 BCE.

Successors of Vasumitra

  • The names of Vasumitra's successors are not clearly known and various names appear in different accounts, including Andhraka, Pulindaka, Vajramitra, and Ghosha.

Last Rulers

  • The last Shunga king was Devabhuti, preceded by Bhagabhadra.
  • Devabhuti was killed by his own minister, Vasudeva Kanva, in around 73 BC, leading to the establishment of the Kanva dynasty in Magadha.

Cultural Contributions

  • The Shunga dynasty witnessed the flourishing of art, philosophy, education, and other forms of learning.
  • They made significant contributions to Buddhist architecture and art.
  • The Shungas renovated and expanded the Buddhist stupas at Sanchi and Bharhut.
  • Sculptures of Yakshas and Yakshis from the Shunga period were excavated in Gwalior and Mathura.
  • The Besnagar pillar inscription at Vidisha, written in Brahmi script and Prakrit language, belongs to the Shunga period.
  • Literary works composed during the Shunga period include the Yoga Sutra and Mahahasya by the sage Patanjali.
  • Kalidasa's play, Malavikagnimitram, also belongs to this period. (Also read: List of ancient Indian writers and their works)

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