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  • 23 Dec 2022 GS Paper 1 History

    Day 39

    Question 1: Discuss the impact of central Asian contacts on India’s political system, society, and science and technology. (250 Words)

    Question 2: Describe the system of administration, art and architecture and social organization under the Satavahanas. (150 Words)

    Answer 1


    • Introduce briefly about the Central Asian contact with India.
    • Discuss the impact of central Asian contacts on India’s political system, society, and science and technology.
    • Conclude suitably.


    The period which began in about 200 B.C. did not witness a large empire like that of the Mauryas, but it is notable for intimate and widespread contacts between Central Asia and India. In north-western India they were succeeded by a number of ruling dynasties from Central Asia. Of them the Kushans became the most famous.


    The impact of central Asian contacts on India’s political system, society, and science and technology.

    Structures and Pottery:

    • The Shaka-Kushan phase, registered a distinct advance in building activities. Excavations have revealed several layers of construction and the use of burnt bricks for flooring and that of tiles for both flooring and roofing. Its typical pottery is red ware, both plain and polished with medium to fine fabric. Red pottery techniques were widely known in Central Asia, and they are found even in regions like Farghana which were on the peripheries of the Kushan cultural zone.

    Better Cavalry:

    • The Shakas and Kushans settled in India and completely identified themselves with its culture. They adopted script, written language, or any organized religion from India.
    • They introduced better cavalry and the use of the riding horse on a large scale.
    • They made common the use of reins and saddles, which appear in the Buddhist sculptures of the second and third centuries A.D. They also used some kind of a toe stirrup made of rope facilitated their movements.
    • They introduced turban, tunic, trousers, and heavy long coat. The Central Asians also brought in cap, helmet and boots which were used by warriors.

    Trade and Agriculture:

    • As a result of the contacts between Central Asia and India, India received a good deal of gold from the Altai mountains in Central Asia, as Kushans controlled the Silk Route and received tolls levied from the traders.
      • Gold also may have been received by it through trade with the Roman empire.
    • The Kushans also promoted agriculture.


    • The Central Asian conquerors imposed their rule on numerous petty native princes and developed feudatory organization. The Kushans adopted the pompous title of 'king of kings', which indicates their supremacy over numerous small princes who paid tributes.
    • The Shakas and the Kushans strengthened the idea of the divine origin of kingship.
      • Ashoka was called dear to the gods', but the Kushan kings were called sons of God. The Hindu law-giver Manu asks the people to respect the king even if he is a child, because he is a great god ruling in the form of a human being.
    • The Kushans also introduced the satrap system of government. The empire was divided into numerous satrapies, and each satrapy was placed under the rule of a satrap.
      • Some curious practices like hereditary dual rule, two kings ruling in the same kingdom at one and the same time, were introduced.
    • The Greeks also introduced the practice of military governorship. They appointed their governors called strategos.

    Religious Developments:

    • Some of the foreign rulers were converted to Vaishnavism. The Greek ambassador called Heliodorus set up a pillar in honour of Vasudeva near Vidisa (headquarters of Vidisa district) in Madhya Pradesh around the middle of the second century B.C.
    • A few other rulers adopted Buddhism. The famous Greek ruler Menander became a Buddhist.
    • The Kushan rulers worshipped both Shiva and the Buddha, and the images of these two gods appeared on the Kushan coins.

    The Origin of Mahayana Buddhism:

    • Buddhists welcomed foreigners who were non-vegetarians. This new form of Buddhism came to be called the Mahayana or the Great Wheel. Worship of symbols was replaced with Buddha images. With the rise of the Mahayana the old puritan school of Buddhism came to be known as the Hinayana or the Lesser Wheel.
    • Kanishka convened a Buddhist council in Kashmir. Kanishka set up many other stupas to perpetuate the memory of the Buddha.

    Gandhara and Mathura Schools of Art:

    • The Kushan empire brought together masons and other artisans trained in different schools and countries. This gave rise to several schools of art: Central Asian, Gandhara and Mathura. Pieces of sculpture from Central Asia show synthesis of both local and Indian elements under the influence of Buddhism.
    • This gave rise to a new kind of art in which images of the Buddha were made in the Graeco-Roman style. The hair of the Buddha was fashioned in the Graeco-Roman style.

    Literature and Learning:

    • The foreign princes patronized and cultivated Sanskrit literature. The earliest specimen of kavya style is found in the Junagadh inscription of Rudradaman in Kathiawar in about A.D. 150.
    • The great creative writers such as Ashvaghosha enjoyed the patronage of the Kushans. He wrote the Buddhacharita, which is a biography of the Buddha.
    • The Greeks contributed to the development of the Indian theatre by introducing the use of the curtain.
      • The curtain was borrowed from the Greeks it came to be known as yavanika.
    • The example of secular literature appears in the Kamasutra of Vatsyayana. Attributed to the third century A.D., it is the earliest work on erotics dealing with sex and love-making.

    Science and Technology:

    • In post-Maurya times Indian astronomy and astrology profited from contact with the Greeks. From the Greek term horoscope was derived the term horashastra used for astrology in Sanskrit.
      • The Greek coins, which were properly shaped and stamped, were a great improvement on punch-marked coins.
      • The Greek term drachma came to be known as dramma.
    • In return the Greek rulers used the Brahmi script and represented some Indian motifs on their coins.
    • In the field of technology also the Indians seem to have benefited from contact with the Central Asians.
      • Kanishka is represented as wearing trousers and long boots. The practice of making leather shoes began in India during this period.
      • Working in glass during this period was especially influenced by foreign ideals and practices.


    The knowledge, skill and socio-cultural practice evolved during rule of Mauryas, were developed and enhanced by the Indo-Central Asian Contacts. These developments bring were aggregated and further developed during the large empire of the Guptas.

    Answer 2


    • Introduce briefly about the Satavahanas’ reign in India
    • Discuss the system of administration, art and architecture and social organization under the Satavahanas’ rule.
    • Conclude suitably.


    • The most important of the native successors of the Mauryas in the north were the Shungas followed by the Kanvas. In the Deccan and in central India, the Satavahanas succeeded the Mauryas although after a gap of about 100 years.
    • The reign of the Satavahana Dynasty began in the mid-1st century BCE and came to an end in the early 3rd century CE with its capital in the Deccan.
    • The early Satavahana kings appeared in north Maharashtra and extended their power over Karnataka and Andhra.
    • Gautamiputra Satakarni (A.D. 106- e 130), prominent among Satvahanas, called himself the only brahmana. He defeated the Shakas and destroyed many kshatriya rulers.


    Social Organization:

    • The Satavahanas originally seem to have been a tribe of the Deccan. But they were brahmanized.
    • King Gautamiputra Satakarni claims to have established the four-fold varna system which had fallen into disorder.
      • He put an end to the intermixture between the people of different social orders.
      • The absorption of the Shakas in brahmanical society as kshatriyas was facilitated by intermarriage between the Shakas and the Satavahanas.
      • The Satavahanas were also the first rulers to make land grants to the brahmanas.
      • Satavahanas show traces of a matrilineal social structure. It was customary for their king to be named after his mother.
        • But basically, the Satavahana ruling family was patriarchal because succession to the throne passed to the male member.

    Pattern of Administration:

    • The Satavahana rulers strove for the royal ideal set forth in the Dharmashastras. The king was represented as the upholder of dharma.
    • The Satavahanas retained some of the administrative units found in Ashokan times. Their district was called ahara (Like Ashokan times), and their officials were known as amatyas and mahamatras, (as known in Maurya times).
    • Some military and feudal traits in the administration of the Satavahanas. Senapati was appointed provincial governor to keep tribals of Deccan under strong military control.
      • The administration in the rural areas was placed in the hands of gaulmika, who was the head of a military regiment consisting of nine chariots.
      • The head of the army platoon was therefore posted in the country- side to maintain peace and order.
    • The terms kataka and skandhavaras in their inscriptions, denotes military camps and settlements which served as administrative centres so long as the king was there.
    • The Satavahanas started the practice of granting tax-free villages to brahmanas and Buddhist monks. The brahmanas helped enforce the rules of the varna system which made society stable.
    • The Satavahana kingdom had three grades of feudatories.
      • The highest grade was formed by the king who was called raja and who had the right to strike coins.
      • The second grade was formed by the mahabhoja, and the third grade by the senapati.


    In the Satavahana phase, many temples called chaityas and monasteries called viharas were cut out of the solid rock in the northwestern Deccan or Maharashtra with great precision and patience.

    • They constructed magnificent stupas in the Krishna River Valley, including the Amaravati stupa in Andhra Pradesh.
    • The Karle chaitya is the most famous in western Deccan.
    • The three viharas at Nasik carry inscriptions of Nahapana and Gautamiputra.
    • The most important stupas of this period are Amravati and Nagarjunakonda. The Amaravati stupa is full of sculptures that depict the various scenes from the life of the Buddha. The Nagarjunakonda stupa contains Buddhist monuments and also the earliest Brahmanical brick temples.


    The Satavahanas were among the first to issue Indian state coinage depicting their rulers. They served as a cultural bridge, facilitating trade and the exchange of ideas and culture from the Indo-Gangetic Plain to India's southernmost tip. Much progress had also been made in the field of painting. The architecture was also very advanced. During this time, the Buddhists built many Chaityas and Guhagriha, or cave houses.

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