Dynasties and Kingdoms of Ancient and Medieval India


History beholds the key of unknown answers, the answers that reshape the day we are living in. A distant past is what allows envisioning the perspective of the future. India bears an influential history of the Ancient and Medieval past.

All Indian Dynasties have contributed to the rich heritage and dynamic culture of India. For e.g. the Mauryan Dynasty was the role model for Artha-Shastra while the Gupta Dynasty has brought forth a new dimension towards education, science, astronomy, astrology, medicine, literature, philosophy, etc. What appears as a significant and influential realm of Indian history is the growth of great religions like Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. Even foreign invaders like the Kushans who belonged to the Indo-European Nomadic tribe mingled and worked hard to benefit the State and countrymen, and registered themselves in the pages of history.

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Following is the Summary of Major Indian Dynasties and their Kingdoms that existed in Ancient and Medieval India.

Ikshvaku Dynasty

Dynasty Name Ikshvaku
Time Period 3000 BCE – 5th Century BCE
Founder Ikshvaku; but Buddhist texts suggest that Ishvaku’s ancestor, Mahasammata was the original founder of the dynasty
Capital(s) Ayodhya, Vijayapuri(Modern day Nagarjunakonda in Andhra Pradesh)
Eminent People Puranas suggest that Bharata, Lord Rama and Prasendi belonged to this dynasty. However, the Buddhist texts also include Shuddodhana, Gautama Buddha and Rahula. Important rulers include Ikshvaku; Shraddhadeva Manu, the King of The Dravida Kingdom.
Geography Covered Ruled the eastern Krishna River valley of India, the whole of North and North-western India, including parts of present-day Pakistan.

 

Haryanka Dynasty

Dynasty Name Haryanka
Time Period 544 BCE – 413 BCE
Founder Bimbisara
Capital(s) Rajagriha (Nalanda district, Bihar), later shifted to Pataliputra (near Patna district, Bihar)
Eminent People Bimbisara, Ajatashatru, Udayin; Puranas mention Nandivardhana and Mahanandin as successors of Udayin. According to Buddhist tradition, Anurudhha, Munda and Nagadarshaka were his successors.
Geography Covered Most of present day Bihar and Nepal.

 

Shaishunaga Dynasty

Dynasty Name Shaishunaga
Time Period 413 BCE – 345 BCE
Founder Shishunaga. Initially, he was a minister in the last Haryanka Dynasty ruler, Nagadasaka’s court; usurped the throne after creating mass rebellion
Capital(s) Rajgir(present-day Bihar) or Girivaja, Vaishali(North Bihar)and later Pataliputra(near the Patna district in Bihar).
Eminent People Shishunaga (he had fought against the Avanti Kingdom which none of the predecessors had done before) and his son, Kalashoka.
Geography Covered Magadha (corresponding to present-day Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh Odisha) and the countries of Bangladesh and Nepal.

 

Nanda Dynasty

Dynasty Name Nanda
Time Period 345 BCE – 322B CE
Founder Mahapadma Nanda; Puranas state that he was the “destroyer of all Kshatriyas” as he, being a Shudra, single-handedly defeated the Ikshvakus, Pancalas,Kashis, Haihayas, Kalingas, Ashmakas, Kurus, Maithilas, Shurasenas and Vitihotras
Capital(s) Pataliputra
Eminent People Mahapadma Nanda, Dhana Nanda, who was the last ruler of the Nanda Dynasty and the youngest of eight brothers of Mahapadma.
Geography Covered Covered parts of Bengal in the East, and Punjab in the West, and south as far as the Vindyas.

 

Mauryan Dynasty

Dynasty Name Maurya
Time Period 322 BCE – 185 BCE
Founder Chandragupta Maurya(under Chanakya’s guidance, in the wake of Alexander, the Great’s death)
Capital(s) Pataliputra
Eminent People Chandragupta Maurya; Bindusara; Ashoka, who is known for renouncing violence and embracing Buddhism after annexing Kalinga
Geography Covered Almost whole of Indian subcontinent except the Southern tip and Sri Lanka.

 

Sunga Dynasty

Dynasty Name Sunga
Time Period 184 BCE – 75 BCE
Founder Pushyamitra Sunga, after assassinating the last Mauryan ruler
Capital(s) Pataliputra
Eminent People Pushyamitra;  Agnimitra, who was the hero of Kalidasa’s play, Malavikagnimitra
Geography Covered The whole of North-eastern India, including Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and extending southwards towards modern-day Andra Pradesh

 

Kanva Dynasty

Dynasty Name Kanva
Time Period 75 BCE – 30 BCE
Founder Vasudeva Kanva, who usurped the throne after murdering the last Sunga ruler, Devabhuti
Capital(s) Pataliputra
Eminent People Vasudeva; Bhumimitra, who was Vasudeva’s son
Geography Covered Whole of eastern part of the Indian subcontinent and parts of central India

 

Indo-Scythians Kingdom or the Shakas Dynasty

Dynasty Name Indo-Scythians or the Shakas
Time Period 150 BCE – 400 CE
Founder Maues, also known as Moga is regarded as the earliest Shaka king, who   is often deemed as the founder but supporting evidences are not found.
Capital(s) Sigal(present day, located in South-west Afghanistan), Taxila, Mathura
Eminent People Chastana; Rudradaman I, who is considered the greatest of the Saka rulers
Geography Covered Whole of North-west India and Pakistan, parts of Afghanistan

 

Satavahanas Dynasty

Dynasty Name Satavahanas
Time Period 1st Century BCE – 2nd Century BCE
Founder Shimuka Satavahana, whose earliest evidence is found in the inscriptions and cave art is found in Naneghat caves
Capital(s) Pratishthana(Paithan in Maharashtra) and Amravati(a city near Nagpur in present-day Maharashtra)
Eminent People Satakarni, Hala, Gautamiputra Satakarni
Geography Covered Modern day Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Maharashtra. They also ruled parts of Karnataka, Gujrat and Madhya Pradesh

 

Kushans or Yeuchi Dynasty

Dynasty Name Kushans or Yeuchi
Time Period 30 CE – 375 CE
Founder Yuezhi
Capital(s) Bagram, Peshawar, Taxila(a city in present-day Pakistan), and Mathura
Eminent People Kanishka I or popularly known as Kanishka the Great
Geography Covered Territories of modern day Northern India encompassing regions of Sarnath and Saketa near present-day Varanasi, Afghanistan, and Pakistan

 

Pandyas Dynasty

Dynasty Name Pandya
Time Period 6th Century CE – 10th Century CE
Founder Legends suggest that Pandyan laid foundations to the Pandya Dynasty, but no supporting evidence is found; however Kadungon in 6th century AD re-established the ‘First Pandya Empire’ in the post-Sangam period.
Capital(s) Madurai (located at the banks of River Vegai). Korkai( a small village in Tamil Nadu), Tenkasi (present-day part of Sri Lanka
Eminent People Kadungon
Geography Covered Territories of South India; from Podukottai district to Kanyakumari; and parts of Achankovil River in Kerala to River Vegai in Madura; almost half of Sri Lanka was also

 

Chola Dynasty

Dynasty Name Chola
Time Period 300 BCE – 1279 CE
Founder Vijayalaya
Capital(s) The Early Cholas maintained Poompuhar, Urayur, Tiruvarur; whereas the Medieval Cholas maintained Pazhaiyaarai, Thanjavur, Gangikonda, and Cholapuram as their capitals
Eminent People Rajaraja Chola I, Rajendra Chola I
Geography Covered Mostly comprised of the Kaveri River Valley, which covered the regions of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and the Southern parts of the Deccan Plateau, moving towards the Bay of Bengal.

 

Chera Dynasty

Dynasty Name Chera
Time Period 3rd Century CE – 12th Century CE
Founder Vanavaramban; though the earliest ruler is Uthiyan Cheral Athan
Capital(s) The Early Cheras: Vanchi Karuvur(modern day Karur), Muchiri(modern day city in Kerala), Thondi(a town in Tamil Nadu)

Kongu Cheras: Vanchi Karuvur (Karur)

Cheras of Makotai: Kodungallur(a town in Kerala)

Mushika Cheras: Kannur (city in Kerala)

Vanadu Cheras: Kollam(city in Kerala)

Eminent People Sengutturan, the greatest among Chera rulers; Karuvur-ol-val-ko-Perunceral Irumporai, the first Chera king
Geography Covered Covered regions of the Malabar Coast, between the territories of Alappuzha, facing south to Kasaragod facing north. Regions of Palakkad Gap, Coimbatore, Salem, and Kolli Hills

 

Pallava Dynasty

Dynasty Name Pallava
Time Period 275 CE – 897 CE
Founder Simha Vishnu
Capital(s) Kanchi
Eminent People Mahendravarman(Simha Vishnu’s son)
Geography Covered Parts of Northern Tamil Nadu and Southern Andhra Pradesh

 

Chalukya Dynasty

Dynasty Name Chalukya
Time Period 543 CE – 753 CE
Founder Pulakeshin I
Capital(s) Badami
Eminent People Pulakeshin I(the first independent ruler)
Geography Covered Ruled over the parts of southern and central India

 

Gupta Dynasty

Dynasty Name Gupta
Time Period 320 CE – 800 CE
Founder Chandra Gupta I. Though Sri Gupta is credited to be the earliest ruler of the Gupta line but the reign of Chandrgupta I
Capital(s) Pataliputra
Eminent People Chandragupta I, Samudragupta, Chandragupta II
Geography Covered Captured Northern and Central India, and Bangladesh

 

Pushyabhuti Dynasty

Dynasty Name Pushyabhuti
Time Period 6th Century CE – 7th Century CE
Founder Pushyabhuti; History has no distinct evidence of who is the founder of the dynasty is, but the legendary account, given by the famous court poet, Bana under the guidance and sponsorship of Harshacharita acknowledges Pushyabhuti as the founder.
Capital(s) Stanvishvara(present day Thanesar), Kanyakubja (present day Kannauj)
Eminent People Harshavardhana or Harsha, the last and most efficient ruler; Pushyabhuti
Geography Covered Covered regions of North and North-western India. The territories extended from Kamarupa in the east to Narmada river in the west

 

Rashtrakuta Dynasty

Dynasty Name Rashtrakuta Dynasty
Time Period 6th Century CE – 10th Century CE
Founder Dantidurg
Capital(s) Malkheda (present day Maharastra)
Eminent People Amoghavarsha I, who is regarded as the most famous king of the entire dynasty; Krishna I, who had built the famous rock carved temples of Kailasa at Ellora
Geography Covered Ruled territories of modern-day Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, and Gujrat

 

Gangas Dynasty

Dynasty Gangas Dynasty
Time Period 350 CE – 1000 CE
Founder Konganivarma Madhava, though his mother belonged from the Chalukya Dynasty; so at times he is considered to be a part of the Chalukya Dynasty
Capital(s) Kolar (a district in Karnataka), Talakad (a town in Mysore district in modern- day Karnataka)
Eminent People Durvinta
Geography Covered The Eastern Ganga Dynasty had control over Orissa, whereas the Western Ganga Dynasty covered the region of Gangavadi, comprising of Karnataka, Southern districts of Andhra Pradesh, and the Kongu territories of present-day Tamil Nadu.

 

History suggests that the ‘glory’ has been a trait of India’s Ancient and Medieval past due to the variant contributions, passed down to the society. These Dynasties remain as an exemplary evidence of India’s culture, religion, and tradition, for which India is looked upon today.

Besides understanding of spiritual and cultural past, Indian history also picturises a rich architectural past. Temples like the Madurai Meenakshi temple, built under the reign of Pandya Dynasty is a blessing to the eyes and mind. Much of the epics have also taken the influences of the Ancient history. The contribution of India’s Ancient and Medieval history remains endless, but what we must acknowledge is the learnings from the stories of the past, reviving them and culminating in our minds the values and teaching they have left behind.