Let’s read about the Shunga Dynasty rulers.
The Indian subcontinent has always been cyclical in its nature of leadership. After every large empire comes a period of power void. This is a period when the larger empire breaks into much smaller ones. The death of Ashoka started a similar chain reaction. Fifty years after Ashoka’s death, the last king of the Maurya dynasty Brihadratha was assassinated by Pushyamitra. And Pushyamaitra laid the foundation of the Shunga dynasty.
Pushyamitra was a military officer under the rule of Brihadratha. After Ashoka, the Magadha empire started losing lands under weak leadership. Brihadratha only ruled the central Magadha and had lost the expansion towards North and South. Unhappy by these events many military leaders were thinking of a revolt. But it was Pushyamitra who had the courage to do what was needed. During an annual military parade, he killed Brihadratha and took control of the throne.
Pushyamitra was a Brahmin and Shunga dynasty was the first Brahmin dynasty of the Indian subcontinent. Spiritual practices grew under the reign of Shungas. Some of the most important Hindu Vedic scriptures were written during this time. Sage Patanjali wrote Mahabhasya during this period. This book is the basis of modern-day Ayurveda. The language of Sanskrit was given a revival in this period. Iron mining had started two centuries earlier and now the craftsmen had perfected the use of iron. Using this knowledge and resources, some of the best-known monuments including Sanchi Stupa were created.
One thing that did deteriorate during the Shunga dynasty was secularism. The Shungas wanted a Hindu Brahmical society where Brahmans were on top of the schemes. Hence they tried to eliminate Buddhism and Jainism through both diplomacy and some form of violence. Yet the increase in the number of Buddhist scriptures and monuments proves that they did not succeed.
The decline of the Mauryan empire had come at the cost of the army. The Shunga dynasty did not have the large army of Magadha as the previous rulers did. The fortification of important cities gave some security yet they were at constant war with neighbouring states. In its short reign, the dynasty faced tough competition from the Satavahanas, Kalingas, Panchalas, and even the Greeks.
The decline of the Shunga dynasty began after the death of their second king Agnimitra. People lost faith in the successors of Agnimitra and hence the region started disintegrating into smaller independent states. The last king of the Shunga dynasty Devabhuti was assassinated by Vasudeva Kanva, who later founded the Kanva dynasty.
The Shunga had a very short stay in the pages of Indian history. Yet they were able to leave a heritage of culturally significant things. The Brahminical leadership brought a different outlook and had a different impact.
Indian food is known around the world for its perfection of the spice blend. Similarly, the Indian culture benefits from the mixture of dynasties with different ideologies. Thanks to the spiritual revival under the Shunga dynasty we got Stupas and not just forts, we got Gurus and not just warriors, we learned to revive and not just kill.