Sunga Dynasty

The founder of the dynasty Pushyamitra Sunga overthrew the Mauryas in 187 BC. After him there were nine other rulers. Among them Agnimitra, Vasumitra, Bhagvata and Devabhumi were the prominent ones. After the overthrow of Brihadrata Pushyamitra Sunga waged few wars to consolidate his position. Evidence shows that he defeated the Yavanas. This is confirmed by Patanjali' Mahabashva. Later Vasumitra the grandson of Pushyamitra Sunga defeated the Yavanas. This is confirmed by Malavikaganimtriam and gargi samhita. Some scholars regard that the establishment of Sunga dynasty was symbolic of the Brahmanical reaction to the Mauryan bias towards Buddhism.

Pushyamitra Sunga performed the Vedic sacrifices of asvamedha and the others like aginstoma, Rajasuya and vajpeiya. There was a high degree of tolerance prevailing during the period and some of the minor work of Sunga art are found at Mathura, Kausambi and Sarnath. The Sungas attempted to revive the caste system with the social supremacy of the Brahmins. This is more evident in the work of Manu wherein he emphasised on the higher position of the Brahmins in the society. The most significant development of the Sunga era was marked by various adjustment and adaptations leading to the emergence of mixed castes and the assimilation of the foreigners in Indian society. In the field of literature Sanskrit gradually gained ascendancy and became the language of the court. Patanjali was patronized by Pushyamitra Sunga and he was the second great grammarian of Sanskirt.

Patankali refers to a Sanskrit poet Varauchi who wrote in the Kavya style and which was later perfected by Kalidasa. In the field of art there was immediate reaction against the Buddhist era of the Mauryas. The Sunga art reflects more of the mind, culture, tradition and ideology than what the Mauryan art did. During the Sunga period stone replaced the wood in the railings and the gateways of the Buddhist stupas as noticed at Bharhut and Sanchi. Bharhut stupa is replete with sculptures -apart from the floral designs , animal, figures, Yakshas and human figures. Even the stone railing around the Sanchi Stupa is in rich belief work.

There was increasing use of symbols and human figures in architecture. Sunga art are manifestation of popular artistic genius. There was an increase in the construction of rock-cut temple as noticed in the Chaitya Hall. The importance of Sunga dynasty lies in the restoration of real politic while abandoning the Ashokan approach. In the field of religion they not only revived the earlier tradition but also gave an impetus to new approaches combative towards the heterodox sects the cult of Katakana the god of war the resurgence of Bhagvata cult and the supremacy of Vasudeva in the Hindu pantheon.