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The Shunga dynasty (IAST: Śuṅga) was the seventh ruling dynasty of Magadha and controlled most of the northern Indian subcontinent from around 187 to 73 BCE. The dynasty was established by Pushyamitra, after taking the throne of Magadha from the Mauryas. The Shunga Empire's capital was Pataliputra, but later emperors such as Bhagabhadra also held court at Besnagar (modern Vidisha) in eastern Malwa. This dynasty is also responsible for successfully fighting and resisting the Greeks in Shunga-Greek War.
|187 BCE–73 BCE
• c. 185 – c. 151 BCE
• c. 151–141 BCE
• c. 83–73 BCE
• Assassination of Brihadratha by Pushyamitra Shunga
• Assassination of Devabhuti by Vasudeva Kanva
|Today part of
Pushyamitra ruled for 36 years and was succeeded by his son Agnimitra. There were ten Shunga rulers. However, after the death of Agnimitra, the second king of the dynasty, the empire rapidly disintegrated: inscriptions and coins indicate that much of northern and central India consisted of small kingdoms and city-states that were independent of any Shunga hegemony. The dynasty is noted for its numerous wars with both foreign and indigenous powers. They fought the Kalinga, the Satavahana dynasty, the Indo-Greek Kingdom and possibly the Panchalas and Mitras of Mathura.
Art, education, philosophy, and other forms of learning flowered during this period, including small terracotta images, larger stone sculptures, and architectural monuments such as the stupa at Bharhut, and the renowned Great Stupa at Sanchi. The Shunga rulers helped to establish the tradition of royal sponsorship of learning and art. The script used by the empire was a variant of Brahmi script and was used to write Sanskrit.
The Shungas were important patrons of culture at a time when some of the most important developments in Hindu thought were taking place. Patanjali's Mahābhāṣya was composed in this period. Artistry also progressed with the rise of the Mathura art style.
The last of the Shunga emperors was Devabhuti (83–73 BCE). He was assassinated by his minister Vasudeva Kanva and was said to have been overfond of the company of women. The Shunga dynasty was replaced by the Kanvas. The Kanva dynasty succeeded the Shungas around 73 BCE.
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