The Golden Age
The middle period, known as India’s Golden Age, was a time of relative stability and cultural developments. During this period, several kingdoms and empires emerged.
The Satavahanas, also known as the Andhras, were a dynasty which ruled in Southern and Central India starting from around 230 BC. Although there is some controversy about when the dynasty came to an end, the most liberal estimates are of about 450 years. Long before that, their kingdom had disintegrated into successor states. Several dynasties divided the lands of the kingdom among themselves.
The Kuninda kingdom is noteworthy for being a small Himalayan state that survived for almost 500 years, and like many other small kingdoms of the era, were related to states contemporary to the Mahajanapadas, and mentioned in the epics. It was documented from around the 2nd century BC, and lasted until roughly the 3rd century AD.
Pandyas, Cholas and Cheras
Three different empires, the Pandyas, Cholas and Cheras, dominated the southern part of the Indian peninsula, at different periods of time. They formed overseas empires that stretched across South East Asia. In the time period leading up to this, the kingdoms mainly warred with each other and Deccan states, for domination of the south.
The Cholas emerged as the most powerful empire in the 9th century and retained their pre-eminent position until the 12th century when the Hoysala Empire was founded in Karnataka. The Cholas, like the Chalukyas and Pallavas before them, and the Hoysala and Vijayanagar after them, were responsible for some of India's finest monuments, and being located on the south tip of the peninsula, ruled Sri Lanka, and culturally dominated most of South East Asia, where the Hindu Srivijaya and Khmer empires of Indonesia and Cambodia used south Indian temple design.
The Chola Navy was the most powerful for its time having conquered the neighboring island of Lanka and other areas across the Bay of Bengal. One particular medieval Chola ruler, Raja Raja the Great, is known as one of India's greatest Emperors, having initiated a massive building program, that produced some of the finest temple architecture in the subcontinent that are magnificent.
The Kushan Empire (c. 1st–3rd centuries) was a state that at its height, about 105–250, stretched from Tajikistan to the Caspian Sea to Afghanistan and down into the Ganges river (Ganga) valley.
The empire was created by Tocharians from modern East Turkestan, China, but was culturally dominated by north India.
They had diplomatic contacts with Rome, Sassanid Persia and China, and for several centuries were at the centre of exchange between the East and the West, spreading Buddhism through trade with China.
The Western Kshatrapas, or Western Satraps, (35-405 CE) were Saka rulers of the western and central part of India (Saurashtra and Malwa: modern Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh states).
They were contemporaneous with the Kushans who ruled the northern part of the Indian subcontinent, and the Satavahana (Andhra) who ruled in Central India.
Altogether, there were 27 independent Kshatrapa rulers during a period of about 350 years. The word Kshatrapa stands for satrap, and its equivalent in Persian Ksatrapavan, which means viceroy or governor of a province.
In the 4th and 5th centuries, the Gupta Dynasty unified northern India. During this period, known as India's Golden Age, Hindu culture, science and political administration reached new heights. After the collapse of the Gupta Empire in the 6th century, India was again ruled by numerous regional kingdoms. The Gupta 'golden age' marked a period of significant cultural development.
Their origins are largely unknown; however the Chinese traveler Yi Jing provides the first evidence of the Gupta kingdom in Magadha. The Vedic Puranas are also thought to have been written around this period.
The empire came to an end with the attack of the Huns from central Asia. A minor line of the Gupta clan continued to rule Magadha after the disintegration of the empire. These Guptas were ultimately ousted by the Vardhana king Harsha, who established an empire in the first half of the seventh century that, for a brief time, rivaled that of the Guptas in extent.
The White Huns were responsible for the downfall of the Gupta dynasty. Even if they were repelled by the Gupta Emperor Skandagupta, they successfully broke through into northern India by the end of the 5th century, hastening the disintegration of the Gupta Empire.
In the south, a Buddhist kingdom, the Kalabhras, briefly interrupted the usual domination of the Cholas, Cheras and Pandyas, imposing the only known Buddhist dynasty to have ever ruled there. However, between the 3rd and the 6th century AD, they would succeed in uniting the south.