Pushyamitra Sunga was the founder of Sunga Dynasty of Magadha. Pushyamitra Sunga was a military general in the Mauryan Army. He became the King by killing King Brihadratha, the last Mauryan emperor.
King Pushyamitra Sunga ruled for about 35-36 years (185-150 B.C.). He was a brave soldier, a great general, clever diplomat and a wise administrator. His reign was very eventful, especially because of his wars against the Greeks (Yavanas). The chief events of his reign are the following:
1. War with the Greeks (Yavanas): During the reign of Pusyamitra Sunga, India was in the grip of serious Greek invasions. In ‘about 155 B.C. Menander, the Greek ruler of Kabul and the Punjab invaded India. According to Patanjali, the great grammarian and a contemporary of Pusyamitra, the Greeks were successful in the beginning and they even occupied Mathura and Ayodhya, etc., but later on they were pushed back with heavy losses.
2. War with Vidarbha: Taking advantage of the confusion that prevailed in the country after the downfall of the Mauryan dynasty, Yajnasena, the ruler of Vidarbha, became independent. A fierce battle was fought in which Yajnasena was defeated and was obliged to acknowledge the suzerainty of the Sunga ruler.
3. War with Kalinga: From the Hathigumpha Inscription of Kharavela it appears that King Pusyamitra suffered a defeat at the hand of that illustrious ruler. Kharavela invaded Magadha several times and plundered the wealth of Patliputra. In one of his raids he is said to have carried away with him a Jain, image and other valuables which the Nandas had some time back taken away from Kalinga.
4. The Ashvamedha Yajna: Another important event of the reign of Pusyamitra Sunga was the performance of Ashvamedha or the horse sacrifice. Pusyamitra wanted to assume the title of “Maharaiadhiraj” and so he celebrated this horse sacrifice and assumed that title when the horse returned to Patliputra safe and sound. It was, no doubt, challenged by the Greeks (or the Yavanas) near the Indus River but Vasumitra, Pusyamitra’s grandson, was able to defeat them.
5. Extent of Pusyamitra’s Empire: Nothing definite can be said regarding the extent of Pusyamitra’s empire. According to some historian, Jalandhar and Sialkot also formed a part of his empire. It also included Ayodhya and Vidisha and its southern boundaries touch Narmada. Patliputra continued to be its capital.
6. Religion of Pusyamitra Sunga: Pusyamitra was a staunch Hindu, a champion of Brahmanism and that is why the Buddhist texts show him as a cruel man.
Under Pushyamitra Sanskrit once again became the court language and Hindu religion once again occupied a respectable position.
Death of Pushyamitra Sunga: After a reign of about 35-36 years Pushyamitra died in about 150 B.C.
Pushyamitra’s Successors: After Pushyamitra’s death, his son Agnimitra occupied the ancestral throne. He is the hero of Kalidasa’s famous play ‘Malavikagnimitra’. After a short reign of eight years he gave up his throne.
There were eight other rulers of this line, who ruled upto 73 B.C., but unfortunately we do not know much about them. Devabhuti, the last ruler of this line, was murdered by his minister Vasudeva in about 73 B.C. With the accession of Vasudeva to the throne, the Kanva dynasty replaced the Sunga dynasty.