Religions of South Asia, Vol 5, No 1/5.2 (2011)

The Men who would be King: Reading between the Lines of Dynastic Genealogies in India and Beyond

Richard Salomon
Issued Date: 23 May 2012


A critical examination of dynastic genealogies for pre-Islamic India derived from literary, epigraphic and numismatic sources reveals that they regularly suppress fraternal conflicts and other irregularities in the lineages. Although normative texts such as the Arthaśāstra and various D harmaśāstra treatises present succession by the king’s eldest son as the norm, reading between the lines shows that this principle was often overruled or ignored. Some Indian dynasties of Iranian and Central Asian descent, notably the Western Kṣatrapas, followed a system of collateral, brother-to-brother succession which is characteristic of Central Asian polities, but here too a critical scrutiny shows that this principle was subject to various irregularities. In effect if not in principle, both systems, primogeniture and collateral succession, provide mechanisms to prevent or at least minimize the damage from fraternal conflicts, but both were evidently limited in their actual effects.

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DOI: 10.1558/rosa.v5i1/2.267


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