The Saka Era: History, Rulers & Decline

4 minute read
Saka Era

The Saka Era also known as Shakas refers to a significant period in history that took place in ancient India. This era marks the reign of the Saka rulers who greatly influenced the region with their military power, cultural contributions, and administrative skills. The Shakas belonged to the ethnic Scythian group. In this blog post, we will delve into the history of the Saka era, explore the rulers who shaped this period and uncover the reasons behind its eventual decline.

Coins by Shakas were also introduced in the Saka Era.

History of the Saka Era

Scythians were reportedly a tribe of an Iranian nomadic pastoral group. The Saka Era began in 78 A.D. when the Kushan Dynasty’s emperor Kanishka moved his capital to Peshawar. 

  • The Shakas, who originated from the steppes of Central Asia, were known for their military power and horsemanship. 
  • They went on to rule an empire that stretched from present-day Afghanistan to North India. 
  • The Saka Era ended in the early 12th century A.D. when the last Saka king was defeated by the Ghaznavids.

During the Saka era, the Shakas introduced their own calendar system, which was based on the native Indian system of reckoning time. This calendar became widely accepted and is still being used in some parts of India today.

Also Read – Who was Mahmud Ghazni?

Timeline of the Shakas

After the fall of the Mauryan Empire, many dynasties attacked the Northwest region. Amongst these invaders were the Shakas. The Saka dynasty in India was founded by the chieftains Maues, who also conquered Bactria (present-day Afghanistan) and then near about 130 BCE invaded India.  The Scythian group migrated to India’s Northwestern region around 200 BCE. Eventually, the dynasty ended when the Kushanas took them over.

Also Read – Alexander’s Invasion of India: A Short Note on Alexander the Great

List of Rulers During The Saka Era

The saka era was characterized by the reign of several notable rulers, each contributing to the development and prosperity of their empire. Here is a list of some of the Shakas who ruled during this era:

MauesC. 130-120 BCEMaues was the first Saka ruler to establish his authority over the region.
ScylasC. 120 – 110 BCEThe successor and son of Maues and expanded the kingdom.
Azes IC. 58 – 12 BCEOne of the most famous Saka Ruler
Vonones IC. 12-20 CEAzes I’s son but was dethroned soon.
Artabanus IIC. 20-40 CEAnother Azes I’s son who became a ruler in the Bactrian region
GondopharesC. 40-60 CEFounder of the Indo-Parthian dynasty
Kharahostes or KanishkaC. 127-144 CEHe was the conqueror from the Kushan Kingdom

In India, the Saka Era rulers were – 

  1. Maues: Maues was the first Shaka ruler to establish his authority over the Indian region. He expanded the Shaka kingdom and paved the way for the subsequent rulers.
  2. Chastana: Reigned in 78 AD- 130 AD was a powerful Shaka king who further strengthened the Shaka empire. He is known for his military expeditions and the construction of irrigation canals, which greatly contributed to the agricultural growth of the region. Ptolemy accredited him as a “Tiasthenes” or Testenes”.
  3. Rudradaman I: Rudradaman I was a renowned Shaka ruler who not only expanded the empire but also patronized the arts and sciences in his reigning year 130 AD- 50 AD. He is best remembered for his patronage of the famous Sudarshan Lake and the Junagadh Rock Inscription. After his crowning, he took up the title of Makakshatrapa. During his rule, the famous author, Yavaneshwara thrived and translated Yavanajataka from the Greek language to Sanskrit.

Also Read – What is the Aryan Invasion Theory?

Decline of the Saka era

Despite the initial prosperity of the Saka era, it eventually witnessed a decline that led to the downfall of the Saka dynasty. Several factors contributed to this decline, including:

  1. Internal and External Conflicts: Infighting among the Saka rulers weakened the empire and paved the way for external invasions. The decline of the dynasty started when the Satvahana Emperor Gautamiputra Satakarni defeated the rulers.
  2. Kushana Expansion: The rise of the powerful Kushan Dynasty posed a significant threat to the Shakas. The Kushanas ultimately overpowered the Shakas and assimilated their territory into their own empire from northwestern India and Pakistan.
  3. Socio-Political Changes: Societal and political transformations within India, such as the rise of feudalism, also played a role in the decline of the Saka era. In the Western Indian region, the rule came to an end, when the last ruler, Rudrasimha III of the Sutrapa Saka, was defeated by the Chandragupta II of the Gupta Dynasty.

The Shaka rulers widely influenced various aspects of society and contributed to the cultural and political attribution of the throne of power. Despite its eventual decline, the Shaka Era is remembered as an era of the spread of Buddhism in India and Central Asia. Their urban planning and coinage innovation was significant and their influence is still prevalent. 

Post Mauryan PeriodKalinga War
Samudragupta MauryaBindusara
All The Names of India Throughout HistoryTribes of India
Sunga DynastyDiscovery of Fire

This was all about the Saka Era. If you are interested in learning more about such historical topics, then you can find more informative blogs on Indian History by staying tuned to our General Knowledge section.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *