Saka Era (The Shakas) - [NCERT Notes - Ancient Indian History For UPSC]

Sakas belonged to Scythian Ethnic stock. The movement of Sakas into north-western India came to heels of their displacement from the plains of Syr Darya (Jaxartes) by the Great Yueh Chi tribe (Chinese Tribe) in the 2nd century BCE. Aspirants should know that the term, ‘Sakas’ is interrelatedly used with ‘Shakas’ and ‘Indo-Scythians;’ meaning of all is the same.  Learning about Shakas is important for the IAS Exam. This article will talk about Shakas while providing important facts for UPSC.

Candidates can refer to articles related to Shakas for UPSC in the table below:

Indo-Greek RuleKushana Empire

The Satavahanas Sunga Dynasty

Introduction to Shakas

After the decline of the Mauryan Empire, northwest India was constantly under attack from various invaders from Central and West Asia. The Indo-Greek rule lasted from about 180 BC till about 55 BC. The Sakas (also written Shakas), alternatively known as Indo-Scythians, invaded northwest India in the first century BC onwards.

Saka Era (The Sakas) (UPSC Notes):- Download PDF Here

Saka Era | Shakas - Extent of the Kingdom

Indo-Scythian Kingdom | Shakas

Saka Era Origin

The beginning of the Saka Era can be related to the ascent of the king Chashtana. The period of the Saka Era falls between 11 years and 52 years. This information was retrieved from the inscriptions of the king Chashtana.

  • Scythians (referred to as Sakas in Indian sources) were a group of Iranian nomadic pastoral tribes.
  • In the second century BC, central Asian nomadic tribes and tribes from the Chinese region invaded the region of present-day Kazakhstan whose inhabitants were Scythians.
  • This promoted the Scythians to move towards Bactria and Parthia. After defeating the Parthian king, they moved towards India. Scythians who migrated to India are known as Indo-Scythians.
  • The Sakas had an Indian kingdom larger than the Indo-Greeks.

Shakas – Rulers

Maues (Reign 98/50 BC – 60/57 BC)

  • Maues, also known as Moga was the earliest Indo-Scythian king.
  • He ruled over Gandhara (present Pakistan and Afghanistan).
  • He invaded the Indo-Greek territories but unsuccessfully.
  • His capital was at Sirkap (Punjab, Pakistan).
  • Many coins issued by Maues have been found. They contain Buddhist and also Hindu symbols. The languages used in these coins were Greek and Kharoshti.
  • His son Azes I acquired the remaining Indo-Greek territories by defeating Hippostratos.

Chashtana (Reign 78 AD – 130 AD)

  • He was a Saka ruler of the Western Kshatrapas (Satraps) dynasty who ruled over Ujjain.
  • The Saka Era is believed to have started at his ascension to power in 78 AD.
  • Ptolemy mentions him as “Tiasthenes” or “Testenes”.
  • He was the founder of one of the two major Saka Kshatrapa dynasties in northwest India, the Bhadramukhas. The other dynasty was called Kshaharatas and included the king Nahapana (who was defeated by Satavahana king Gautamiputra Satakarni).

Rudradaman I (Reign 130 AD – 150 AD)

  • He is considered the greatest of the Saka rulers.
  • He is from the Western Kshatrapa dynasty.
  • He was the grandson of Chastana.
  • His kingdom included Konkan, Narmada valley, Kathiawar, other parts of Gujarat and Malwa.
  • He conducted the repair work of the Sudarshana Lake at Kathiawar.
  • He married a Hindu woman and had converted to Hinduism.
  • He also issued the first long inscription in chaste Sanskrit.
  • He took up the title of Makakshatrapa after becoming king.
  • He maintained marital relationships with the Satavahanas. Vashishtiputra Satakarni was his son-in-law. But he also fought numerous wars with them.
  • He regained through conquests most of the territories previously under Nahapana.
  • He supported Sanskrit literature and cultural arts.
  • It was during Rudradaman’s reign that Yavaneshwara, the Greek writer lived in India and translated the Yavanajataka from Greek to Sanskrit.

The decline of the Shakas

  • The Saka Empire started declining after their defeat at the hands of the Satavahana Emperor Gautamiputra Satakarni.
  • The Saka rule in northwest India and Pakistan came to an end after the death of Azes II (12 BC) when the region came under the Kushanas.
  • In western India, their rule came to an end in the 4th century AD when the last Western Satrap Saka ruler Rudrasimha III was defeated by Chandragupta II of the Gupta dynasty.

Saka Era (The Sakas) (UPSC Notes):- Download PDF Here

Frequently Asked Questions about Shakas (Indo-Scythians)


Who defeated the Shakas in India?

Chandragupta II defeated the Saka king Rudrasimha III and annexed his kingdom and assumed the title Vikramaditya. This brought an end to Saka-Kshatrapa rule in western India and added the regions of Gujarat, Kathiawad and west Malwa to the Gupta empire.

What race were the Scythians?

Scythian, also called Scyth, Saka, and Sacae, member of a nomadic people, originally of Iranian stock, known from as early as the 9th century bce who migrated westward from Central Asia to southern Russia and Ukraine in the 8th and 7th centuries bce.

Aspirants can refer to NCERT notes on Ancient History for UPSC for other important articles.

UPSC Preparation

UPSC Prelims UPSC Mains
NCERT Modern History Notes for UPSC  NCERT Medieval History Notes for UPSC
UPSC Books Daily News Analysis
UPSC Previous Year Question Papers IAS Current Affairs
NCERT Notes For UPSC Daily Video Analysis: The Hindu


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