Saka Dynasty (The Shakas) – [GK Notes]

Saka Dynasty: Maues/Moga was the first Saka ruler in South Asia, establishing Saka supremacy in Gandhara and the Indus Valley in the 1st century BC. The Indo-Scythians conquered the Indo-Greeks and other minor kingdoms to extend their dominance across northwestern India.

The Saka Kingdom in India

The Shakas (Saka) were a nomadic tribe of Central Asia. Shaka called themselves Skudat. In the Shaka language, it means archer. Shakas were skilled archers. They introduced poisonous and thorny arrows. The Greeks called the Shakes Skythai. The English word Scythian is derived from the Greek word Skythai. In Sanskrit, they are called ‘Saka‘. It is known that the horses were their main means of transportation.

After the fall of the Mauryan Empire, northwest India was repeatedly besieged by various invaders from Central and West Asia. The Indo-Greek rule lasted from 180 BC to approximately 55 BC. The Sakas (sometimes spelled Shakas), also known as Indo-Scythians, conquered northwest India beginning in the first century BC.

saka kingdom
The Shaka kingdom

Some important rulers from the Saka kingdom are listed below.

Maues (Reign 100/50 BC – 60/55 BC)

  • The first Indo-Scythian king was Maues. He was also known as Moga.
  • Maues was the ruler of Gandhara (present Pakistan and Afghanistan).
  • He attempted but failed to invade the Indo-Greek provinces.
  • His capital was Sirkap (at present it is located in Punjab, Pakistan).
  • Many coins of Maues have been discovered. That includes Buddhist and Hindu symbols.
  • Greek and Kharoshti were the languages utilized on these coins.
  • By defeating Hippostratos, his son Azes I gained control of the remaining Indo-Greek lands.

Chashtana (reigned 80–130 AD)

  • Chashtana ruled over Ujjain as a Saka ruler of the Western Kshatrapas (Satraps) dynasty.
  • The Saka Era is thought to have begun with his ascent to power in 78 AD.
  • Ptolemy refers to him as “Tiasthenes” or “Testenes.”
  • Chashtana founded the Bhadramukhas, one of the two major Saka Kshatrapa kingdoms in northwest India.
  • The other dynasty was known as the Kshaharatas, and it was commanded by King Nahapana (who was defeated by Satavahana king Gautamiputra Satakarni).

Rudradaman I (Reign 130 AD – 150 AD)

Rudradaman is best known in Indian History for his famous Junagarh Rock Inscription.
  • Rudradaman is regarded as the greatest Saka ruler. He is a descendant of the Western Kshatrapa dynasty.
  • Rudradaman was Chastana’s grandchild.
  • In his reign, he conquered the Konkan, the Narmada valley, Kathiawar, and other areas of Gujarat and Malwa.
  • He was in charge of repairing Sudarshana Lake in Kathiawar.
  • Rudradaman turned to Hinduism after marrying a Hindu woman.
  • In addition, he published the first extended inscription in chaste Sanskrit.
  • After becoming king, he acquired the title Makakshatrapa.
  • He had marital relations with the Satavahanas. His son-in-law was Vashishtiputra Satakarni. However, he fight in a number of wars with them.
  • He reclaimed most of the regions previously held by Nahapana through conquests.
  • He was an advocate for Sanskrit literature and cultural arts.
  • During Rudradaman’s reign, the Greek writer Yavaneshwara lived in India and translated the Yavanajataka from Greek to Sanskrit.

The decline of the Shakas :

After their defeat at the hands of Satavahana Emperor Gautamiputra Satakarni, the Saka Empire began to decline. The Sakas ruled northwest India and Pakistan until the death of Azes II (12 BC) when the region was taken over by the Kushanas.

Their dominion in western India ended in the 4th century AD, when the last Western Satrap Saka king, Rudrasimha III, was defeated by Chandragupta II of the Gupta dynasty.

Saka Era in the history of India: All important general knowledge points are discussed in this topic. This information are very important for IAS and other state service commission examinations like WBCS, SSC, CGL Railway Banking, etc.


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Suggested ReadingSuggested Reading
Foreign Travellers in IndiaIndo-Greek Kingdom 
Maurya Empire (322–180 BCE)Nanda dynasty (344 – 323 BC)

Some important QNA on the Saka Era:

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