The Saka Dynasty

Origin, Culture, and Key Rulers of the Saka Dynasty (The Shakas)

Probably in the second century A.D., King Maeus founded the Saka Dynasty (The Shakas). The Indo-Scythians, also known as the Shakas, were nomadic Iranian people who reached India by conquering the Indo-Greeks in northwestern India.

The Shakas conquered a substantial chunk of the nation.

Rudradaman, who ruled from 130 to 150 A.D., was India’s most famous Shaka ruler.

Five Shaka dynasties settled and maintained authority in diverse northern and northwestern parts of the Indian subcontinent.

The Saka period ended with defeating the final Shaka ruler, Rudrasimha III, by Chandragupta-II of the Gupta dynasty.

Origin Of Saka Dynasty (The Shakas)

In the second century B.C., the Shakas were expelled from their homelands by the nomadic Yueh-chi or Yuezhi of central Asia, leading them to invade India from the northern boundary of modern-day China.

Kushana was the name given to subsequent generations of descendants.

The Shakas invaded Parthia and Bactria, defeating the Parthian king. Consequently, they expanded their business in India.

The first Indian emperor, Maues, founded the Indo-Scythian kingdom.

The Shakas were divided into five branches and established their rule by settling in the northern and northwestern portions of the Indian subcontinent.

The five branches of the Shakas established themselves in Afghanistan, Punjab, Mathura, Western India, and Upper Deccan, with Ujian as their capital.

The Central and Western Indian branches of the Shaka family rose to prominence and governed India for longer durations than earlier Shaka rulers.

Arts During the Saka Dynasty (The Shakas)

The Saka specialized in skills comparable to those of other Iranian steppe ethnic communities, collectively known as Scythian craftsmanship. The 2001 discovery of an intact imperial Scythian internment wagon exemplified Scythian monster-style gold, which lacked the immediate impact of Greek styles. The royal pair were interred with 44 pounds of gold at Kyzyl, the capital of Tuva in Siberia.

Similar to Korea and Japan, the Saka has had repercussions. Various Korean antiquities, including the imperial crowns of the Silla dynasty, are considered to have a “Scythian” design. Similar crowns may be found in Japan during the Kofun period, which was transferred from the mainland.

As a result of ties between urban China and the western and northwestern line kingdoms about the seventh century B.C., China exhibited outdated Central Asian influences. The Chinese recreated in jade and steatite the Scythian-style monster art of the steppes (portraits of creatures captured in conflict), notably the rectangular gold or bronze belt plaques.

After being ousted by the Yuezhi, some Saka may have moved to the southern Chinese area of Yunnan. Saka soldiers may have also served as hired troops for many ancient Chinese kings. Archaeological excavations of Yunnan’s ancient Dian civilization have uncovered pursuit scenes depicting Caucasoid horsemen clothed in Central Asian costume.

Saka Dynasty (The Shakas) rulers


King Maues was also known as King Moga.

He is regarded as India’s first Shaka or Indo-Scythian ruler and established Shaka dominance over the Gandhara region, which encompasses Afghanistan and Pakistan today.

He led a succession of fruitless expeditions against the Indo-Greeks beyond the Jhelum River.

During his reign, a considerable quantity of copper coins and a smaller number of silver coins were struck.

The languages used on his coins were Greek and Kharosthi.

The coins also include Buddhist and Hindu themes and patterns from India.

The inscriptions of Shaka King Moga include the famed Taxila copper plate, which has precise information written in the Kharosthi script.


Under King Nahapana, the Shaka Empire once again rose to prominence.

Numerous Maharashtra and Satavahana inscriptions attest to his prominence in the central and western satrap territories.

He is the founder of one of the two legendary Shaka Kshatrapa empires in North and North-Western India, the Kshaharatas dynasty.

Later, he was defeated by the emperor of the Satavahana dynasty, Gautamiputra Satakarni.


King Chashtana was Nahapana’s successor.

Shaka King Chashtana ruled over the Western Kshatrapas or Satraps from his capital of Ujjain.

Ptolemy admired him and referred to him as Tiasthenes or Testenes.

He was the founder of the Bhadramukhas dynasty, which governed North and North-Western India after Nahapana.

Rudradaman I

Rudradaman I was the Shaka king Nahapana’s grandson.

He is recognized as the most renowned and robust of all Shaka rulers.

He transformed his capital, Ujjain, into a bustling cultural and educational hub. Following his coronation as king, he adopted the name Makakshatrapa.

Rudradaman-I is considered a reformer of Sanskrit art and literature.

In addition, he was the first emperor to produce a lengthy inscription in Sanskrit, which had hitherto been written solely in Prakrit.

His most notable accomplishment was restoring Chandragupta Maurya’s Sudarshana lake in the Kathiawar region.

According to the Junagarh rock inscription, he reigned over the vast Western satrap dynasty, encompassing Kathiawar, the Narmada valley, the Konkan, and sections of Malwa (excluding Pune and Nashik) in addition to Gujarat.

He converted to Hinduism following his marriage to a Hindu woman.

He reclaimed most of the territories lost to the Satavahanas during the Nahapana dynasty by conquest.

Decline Of the Saka Dynasty (The Shakas)

During the reign of Azes-II, the Shaka kingdom in the Gandara region (northwestern Pakistan) began to unravel following a defeat at the hands of the Kushan Kingdom.

The king of the Satavahana Empire, Gautamiputra Satakarni, delivered the Shaka empire on the Indian subcontinent another devastating blow.

Chandragupta-II of the Gupta Empire finally defeated Rudrasimha III, the last of the Shaka monarchs of the western satrap territory, and reduced the Shakas to a small regional kingdom.

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