Sakas Invade India

  • Name of the Battle: The Sakas Invade India
  • Venue: North West India
  • Year: 90 BC onwards

The Sakas were a group of nomadic tribes of Iranian origin or Scythian tribes, who lived in present day Kazakhstan in Central Asia. Leading a nomadic life, they moved from one place to another, from Southern Siberia into Bactria, Arachosia, Sogdiana, Gandhara, and India from the middle of the 2nd century BCE to the 4th century CE. They entered the states of Kashmir, Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan in India by defeating the native rulers and were successful in establishing a strong foundation of the kingdom of Saka in India. The 2nd century BC saw an outbreak in the Central Asia. The invasion by the Central Asian nomadic tribes and tribes from the Chinese region was responsible for the migration of the Sakas to India.

The reasons that led to the invasion

According to Historians, the first Saka King in India was known as Maues or Moga. He established his power in Gandhara and spread out his power and supremacy in almost all regions of Northwest India. However, studies show different theories regarding the route of entrance of the Sakas in India. Some say that the main group of the Sakas moved westwards to Heart, Eastern Iran and Seistan and entered the Parthian Empire. According to another historian, there were two distinct groups of the Sakas in India, the Saka Murandas, who entered India from Kashmir, and the other was the Sakas of Seistan or Eastern Iran. This group of Sakas had similar culture as the Parthian culture. They were attacked by the Parthian emperor Mithradates II and were defeated. The Sakas afterwards moved towards the Eastern Iran. From East Iran, the Sakas entered the Indian subcontinent through the Bolan Pass. Some other Saka tribes entered Northwest India through the Khyber Pass. In Indian epic the Mahabharat, it is mentioned that the Sakas settled in a region called "Sakadwipa" which was in the Northwest of ancient India.

Aftermath of the battle: Winner and Loser

In Indian History, the Indo-Scythians or the Indo-Sakas were not given much importance. They were not regarded as conquerors, rather they were considered as native people who migrated and invaded a major portion of Northwestern India. Indo-Scythians were known to have ruled India, but they were the ethnic or the native groups and did not belong to the ruling class. In fact, they migrated in groups along with their leaders or chiefs and formed their kingdoms in India.

The larger implications of the battle

According to the great historian, Herodotus, the Scythians or the Sakas, had political control over Central Asia and the Northern part of the subcontinent up to the river Ganges, as far back as the 5th century B.C. Later the Indo-Scythic clans and dynasties such as the Rajputs and the Mauryas expanded their control to other areas of the northern subcontinent. Saka dynasties were among the largest, same as the Satraps during the period 204 BC to 78 AD, the Kushanas during the period 50 AD to 380 AD and the Virkas in the period 420 AD to 640. Historical studies reveal that the Mauryas and the Dharan-Guptas expanded their empires towards the east. The first Saka ruler’s capital was ''Sirkap'' and during his reign, a large number of copper coins and few silver coins were issued. There were images of Indian deities such as Shiva, Buddha in-scripted on these coins. It is also said that the first Saka ruler assumed the title of "maharaja mahatma".

The overall place and significance of the invasion in the Indian History
  • The Sakas invasion of India mainly devastated the Indo-Greek rule in India.
  • Maues and his successors conquered large parts of Gandhara. However, they could not conquer the Indo-Greek kings who ruled behind the Jhelum River in Eastern Punjab.
  • Then came Azes-I. He put an end to the remaining Greek rule in India and was successful in taking over the kingdom of the Indo-Greek Hippostratos after a great deal of struggle.
  • The Indo-Scythian invasion or the invasion of India by the Sakas or the Scythian tribes from Central Asia played a significant role not only in the history of South Asia but also in other neighbouring countries. In fact, it is said that the Indo-Scythian war is one such war that led to the nomadic war of Central Asians with tribes such as the Xiongnu. This invasion had a great impact on places such as Bactria, Kabul, Parthia and India, including Rome in the west.
  • There was the promotion of Indo-Iranian trade with the invasion of India by the Sakas.
  • A gradual geographical exploration of the Indus and the Arabian Sea took place after the invasion.
  • The inter-mixture of the Iranian and Persian features could be seen in the ancient Mauryan art.
  • According to well-known international historians, the agrarian and artisan communities that we have today in the entire West India, such as the Lohars, Jats, Ahirs, Rajputs, Gujars, Tarkhans etc., originated from the Scythians or the Sakas from Northwestern and Western South Asia.
  • In fact, the historians also reveal that "Gujarat" was derived from the name "Khazar", a term used by the Sakas. The word, "Saurashtra" meaning "worshipper of sun" was another term used by the Scythians.
  • Some other common terms used in India even today were derived from Sakas' terminology such as "Jat" from "Gatae", "Thakur" from "Tukharian", "Sessodia" (a Rajput clan) from "Sassanian" etc.
  • The term "Sakastan" was used for the Rajasthan-Gujarat region. It also included certain parts of Punjab, UP and Haryana.
  • According to historians, the most Scythic region even today in the world is the region of Gujarat-Rajasthan.
  • Some of the oldest Rajput clans found in Southern and Western Rajasthan originated from the earlier Saka groups.
  • The Saka power in India started declining after they were defeated by the South Indian Emperor Gautamiputra Satakarni of the Satavahana dynasty.
  • The Indo-Saka rule in Northwestern part of India ended when the last Western Satrap Rudrasimha III was defeated by the great Indian Emperor Chandragupta II of the Gupta Empire in the 4th century.


Last Updated on : December 17, 2014