The Sakas, or Indo-Scythians, were a nomadic tribe
from Central Asia which inhabited the region around Lake Issykkul and the
River Jaxartes. Generally, they were pastoralists and good horsemen.
They often attacked sedentary societies with the intention of acquiring pastoral
grazing land and livestock.
The Sakas were attacked and driven south by the Yueh Chi tribes,
where they contributed towards the weakening of the Greek kingdom
there. They settled down in Bactria and Parthia, overrunning the Parthians (the Pahlavas
or Indo-Parthians), and forcing remnants of their people into India,
one of a complex series of incursions and migrations from Central
Asia into India in this period.
The Saka king, Maues or Moga (c.90-60 BC),
established Saka rule in
Gandhara (modern Kandahar). He defeated the Indo-Greek territories
(in modern Pakistan) and established his rule up to the River Jhelum,
but after his
death the Greeks regained their territories.
Maues was succeeded by
Vonones (75-65 BC), who ruled along with his brother, Spalahores.
The brother was succeeded in turn by his son, Spalagadames (50 BC) who ruled areas
between Central Asia and South Asia.
His successor, Azes (57-35 BC), increased
his importance by capturing the kingdom of the
last great Indo-Greek king, Hippostratus. His joint ruler (although
perhaps as a junior partner) was Azillises,
who was succeeded by Azes II (35-12 BC). Azes II completed the
conquest of the
Scythians in northern India, but his death coincided with the rise of
the Kushans in India.
The Sakas ruled over the north-west frontier, and
in Punjab, Sindh, Kashmir,
western Uttar Pradesh, Saurashtra, Kathiawar, Rajputana, Malwa, and
the north Konkan belt of Maharashtra (the Sakas also fought against the Satvahanas
in India, and later entered into matrimonial alliances with them).
Benefiting from their earlier interaction with the Greeks, the Sakas employed the Greek system of rule and appointed
(satraps, or governors) to rule each region.
The Sakas were later overpowered by the Kushans as
they succeeded in taking control. The Sakas
accepted their suzerainty, but after the fall of the Kushans, the western
kshatrapas amongst the Sakas once again rose
in prominence, especially under King Nahapana, who occupied large
swathes of Satvahana territory in western and central India. But
he was defeated later by the Satvahana king, Gautamiputra Satkarni.