Saka King Nahapana Ruled around 623-583 BCE? Here are Evidences

Nahapana cover

The epigraphic and numismatic evidence clearly indicates that there were two branches of Western Kshatraps. Bhumaka and Nahapana belonged to a different branch (Kshaharatas) from the branch of Chashtana (Kardamakas). According to Historians, both the branches were contemporaries. Chashtana branch reigned around 78-395 CE whereas Bhumaka and Nahapana reigned around 100-124 CE. 


Though historians fixed the date of Bhumaka and Nahapana yet they failed to explain how Nahapana was ruling from Gujarat to Ujjain to Nasik when Chashtana and his descendants were ruling in the same region at the same time.

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Silver coin of Nahapana, with ruler profile and pseudo-Greek legend “ΡΑΝΝΙΩ ΞΑΗΑΡΑΤΑϹ ΝΑΗΑΠΑΝΑϹ”, transliteration of the Prakrit “Raño Kshaharatasa Nahapanasa” (or “King Kshaharata Nahapana”). British Museum. Image and coin and text source: Wikimedia (uploaded by user Uploadalt)

Only Jain literature refers to a Naravahana or Nabhavahana, who ruled for 40 years. According to Harivamsa Purana and Tiloyapannati, starting from the epoch of Mahavira nirvana, Palaka ruled for 60 years, Vishaya kings for 150 years, Murundas for 40 years, Pushpamitra for 30 years, Vasumitra and Agnimitra for 60 years, Gandhavvaya or Rasabha kings for 100 years, Naravahana for 40 years, Bhattubanas for 242 years and Guptas for 231 years.


Tiloyapannati clearly mentions that one Saka king ruled 461 or 466 years after Mahavira nirvana and another Saka king started ruling 605 years and 5 months after nirvana who also founded an era.


It appears that there is an error of 127 years in the chronology given in the Harivamsa Purana and Tiloyapannati. The timelines of Saka kings given in Tiloyapannati contradict with the duration of the kings mentioned. Therefore, Meruttunga corrected this error and gives the chronology of 470 years starting from Mahavira nirvana.

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A silver drachma of Nahapana. Rev: An arrow to the left and a lightning to the right. Legend in kharoshthi on the left: Rano Chaharatasa Nahapanasa. Brahmi legend on the right: Rajna Kshaha (ratasa Nahapanasa). Image and coin info source: Wikimedia (uploaded by Classical Numismatic Group, Inc)

Meruttunga says,

“Palaka or Avanti Palaka reigned for 60 years, Nandas (Vishayas or Vijayas?) for 155 years, Muriyas for 108 years, Pushpamitra for 30 years, Balamitra & Bhanumitra for 60 years, Nabhavahana for 40 years, Gardabhilla for 13 years and Sakas for 4 years.”

Evidently, Gandhavvaya or Rasaba kings mentioned in Harivamsa Purana and Tiloyapannati were Gardabhilla kings and Bhattubanas were Saka kings. Harivamsa and Tiloyapannati place Naravahana after the reign of Gardabhilla whereas Meruttunga states that Nabhavahana reigned before Gardabhilla.


Since Harivamsa and Tiloyapannati are more ancient texts than that of Meruttunga, we may have to place Naravahana or Nahapana just before Chashtana. The Palaeography also suggests that Nahapana must be placed before the beginning of the reign of Chashtana i.e. 583 BCE. Thus we can fix the date of Kshaharata, Bhumaka and Nahapana around 623-583 BCE.

Nahapana coins

Overstrikes of Nahapana coins by discovered by Shatavahana king Gautamiputra Shatakarni found in Nashik. Image source: Wikimedia (uploaded by Classical Numismatic Group, Inc).

Interestingly, a coin of Bhumaka was found in Sharjah, UAE. A legend “Abhiraka” on the coin of Kshaharata indicates that Kshaharata belonged to Abhira tribe of Indo-Scythians. Puranas also mention that Abhira kings ruled for 60 Years. Some of the coins of Nahapana were restruck by the Shatavahana king Gautamiputra Shatakarni.


Key Reference: Chronology of India by Vedveer Arya.


Featured image courtesy: Wikimedia.

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Vedveer Arya

Vedveer Arya is a civil servant and an officer of 1997 batch of Indian Defence Accounts Service (IDAS). A postgraduate in Sanskrit from University of Delhi, he is author of 'The Chronology of India'.
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