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How many kinds of Sakas (Eras) are there?

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Sakam means Era in Sanskrit. To say Saka Era is to repeat yourself in 2 languages.

The word Saka or Sakam must NOT be confused with the Saka people (Scythians – Sakai..) though in english their spelling is the same.

  • All of us know about Christu (Craistava) Sakam, that means era of Christ. Its zero point is 0 AD. Time before that is measured as BC before Christ.
  • This has been renamed as common era CE and before common era BCE, and uses the same zero point as the Christu Sakam.
  • Yugas have to do with graha alignments – astronomical events.
  • Sakas have to do with human events.

The Bharata War (Mahabharata Yuddham) occured 36 years before the start of the Kaliyuga. We know this from the Mahabharata.

The Bharata war was such a significant year in Indian history that it is used as a reference point for all Sakams.

  • Varahamihira speaks of a Saka or Era that commenced 2526 years after the period of the King Yudhisthira, during whose time the munis (saptarishis) were in Magha Nakshatram. These munis traverse each lunar mansion for a peiod of 100 years. (That is how the Saptarishi Yuga = 2700 years. Whichever constellation (nakshatram) makes them conspicuous when they rise to the eat of it, in that they are said to be situated. The Vishnu Puranam also tells us that the dvijottamah ( best of brahmins – the saptarshis) were in Magha, in the time of Parikshit. – Parikshit was born soon after the Bharata war, in the same year that Yudhisthira became the king. As per this source, the Saptarishis are in Visakha Nakshatram now. This gives 2 possible dates of the Bharata war 300 BC and 3000 BC.).
  • Pulakesin speaks of a different Saka or Era when he says ” V. 33.) (Now) when thirty (and) three thousand and five years besides, joined with seven hundred years, have passed since the Bharata war; (V. 34.) And when fifty (and) six and five hundred years of the Saka kings also have gone by in the Kali age” in the Aihole Inscription.

So Pulakesin equates 3735 years after the Bharata War with 556 years of the Sakam that he was living in. Therefore the zero point of that Sakam was 3179 years after the Bharata war, while Varahamihira is speaking of a Sakam which is 2526 years after Yudhisthira was made king. (Bharata War).

  • Vyasa said that Kaliyuga began 36 years after the Bharata war.
  • Therefore 3143 Kaliyuga is the zero point of the Aihole inscription Sakam and 2490 Kaliyuga was the zero point of Varahamihira referenced Sakam.

Reference 1: The Vijnana Sarvaswamu 9th Samputamu gives an explanation of Sakams on pages 559 onwards.

There are 6 Saka Karthas in the Kaliyuga

  1. Yudhisthira
  2. Vikramaditya and
  3. Salivahana are 3 that have gone by.
  4. Vijayanda
  5. Nagarjuna
  6. and Bali are yet to come.

The verb root of the word Saka is from Sak – which means competence (Sakyati – can do, Sakra – Indra – the powerful one.)

The Saka Jathi were a people outside the Vedic System. Any Rajaputra (son of a king) who killed or defeated the Saka Jathi  would become a Saka-kartha (the maker of an Era). Else he had to kill a Saka-kartha to get a Saka started from his time.

Jaya-abhyudaya Yudhisthira Sakam started in year 1 of Kaliyuga, defined by the year in which Vyasa started writing the Mahabharatam, with the name “Jaya”.

Yudhisthira Sakam or Loukikabdam

  • The kaliyuga raja vrttantam says ” In year 25 of  Kaliyuga, after staying for 100 years in Magha Nakshatram, the Saptarishis will attain Aslesha Nakshatram. In memory of Yudhisthira who attained Svargam in his mahaprasthana yatra, after his bhu pradakhsina yatra, a period of 2700 years called Laukikabdam.”  The Rajatarangini uses this sakam.

See : Kalahana’s Rajatarangini : Date of Mahabharata War

Buddha Sakam, Koujada Sakam, Ektajana Sakam, Malavagana Sakam, Kanishka Sakam, Sri Harsha Sakam etc are some more Sakas mentioned in the reference 1.

Using various puranas and itivrttis, the article arrives at the Satavahana king Mekha Swati or the King Mahasatakarni as the Sakakarta of the Saka referred to by Varahamihira, Brahmagupta, and  Bhattotpala.

Al Biruni : Kaliyuga , Saka Kala conversion : (based on Vateswara Karanasara)

As per Al Biruni, 4000 Kaliyuga = 821 Saka Kala : Reference

That give us 3179 Kaliyuga = 0 Saka kala.

Kaliyuga 0 is 3102 BCE. (As accepted by many millenia of Indian Astronomers.)

Therefore 77 CE (AD), is Saka Era as per Al Biruni

His basis is Vatesvara’s Karanasara : Vatesvara, an ancient Kashmiri Astronomer, his Karanasara and Siddhanta : R.N. Rai, INSA

  1. 4000 Kaliyuga is the basis of the karanagrantha used by Vateswara. (See : Al Biruni : Kaliyuga , Saka Kala conversion)
  2. 3000 Kaliyuga must be the basis of the Karanagrantha used by Varahamihira.
  3. In terms of Vatesvara’s Saka Era, 3000 Kaliyuga is minus 179 Saka Era.
  4. This means 179 year before the Sakakarta considered by Vatesvara.
  5. 3000 Kaliyuga  was 427 in Varahamihira’s Saka Era.
  6. Therefore Varahamihira’s Saka Era started 606 years before Vateswara’s Saka Era.
  7. 1000 = 821-427 + x; x = 606;

Authorship and Copyright Notice: All Rights Reserved : Satya Sarada Kandula

Written by Satya Sarada Kandula

June 11, 2009 at 9:40 am

2 Responses

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  1. I was searching for Saka Era for my Masters in Astrology Paper of Hyd Varsity, in Google and stumbled on this Blog. I found it is very informative and I am noting down the salient point from Vignana Sarvasvamu the details from which you have given. Thanks for the pains taken in collecting the information for the benefit of Astrologers like me.
    Astroguru Sreenivas Desabhatla
    CEO Sree Astro Point of India
    e-mail: sreeastropoint@gmail.com

    Sreenivas Desabhatla

    September 2, 2012 at 1:16 pm

  2. The other Saka era I am coming across is the Saka era which starts 551 BCE, and 2526+551 gives 3077 BCE or Kali 25, the other accepted MBH date for the Yuhdhistra era.

    Your views please

    Ravi Chaudhary

    December 17, 2012 at 2:00 am


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