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By Swami Harshananda
In the traditional Hindu calendars (pañcāṅgas), generally, reckoning of the eras (called ‘śaka’) starts either with Vikramāditya or Śālivāhana, both of whom were supposed to be famous emperors.
Vikramāditya, son of Gardabhilla, was a great emperor ruling at Ujjayinī during the period 58-57 B. C., (according to the Prākṛt work Kālakācarya-kathānaka). However, no historical or literary evidence is available to prove the existence of Śālivāhana.
Though the era of Vikramāditya is known as Vikrama-Śaka or Vikrama-Sariivat, the era of Śālivāhana is mostly written as the Śaka era. It begins from A. D. 78.
The earliest reference to the Śaka era is in the Jain work Lokavibhāga of Sirhhasūri, mentioned as Śaka era 380. The earliest inscription so far discovered is that of Cālukya Vallabheśvara which mentions the Śaka era 465 (= A. D. 534).
Almost all Sanskrit works on astronomy from A. D. 500 onwards, employ the Śaka era.
Oriental research scholars sometimes identify the emperor Kāniṣka of the Kuṣāṇa race with Śālivāhana.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore