Chandra-Gupta- I (319 – 335 A.D.)

More definite information about the Gupta rulers is obtained from the third generation since Sri Gupta. The third Gupta ruler Chandra-Gupta I assumed the style and title of ‘Maharajadhiraja’ (King of Kings), thus indicating that he enjoyed a rank much superior to that of his two predecessors. His imperial title was the consequence of his conquests. These are indicated in the Puranas which state that the kings born of the Gupta family will rule over all the territories (Janapaddan) situated along the Ganges ( Anu- Ganga ) such as Prayaga, Saket (Oudh) and Magadha. But this passage does not indicate the specific conquests achieved by Chandra Gupta I alone. It only indicates the collective conquests of the Gupta Kings. It is generally assumed that he founded the Gupta era to mark his accession to the throne. If this view is correct, the accession of Chandra-Gupta is to be assigned to 320 A.D. The evidence of coins reveals that  the third ruler, Chandra-Gupta married Kumara Devi the year 308 A.D., the Lichchavi princess from Vaisali. That this Lichchavi alliance largely helped the rise of the Guptas to pre-eminence is suggested by the legends on the coins which contain the figure of Kumardevi, on the one side and that of goddess Lakshmi on the other. The marriage proved to be an event of great political importance because it resulted in the foundation and fortunes of the Gupta dynasty which was destined to rival the glories of the Mauryas. The kingdom of the Lichchhavis comprised Northern Bihar, the view that they ruled in Magadha does not rest on solid ground; they ruled in the region between Vaisali and Nepal. The Lichchhavis and the Guptas ruled over neighbouring kingdoms which were united under Chandra Gupta-I by his marriage with Kumaradevi. This happy union increased the power and prestige of the new kingdom. (E. H. I., V. A. Smith, p. 295) It was commemorated by the gold coins issued jointly by Chandra-Gupta-I and his queen. These coins also show that Kumardevi was associated with the sovereignty of Chandra Gupta I as his Queen and that this sovereignty included the Lichchhavi republic as the result either of this matrimonial alliance by way of a dowry or of direct military conquest by Chandra Gupta I. These coins were evidently in circulation in the Lichchhavi country. The political importance of this marriage is shown by the fact that inscriptions describe Samudra Gupta as a Lichchhavi -_Dauhitra and not as a Ghatotkacha Pautra. The Gupta dynasty took pride in the Family of the mother. He assumed the imperial title of Maharajadhiraja, and ruled over Saketa (Oudh), Allahabad (Prayaga) and Magadha (South Bihar). It is, however, undoubted that Magadha was a part of the dominion of Chandra Gupta I. The other conquests along the course of the Ganges such as Pyayaga and Saketa were definitely those achieved by his successor Samudra Gupta as the conqueror of Aryavarta, as stated in his Allahabad Pillar Inscription. His kingdom included Bihar, parts of Bengal and Oudh; his coins have “on the obverse the figures and names of Chandra-Gupta and Kumaradevi, and on the reverse a goddess seated on a lion, along with the legend. Lichchhavayah (the) Lichchhavis)”. Dr. Altekar is of the opinion, from these coins, “that Kumaradevi was a queen by her own right, and the proud Lichchhavis, to whose stock she belonged, must have been anxious to retain their individuality in the new imperial state” (Num. Suppl. XLVIII, 105 ff; The Vakataka- gupta Age, p. 118) Dr H. C Ray Chaudhari finds here a common factor underlying the rise of the first and the second Magadhan Empire respectively under Bimbisara and Chandra Gupta- I, viz. Magadha’s alliance with the Lichchavis of Vaisali. According to the Puranas, the dominions of Chandra-Gupta included  Saketa (Ayodhya), Prayaga (Allahabad) and Magadha (South Bihar). No more precise account of the extent of his dominions beyond this is avaible. The epithet Lichchhavi-Dauhitra was given to Samudra-Gupta to emphasise his right of succession to the dual monarchy (Ibid p. 19). It is assumed that Chandra Gupta-I founded a new era dating from his coronation which took place on December, 20, 318 A. D., or February 26, 320 A. D. according to different calculation of the Gupta Era (The Classical Age, p. 4, E H. I. p. 296, P. H. A. I., p. 539). But there is nothing to prove that it was founded by Chandra-Gupta-I. It is also possible that the Era was started to commemorate the accession of Samudra.Gupta (The Vakataka-gupta Age, p. 121). who established a vast empire. This theory finds support in the two copper-plate grants of Samudra Gupta found at Nalanda and Gaya dated in the years 5 and 9 respectively. The period of the reigns of the early Gupta kings can be fixed only with reference to the date of this Era. If we assume that Chandra Gupta-I assumed the throne in 320 A. D. We may place the reigns of Gupta and Ghatotkacha between 270 A. D. and 320. But if we regard 320 A. D. as the date of Samudra Gupta’s coronation, the date of the reign of Gupta may be about 250 A. D. V. A. Smith says “Kumar devi evidently brought to her husband as dowry valuable influence, which in the course of a few years secured to him a paramount position in Magadha and the neighbouring countries……certain it is that Chandra-Gupta was raised by his Lichchhavi connexion from the rank of a local chief……to such dignity that he felt justified in assuming the lofty title of “Sovereign of Maharajas” usually associated with a claim to the rank of lord paramount” (The Early History of India, p. 205). The view that he “simply drove out the Scythians and gave independence to the province of Magadha after three centuries of subjection and foreign oppression” (Age of the Imperial Gupta by R. D. Banerjee, p 3, 5) is not correct because the Kushana rule came to an end in U. P. about 200 A. D. and Mathura region became independent at that time. The attempts of Dr. K. P. Jaiswal to reconstruct the history of Chandra-Gupta-I with the facts provided in the Sanskrit drama, Kaumudimahotsava (ABORI, XII, 50: JBORS., XIX, 113; JBOR S, XXI, 77; XXII, 275; I, C, IX. 100; I HQ XIV, 582, Aiyangar Comm. Vol. 359-362) is illusory. It describes that Chandrasena, an adopted son of Sundaravarman, king of Magadha, allied himself with the Lichchhavis and got possession of Magadha by defeating and killing the king. On a popular revolt, the usurper was expelled and his dynasty abolished. According to Dr.Jaiswal, Samudra Gupta effected the restoration of his dynasty to the imperial throne of Pataliputra by his warlike career. Chandrasen is equated with Chandra-Gupta-I, but the grounds for the identification are not adequate. The dramatic tradition is not always a correct guide to the sifting of the historical events.

The Gupta Era-

According to Al-Beruni, the Gupta Era is separated from the Saka Era of 78 A.D. by an interval of 241 years, which makes the Gupta Era begin in 319 A.D.  These two eras thus fixed settle the chronological framework of a long period. For instance, the last date of the Saka power which was extinguished by Chandra Gupta-II is the year 304 of the Saka Era (=382 A.D.) while Chandra Gupta-Ii is the II issued his first coin in the Saka realm in the year 90 of the Gupta Era (=409 A.D.). The interval between these two dates marked the process of the Gupta conquest of the Saka power. Fleet points out that the Gupta Era was taken over from the Lichchhavis of Nepal the time of whose king Jayadeva I approximates to 320 A.D. The Gupta Era in its turn was taken over by the Valabhi kings of Surashtra as the feudatories of Gupya Empire. The son of the founder of the Valabhi dynasty first uses the date 207 in the Gupta Era. The Gupta Era is taken to mark the commencement of the reign of Chandra Gupta I as the founder of the Gupta Empire.

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