Political condition –

In the third century A. D. the political scene changed and India lacked political unity, giving way to a number of independent states. In the fourth century A. D. our country regained unity and interest with the rise of the Guptas and the fusion of Gupta and Lichchhavi states. The emergence of the Guptas marks the beginging of a new phase in the history of India. After the decline of the kushans a dark period set in and we do not know much about the political developments in the country except that serval states made their appearance and there was no strong central authority to keep them under their control. At that time the Kushanas still ruled over the western Punjab. The Sakas  over Gujrat and a part of Malwa. The lower Indus valley was under the control of Bahram-II (276-293), the Sassanian emperor of Persia. The Sassanian supremacy was also established over the Kushana principalities in Balkh and the neighbouring regions. During the reign of Shapur-I (A. D. 241-72) his younger brother Peroz was the governor with the title Kushan-shah (king of the Kushanas). The Kushana king still ruled over Peshawar and N. W. Frontier region. The Sassanian king Hormiza (302-9) married a daughter of the Kushana king of the Kabul valley. Later on, the Kabul valley also came into possession of the Sassanid emperors sometime before 356 A. D. Western and Central Punjab was ruled by Scythian houses known as Sakas, Shiladas and Gadaharas. Their rule was ended by the rise of the Little Kushana or Kidara Kushanas about 340 A.D. Kidara, the founder of the new Kushana dynasty, was at first a subordinate ruler of the Sassanians. When he extended his rule from Peshawar to Kashmir and Central Punjab, he declared his independence, but Shapur-II, the Sassanian emperor, invaded his territory in 356-57 A. D. and defeated him, thereafter he submitted and again became a subordinate ruler of the Sassanian emperor. But a decade later, Kidara who maintained friendly relations with Samudragupta, the Gupta ruler, rebelled once again against Shapur-II, declared his independence and appointed Satraps in Gandhara, Kashmir and Western and Central Punjab.
He was succeeded by his son Piro (A. D. 375) who fought the Sassanian emperor, Shapur-III and the Guptas only to lose his kingdom.

The Yaudheyas and Arjunayanas ruled over East Punjab, the Madrakas (Madras) over the Central Punjab between the Ravi and the Chenab; the Malavas ruled over the Ajmer-Udaipur region. Yaudheyas as Ayudhajivi Kshatriyas. Their stronghold was in East Panjab but they also dominated parts of U.P and Rajputana. Their tutelary deity was Bramanyadeva.  They grew into power after the Indo- Greek only to be subdued by the Sakas and the Kushanas. They were strong enough to challenge Rudradama’s authority. After the Kushanas, they made their power felt like the Kardamakas and the Malawas while all the three were subdued by the Guptas. The Nagas spread themselves in different parts of India as testified to by epigraphic, numismatic and literary records and also by localities named after them such asNagapura or Uragapura. The Puranas mention seats of Naga power at Vidisa, Kantipuri, Mathura and Padmavati. Some of the Naga rulers of Vidisa are named Sisha, Bhogin and Sadchandra Chandramsa supposed to be Nahapana. The Naga rulers held way over the Uttar Pradesh (U. P.) their capitals were Padmavati in old Gwalior state, Vidisa (Bhilsa) and Mathura. Ahichchhatra, the capital of North Panchala, and Kausambi were independent kingdoms. Samudra Gupta uprooted two Naga rulers named Ganapati Naga and Nagasena but he married his son Chandra Gupta II with Kubernaga. A Naga chief Sarvangaga ruled ashis governor of the Antarvedi-vishaya under Skand Gupta. The rulers of Kaushambi were Nava and Pushpasri whose successor was ousted by Samudra Gupta. As ususal, its rulers are known mostly from their coins. Some coins of 1st century B.C. mention king Sudeva, and Brihatsvamitra. Other coins name rulers such as Asvaghosha, Agnimitra, Jyeshtramitra, and Devamitra kings like Dhanadeva. Incriptions also mame some kings of Kausambi e.g., the Pabhosa Incriptions.

The Vakatakas were another rival power which attened its zeith under Prithivisena-I who ruled over a large empire extending from Bundelkhand to Kuntala in KaraIn the Deccan the Vakatakas ruled over Berar and the old Central provinces. In the extreme south the Pallavas ruled over the Tamil region. The Brihatphalayanas ruled over the city of Pithunda or Kadura in the Andhra region. The Anandas ruled over the Guntur district in Andhra region. The South Kosala kingdom in Eastern Deccan was ruled by Mahendra who was defeated by Samudragupta. In Kalinga there were several ruling dynasties who were weak. Some of the rulers in the time of Samudragupta were Svamidatta of Kottura, Mahendra-giri of Pishtapura, Damana of Erandapala and Kubera of Devarashtra. Kottura and Erandapalla were in Ganjam District. Pishtapura is identified with the modern state of Pithapuram in the Godavari District, and Devarashtra with that of Yellamanchili taluka of the Vizagapatam District. Some of the kings of these kingdoms are known from the copper-plate grants of about the fifth century A.D. Another capital city of Kalinga was Singhapura, whose kingdom flourished after the middle of the fourth century A. D.

The Rise of the Guptas-
The Gupta were another local power which emerged into prominence and established their supremacy over all the controlling power.  Rich Literary, Archaeological sources provide us important information about the Gupta age. But we do not know much about the origin and the early history of Guptas. K. P. Jaiswal however is of the opinion that they were Punjabi Jats. We learn from the Vishnu Purana that the Gupta were Vaishyas. Dr Romilla Thapar is of the view that they were wealthy land-lords who gradually captured political power. Dr Dodwell says that the Guptas were people of humble origen, while Dr H. C. Raychoudhary says that they they were Brahmins. Dr Majumdar asserts that the Guptas were positively Kashatriyas.  Gupta families existed in India from very early  times,  the names of the officers ending in Gupta are found in the records of the Satavahanas. The Bharhut Pillar inscription of the Sunga period refers to the son of Rajan Visadeva as Gotiputa, indicating that his queen was a Gaupti. She belonged to the Gupta family. The genealogical account of the Guptas says that Samudra-Gupta was “the son of the son’s son of the Maharaja, the illustrious (Sri) Gupta; the son’s son of the Maharaja, the illustrious (Sri) Ghatotkacha; the son of the Maharajadhiraja, the illustrious (Sri) Chandra-Gupta, and the daughter’s son Lichchhavi begotten on the Mahadevi Kumaradevi”.
Sri Gupta or Gupta was the founder of the Gupta dynasty, his son was Ghatotkacha; these rulers were Maharaja, and were local princes of Magadha. Their original kingdom comprised a portion of Bengal; I-tsing who visited India during the period 671-695 A. D. says that a king Sri Gupta built a temple for the Chinese priests and granted twenty-four villages as an endowment for its maintenance; the temple was situated about forty yojanas to the east of Nalanda. Allan, identified this king Sri- Gupta, with Gupta, the founder of the Gupta dynasty. (Catalogue of Coins of the Gupta Dynasties and of  Sasanka, King of Gauda, p. XV). But this identification is not certain because I-tsing places Sri-Gupta about five hundred years before his time whereas the founder of the Gupta dynasty can not  be placed more than four hundred years before he wrote. Allan does not consider it as a serious objection on the ground that the Chinese pilgrim gave the statement on the authority of a tradition coming from ancient times by old men. The identification of I-tsing’s Sri-Gupta with the founder of the Gupta dynasty may he probable, but is not absolutely certain. The kingdom of Gupta comprised a postion of North and West Bengal (The Vakataka- Gupta Age, p. 118, 120, The Classical Age, p. 2: History of Bengal- I, R. C. Majumdar, pp. 67-70.), and existed in the early part of the third century A. D. It is impossible to say anything about the antecedents of the family of Maharaja Gupta. Two Seals (Ibid p.121), one with the legend Gutasya (in mixed Sanskrit and Prakrit) and the other with Sanskrit legend Sriguptasya have been found. The latter might belong to the founder of the Gupta family. The second ruler was Ghatotkacha. We have no definite information about their exact status. The two rulers are referred to in the Gupta records as Maharaja. The above title was often borne by feudatory chiefs, so it has been remarked that both Gupta and Ghatotkacha were subordinate rulers (The Vakataka-Gupta Age, p. 117, V. A. Smith, E. H. I. p. 295-96). But no paramount ruler existed in that period: so it is not unlikely that the first two Gupta kings were independent though their kingdom was small. In the two records of the Vakataka queen Prabhavati – Gupta, daughter of Chandra-Gupta II, Ghatotkacha is said to be the first Gupta king. The second ruler of Gupta dynasty was of some importance.

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