Samudra Gupta (335 – 375 A.D.)

As the First year of his successor, Chandra Gupta II, is stated to be 375 A.D. in his Mathura Pillar Inscription, that year is taken to mark the end of Samudra Gupta’s reign, Another date of his reign is fixed by that of the embassy sent to him by king Meghvarna of Ceylon ( 351- 379 A.D.). His reign is roughly taken to begin from 335 A.D. lest it becomes too long. Its length also depends on his age. The date of his birth may be taken to be 310 A.D. following his father’s marriage in 308 A.D. Thus he came to the throne at 25, the legal age of kingship, in 335 A.D.

           The name Samudra was perhaps the name as summed by him after his conquest up to the seas while Guptawas his surname. The Mathura Pillar Inscription of Chandra Gupta II states that his father’s fame spread up to the four occans ( chaturrudadhi ). Kacha may be taken as his personal name on the ground of the coins issued by Kacha describing him as the ‘exterminator of all kings’ (Sarvarajochchhetta), an epithet which appiles best to Samudra Gupta in view of his conquwests.

The Allahabad Pillar Inscription-

             It is evident that Samudra Gupta justified the confidence reposed in him by his father.  This is clear from the testimony of the Allahabad Prasasti composed by his court-poet Harishena and inscribed by Tilabhattka. It is the poetical composition (Kavya) of Harishena. It gives a detailed account of Samudra Gupta’s Digvijaya, in course of which he is said to have won victories over several rulers of North India, resulting in the direct annexation of the territories of the vanquished powers yo the dominions of Magadha. Harishena who combined in himself the four important offices of- (1) Khadyatapakika ( Food Controller of the royal Kichen), (2) Sandhivigrahika ( minister for Foreign Relations and War), (3) Kumaramatya (Minister in attendance on Crown Prince), and (4) Mahadandanayaka ( Chief Justice). Harishena was the son of Dhuruvabhuti who also held the office of Mahadandanyaka which descended to his son. Harishena was the thus eminently fitted by his inner knowledge of the sdministration to give a correct account of the conquests of the king and especially the chronological order in which they were achieved.

             The inscription is stated to have been executed (Anushthita)  by Tilabhattaka who also held the office of a Mahadandanayaka.But unfortunately this unique historical inscription is not dated.It is an undated record; apparently it was executed towards the later part of the reign, when Samudra Gupta had completed his coquests and other political engagements in and outside India.   It was the aim of Sumrda Gupta to bring about the political unification of India and make himself an Ekarat or sole ruler like Mahapadama. He possessed an extraordinary military skill and was perhaps one of the greatest conquerors recorded in Indian history. For his numerous military achievements he was called by V. A. Smith as “ Indian Napolean ”. `He was engaged “ in a hundred battles’ and received “ wounds all over his Body.”

Some words in it which refer to the king’s fame going up to heaven are taken to imply that the King also went up to heaven, and that the inscription was posthumous but Buhler has shown that it could not be so, as it omits to mention a most important event which took place after it, and in the King’s life and reign. It was his performance of Asvamedha after the completion of his conquests.            Chandra Gupta’s son and successor, Samudra Gupta, was the greatest among the Gupta monarchs, and, in fact, one of the most ceiebrated and accomplished among the rulers of ancient India. From the evidence of the Allahabad Prasasti it appears that he was selected by his father from among his sons as best fitted to succeed him. The exact date when Chandra Gupta-I was succeeded by his son, Samudra Gupta, is not known. If the evidence of the Nalanda plate issued from Nripura, has any value his accession may have happened before the year 5 of the Gupta Era, i. c. A. D. 325. But it is doubtful. Dr. R. C. Majumdar writes, “It would thus follow that while there is much to support the view that Samudra Gupta ascended the throne in 320. A. D. Or 350 A. D. there in title justification for the date 325-335 A. D. usually assigned to his accession” (The Vakataka-Gupta Age, p. 147). In his view “it is equally likely that the era dated from the accession of Samudra Gupta, the greatest of the Gupta emperors. This would be regarded as almost certain if the Nalanda charter of the fifth year can be regarded as a genuine grant of Samudra Gupta, or even a late copy of genuine grant” (Ibid p. 146). “To hold that Samudra Gupta ascended the throne about 335 A. D. or even somewhat earlier, certainly implies that Chandra-gupta-I married Kumaradevi long before he became a king or that he established the era long after he had ascended the throne” (Ibid 146). It is difficult to determine the date of his accession. The one view is that his reign period was 325-375 A. D. The other view is that his reign period is 330-380 A. D. or 340-380 A: D. (Smith places his accession in A. D. 330-335, Ibid, p. 297).
             Samudra Gupta was the son of Chandragupta-I and Kumaradevi. His prasasti or eulogy was composed by his officer named Harishena, and is engraved on the Asoka pillar at Allahabad. It gives a detailed account of the career and personality of the Gupta emperor, Now, we are in a position to describe the military exploits of Samudra Gupta with its help. It is a record of “aggressive and blood-stained warfare” by the side of Asoka’s message of peace. Samudra Gupta was chosen for the succession in open court by his father as best fitted crown- prince. The king embraced (upaguhya) Samudra Gupta and said with “ears in his eyes: “Thou art worthy, rule this whole world”. The poet says that while this declaration caused the joy of the courtiers, it created bitterness among other princes of equal birth, who looked with sad faces at Samudra Gupta. It has been suggested that the king abdicated and took final leave. Some scholars have, however, concluded that Samudra Gupta’s accession was not peaceful and that he obtained the thorne only after defeating a rival brother named Kacha, whose coins have come to light.  It has been remarked that Kacha, (Kacha-N. N. Das Gupta, Kacha Problem, I HQ, XX, p. 351-53), was in all probability the elder  brother and predecessor of Samudra Gupta (ABORI IX 83, The Classical Age, p. 7., Smith, 16id, f. n. 1 p. 297), Samudra- gupta’s brothers rebelled against him, and put Kacha on the throne. Some scholars have, however, concluded that Samudra Gupta’s accession was not peaceful and that he obtained the thorne only after defeating a rival brother named Kacha, whose coins have come to light.  Some scholars have, however, concluded that Samudra Gupta’s accession was not peaceful and that he obtained the thorne only after defeating a rival brother named Kacha, whose coins have come to light.  Raychaudhury says. “The epithet Sarva-rajo-chchhetra (Destroyer of all kings) found on Kacha’s coins shows that he was in all probability identical with Samudra Gupta” (Political History of Ancient India, footnote, p. 533). There is a coin of a certain king known as Kacha which resembles Samudra Gupta’s coins so closely that some scholars are of. opinion that Kacha was an alternative name of Samudra. It is also likely that he was one of the disappointed princes, a brother of Samudra. Kacha made no attempt to rule, but was obliged to leave the throne. His rule was only a few months.
             Allen suggests that “Kacha was the original name of the emperor and that he took the name Samudra Gupta in allusion to his conquests, R. C. Majumdar says, “But even if Kacha be not identical with.Samudra Gupta there is nothing to support the view that he headed a rebellion against the latter” (The Vakataka- Gupta Age, p. 127). Kacha has no plage in the official genealogy which mentions Samudra Gupta as the immediate successor of Chandragupta-I. R Sathianathaier say that “the Kacha coins are the same as those of Samudra Gupta in weight, fabric and type, and the legends describe him as ” the exterminator of all kings” and as the ” conqueror of the world who conquers heaven by his best actions ” expressions applied to Samudra Gupta in other records. Therefore the identity of the two is extremely probable, and it may be surmised that Samudra Gupta was called Kacha, short for the name of his grandfathe, Ghatotkacha” (A Political and Cultural History of India Vol. 1, Ancient India, p. 215).
             R. D. Banerjee says, ” It is impossible to believe inspite of adjective clauses that Kacha was another name of Samudra Gupta.” D.R. Bhandarkar says, ” That all evidence thus point to Kacha being regarded as the personal name of a king distinct from Samudra Gupta “.
              It is difficult to believe that a ruler could issue coins in two separate names, so Kacha and Samudra Gupta are two persons. Accordingly P. L. Gupta, Kacha: A step-brother of Samudra Gupta, JNSI, V, pp. 33-36; Kacha Problem Solved, .IH Q, XXII, pp. 60-61; H Heras, Kacha-Gupta and Rama Gupta, JBRS, XXXIV, 1-2, pp. 19-27.) ” it is more likely that Kacha or Kacha Gupta was same person other than Samudra Ggupta -These coins were undoubtedly the coins of Kacha Gupta who was the son of Chandragupta-I, and step brother of Samudra Gupta”.
Conquests –
            These are described in the inscription in a chronological order which is followed here. His plan was first to subdue the neighbouring States so as to secure his rear before launching upon distant expeditions.  It gives a detailed account of Samudra Gupta’s Digvijaya, in course of which he is said to have won victories over serval rulers of North India.

Conquest of Northern India:

             First Compaign in Aryavarta. Samudra Gupta began by uprooting ( Nirmulya ) the neighbouring kingdoms of Achyuta, Nagasena and Nandin. The Allahabad Pillar Inscription, a record of 33 lines written partly in verse and partly in prose, gives a detailed account of his conquests (The Vakataka-gupta Age pp. 127-133; Classical Age, pp. 8-9, Smith, EH. I. p. 299 -300.) It is an authentic source of history of Samudra Gupta. The stanzas (no 5 and 6) are broken in several places. They probably refer to some civil war with his kinsmen in which his enemies were defeated, and expressed their repentance. The 7th and 8th stanzas and the prose passage following them gives details of his wars and conquests. In line 13 of the inscription it is written that the defeated three kings of Northern India offered the first resistance to his imperial policy of conquest towards the west. He defeated Achyuta, a  ruler of Ahichchhtra near Bareilly and Nagasena of the Naga family of Padmavati (Padam Pawaya, 25 miles north of Narwar). He defeated the Kotas in the Upper Gangetic valley. As to the Kotas, coins bearing their name have been found in East Punjab and Delhi region. He took his pleasure at the city called Pushapa which has been identified with Kanya-kubja because Kanyakubja was called Pushpapura in ancient times. After this account of the first war of Samudra Gupta, there is a  long list of kings, states and people who were conquered by him and accepted his suzerainty. They are divided into four categories. (1) The first includes twelve states of Dakshinapatha (South India) whose rulers were defeated and then liberated. (2) The second contains the names of nine rulers of Aryavarta (North India) who were exterminated. (3) The third includes the rulers of five frontier kingdoms, and nine tribal states.
He defeated and crushed nine rulers of Northern India and annexed their states to his empire. Two of them were Nagasena and Ganapati Naga, rulers of Naga family. They ruled over Padmavati, Vidisa and Mathura. Ganapati Naga was probably ruler of Mathura. Only the names of the rulers are known but the identification of their kingdoms is difficult. Their states are not named as they no longer existed as separate units. Their rulers were Rudradeva, Mattila, Nagadattą. Nandin and Bala Varman. Rudradeva has been identified by Mr. K.N. Dikshit with Rudrasena Vakataka. But the Vakataka can hardly be regarded as rulers of Aryavarta, and they were far from being uprooted in the time of Samudragupta. Equally untenable is the identification of Balavarman with a prince of Assam, a province that was then looked upon as a border state (Pratyanta) and not as a part of Aryavarta. Mittila has been identified with a person named “Mattila” mentioned in a seal found in Bulandshahr in the Central Doab. The absence of any honorific title on the seal leads Allan to suggest that it was a private one. But we have alredy come across several instances of princes being mentioned without any honorific. One of these Chandravarman ruled over the Bakura district in Bengal, his record has been found at Susunia in Bakura District.  Achyuta, the ruler of Ahichchhatra, was also defeated and his territory annexed. Achyuta was probably a king of Ahichchhatra, modern Ramnagar Distrct. To him has been attributed the small copper coins bearing the syllables ‘achyu’ found at Ahichchhatra. As to the Kota-kula Rapson draws our attention to certain coins bearing the inscription Kota. These resemble the “Sruta cions” attributed to a ruler of Sravasti and should apparently be referred to the upper Gangetic region. The five kingdoms on the frontier and the nine tribal states ‘paid taxes, obeyed orders and performed obedience in person to the great Emperor’. Three of the frontier states were Samatata or South-East Bengal, Kamarupa or Upper Assam and Nepal (Nepala). The fourth, Davaka, was situated in the Nowgong district of Assam. The Kartripura, is identified with Kartarpur in the Jalandhar district. According to some scholars it also comprised the territory of the Katuria kingdom of Kumaon, Garhwal and Rohilkhand, but it is not certain. Some have identified it with Kahror, between Multan and Lohni. The nine feudatory tribal states were near the frontier. They are divided into two groups. The first group included the Malavas in Rajputana (including Mewar, Tonk and Kotah), the Yaudheyas Eastern in Eastern Punjab along the banks of the Sutlej from Kangra upto the Bahawalpur state, the Arjunayanas in the region near Jaipur, and the Madrakas in the territory between the Ravi and Chenab with their capital at Sakal (Sialcot) The second group included five states, which were the Abhiras, the Sankanikas, Kakas, the Kharaparikas and the Prarjunas. The Abhiras are known from records in western Rajputana and in northern Maharashtra. The reference here is probably to their state known as Ahirwara in Central India between Bhilsa and Jhansi. The Sankanika tribe lived in the neighbourhood of Bhilsa, as a feudatory chief of this tribe records a gift of his at Udayagiri two miles from Bhilsa during the reign of Chandragupta-II, The kakas probably lived in Kakapur, 32 kilometres north of Bhilsa. The Kharaparikas probably lived in the Damoh District in M. P. The Prarjunas can not be located with certainty, they may also be taken to have lived in Central India. Eran in the Saugor District, M. P., was in the empire of Samudra Gupta.
             The empire of Samudra Gupta included Bengal in the east except its south-eastern part; in the north it extended up to the Himalayas; in the west it included East Punjab up to Lahore. From Karnal in the Punjab the boundary followed the Jumna up to its junction with the Chambal. The southern boundary ran from Eran to Jabalpur and along the Vindhya mountain, forest kings of this region were his subordinates. Thus his empire comprised the East Punjab, U. P., Bihar, the greater part of Bengal, a part of Central India. The Pillar inscription says that the Atavika rajyas (kings of the forest countries) were his- servants. But his most daring exploit was an expedition to the south, which made his power felt by the potentates of the Eastern Deccan. We perceive, however, a difference between his northern and southern campaigns. In the north he played the part of a “Digvijayi or conqueror of the quarters”, of the Early Magadhan type. But in the south he followed the Epic and Kautilyan ideal of a “ Dharamavijayi or righteous conqueror,” i.e., he defeated the kings but did not annex their territory. He may have realised the futility of attempting to maintain effective control over these distant regions in the south from his remote base in the north- east of India. His successor tried to maintain his hold on Deccan by a system of marriage alliances. The Atavikarajyas undoubtedly included the realm of Alavaka (Ghazipur) as well as the eighteen forest kingdoms which denoted the hilly tracts, full of dense forests that extended to Dabhala or Jabalpur territory towards the east across the Chota Nagpur. The conquest of this region by Samudra Gupta is suggested also by his Eran Inscription.
South India (Dakshinapatha) –

           After completing his conquest in northern India, he apparently marched against the Kings of the Dakshinapatha. It was a daring expedition brilliantly conducted by him; as many as twelve kings of the south fell under his arms one after another. But his southern campaigns were confined to the eastern part of the Deccan. Dubreuil suggests that Samudra Gupta had to face a joint opposition of the rulers of eastern Deccan near the Colair Lake, and having been repulsed he had to return to home. But from the Allahabad Prasasti we know definitely that his victorious army reached Kanchi in the far South. Samudra Gupta invaded South India (Ibid, p. 133-135; The Classical Age, p. 9, 16). defeated twelve kings of Dakshinapatha, captured and then liberated them. They were:
1. Mahendra of Kosala (Mahakosala) comprising the districts of Durg,Bilaspur and Sambalpur in M. P. and Chatishgradh and occasionally possibly even a part of Ganjam. Its capital was Sripura, modern Sirpur,Raipur.

2. Vyaghraraja of Mahakantara, the Jeypore forest in Orissa. (wild tracts of Gondwana). Mahakantara is apparently a wild tract of Central Provinces (M.P. witch probably included Kantara which the Mahabharata places between Venvatata (the valley of the Wainganga) and Prak Kosala, the eastern part of Kosala .
3.  Mantaraja of Kaurala (Korada) Kauralaon cannot br Kolleru or Colair lakewhich must have been included within the territory of Hastivarmanof Vengi. Dr Barnet suggest its identification with one of the villages that now bears the name Korada near Russelkonda in Ganjam.
4. Mahendragiri of Pishtapura, Pithapuram in the Godavari District.
5. Svamidatta of Kottura. Kottura has been identified with Kothoor, 12 miles south-east of Mahendragiri in Ganjam.  Pishtapura is Pithapuram in East Godavari District.
6.  Damana of Erandpalla. Erandpalla is identified by Fleet with Erandol in Khandesh and by Dubreuil with Erandapali, a town probably near Chicacole in the Ganjam district. But G. Ramdas suggests the identification of Erandapalla with yendipalli in Vizagapatam or Endapilli in Ellore Taluk.

7. Vishalugopa of Kanchi. Kanchi is Conjeeveram  in Madrasa. Vishnugopa was a  Pallava ruler.

8. Nilaraja of Avamukta. Avamuta not identified. But the name of its king Nilaraja reminds us of Nilapalli, an old seaport near Yanam in the Godavari district.

9. Hastivarman of Vengi. Vengi has been idebtified with Vegi or Pedda-Vegi, of Ellore between Krishna and Godavari, Its king Hastivaraman was identified by Hultzsh with Attivarman (of the Ananda family). But he belonged to the Salankayana dynasty.
10. Ugrasena of Palakka in the Nellore District.

It is supposed that these Southern Kings of Avamukta, Vengi and Palakka were the members of the confederacy led by the king of Kanchi under Vishnugopa, which extended from the mouth of Krishna to the south of the river Palar and possibly

11. Kubera of Devarashtra which is Yelamanchili in Vizagapatam District.
12. Dhananjaya of Kusthalapura, not identified. But Dr. Barnettsuggests probably Kuttalur, near Polur, in North Arcot.
            R. Sathinathaier thinks that Samudragupta marched through the East Godavari, West Godavarl, Krishga and Nellore Districts and returned home via the Satara and Mandla Districts. (Studies in the Ancient History of Tondamandalam, 13-22). He identifies Kottura with Kothoor in Ganjum District, Erandapalla with Erandapali in Ganjam District;  Avamukta and Kusthalpura must be in the Andhrapra Pradesh Samudra Gupta passed through the eastern and southern part of the old Central Province (M. P.) to Orissa and proceeded along the eastern coast upto the Pallava kingdom of Kanchi (The Classical Age, p. 10, £. n. (1);  Ancient History of the Deccan by Dubreuil, PP. 58, 160, A BORI, XXVI 120, 138). The east coast was not annexed to his empire. The success of his expedition is unquestionable, and may be assigned to 350 A. D. He reinstated the South Indian princes (Dubreuil thinks that the Gupta emperor was opposed by a confedracy of the kings of E. Deccan, and being repulsed, abandoned the conquests he had made in the coast of Orissa and feturned home. This is pure imagination  and contradicted by the statements in the Allahabad Inscription pp 60-61), so he was a righteous conqueror, and secured recognition of his imperial status in South India. He annexed Vakataka territory in Central India, but did not touch their possession in South India. He secured the paramountcy of the Gupta empire over the greater part of India.

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