Chandragupta-II (Chandragupta Vikramaditya)
Chandragupta II, the great was son of Samudragupta and Datta Devi. Not much is known about the character but the corroborated facts about his life prove that he was a strong, vigorous ruler and was well qualified to govern and extend his empire.
Before Chandragupta II, his elder brother Ramagupta ascended the throne after death of Samudragupta. Through, not many details about Ramagupta are available; the drama Devichandraguptam of Vishakhadatta gives an account that at Shringararupakam, Ramagupta was badly defeated by a Saka chieftain. To secure the people, he agreed to surrender his queen Druvadevi to the Sakas. Chandragupta II objected this and, Chandragupta-II in disguise of queen Druvadevi entered enemy’s camp and killed the Saka king to restore the huge empire, queen and the dynasty. Ramagupta is portrayed in this drama as a Coward king and impotent. Chandragupta II killed his brother and married to his widow, Druvadevi.
Chandragupta reign covered a wide territory whose northern limit was Vahlakas Country, Southern Limit was the Ocean, Western Limit was the Mouth of Indus and Eastern Limit was Vanga. Marraiage alliances and conquests were one of the ways of Chandragupta II to extend his power and kingdom. His daughter Prabhavati was married to a Vaktaka prince. The prince died in due course and his young son became the ruler but the virtual ruler was Prabhavati. This helped Chandragupta II to exercise indirect rule over the Vaktataka Kingdom also. The most important event of Chandragupta II’s reign was conquest of Sakas. He destroyed the Saka chieftain Rudrasena III and annexed his kingdom.
His victory over Malwa helped in prosperity of the Malwa region and Ujjain became a commercial hub. Some scholars call Ujjain his second capital. Chinese traveler Fa Hien had visited India during the time of Chandragupta II. Numerous scholars and artists adorned the court of Chandragupta.
Chandragupta II and Mahrauli Inscription
The Mahrauli Iron Pillar was originally placed on a hill near the Beas and was brought to Delhi by a King of Delhi the Gupta Empire by Radhakumud Mookerji. This pillar credits Chandragupta with the following:
- Conquest of the Vanga Countries by his battling alone against the confederacy of the enemies united against him.
- Conquest of Vahlakas in a fight that ran across seven mouths of Sindhu.
- Spread his fame to southern seas.
- Attained Ekadhirajjyam (United Kingdom) by prowess of his arms.
- This pillar was established by Chandragupta as Vishnupada in the honor of Lord Vishnu.
Observations of Fa Hien’s visit during Vikramaditya reign
- Pataliputra was considerably neglected by the warrior kings like Samudragupta and Vikramaditya, but it continued to be a magnificent and populous city though out the reign of Chandragupta II.Later Patliputra was reduced to reigns in the wake of the Hun invasions in the 6th century. However, Pataliputra was rebuilt and revived by Shershah Suri as today’s Patna.
- The accounts of Fa Hien give a contemporary account of the administration of Chandragupta Vikramaditya. Fa Hien (337 – ca. 422 AD) was so much absorbed in his quest for Buddhist books, legends, and miracles that he could not mention the name of the mighty monarch in whose rule he lived for 6 years. The picture he depicted cannot solve all the queries of the historians of today yet, they give a vivid picture of the state of the country.
- At Pataliputra, he saw and was impressed by Asoka’s palace so it is sure that Asoka’s palace was in existence even in the Gupta Era. He also describes about 1 stupa and 2 monasteries nearby , also ascribed to Asoka. He mentioned about 600-700 monks living there and learning their lectures from teachers from all quarters. He mentions that towns of Magadha were largest in the area of Gangetic Plains and he calls it central India. He mentions that there were a lot of charitable institutions, rest houses, and there was an excellent Free Hospital in the Capital which was endowed by benevolent citizens. The poor and helpless patients suffering from all kinds of illnesses were taken care of and doctors attended them and they were given food and medicine as per their wants.
- This depiction proves the earliest foundation of Charity and this charity was first of its kind in the word which spoke of characters of the citizens of the Gupta Era. India’s is great as far as Charity was concerned and as we are told, earliest charitable hospital in Europe or anywhere else in the word was opened in 10th century.
- Fa Hien further explains that the population of the western part (Malwa) lived happily and did not worry. He mentions that they don’t have to register their household and not to have attend any magistrate. People did not lock their houses. The passports and those who were willing to say may stay and those willing to go may go did not bind them. Fa Hien further mentions that no one kills the living things, or drinks wine or eats Onion or garlic. They don’t keep pigs and fowls, there is no dealing of cattle, and there are no butchers. Only Chandals did all these.
- Fa Hien mentions about the Chandala, who dwelt apart and they were required to keep a piece of wood as a warning of their approach so that other folk might not get polluted. Chandals were the only offenders of Dharma, as per Fa Hien. About administration, Fa Hien mentions that the authorities interfered as little as possible with the subject and they were left free to prosper and grow rich in their own way.
Fa Hien studied Sanskrit for 3 years at Pataliputra and two years at the Port of Tamralipti without let or hindrance. The Roads were clear and safe for the passengers. The accounts of Fa Hien give a clear indication that India was probably never governed better than the era of Chandragupta Vikramaditya. The prosperity of the Indians and tranquility of the empire have been testified by the account of Fa-Hien and his unobstructed itinerary all around gives the details about the Golden Era of Mother India.
Chandragupta II was known for his deep interest in art and culture and nine gems or Navratna adorned his court. The various fields of these 9 gems prove that Chandragupta gave patronage to arts and literature. Brief description about the nine Ratnas is as follows
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Harisena is known to have composed the Prayag Prasasti or Allahabad Pillar Inscription. The title of this inscription of Kavya, but it has both prose and verse. The whole poem is in one sentence including first 8 stanzas of poetry and a long sentence and a concluding stanza. Harisena in his old age was in the court of Chandragupta and describes him as Noble, and asks him “You Protect all this earth”.
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Rabindranath Tagore, not only propagated the works of Kalidasa but also expounded their meanings and philosophy that made him an immortal poet dramatists.
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Sanku was in the field of Architecture.
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Kumaragupta –I (415-455 AD)
Chandragupta II was succeeded by his son Kumaragupta I or Mahedraditya. The period assigned to him is 415-455 AD and his reign spanned for a long period of 40 years. He was an able ruler and there is no doubt that his empire suffered no diminution but extended. Like his grandfather, he celebrated the horse sacrifice (Ashvamedha) as an assertion to his paramount supremacy. The records furnish that at the close of his reign, Kumaragupta’s dominion suffered severely from the invasion of Huna Hordes, all over North India. The invaders from South India also disturbed him. He issued coins with images of killing a lion. He also issued a coin which bear the picture of Kartikeya.
Skandagupta: (455-467 AD)
Kumaragupta–I was succeeded by Skandagupta. Skandagupta was the last powerful king of the Gupta Empire. He assumed the title of Vikramaditya, Devraj and Sakapan and subdued the invaders (Pushyamitras and Hunas) and brought back the peace and glory of his father. He faced invasion of White Huns, the central Asian tribes. He issued 4 types of Gold coins and 4 types of Silver coin. Bhitari Inscription details about the prowess of Skandagupta. After his death in 467 AD, the Gupta empire declined rapidly.