THE FOUNDATION OF THE GUPTA EMPIRE
It is well and wisely said that Magadha has a history extending far into the early centuries before the Christian era, “a history, which is undoubtedly unique, at any rate, unrivalled, not only in India, but perhaps, in the whole world”. The province of Magadha had undergone several political and cultural vicissitudes particularly under the illustrious dynasties of the Mauryas, the Sungas and the Kanvas.
The last-named dynasty, however, ruled only for forty-five years, being ultimately overthrown, in about 28 BC, by a king of the Satavahana dynasty of Daksinapatha, the dynasty which is often described as the Andhra dynasty. The Andhra dynasty consisting of thirty rulers ruled for a period, of 460 years according to Matsya Puranja, and for 456 years according to Vayu Purana. The statement of the Puranas that Magadha passed on, after the fall of the Kanvas, to the Andhras is corroborated by the discovery of a Satavahana coin in the excavation of Bhila, in Allahabad district. Another Andhra coin was recently exhibited by K. N. Dikshit, which, according to him, is unique, since it was found in the Central Provinces. It bears the figure of an elephant and a Brahmi legend - only on the obverse, the reverse being blank.
The king's name is Sivasiri Apilaka, who is identified with Apilaka of the Puranas. The Andhra dynasty would seem to have come to an end about the end of the 3rd century A. D. Mateya Purana, which is said to have been composed in the ninth year of Yajna Sri Satakarni mentions that several other dynasties ruled while the Andhras were still in possession of their kingdom. The Nepal inscription of Jayadeva II Licchavi, dated 758 AD, states that twenty-three successions before Jayadeva I, his ancestor Supuspa Licchavi was born at Pataliputra. The date of Jayadeva I falls, according to Fleet, between circa 330 AD and 355 AD. Supuspa may have thus lived in the beginning of the Christian era.
The Andhras seem to have suffered much by the inroads in Northern India of the early Kusana princes, Kadphises and Wema, and this must have afforded ample opportunity to the Licchavis, to fill up the vacuum at Pataliputra. The Licchavi rule, however, seems to have ended about the close of the century when Vanaspara, the minister of Kaniska, advanced to Magadha. Before the Andhra dynasty disappeared from the scene, the local dynasties of Abhiras, Vindhyakas, Gardhabhilas, Sakas, Tusaras and others seem to have attained considerable political independence.
A king of the name of Vindhyasakti is mentioned, a century after these feudatory dynasties started a movement for making themselves independent of the Andhras. His son, Pravira, according to the Puranas, reigned at the city called Kancanaka. There are sound reasons to believe - and historians are unanimous in such belief - that Vindhyasakti and Pravira of the Puranas are the same as Vindhyasakti and Pravarasena I, of the Vakataka dynasty.
The Vakataka sovereign, Pravarasena I, got his son, Gautamiputra, married to a daughter of the Bharasiva king, Maharaja Bbavanaga. This event was so important in the history of the Vakataka dynasty that it was incorporated in the dynastic history of the Vakatakas and was repeated in all their official records. There it is recorded that before this political marriage, the family of the Bharasivas had performed ten horse-sacrifices on the banks of the Ganges, which they had conquered through their valour. This reference suggests that the Bharasiva dynasty must have been in existence for about at least a century. Their rise to power can thus be roughly dated about 150 AD, which date synchronizes with the end of the Kusana rule. The sequence of the political events after the fall of the Kanva dynasty therefore seems to be as follows:
The Kanvas were overthrown by a Satavahana king, who subsequently became ruler of Magadha. The Satavahanas could not have been at Pataliputra and in Magadha for more than fifty years after the fall of the Kanvas. During the period when the early Kusana princes, Kadphises and Wema, were advancing against the Satavahana prince in Northern India, a local Licchavi ruler established himself at Pataliputra. The Licchavis, however, in their turn, had also to quit Pataliputra ultimately when a minister of Kaniska advanced against the Magadha capital.
The Kusanas were thus virtual masters of the whole of Northern India for some time after the beginning of the decadence of the Andhra power. During this period the erstwhile feudatories of the Andhras were trying to shake themselves politically independent. The downfall of the Kusanas, as has already been pointed out, was accompanied by the rise of the Bharasivas. The Puranas mention Vindhyasakti and Pravira - Yindhyasakti and Pravarasena of the Vakataka dynasty - a century after the Bharasivas rose to power, that is, in circa 260 AD. There were thus two great dynasties, about that time, in Northern India, that of the Bharasivas, who rose to power after the fall of the Kusanas, and that of the Vakatakas, who seem to have attained predominance about a century later. These two dynasties were responsible for the foundation of new tradition or rather the revival of old tradition-the tradition of Hindu freedom and sovereignty.
The tradition was initiated by the Bharasivas, was kept up by the Vakatakas, who were connected to the Bharasivas, in Pravarasena I's time through matrimonial alliance, and finally reached its glorious culmination under the subsequent Gupta sovereigns, from Chandragupta II Vikramaditya to Baladitya II. This tradition was characterized by three ideals (Jayaswal : History of India),- all-India Imperialism, Revival of Sanskrit, and Social Revival.
When the Bharasivas liberated the Gangetic valley and reorganized the political scheme over there in about 250 AD, we find Magadha in possession of an orthodox Ksatriya family. Itsing, who travelled in India between 670 and 700 AD, states “that a great king, Sri Gupta built a temple near Mrgasikhavana for some Chinese pilgrims, about 500 years ago”. This would give Sri Gupta a date somewhere about 175 to 200 AD.
We are further told by Itsing that Migasikhavana “was about fifty stages east of Nalanda descending Ganges”. Ganguly has carefully calculated that Itsing's stage equalled about six miles, basing his conclusion on the same Chinese traveller's another statement that Nalanda was “seven stages to Northeast of Mahabodhi”. It would thus appear that Sri Gupta originally ruled over a principality in Murshidabad district of Bengal between circa 175-200 AD. If we depend upon the Puranic tradition in this connection, it may further be assumed that, at the commencement of the 4th century, the early Guptas were associated with the banks of the Ganges, dominated by the cities of Prayaga and Saketa. The vicissitudes of the Magadha kingdom during this period, cannot, however, be reconstructed in a connected form from epigraphical sources. Jayaswal's theories, in this connection, based on Manju-Sri-Mulakalpa and the play, Kaumudi-Mahotsava ( K M ), have been referred to later on.
Allan rejects the accepted date of Sri Gupta and identifies him with Gupta, the grandfather of Chandra Gupta I, who is mentioned first in the genealogical list of the Guptas, in their inscriptions. How can, he asks, two kings of the same name belonging to the same family - Sri Gupta mentioned by Itsing and Gupta the grandfather of Chandra Gupta I, mentioned in Gupta inscriptions - come so close to each other? This objection however, carries no weight, because instances could be cited, from the Gupta history, of two Chandra Guptas and two Kumara Guptas not far removed from each other.
If we grant the validity of Itsing's statement we have also to accept the late inferred there from. The immediate successors of Sri Gupta are not known.
They seem, however, to be gradually growing in power, Gupta, perhaps a grandson of Sri Gupta, seems to have risen to the position of a feudatory prince. This is suggested by the fact that Gupta is styled in the Allahabad pillar inscription of Samudra Gupta as Maharaja and is appropriately called so in the Poona plates of Prabhavatigupta Vakataka. Vincent Smith rightly places him between 275-300 AD.
Next to Gupta, Allahabad pillar inscription mentions Maharaja Ghatotkaca as the son of Maharaja Gupta. Bloch suggested that this Ghatotkaca may be identical with Ghatotkaca Gupta, whose name appeared on a seal at Vaisali. This, however, does not seem to be possible since the name of the son of Maharaja Gupta and the father of Chandra Gupta I has, in no inscription, been given as Ghatotkaca Gupta, but has been given merely as Ghatotkaca. Moreover D. B. Bhandarkar has suggeted that the spot at Vaisali, where a large number of seals were unearthed, must have been the ancient site of the office of the person, who was entrusted, in Chandra Gupta II’s time, with the duty of making seals. How could he have possessed seals belonging to the period one century before his date? Ghatotkaca Gupta referred to on the seals seems to have been a member of the royal Gupta family, who must have been appointed the viceroy of a province at that time. It was also suggested by some scholars that some gold coins, hitherto invariably classed in the Early Gupta series, which have on the obverse the name of Kaca should be attributed to Ghatotkaca, the father of Chandra Gupta I. But the epithet occurring on the reverse of the same coins, and the fact that Ghatotkaca, being merely a feudatory Maharaja, was not entitled to issue coinage in his own name, finally and convincingly disprove this theory. Ghatotkaca must have been ruling, according to Allan, between 300 and 320 AD.
The Allahabad pillar inscription styles Chandra Gupta, the father of Samudra Gupta, as Maharajadhiraja, which fact indicates that Chandra Gupta had risen to sovereign power in his time. Secondly we learn from the coins of Chandra Gupta I - the coins which are generally attributed to his reign, but which must have been presumably issued by his son and successor, Samudra Gupta - that Chandra Gupta I attained political domination through his marriage to the Licchavi princess, Kumaradevi. Few Other inscriptional and numismatic sources add to our knowledge about this sovereign, who was certainly the progenitor of the imperial Gupta dynasty.
It has been argued by Aiyangar that Chandra of the Meharauli Iron pillar inscription is no other than Chandra Gupta I. Meharauli is Mihirapuri, a village about nine miles south of Delhi near the site of Kutubminar. On an iron pillar is inscribed an evidently posthumous eulogy of one Chandra, regarding whose lineage no information has been given. Attempt has been made, on the basis of stanza 21 in the inscription, to prove that Chandra of the Meharauli pillar was "not dead at the time of the inscription and that, therefore, the inscription was not a posthumous one, as is generally assumed”. But the tone of the stanza definitely points to the posthumous character of the inscription. The epigraph is undated and its object seems to be to commemorate the erection of the pillar, Visnudhvaja, on a hill called Visnupada, which is usually identified with the Delhi Ridge. The fact that the underground supports of the column include several small pieces of metal “like bits of bar-iron” is in favour of its being now in its original position, though tradition ascribes the erection of the pillar in its present site to Anangapala, in the early part of 8th century AD. The Visnupada mentioned here, however, cannot be possibly identified with the Delhi Ridge.
In the Ramayana (II-68-18.19) Visnupada is mentioned together with Vipas and Salmali. All these places are said to be in the vicinity of the Bahlika country. Other epic references in this regard collected by Chakravarti also point to the same conclusion. As suggested by Bhandarkar, Visnupada was a hill in the Punjab from which Kashmir was visible. So it is more correct to assume that the pillar was originally erected in this part of the country, which assumption may also be supported by the reference in the inscription to the conquest of the Bahlikas, that is to say, of the people near Vipas and Visnupada. The characters of the inscription belong to the Northern class of alphabets approximating those of the Allahabad pillar inscription.
Who is this Chandra referred to in this inscription?
The inscription records that all those who were antagonistic to Chandra confederated and making a common cause attacked his territory from the side of Bengal; Chandra, however, won a victory over them by pressing them back. Another event mentioned must be specifically a successful war against the Bahlikas of Bactria (Balkh) by getting across the seven mouths of the Indus. Chandra of this inscription is further said to have acquired sole sovereignty of the earth after a long-continued effort.
It has been suggested by certain scholars that Chandragupta Maurya erected this iron column and Samudra Gupta, after about 600 years, regarding Chandragupta Maurya as his ideal hero, got the present eulogy inscribed on it. Chandragupta Maurya ruled for a long time over a big empire and died full of years and glory. He had defeated the Bahlikas and had advanced as far as the ocean. But it must be said that this evidence is not sufficient to identify Chandra of the Meharauli pillar with Chandragupta Maurya. The same description may be applied, and surely more adequately, even to Chandra Gupta II. Besides the very assumption that Samudra Gupta revived the pillar after about 600 years is based on mere conjecture, in order to get rid of paleographical objections.
On paleographical grounds Fleet is inclined id assume that the inscription may possibly refer to Chandra Gupta I. Aiyangar, who definitely assigns the inscription to Chandra Gupta I, believes that “Chandra Gupta I began his life as ruler of his ancestral dominions among the banks of the Ganges just like his father and grandfather before him. He must have been a man of achievement as otherwise the credit of the foundation of the empire would not have been given to him as such. The marriage with the Licchavi princess gave him prestige, influence and territory. This new addition rounded off his frontier and brought him into touch with Bengal on the one side and the petty states of Central India and the Punjab on the other. Chandra Gupta's conquest of the Bengal frontiers was thus quite possible”.
His principal achievements, however, according to Aiyangar, were against his neighbours on the west and the northwest. His Bahlika conquest takes him as far as Sindh and Surastra. This does not refer to the destruction of the Sakas, but only to the defeat of the rulers in that locality and to the treaty following thereupon. All this, however, seems to be an overestimate of the achievement of Chandra Gupta I. The Abhlika conquest, considering the reference, to the seven mouths of the Indus, must necessarily imply that the conqueror had reached Balkh, which is quite improbable in the case of Chandra Gupta I.
A critical examination of the exploits of Samudra Gupta as described in the Allahabad pillar inscription proves only this much, that his father ruled in the Gangetic valley from Prayaga to Pataliputra. There is not the slightest hint in the Allahabad pillar inscription that the frontiers of Bengal were also in the possession, of Chandra Gupta I. Moreover the boast of the “sole sovereignty of the earth” is untenable in Chandra Gupta I's case. Had the achievements described in the Meharauli pillar inscription been those of Chandra Gupta I, his son, Samudra Gupta, would most certainly have referred to them in his own record. The identification of Chandra of the Meharauli pillar inscription with Chandra Gupta I cannot, therefore, stand the test of logic and historical validity.
Aiyar proposed that Chandra of Meharauli iron pillar inscription was the same as Sadacandra Bharasiva; who succeeded Bhavanaga, the vaivahika of Vakataka Pravarasena I. He must have been ruling the territory dependent on Vidisa in east Malwa, just about the same time when Samudra Gupta or his father, Chandra Gupta I, dominated the Gangetic valley. If this Sadacandra fought a battle against the confederated enemies on the Bengal frontiers, how did he manage to get unchallenged access to the battlefield across the whole of Magadha? Further the Puranas, which happen to be the only source of the history of the Bharasiva dynasty, do not mention these exploits of Sadacandra.
Haraprasad Sastri was the first scholar to maintain that Chandra of the Meharauli pillar inscription was Candavarman, the ruler of Puskarana. A record of this Candavarman inscribed on the face of a rock called the Sisunia rock near Raniganja, was published in Epigraphia Indica, where B.D. Bannerjee also identified him with Chandra of the Meharauli pillar. In the Gangadhar record dated 401 AD of his son, or according to Haraprasad Sastri, of his brother, Naravarman, however, no reference is made to such a great achievement of Candavarman.
The only common feature of the Sisunia rock and the Meharauli iron pillar inscriptions is that both of them are Vaisnava records. The geographical positions of Pukarana (Rajputana), the Sisunia rock, and Visnupada again renders the proposed identification untenable. It seems that Candavarman, mentioned in the Allahabad pillar inscription among the rulers of Aryavarta subjugated by Samudra Gupta, is the same as that of the Sisunia rock.
Candavarman of Puskarana was an aggressive ruler who attempted an incursion in Samudra Gupta's territory. Sisunia inscription seems to be the result of his temporary success. Samudra Gupta later turned round upon him after his return from South India and rendered him powerless. Thus the third theory regarding the identification of Chandra of Meharauli inscription also falls to the ground.
It is very interesting to compare the language of and the expressions on the coins of Chandra Gupta II with those occurring on the Meharauli iron pillar. The striking similarity between them leads one to believe that Chandra of the Meharauli pillar inscription was really Chandra Gupta II. This belief is corroborated by ample evidence. Both the sources namely the coins of Chandra Gupta II, and the Meharauli pillar inscription speak of the sovereign as a great Vaisnava. The last line of the inscription contains a word which has generally read as a great enigma to epigraphists. As Fleet reads it gives no relevant sense. It may then be taken to refer to the personal name of Chandra Gupta II, viz. Deva Gupta, which latter is also used in some of the Vakataka records. A specific victory over Balkh would have been necessary if Chandra Gupta II had wanted to finish the Kusana rule in India once for all, Bactria was the real base of the Kuganas wherefrom they retrieved their position, which was shaken in India in the past. It was indeed necessary for Chandra Gupta II to wage war over the whole of Sapta-sindhu. And this actually was, as will be shown later, one of the principal achievements of Chandra Gupta II. Conquest of Bengal by Chandra Gupta II is also proved by the possession of that province by his descendants after him. The script of the Meharauli inscription is certainly very similar to that of the Allahabad pillar inscription. The language and style of the stanzas in the Meharauli inscription are such as Kalidasa, who was patronised by Chandra Gupta II, would have employed. Chandra Gupta III’s political influence in southern countries, which is suggested in that inscription, is a well-established fact. Any conclusions regarding the career of Chandra Gupta I, based on the authority of the Meharauli inscription, will, therefore, be proved to be historically untenable.
The so-called coins of Chandra Gupta I also have proved rather misleading. These are known in sufficiently large number, but it is extremely doubtful whether they were issued by the king whose name they bear. The chatra coins of the Guptas appear to Aiyangar to have been the issue of Chandra Gupta I. There are two varieties of these coins. 'Hoey' specimen with the letters Candragupta, a royal umbrella, and the picture of the sovereign on the obverse and the legend vikra-maditya on the reverse, suggests that they were struck on the model of coins of the last great Kusana, Vasudeva. This imitation of the Kusana coins by Chandra Gupta I indicates, according to Aiyangar, a close contact of the territories belonging to the two dynasties, which would be possible only on the assumption of Chandra Gupta I's western and north-western achievements. That possibility has been already proved to be untenable.
Moreover the legend vikramaditya on the reverse of that specimen cannot be explained in the case of Chandra Gupta I. These coins must necessarily have belonged to Chandra Gupta II, who was the first Gupta sovereign to call himself Vikramaditya. So too the “marriage type” of Allan is ascribed by Aiyangar to Chandra Gupta I.
If the coins bearing the names of Chandra Gupta I and Kumaradevi were really issued by Chandra Gupta I then we are at a loss to account for a return in the standard typo of Samudra Gupta's coins to a relatively slavish imitation of Kusana type, from the comparative originality of his father's coins. Secondly, had the Gupta coins been a local development in Magadha of the late Kusana coins, from which latter they were obviously derived, one would expect the latter to be present among finds of Gupta coins. We have therefore to place the origin of Gupta coinage in a period when the Guptas had come into closer contact with the later great Kusanas, whose eastern Punjab coinage they copied. The historical evidence, which we possess, points to the fact that this period falls not during the reign of Chandra Gupta I but later.
Thirdly, apart from the initial assumption that the Chandra Gupta coins, being farther removed from the Kusana type than the standard type, which latter was not found in any coins ascribed to Chandra Gupta I belong to a later period, a careful comparison of their fabric with that of the standard type indicates that they were struck by Samudra Gupta. And finally if Chandra Gupta I issued coins it would appear strange that Samudra Gupta did not continue their issue. Allan's contention that the coins bearing the names of Chandra Gupta and Kumaradevi were memorial medals struck by Samudra Gupta receives support from other coin-types of Samudra Gupta, such as, the asmavedha type or the lyrist type. Thus there is very little numismatic evidence regarding the history of Chandra Gupta I's times.
Jayaswal believes that the acquisition of the throne of Magadha from an orthodox Egatriya king, by Chandra Gupta I, forms the plot of the play, Kaumudi-Mahotsava (KM), discovered recently by Ramachandra Kayi.
Sundaravarman, the father of Kalyanavarman, died in a battle for the defence of Pataliputra, when it was besieged by one Candasena and the Licchavis. Sundaravarman seems to have belonged to the orthodox Ksatriya family, which ruled at Pataliputra at the time of the political reorganization of the Gangetic valley by the Bharasivas. His dynasty is called Magadha dynasty in KM and is referred to, according to Jayaswal, as Kotakula, in the Allahabad pillar inscription.
Pires assumed (The Maukharis) that since Sundaravarman's dynasty is named Magadhakula after Magadha which was the homeland of the Maukharis, since, again, his name ends in varman, which goes usually with Maukhari royal names, and since they are said to be Orthodox Ksatriyas in the play, it is almost certain that Sundaravarman of Kaumudi-Mahotsava belonged to the Maukhari dynasty.
The recently discovered Chandravalli inscription of Mayurasarman has revealed the fact that Maukharis ruled in Magadha in the time of the early Kadambas, that is, in 4th century A. D. This assumption may seem to carry great weight. This Sundaravarman, as KM describes, had adopted Candasena as his son. Candasena, however, contracted a marriage with a Licchavi princess, even though the Licchavis were enemies of the Magadhakula. A son was born to Sundaravarman in his old age, which fact barred the possibility of Candasena's coming to the Magadha throne. Though Candasena proclaimed himself as belonging to Magadhakula, he found an opportunity to lay siege to the capital Kusumapura, with the help of the Licchavis; and after a victorious battle with his adopted father he established himself as the king of Magadha.
Kalyanavarman, the young son of Sundaravarman, was, in the meanwhile, taken on the lake of Pampa at Vyadhakiskindha. His prime-minister, Mantragupta, and commander-in-chief, Kunjaraka, were both striving hard to reinstate him on the Magadha throne. A supreme opportunity soon offered itself when Candasena was obliged to leave his capital and go out with his army to quell a revolt of his governors among the Sabaras and the Pulindas, on the frontier of Magadha. The revolt itself was stirred up by the two wise ministers of Kalyanavarman, Mantragupta and Kunjaraka. During Candasena's absence from Pataliputra, Mantragupta had a secret conference with the city council who favoured the return of Kalyanavarman to the throne of Magadha. He was accordingly summoned back to the capital and was enthroned immediately.
For the sake of political security of Kalyanavarman, Mantragupta also arranged an alliance with the king of Surasena Janapada, the Yadava Kirtisena of Mathura. His daughter, Kirtimati, was married to Kalyanavarman.
Two arguments have been put forth by Jayaswal in favour of his assumption that Candasena of KM is no other than Chandra Gupta I.
It is suggested that Candasena dropped Sena and assumed the name Gupta. Gupta was his grandfather's name, which was turned by him into a dynastic title. His father's name was not joined with Gupta. The Gupta inscriptions mention Chandra Gupta I's natural parentage, which, according to Hindu law, he had not lost even when he became Sundaravarman's son. The identification is upheld by Candasena's matrimonial alliance with Licchavis, which fact is corroborated by numismatic evidence.
The Licchavis had to quit Magadha on account of the advance of Vanaspara, a viceroy of Kaniska. They had since then established themselves on the frontiers of the Magadha kingdom, and had been awaiting an opportunity to regain the lost Magadha throne. They ultimately helped this rising feudatory prince, Chandra Gupta, who was a favourite of Sundayvarman of Pataliputra, and instigated him against his adopted father.
The Licchavis could not have possibly allowed Kalyapavarman to remain long in possession of the Magadha throne. They had to take care of Chandra Gupta's family and, very probably, even before Chandra Gupta's army had returned from the frontier provinces of Magadha, Kalyanavarman was defeated, killed or forced to retreat from Pataliputra. Such hypothesis explains why Kalyanavarman's name does figure in the Allahabad pillar inscription among the rulers of Aryavarta conquered by Samudra Gupta.
Nagasena, mentioned in the Allahabad pillar inscription however, seems to be the son of Kirtisena of Mathura who was the father-in-law of Kalyanavarman. Kalyanavarman seems to have found time, in the meanwhile, to celebrate his return to Magadha by a Kaumudi-mahotsava, which event inspired the poetess, Kisorika-Vijjika according to some scholars to produce this play. She seems to have been a strong admirer of the family of Sundaravarman, for while giving the general historical background quite correctly, she has presented Candasena -Chandra Gupta I- rather too unfavourably. The angry authoress of the drama calls the Licchavis, mlecchas, and Candasena, a Karaskara, (who could, by the way, be legally adopted by a Ksatriya), implying a casteless or low-caste person not fit for royalty.
This might suggest that Guptas were originally Karaskara Jatas, who migrated during the Bharasiva period when, presumably, a Bharasiva king gave one of those Guptas a fief, having border-land between Bihar and Kausambi. This low origin of the Guptas confirms the Puranic tradition, namely that Ksatriyas lost their right to rule by being uprooted by Sudras. But other facts clearly hinted in the play, namely that Candasena (Chandra Gupta I) was totally hated by the Magadhans on account of his low caste, that his character was that of a usurper, and that he failed to adopt himself to the traditional Hindu way of government, may be purposeful exaggeration and derogatory overemphasis due to the partiality of the poetess and to her effort to please her masters.
The general impression produced by the play that Chandra Gupta I, who was a great tyrant and usurper, was, on account of his misbehavior, expelled by the citizens of Pataliputra, who rose in revolt against him in the cause of their former rulers, and that, as a result of this, Chandra Gupta I, had to die in exile, in misery and despair, cannot be historically authentic. Alberuni's statement to the effect that the kings associated with the Gupta era were cruel and wicked must have been based on an erroneous tradition, just like his statement that the epoch of the Gupta era was the epoch of the Gupta extermination. The authority of KM, as a source of history, is thus to be considerably restricted. The only historically valid facts regarding Chandra Gupta I's career which may be gleaned from KM and which are confirmed, according to Jayaswal, by other epigraphic and numismatic evidence are:
(1) Chandra Gupta I, was a Karaskara Jata by caste.
(2) His matrimonial alliance with the Licchavis enabled him to conquer the Maukhari king of Pataliputra and establish himself there. He thus rose from the position of Maharaja, a feudatory prince, to that of Maharajadhiraja, an independent sovereign, which fact is amply evidenced by the Allahabad pillar inscription.
(3) He had to fight the frontier tribes, like the Sabaras, whom he ultimately defeated. During that campaign of his, Kalyanavarman, the son of the former king of Magadha, came back to the Magadha throne and occupied it for some time, but was again successfully ousted by Candra Gupta I's Licchavi relatives, perhaps even before he returned from the frontiers.
(4) Chandra Gupta I, on returning to Pataliputra, selected Samudra Gupta to succeed him.
(5 ) If Samudra Gupta had personally defeated Kalyanavarman during the absence on the frontiers of his father, Chandra Gupta I, and thus proved his worth, the victory should have been recorded; and it was recorded, according to Jayaswal, in the missing syllables of line 13 of the Allahabad pillar inscription. Jayaswal identified the Magadhakula with the Kotakula and consequently concluded that Kotakulaja in the Allahabad pillar inscription refers to Kalyanavarman. Kalyanavarman was, however, a Maukhari king. Was he perhaps descended from the Kota family on his mother's side? The brother-in-law of Kalyanavarman belonging to the royal family of Mathura, named Nagasena, is also referred to in the Allahabad pillar inscription of Samudra Gupta.
These conclusions arrived at by Jayaswal on the basis of KM, howsoever ingenious, are not at all convincing. To begin with, according to the drama, again, Candasena had merely ordinary sambandha -political alliance- with the Licchavis, there being absolutely no reference to the matrimonial alliance. Chandra Gupta I, however, as we know from numismatic sources, married a princess of the Licchavis. Further it may be argued that Chandra Gupta I's ( Candasena of KM ) adoption by Sundaravarman of Magadha becomes meaningless, in view of the fact that the former's father, Ghatotkaca, was himself a king, whose political influence was gradually increasing along the Gangetic valley. So too, the reference in KM regarding the extermination of Candasena -of the entire family of Candasena was destroyed- cannot be adequately understood in case of his identification with Chandra Gupta I.
The stanza of the Allahabad pillar inscription, picturesquely described how Chandra Gupta I, in the presence of the members of the royal family and with the tacit consent of the council of ministers, installed Samudra Gupta as Yuvaraja. This cannot be possible in the case of Candasena as represented in KM. These objections against accepting KM as a reliable source of history render the inferences, drawn by Jayaswal therefrom, regarding the early history of the Guptas historically untenable. It would be more correct to suppose that the orthodox Ksatriya family, in whose possession Magadha was circa 250 A.D., when the Bharasivas liberated the Gangetic Valley and reorganized the whole political scene over there, had to suffer from the aggressive policy of two rising dynasties-firstly that of the Guptas forcing their way in the Gangetic valley from their original principality in Bengal, and secondly that of the Licchavis, whose direct objective seems to have been the capital of Magadha itself.
The Puranic tradition presents, the Guptas, at the beginning of the 4th century AD, as dominating the Gangetic valley, particularly the provinces of Prayaga and Saketa. The same tradition further refers to the disregard of the distinctions of caste, in those days, as the result of which, the traditional right, of only Ksatriyas, to rule was denied and was usurped by other lower castes also. This may suggest the domination of Magadha by Licchavis, who were avowedly a low race.
It would thus seem that Pataliputra was already occupied by Licchavis while Sri Gupta, Ghatotkaca, and Chandra Gupta I had, been still gradually establishing their supremacy in the Gangetic valley. Numismatic evidence clearly points to the marriage between Chandra Gupta I and Kumaradevi, a Licchavi princess. The two rising dynasties, the Guptas and the lacchavis, who were advancing against the Ksatriya family ruling over Magadha in circa 250 AD were thus united through a matrimonial alliance, the consequent advantage of this alliance being later on exclusively enjoyed by the Guptas.
Chandra Gupta I, became, in this manner, the master not only of his paternal heritage in the Gangetic valley, to which he must himself have made substantial additions, but also of the kingdom of Magadha, which passed on to him on account of his matrimonial alliance with the Licchavis. Recognizing the glorious traditions of Magadha and its capital, Chandra Gupta I, seems to have transferred the original capital of his family in Bengal to Pataliputra and thus became the first Maharajadhiraja among the Gupta sovereigns.
Chandra Gupta could easily establish peace and prosperity in Magadha. This was undoubtedly due to a revival of national spirit in that province. From humble origin, the Guptas grew into a dynasty of the best type of Hindu rulers. They assimilated in themselves the genuine Magadhan culture.
The Allahabad pillar inscription makes it clear that Chandra Gupta I's rule was confined to Magadha and the adjoining territories. According to Allan, the Purana verses about Gupta dominions refer to Chandra Gupta I's reign. He assumes that Vaisali was one of Chandra Gupta I's earliest conquests. This cannot, however, be correct; for the Licchavis were originally the rulers of Northern Bihar or Tirabhukti, having their capital at Vaisali. During their temporary expulsion from Pataliputra by the Kusana viceroy, the Licchavis seem to have gone back to Vaisali; Vaisali does not occur in the list of Samudra Gupta's acquisitions. It first appears as a Gupta possession, in the time of Chandra Gupta II, in the form of a viceroyalty under an imperial prince.
The two other powers of considerable importance in Northern India, at the time of Chandra Gupta I, were the Satrapas and the Vakatakas. It is necessary to estimate at this stage their political relations with Chandra Gupta I. A critical examination of the Ksatrapa coins led Rapson to believe that the decadence of their power had begun about that time. It coincides with the rise of Pravarasena I, Vakataka, who justifiably styles himself Samrat in his record. Buehler raised objections, without any valid evidence, against the generally accepted identification of Vindhyasakti and Pravira of the Puranas, with Vindhyasakti and Pravarasena of the Vakataka dynasty.
Vakataka records claim for Pravarasena I, the performance of several sacrifices, all of which seem more or less to form a series of ceremonies constituting the full Asvamedha. His other achievements, whatever they may have been, are not recorded in Vakataka inscriptions. Only the name of his son is given as Gautamiputra, but evidently he did not rule; and when the grandson of Pravarasena I, Kudrasena I, ascended the Vakataka throne, the title Samrat, for some reason or other, is found to have been given up.
Aiyangar has brought forward a wealth of evidence, from Puranas and from a work written by Ramadasa, to bear out the facts that the Guptas and the Vakatakas were fighting for sovereignty and that though the latter could boast of a succession of rulers, as indicated in the legend of their seals, the former, in the end, succeeded in the trial for paramount power, Chandra Gupta I, who seems to have started defying the imperial authority of the old Pravarasena I, and Samudra Gupta, who seems to have crushed his Vakataka contemporary, Rudrasena I, compelled the Vakatakas into a subordinate alliance with them.
As a result of his investigations based on a study of Satrapa coins Rapson observes: “All the evidence afforded by the coins or the absence of coins during this period, 305 AD to 348 AD, the failure of the direct line and the substitution of another family, the cessation first of the Mahaksatrapas and later of both Mahaksatrapas as well as Ksatrapas seems to indicate troublous times. The probability is that their dominions were subject to some foreign invasion. The period would include in the first half, the expansion of the Vakatakas under Pravarasena I. This progress of Pravarasena I, must have led at least to the narrowing of the territory held by the Ksatrapas, if not to its utter extinction. They had to abandon Malwa, which constituted the central block of their territory. The latter part of this period, mentioned by Rapson would fall in the reigns of Chandra Gupta I, and Samudra Gupta. The Ksatrapas were already reduced by the Vakatakas; the Vakataka collapse under Samudra Gupta and the expansion of his authority closer to the Vindhya mountains clearly indicate further reduction of the extent of Ksatrapa territory. Chandra Gupta I, however, does not seem to have come directly in contact with or to have provoked either the Vakatakas or the Ksatrapas.
Chandra Gupta I, was presumably much advanced in age at the time of the occupation of Magadha by the Guptas and we have positive proof of his short rule in Magadha in the date of the Gaya copperplate of his son, Samudra Gupta. The date of Chandra Gupta I's may be inferred from the Gaya copperplate of his son, Samudra Gupta. The date of Chandra Gupta I’s death, which may be inferred from the Gaya copperplate appears to be 328 AD.
Chandra Gupta I, was responsible for laying the foundations of the Gupta empire. The Vakatakas made it possible for him to do so, by desisting from active hostility. Chandra Gupta only prepared the ground for future glorious achievements of Samudra Gupta, to whom he had handed down a sufficiently strong base in Magadha from where Samudra Gupta could launch on his Vijaya-yatra.
A small number of extremely rare gold coins bearing the name Kaca has given rise to a controversy regarding the identification of that monarch. The proposed attribution of those coins to Ghatotkaca, the father of Chandra Gupta I, has already been proved to be untenable. Fleet and Vincent Smith, on the strength of the evidence of the title on those coins and of the fact that the legend on the Kaca type is synonymous with that of the Archer type and further of the allusion to the pious works of Samudra Gupta, conclude that Kaca was a personal and less formal name of Samudra Gupta himself. But up to this time, coins of the same Gupta sovereign bearing two different names in addition to the birudas have not been discovered.
The established practice of the Gupta coins is to put the real name of the king on the margin of the obverse or at the foot of the royal figure in a vertical line and his birudas on the reverse or elsewhere. In the ordinary type of coins of Gupta sovereigns only one name is uniformally given under the left arm, for instance, Chandra for Chandra Gupta II, Kumara or 'Ku' for Kumara Gupta I or Kumara Gupta II and Skanda for Skanda Gupta. Though the name Deva Gupta is found in the Vakataka inscriptions, as a personal name of Candra Gupta II, that name has never been found on the coinage of that sovereign. This fact convincingly disproves the theory of Fleet and Vincent Smith. Rapson proposed that Kaca might have been a brother of Samudra Gupta, who must have reigned only for a short time after Chandra Gupta I. The selection of Samudra Gupta by his father to succeed him renders this assumption also groundless. To read Kaca as Rama and then to attribute these coins to Rama Gupta, who will be later shown to have succeeded Samudra Gupta, is going too far. Who, then, was this prince Kaca? And how can we historically explain the existence of his coins?
Allan and Rayachaudhari adhere to the theory of identifying Kaca with Samudra Gupta. Aiyangar is not definite on this point. The choice of Samudra Gupta as heir apparent made by Chandra Gupta I, is clearly hinted at in the Allahabad pillar inscription of Samudra Gupta. Another clear indication of such custom of selecting a successor is provided by the epithet which always applied to Chandra Gupta II, in the genealogical passages of the Gupta inscriptions. But there is a great deal of significant difference between these two references. In the Bhitari and the Mathura inscriptions of Chandra Gupta II, the acceptance of Chandra Gupta II, as a successor was the only thing mentioned. In the Allahabad pillar inscription, on the other hand, besides the reference to the selection of Samudra Gupta by his father, it has been clearly mentioned that the former was enviously looked at by his brethren. This fact may suggest that there was a slight rebellion on the part of Samudra Gupta's brothers after their father's death.
In the same inscription there is a passage full of many gaps; that passage perhaps refers to this rebellion. “…conquered some by his arms in battle”. This war is mentioned between the reference to Samudra Gupta's selection as a Yuvaraja on the one hand and to his first campaign against Aryavarta, which is supposed to be his first great exploit, on the other.
There is further on in the inscription, a mention that “pride had changed into repentance” possibly referring to Samudra Gupta's brothers. All this seems to point to a civil war which must have been easily subdued by Samudra Gupta before the beginning of the great campaign. Many scholars believe that the sequence of events as mentioned by Harisena, the author of the Allahabad pillar inscription, may not necessarily be chronologically correct and that this civil war may have broken out immediately after Samudra Gupta had set on his career of conquest.
Harisena, however, was a responsible officer under Samudra Gupta and thus could not have lost sight of any details in the sequence of important events in his master's career. It is more reasonable to suppose that some time elapsed between the selection of Samudra Gupta by Chandra Gupta I, and the letter's death. This may have given time to Samudra Gupta's brothers to prepare for a war of succession. Chandra Gupta I, presumably died somewhere on the other side of the Ganges when Samudra Gupta had left Pataliputra in order to meet him. The brothers seized this opportunity and Kaca, the eldest brother, led his younger brothers in civil war. He was actually enthroned for some time, during which period he struck his own coins. The apparent inferiority of gold of Kaca's coins may also lead to the assumption of his hasty intrusion on the Magadha throne.
The gaps in the Allahabad pillar inscription, which follow the stanza where we are told of Samudra Gupta's selection by his father to succeed him must necessarily have referred to this war of succession and to Samudra Gupta's putting down of the instigator. Otherwise the historical significance of the reference in the inscription to the chagrin of Samudra Gupta's brethren will have been lost and the statement will be rendered unnecessary, and according to Heras, an empty boast made by a pretender. The fact that Kaca was an usurper mainly barred the possibility of his being mentioned in the later genealogical lists of the Gupta inscriptions. Further, Gupta inscriptions usually omit the name of a prince who does not belong to the direct line of succession. The supposition that the coins bearing the name of Kaca are medals struck by Samudra Gupta in memory of his elder brother, Kaca, cannot be reconciled with the statement in the Allahabad pillar inscription referring to envy and ill will which Samudra Gupta's brethren bore against him. Had there been any achievement of Kaca worthy of commemoration, it would certainly have been included in the Allahabad inscription. Kaca's rule in Magadha was short-lived and Samudra Gupta established himself on the throne almost immediately after the death of his father.