Chandragupta I selected Samudragupta as his successor considering him as the most worthy son (Arya). This decision was publicly announced in an open assembly of the King’s counselors who accepted the selection with satisfaction.
After the announcement Chandragupta I instructed the Crown prince “Protective this earth”.
From this as mentioned in the Allahabad pillar inscription some scholars concluded that there were other sons of Chandragupta who aspired to the throne and therefore the accession of Samudragupta was disputed. He ruled the empire for long forty years and died in 375 AD.
He amply justified his father’s selection by proving himself a great conqueror and a mighty monarch. His title of parakramanka indicates his power. The Eran Inscription states that “the whole tribe of kings upon the earth was overthrown and reduced to the loss of wealth of their sovereignty by Samudragupta. Allahabad Pillar Inscription, the most important source of information for the history of Samudragupta’s invasion and conquest throws light on the Digvijaya of Samudragupta. Harisena the court poet being the author of this Inscription and holding several important offices of the empire describe the achievements of the Warrior King.
Harisena once the Dandanayaka or Chief Justice, the Sandhivirahika or Minister of Foreign Affairs and War, the Kumaramatya or Minister attending the Crown Prince was of full knowledge of the chronological orders of events as they actually occurred. His narration speaks about Samudragupta’s fame and political exploits depicting him as a Digvijayi to show his supremacy over the vast part of India.
Samudragupta adopted strategic plans for his conquests of the north and the south. He decided to subdue the neighbouring Kingdoms first before going for distant expeditions. His conquest against Aryavarta was his first campaign. He then dashed against Dakhinapatha and in the third phase he marched on the second Aryavarta War. Besides these main invasions Samudragupta also effected the invasion of Atavika or Forest Kingdoms. He also established diplomatic relations with the states situated in the frontiers of the Gupta empire and finally he exchanged political negotiations with distant foreign powers.
In his first campaign in north India, Samudragupta defeated Achyuta, the ruler of Ahichchhator (modern Ramnagar of Bareilly district), Nagasena the ruler of Padmavati (near Marwar) and Mathura. After having made his position secure in the Ganga-Jamuna Valley he turned his attention towards distant territories of the South.
It is very interesting to note that most of the states which Samudragupta subjugated in the South were situated in the eastern part of the Peninsula and on the Malabar Coast. Samudragupta also wanted to get the benefit of the fabulous wealth of the Southern Kingdoms. Fighting at distant places coming from the Gangetic valley was not a easy task and realising the reality he adopted new tactics at the time of South Indian Campaign.
In the southern expedition he encountered with twelve kings and defeated them, set them at liberty and allowed them to rule as feudatory chiefs of the South. This policy of Samudragupta is described as Digvijaya or defeating the enemy kings of the South, Grahana or getting the authority over the kingdoms and then Anugraha allowing them to rule their Kingdoms under his Suzerainty.
In course of his Southern Campaign he humbled as many as twelve princes.
These princes were:
(1) Mahendra of Kosala who ruled over Mahakosala region or the district of Raipur, Bilaspur, and Sambalpur,
(2) Vaghraraja of Mahakantara a forest tract of Gandawana,
(3) Mantraraja of Kaurala (Korada),
(4) Mahendra of Pistapur (Pithapuram region of Godavari district),
(5) Swamidutta of Kottura (Ganjam district of Orissa),
(6) Damana of Erandapolle. (Erandapolle of Ganjam district),
(7) Visnugopa of Kanchi— Canjeevaram of Madras,
(8) Nataraja of Avamukta (near Godavari),
(9) Hastivarman of Vengi—Ellor region of Andhra Pradesh,
(10) Ugrasena of Palakka—Some parts of Nellor,
(11) Kuvera of Devarastra—Vizagapatam district, and
(12) Dhanajaya of Kusthalapura who ruled over North Arcot.
Samudragupta’s Deccan Campaign is really memorable. He advanced with his army through the dense forest of Madhya Pradesh and covered a distance of 3000 miles and undertook unspeakable hardship. In spite of all adversities he displayed remarkable determination, courage and leadership for which he is often compared with Alexander and sometimes he is assigned with the title of Indian Napoleon.
Allahabad Pillar Inscription reveals that Samudragupta defeated the confederacy of twelve kings in a spitched battle and maintained his supremacy. The policy of treating the defeated enemies liberally was an extraordinary success of his diplomacy. This further highlights the deep political foresight and statesmanship of Samudragupta.
Seeing unparalleled military success many frontier states submitted to Samudragupta and agreed to pay annual tribute. These states were Samtala, South Eastern Bengal, Devaka (northern Assam) Kamrupa (Assam) Nepal, Kartripura (part of Kumaon Garhwal and Rohilkhand). The Allahabad Pillar Inscription confirms the conquests of the frontier states.
There were many independent republican tribes existing on the Western frontier. They were brave, spirited and lover of self-respect. The Allahabad Inscription reveals that nine tribes inhabited in the Punjab, Rajputana and Madhya Bharat etc. submitted to Samudragupta, Malavas, Aijunayanas, Yaudheyas, Madrakas, Abhiras, Prarjunas, Sanakanikas, Kakas and Kliarparikas were among those republican states.
As a symbol of the supremacy and imperial power Samudragupta performed an Asvamedha Yajna and assumed the title of Maharajadhiraja. To commemorate the occasion he issued special gold coins. These coins contained the figure of the sacrificial horse on one side and the inscription of Asvamedha prakarama on the other side of the coin. This signifies that he performed the yajna to revamp the position of the Brahmanas and their supremacy over the society. By the performance of this he required the kings to subjugate and to accept his supremacy and imperial position.
Extend of Samudragupta’s Empire:
The empire of Samudragupta under his direct administration was extensive. It included nearly the whole of northern India. Western Punjab, Western Rajputana Sindh, Gujarat, and Orissa were not included in the Gupta empire. Thus his empire extended from the river Brahmaputra in the east to the river Jamuna and the Chambal in the west which included the most populous and fertile countries of the Ganges Valley and further extended right up to the river Narbada in the South.
By his conquests and campaigns as well as by the extent of his empire Samudragupta proved himself a true Chakravarti monarch of India. Some foreign kings like Simhala or Ceylon in the South, Kushanas, Sakas, and Sahis came forward to have friendly ties with Samudragupta. He maintained cordial relationship with the Hindu colonial kingdoms of Malaysia, Indo-China, Java and East Indies.
Achievements as a Warrior:
The small empire founded by Chandragupta I was stretched to a gigantic shape and stepped up to the height of its glory by Samudragupta. Undisputedly he conquered state after state and extended his empire. His performance of Asvamedha Yajna confirms his military supremacy over other rulers.
At the time of his accession the political condition of the country was unstable and uncertain and it was Samudragupta who brought stability and ensured conducive atmosphere. Again all odds he gave respite to the people and brought peace and prosperity. His indefatigable energy and strong determination, use of tactics in the war firmly made him a genius who may rightly claim the title of Indian Napoleon. He was no doubt a military genius but he was equally a successful diplomat. His policy of conquest and liberal attitude towards the defeated kings highlights his diplomatic skill and shrewdness.
He never followed the policy of reckless warfare and drove the opponents in one camp. He knew where to stop and how to gain allegiance of the vanquished opponents. His diplomatic triumph opened new way for cementing friendliness with the foreign rulers externally and many opponent kings internally.
Samudragupta was a highly capable and efficient administrator. He organised civil administration in a systematic way that ensured peace and prosperity throughout the vast empire. The provinces enjoyed autonomy but the central government maintained effective control of Supervision. He reformed the official system by bringing the officials to his control. This system virtually continued to exist till the final conquest of Northern India by the Musalmans.
As a Patron of Art and Culture:
Samudragupta had great attachment to art literature and learning. He composed many poems in Sanskrit and earned the title of Kaviraj (the King of the poets). Many eminent scholars adorned his court and enhanced prestige and dignity. Harisena the writer of the Allahabad inscription was an important personality of his court. He was also a man of musical arts. In some of his coins he is shown as seated on the couch and playing a Vina or lute as a musician. His court poets have extolled his polished intellect, poetic skill and proficiency in music. Samudragupta was also a philosopher.
He is described as one who wanted to go deep into the tattva or the wisdom of the Sastras to be worthy of the company of the wise men. He was also a patron of Buddhist philosopher and author Vasubandhu and himself studied the inner philosophy of Buddhism under the guidance of that learned man.
Samudragupta being an orthodox Hindu and believer of Brahmanical system was tolerant to all other religions. He permitted the king of Ceylone to build a Buddhist monastry at Boudh Gaya for the benefit of the Buddhist monks. He was very generous and sympathetic to the poor. Dr. R.C. Majumdar has said that “Brilliant both as general and statesman. Samudragupta also possessed many qualities of head and heart better suited to a life of peaceful pursuits”.
He gathered round himself a galaxy of poets and scholars whose services he engaged in the process of the creation of a sacred literature. Dr. V.A. Smith has rightly remarked Samudragupta was a man of exceptional personal capacity and usually varied gifts. The rich variety of gold coins of Samudragupta not only marks the height of ancient technical skill in the art of coinage but also exhibits the prosperity of the empire. Samudragupta was indeed a striking personality and ushered a new era an era of material prosperity unmatched in the annals of ancient India.