From the Gupta inscriptions it is known that in his life-time Samudragupta selected Chandragupta II as his successor to the throne ‘out of his many sons’ by considering him as his Satputra or the most worthy son.
He was the son of queen Datta or Dattadevi, described as Mahadevi. Chandragupta II was the worthy son of a worthy father.
He took up the heroic legacy of his father and earned further glories for the Gupta dynasty. He is identified with the famous Vikramaditya of the Indian traditions, a king of many legends who ruled from Ujjayini.
Perhaps, Chandragupta II assumed the title of Vikramaditya or the Sun of Valour after his conquest of Ujjayini, in western India. For his many acts as a hero and a wise king, he obviously became a centre of many legends and stories. In some ancient literature, it was mentioned that Chandragupta II had an elder brother named Rama Gupta who entered into a mean peace with a Saka king. This led some scholars to suggest that Rama Gupta was the immediate successor of Samudragupta. But, the theory has been rejected as valueless since its origin was from a piece of dramatic literature, having no supporting evidences.
Conquests of Chandragupta II:
Samudragupta, while conquering territories and consolidating the Gupta Empire, struck terror in the hearts of the foreign powers who ruled over a large part of western India. But he did not conquer them and annexed their territories to his empire. Those foreign powers paid due regards to the Gupta monarch as the Lord Paramount of northern India, but enjoyed their independence.
Chandragupta II decided to root out those foreign powers from the Indian soil. They ruled over a part of Malwa, Gujarat and Saurashtra or Kathiawar. Those were the territories which had been dominated for long by the powerful Saka Satraps. Samudragupta, during his time, conquered eastern Malwa and made Eran or modern Saugor his stronghold. Making that as his base, Chandragupta II began his campaigns for the conquest of Western India, wherein the Saka Satraps of Saurashtra formed a formidable state.
From Pataliputra, Chandragupta II came westward to conduct a series of military campaigns in person. Before that, he thought it necessary to secure the friendship of the Vakataka ruler who dominated the Berar region. Chandragupta II amade a matrimonial alliance with the Vakataka family by giving his daughter Prabhavati in marriage to the Vakataka king Rudrasena II. The Vakatakas became a powerful political ally of the Guptas in Chandragupta’s crusade against the Sakas.
The Saka powers of western India were destroyed at last. The whole of Malwa, Gujarat and Saurashti’a were annexed to the Gupta Empire. The last of the Western Satraps was killed in the battle. With the conquest of Western India, Chandragupta II made the ancient city of Ujjayini or Ujjain his political headquarters. His association with that place accounts for his legendary fame as the King Vikramaditya who was also famous as the Sakari or the enemy of the Sakas. Chandragupta II by destroying the Sakas could rightly lay his claim to that title.
On the surface of an iron pillar which is now seen in Delhi near the Kutb Minar an inscription contains the names of King ‘Chandra’ who is described to have conquered the Vahlikas after crossing “the seven mouths of the river Sindhu”. This king Chandra was Chandragupta II. According to some historians, the Vahlika land was Balkh. It is believed that after annihilating the Sakas, Chandragupta II extended his power far beyond the Indus, and conquered some territories beyond the Hindu Kush mountains. To some others, the Vahlika country was situated on the valley of river Beas, bordering on Kashmir.
With the conquest of the territories of the Saka Satraps, the Gupta Empire covered Western India with the Arabian sea as its western frontier. Many ancient ports of that coast came under the Guptas. This opened the flow of India’s trade and commerce towards the western world. The Indian merchants carried extensive trade with the countries of the west through Egypt. The Western merchants too found their way to Indian ports. This increased the flow of wealth into India.
The Delhi iron pillar also refers to Chandragupta II’s victories in Vanga. That shows his determination to subdue the unconquered lands to complete the political unity of the country as far as possible. The gold coins of Chandragupta II represent him as a warrior in action. He is shown in them as handling a bow like an epic hero. On the other side of the coins, the figure of a goddess is shown seated on a couchant lion. In some other coins he is shown as slaying a lion.
By his campaigns and conquests, Chandragupta II completed the great works of empire building began by his illustrious father. The Gupta Empire under him reached the farthest limits of geographical India in the west, the north west and the east. In the Deccan and the south, his political hegemony was felt as in the days of Samudragupta.
Chandragupta II not only ruled over a vast empire, but also gave it a sound administration. His government was strong yet benevolent. The peace and prosperity of the time gave him the scope to work out a beneficent system which is regarded as one of the finest administrations in the annals of India. The Chinese pilgrim Fa-Hien who visited India and travelled in the Gupta Empire during the reign of Chandragupta II was full of praise for the system of administration he saw himself.
Chandragupta II: A Patron of Culture:
Chandragupta II Vikramaditya belonged to a time which saw an all-round cultural development in the country. Several features of ancient civilisation were seen in their most refined form. In spheres of literature, art, architecture, philosophy and science, the Indians of that time showed their genius in an astounding manner. As a ruler of that glorious epoch, Chandragupta II obviously became a patron of that cultural movement.
Among the many stories associated with the legendary Vikramaditya, one common story is that his splendid royal court was adorned by the Navaratna or the nine’ gems. If Chandragupta II was that Vikramaditya, his court certainly contained some of the best luminaries of the time. It is established for certain that the most celebrated figure of the Navaratna, namely, Kalidasa, lived at the time of Chandragupta II.
That being so, it might be that other members of the Navaratna also flourished in the time of that monarch. By patronising men like Kalidasa and other learned men such as Varaha Mihira, Vararuehi, Betalabhatta, Gahtakarpara, Dhanwantari, Kshpanaka, Amarasingha, and Shanku, the Gupta Emperor rendered valuable services to the culture of age. One of his ministers named Virasena was also a reputed poet.
In one of the Gupta Inscriptions, Chandragupta II is described as Rajarshi. That indicates that he was a man of many virtues and of saintly character even though he was the emperor of a great empire. Evidences show that he was benevolent and tolerant to all other religions, even though he was himself an orthodox Hindu. He was charitable towards the followers of Vaishnavism, Saivism, Jainism and Buddhism. Some of his ministers were devotees of Siva, while one of his generals was a Buddhist. That Buddhism was in a flourishing condition in the time of the imperial Guptas is known from the accounts of Fa-Hien. The Buddhist art attained its high stage of perfection during the reign of Chandragupta II.
Chandragupta II was a devotee of Vishnu like the other imperial Guptas. The figure of Garuda, the Vahana of Vishnu, was made the emblem of the Gupta Flag. Chandragupta II and the other Guptas styled themselves as Paramabhagavatas. During the time of Chandragupta Indian saw the high tide of Brahmanic Hinduism. It led to wonderful sculptural activities all over the country. Countless images of the Hindu gods and goddesses were made for purpose of worship. The culture of the Gupta period grew in a liberal atmosphere. The reign of Chandragupta II Vikramaditya epitomized that spirit of liberalism.
An Estimate of Chandragupta II:
Among the imperial Guptas Chandragupta II Vikramaditya remained more famous than others in people’s memory. On the foundations laid by his grandfather and father, he raised the superstructure of the Gupta’s imperial edifice. The process of conquests begun by Samudragupta was completed by Chandragupta II. His victory over the Sakas and the Conquest of the west and the north-west were his most praiseworthy achievements. As the Sakari-Vikramaditya, he found a lasting place in the memory of the Indians.
Chandragupta II inherited the soldierly virtues of his father. He did not remain satisfied with the large empire handed over to him by Samudragupta, but proved his worth by enlarging the empire to its natural limits. By providing the country its needful political and administrative unity, he infused a new vigour in people’s mind for their united action for the country’s greatness.
The Gupta Empire: Chandragupta-I, Samudragupta:
Chandragupta II was one of the most benevolent monarchs of ancient history. In an era of peace and prosperity, he made his government as mild as possible. Having no fear of autocracy, the Indian people took the best advantage of the free atmosphere to show their genius in every sphere of culture. The golden age of the Guptas saw its high water mark during the monarchy of Chandragupta II.
Successors of Chandragupta II:
About 414 A.D., Chandragupta II died. He was succeeded by his son Kumaragupta I. That the foundation of the Gupta monarchy was strong enough to sustain the vast empire is known from the fact that Kumaragupta ruled successfully for nearly forty years. The power of this emperor is further established by the fact that he performed an Avsamedha ceremony or horse sacrifice to celebrate his mastery over others. He also circulated new types of gold coins which proves the general prosperity of his empire. He also styled himself as Mahendraditya in imitation of the title of his father, Vikramaditya.
Kumaragupta was succeeded by his son Skandagupta. This king adopted the title of Vikramaditya. He ruled the Gupta Empire from 455 to 467 A.D. His inscriptions and coins show him as a powerful emperor. During his reign however, the invasions of the Huns appeared as a threat to the empire. Yet, till the end of his rule, the Gupta Empire maintained its stability as well as its vastness.
After the reign of Skandagupta, the Gupta dynasty entered into a period of confusion, and the empire began to decline. The invasions of the Huns, became more and more frequent, which made the empire weak. Foreign powers once again raised then- heads on the frontier regions. Disputed successions weakened the ruling dynasty. Powerful governors attempted at their independent existence. The subordinate rulers became disloyal and hostile.
Through decline as well as temporary recovery, the Gupta rule continued till sixth century A.D. By the middle of that century, the onetime great empire of the Guptas was seen to have been reduced only to a limited region of Magadha.