Some Minor Dynasties Rule of Northern India during Post-Gupta Period!

The epigraphs of the feudatories of the Guptas from the time of Puru Gupta and Budha Gupta bear testimony to the fact that they began to assert themselves particularly in Bengal and Malwa of such families was one Maitrakas of the Kathiawar peninsula.

The founder of this lineage Bhatarka was a general of the Guptas.

While he and his successor Dharasena called themselves Senapatis, the successor of Dharasena, Dronasimha assumed the title of Maharaja by AD 502 as his inscription testified.

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Though Dhruvasena accepted the suzerainty of the Guptas, his successors Maharaja Dharapatta and Maharaja Gahasena declared total independence between AD 545 and 570.

Inscriptions testify to the fact that the Parivrajaka dynasty of the Bundelkhand region, the dynasty of King Jayanga of Vichakalpa, the Pandu dynasty of Banda and Baghelkhand, the dynasty of Maharaja Lakshmana of the Allahabad and Rewa region, the dynasty of Maharaja Subandu of Mahishmati were also feudatories of the Guptas when Narasimhagupta was in power. Yajnavarman, Sudhula Varman and Anantavarman, who belonged to the Maukhari lineage, appear to be feudatories of the Guptas in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Another branch of Maukharis that includes the rulers Harivarman, Adityavarman and Isanavarman, belonging to another line, bore the titles of Maharaja.

The successors of Isanavarman bore the title of Maharajadhiraja, which indicates that they became independent of Gupta rule by AD 554, the first known date of Isanavarman. We come across a family of the Guptas ruling in the Magadha region declaring independence by AD 570-576.


In the 6th century AD, when the Guptas became decadent, one Harichandra of the Gurjara tribe established independent authority in Jodhpur and his sons increased their influence in Rajasthan. Another branch of the Gurjara tribe ruled Broach or Barukachcha region.

Gauda and Vanga, two independent kingdoms arose in Bengal. While the Gauda comprised northern and western Bengal, the Vanga comprised southern and eastern Bengal. We come to know from some copper plates the existence of three kings of Vanga region: Gopachandra, Dharmaditya and Samacaradeva.

These three kings must have ruled between AD 525 and 575. The Kalinga area was divided among a number of small powers and of these, the eastern Gangas were prominent. Sarabhapuriyas controlled South Kosala until the Panduvamsis who had their seats of power in South Kosala and Mahakosala replaced them.

In the far south, the period from the 4th century to the 6th century, the Kalabhras, a people of uncertain origin occupied the region. Not much is known about the far south during the period. It is only at the end of the 6th century, that the Pandyas, freeing themselves from the Kalabhras, began to assert themselves.


In the Karnataka region, the important political powers were the western Gangas of Talkadu and the Kadambas. The Kadambas became the vassals of the Pallavas of Kanchi of the line of Simhavishnu. Pulakesin I of the Western Chalukya lineage of Badami was a subordinate of the Kadambas. The Badami Chalukyas became prominent in the 7th and 8th centuries. Around 6th century AD, the king of Kamarupa, Narayana Varman repudiated the Guptas and declared independence.

While the Guptas were having their sway in northern India, the region comprising Deccan and South India and also parts of Central India and the Kalinga region was outside the purview of the Gupta Empire. We have read in the preceding pages how the Vakatakas ruled in the Deccan.

A tribe of Bhojas ruled the Goa region. One Mirad copper plate epigraph refers to a Bhoja chief named Devaraja, who had his administrative centre at Chandrapura, modern Chander in Goa. The Traikutaka tribe ruled Aparanta or northern Konkan region. We come to know from numismatic and epigraphic evidence that Traikutaka chiefs Indradatta, Dharamasena and Vyaghrasena ruled over the western coastal area from Surat to Kanheri.

By the middle of the 6th century AD, Gurjaras and Kalachuris overthrew the Traikutakas. Southern Maharahstra was ruled by one Mananka of Rashtrakuta dynasty from Manapura, modern Mann in the Satara district. We know about his grandson Avidheya and his successor Devaraja from the Pandurangapalli inscription. The Chalukyas overthrew this dynasty eventually.

We also come across a number of small kingdoms ruled by petty rulers in different parts of India. The Nalas, who 134 The Post-Gupta Period in Northern India claimed descent from the epic hero Nala, ended the Vakataka rule of ancient Vidarbha or modern Berar in central Deccan.

Epigraphs make us think that they occupied Koraput and Bastar areas on the borders of present-day Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. However, the fortunes of the Nalas received a blow either from the Panduvamsis of Kosala or from the rising power of the Chalukyas of the Deccan.

The Bhojas occupied the Amaravati region in Maharashtra, the erstwhile Vakataka region, and their kingdom was called Bhojakatakarajya. Besides the Nalas and the Bhojas, there existed the kingdom of the Traikutakas, who ruled the region from Kanheri to Surats along the western coast.

The Kalachuris who held a firm command, over the whole of Malwa started a new era by name the Traikutaka – Kalachuri era in AD 248, which replaces the Gupta era in coastal Gujarat. It indicates the growing power of the Traikutakas. The Traikutakas in association with Abhiras waged a war against the Kadambas of coastal Karnataka.

The valleys and the deltas of the Godavari and Krishna constitute the most significant territory in the eastern Deccan. While the present Guntur region was occupied by the Amnda gotras for a short while, the Salankayanas had their sway over the Vengi region. From 6th to 7th century, Vishnukundins dominated the western Deccan.

An examination of the political scenario of the post-Gupta era until the rise of the Rajput kingdoms and the invasions of Muslims presents a bewildering picture of regional, supra-local and local powers fighting for ascendency. However, recent researches, of the last three decades, stress that his period was extremely crucial from the perception of local and regional states based on the assertion of local and regional aspirations.

R.S. Sharma rightly observes: “we can count sixty-nine states spread all over the country. Out of these, forty-eight could be attributed to Maharashtra, eastern Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Bengal. A good part of the zone was a forested plateau lying largely in the Vindhyan region”. B.D. Chattopadhyaya points out that the number mentioned is not definitive and this process was not applicable to this period alone. We also notice this feature in later times.

Despite the emergence of regional, supra-local and local power structures throughout the subcontinent, the traditional historiography perceives the political structure of every state as being built by the military exploits of charis­matic royal personalities and political unification achieved by suppressing centrifugal elements through centralized monarchical power structure assisted by a council of ministers and a bureaucratic set-up.

Recent scholarship suggests that the power or authority was not centralized in a monarch of a state structure with a stable territorial base, but there arose a hierarchy of authority, fragmented and multilayered, due to the changes in the material base which made the social groups claim their space in the political structure.

The develop­ments that took place in the politico-economic cultural sphere are perceived from the models and blanket concepts of medievalism, feudalism, segmentary and integrative social formations based on empirical validation. In all the above concepts, common element is the fragmentation of authority and power between different layers of the state structure.

This resulted in decentralized administration and political hierarchy. While the protagonists of feudalism stress the issue of land grants, the advocates of segmentary state emphasize the aspect a of ritual sovereignty, and the advocates of integrative approach stress that political process is to be seen as part of the whole of contemporary economic, social and religious development.

Nihar Ranjan Ray, the advocate of medievalism, highlighted the political order represented by Samantas and Mahasamantas, the reduced control of the central power over the Janapadas and the tenuous bonds with political parties.

Whatever may be the name given to the model, our central concern is to understand the process of historical change by in-depth analysis of linkages between polity, economy, society and culture. During this period, the salient feature of economy was ruralization and localization along with the emergence of hierarchized layers of landed intermediaries.

Because of ruralization of economy and localism, villages appear to have become self-sufficient units and produced what was needed for their consumption; this might have led to the lack of surplus produce needed for markets, Lack of marketable goods, neces­sarily led to the decline of trade and commerce.

Therefore, the urban centres of this age were not market centres but pilgrimage centres and political centres of minor rulers and officials. However, we should not be misled to think that trade was totally absent or had totally declined. Trade was controlled and adminis­tered by the rulers. Medhatithi refers to royal monopoly on elephants, saffron; fine cloth and wool, horses, precious stones and pearls and all these were exclu­sively meant for the use of royalty and nobility.

There is a view that a sizeable portion of the meagre trade that existed was in the nature of exchange of gifts. It is said that Bhaskaravarman, the ruler of Assam sent twenty-six articles to Harsha as presents. H.S. Bhatia and Tan Chung state that between the 7th and the 10th centuries, India had sent 44 missions to China with gifts. During this period, trade appears to have been restricted to luxury goods.

We also notice the decline of urban settlements and paucity of metal currency and frequent migra­tions of artisans as well as Brahmans. There is a view that during this period the peasantry experienced forced immobilization and a lot of hardship due to the enforcement of visti or forced labour.

There is also a view that the economic and social status of the artisans and producing groups was at its lowest ebb. Vivekanand Jha and Suvira Jaiswal point that this period was the most crucial phase in terms of the ascendancy of ritual impurity as an institutional form, leading to untouchability. In this period, the social groups of the Chartnakara or leather workers, Rajaka, the washermen, bamboo workers and basket makers and blacksmiths became Antyajas.

Coming to the status of Brahmins, David Shulman observes: “However much the Brahmin may vaunt his purity and independence, his historical reality is one constant compromise above all through the acceptance of royal gifts. The vast number of land grants to the Brahmins throughout the south, right up to the beginning of the modern 136 The Post-Gupta Period in Northern India period, attest to the strength of this pattern and to the royal need for Brahmin legitimization which underlies it”.

During this phase only, as Chattopadhyaya states, the tribals – the Abhiras, the Gurjaras, the Bhils and the Medas in Rajasthan, had become peasants in the process of acculturization. Lahiri also proved that the same process took place in the Brahmaputra valley.

About this process and its impact, R.S. Sharma observes, “… in order to assimilate numerous aboriginal tribes and foreign elements Manu made a far greater use of the fiction of Varnasankara (intermixture of Varnas) than was done by his predecessors. In the majority of instances, the mixed castes were lumped with the Sudras in respect to their hereditary duties.

They pursued their old occupation and were possibly taught new methods of agriculture which gradually turned them into taxpaying peasants”. Robert Deliege states, “The process of transformation of tribal groups into castes is the passage from equality to hierarchy”. The society of the post-Gupta era, though based on Varna model, does not appear to be static and rigid; but rather elastic.

Women enjoyed security and status. Women rulers like Didda and Sugandha; learned women like Ubhayabharathi, wife of Mandana Misra and poet of Kanauj indicate that women also played an important role in society. Bana testified to the existence of the practice of Sati. Widow’s hair was not tonsured in those days. Anuloma marriages were in vogue.

In this period, large Buddhist Viharas were built in eastern and northern India and were endowed with land and villages. The production of metal sculpture was popular in eastern India, Kashmir, Gujarat, Deccan and Tamil Nadu. Hieun Tsang recorded a colossal 80 feet-high bronze image of the Buddha at Nalanda.

The Vajrayana Buddhist pantheon had become very popular during this period. The art and architecture of this period had become regional in outlook. We also notice the growth of regional languages during this period. The post-Gupta age was a formative period in the evolution of Indian society and culture.