Chandragupta I was the first of the imperial Guptas ruling over a territory much larger in size.
It was by his conquests that he claimed the title of Maharajadhiraja or the King of Kings which signified the status of an emperor.
It is generally accepted that the Gupta Era of the Indian history started from the time of Chandragupta I. It began with the accession of Chandragupta to the throne in the year 319-320 A.D. Both his title and his proclamation of a new Era prove that this Gupta monarch was in command of a much higher position among the contemporary kings of India.
To some historians, the Gupta Era was founded to mark the commencement of the reign of Chandragupta I as the founder of the Gupta Empire. The new Era was adopted in due course by the subordinate rulers under the Guptas. An event of great political significance which raised the status of Chandragupta I to that of a Maharajadhiraja was his marriage with the Lichchhavi Princess Kumara Devi. In the inscriptions and the coins of the Gupta period, this marriage is shown as of extraordinary value.
The Gupta Lichchhavi relation was even publicised through a particular type of gold coins “which have the names and figures of Chandragupta I and his Lichchhavi wife on the obverse and the figure of a goddess seated on a lion along with the legend Lichchhavayah on the reverse”.
The Lichchhavis of Vaisali were a famous people of ancient India and they ruled over a large powerful state. According to many historians, Chandragupta’s marriage from the Lichchhavi family resulted in the amalgamation of Vaisali with the Gupta territory. Kumaradevi was possibly the “heiress of the territory of the Lichchhavis” and, after her marriage to the Gupta king, she too ruled over the united territory as “a queen in her own right”.
The Gupta coins indicate that Kumaradevi was associated with the sovereignty of Chandragupta I. It might be that the Gupta king got the Lichchhavi territory as a dowry from the Lichchhavis after marrying Kumaradevi, or that by a matrimonial alliance he acquired that territory to be jointly ruled with his queen. Chandragupta I married Kumaradevi in 305 A.D., much before his accession to the throne. Perhaps, he acquired the Lichchhavi territory after he became’ the king in 319 A.D. and proclaimed himself as the Maharajadhiraja, as well as founded the Gupta Era because of his enhanced power and prestige.
As the ruler of Magadha and Vaisali, Chandragupta I attempted to expand his empire farther. From the Puranic evidences, it is gathered that his empire included Prayaga or modern Allahabad and Saketa or Ayodhya. Chandragupta I is also said to have defeated the Magha kings of Kausambi and Kosala and annexed those territories to his kingdom. By the time of his death, the Gupta power was well established on the whole of the central Ganga basin including modern Bihar and the eastern Uttar Pradesh.
The process of expansion which the first of the imperial Guptas initiated was of far reaching results. A new Magadhan empire was in the making. From a central position in the north, Chandragupta I’s political base provided great incentive to his successors to conquer far and wide for making a vast Indian empire. Chandragupta I died in 335 A.D., and was succeeded by Samudragupta.