The following points highlight top ten eminent rules of the Gupta empire in India. The rulers are: 1. Chandra Gupta I (320-335 or 340 A.D.) 2. Samudra Gupta (Nearly 340-380 A.D.) 3. Rama Gupta 4. Chandra Gupta II (Nearly 380-413 or 415 A.D) 5. Kumara Gupta (Near about 415-455 A.D.) 6. Skanda Gupta (455-467 A.D) 7. Puru Gupta (467-469 A.D.) 8. Budha Gupta (477 to nearly 500 A.D.).
Ruler # 1. Chandra Gupta I (320-335 or 340 A.D.):
Chandra Gupta was the first eminent ruler of the Gupta dynasty. He assumed the title of Maharajadhiraja. During his brief rule he succeeded in raising the power and prestige of his dynasty and. thus, he laid the foundation of its greatness. The one important event of his period was his marriage with a Lichchhavi princess, Kumaradevi His successor Samudra Gupta was his son from this princess.
Special significance was attached to his marriage with her. Gold coins were issued by him which depicted the names and figures of Chandra Gupta and Kumaradevi on one side, and a goddess seated on a lion with the name of the Lichchhavis inscribed by its side, on the other. Allan and certain other historians maintain that this marriage had increased the social status of the Guptas.
But, majority of the historians do not accept this view. Dr V.A. Smith says that this marriage had added to the political influence of the Guptas. Dr R.C. Majumdar maintains that Lichchhavis were regarded lower-caste Kshatriyas. Hence, this marriage could not enhance the social prestige of the Guptas. The marriage was beneficial to the Guptas not from any social point of view but from a political point of view. But again historians differ with regard to that political advantage.
Dr V.A. Smith suggests that by means of this matrimonial alliance Chandra Gupta succeeded to the power previously held by his wife’s relations and secured a paramount position in Magadha. Dr R.D. Banerjee says that after this marriage Chandra Gupta freed Magadha from the rule of the Scythians. But, the view expressed by Dr Smith or that by Dr Banerjee is mostly unacceptable to historians.
The majority of historians agree with Dr R.C. Majumdar that the territories of the kingdom of the Lichchhavis and those of Chandra Gupta were close to each other and this marriage united these kingdoms which certainly strengthened the power and resources of Chandra Gupta and helped him in his further conquests.
However, Dr A.S. Altekar has a sound reasoning when he says that though the marriage, certainly, strengthened the political position of Chandra Gupta, yet, the state of the Lichchhavis maintained its separate identity during his reign.
It was only when Samudra Gupta, who was born of the Lichchhavi princess, ascended the throne then the two states were united into one. After this Chandra Gupta conquered Kosala and Kausambi.
Thus, probably, Chandra Gupta’s empire included Bihar and a part of Bengal and Uttar Pradesh as far as Allahabad. It is also generally assumed that the Gupta era which commenced on 26th February 320 A.D. (or in December 319 A.D.) was found by Chandra Gupta to commemorate his accession or coronation.
Another important work done by Chandra Gupta was the nomination of his son Samudra Gupta, as his successor, who was not his eldest son but certainly the most competent amongst them. Nothing is known about the death of Chandra Gupta Probably, after placing Samudra Gupta on the throne, he became a hermit and died as such.
Ruler # 2. Samudra Gupta (Nearly 340-380 A.D.):
The primary source of information about the career and personality of Samudra Gupta is the record prepared by one of his officers, Harishena and engraved to the Asoka pillar at Allahabad. However useful information is also available from an inscription at Eran (Madhya Pradesh) and also from the coins of Samudra Gupta. His father, Chandra Gupta, formally abdicated the throne in his favour in his later life.
But as he was not the eldest son of his father, his claim was challenged by his brothers though his father, with a desire to avoid war of succession, had declared him his successor in a royal darbar before all his assembled chiefs and nobles. One of his brothers, elder to him, was probably Kach who issued his coins as well which have been discovered now But Samudra Gupta succeeded in subduing them all and became the sole master of the kingdom of his father.
Samudra Gupta proved to be a military genius, a great conqueror and a most successful commander who remained undefeated throughout his life. Dr V.A. Smith has called him ‘Indian Napolean’. Probably, he was more than that because he died unchallenged in the battlefield while Napoleon did not His ambition was also equal to his capabilities.
He desired to establish an empire with extensive territories in the North and beyond that exerting influence over the entire India sub-continent. He succeeded in it. He conquered and annexed those territories to his empire which were necessary to create a strong empire and could be effectively controlled. Beyond that, he restored the conquered territories to their respective rulers once they accepted his sovereignty.
As in the case of the South, far North-West and North-East, he realised the difficulty of keeping them in his direct control and therefore, restored the territories of vanquished rulers, thereby he succeeded in getting their respect and goodwill and also enhancing his sphere of influence.
Besides, beyond this sphere of influence, he maintained good relations with the neighbouring states, both Indian and foreign, which further increased his prestige in distant lands. Dr H.C. Raychaudhurv has remarked, “It was the aim of Samudra Gupta to bring about the political unification of India and make himself an Ekrat or sole ruler like Mahapadma.”
Of course, Samudra Gupta did not create such an extensive empire as would have touched the natural frontiers of India but he certainly succeeded in creating an empire worthy of its name and which wielded influence far beyond its territorial limits. Samudra Gupta was, no doubt, a great ruler and the greatness of the Gupta dynasty began with him.
First of all, Samudra Gupta conquered the territories of the rulers of the Ganges-Yamuna-Doab who had helped his brother against him and tried to draw advantage of the struggle between the brothers. The campaign included West Bengal also. In all he defeated nine rulers of North India and annexed their territories.
In the West, he seems to have advanced as far as the river Chambal and the conquered territories included Uttar Pradesh and portions of Central India and Bengal. Dr S. Chattopadhaya has expressed the view that while Samudra Gupta was away for his campaign in South India, there was an organised revolt in all these vanquished kingdoms but it was suppressed It is possible that Samudra Gupta had to reconquer these territories but there is no doubt that these territories remained parts of his empire.
But more daring than the campaigns in the North was his expedition to the South. A few writers have expressed the view that he proceeded to the South through the forests of Jubbulpore (Jabalpur) but the majority view is that he marched along the coast of the Bay of Bengal Further. Dr R.C. Majumdar says that this march along the coast suggests a joint operation by the navy although there is no definite proof of this.
However, there is a possibility of it because Samudra Gupta certainly possessed a strong navy which had helped him either conquering many islands in the Indian ocean or getting their submission out of fear. In his Southern campaign, he defeated no fewer than twelve rulers and reached as far as kingdom of the Pallavas.
These defeated rulers included Mahendra of Kosala, Vyaghraraja of Mahakantara, Mahendragiri of Pishtapura, Hastivarman of Vengi, Ugrasena of Palakka, Pallava king Vishungopa of Kanchi. Damana ofErandapulla. Kuvera of Devarashtra and probably Mantaraja of Kaurala, Svamidatta of Kottura, Nilaraja of Avamukta and Dhananjaya of Kusthalapura. However, Samudra Gupta did not occupy their territories. Once they agreed to accept his sovereignty, he restored their kingdoms to them.
Samudra Gupta forced another eighteen chiefs to accept his suzerainty whose kingdoms lay in the forests between the districts of Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh and district of Jubbulpur in Madhya Pradesh.
In the North and North-East, the kingdoms at the sea-coast of East Bengal, two kingdoms of Assam (Kamarupa and Devalsa); the kingdom of Kartipura (which included the district of Jalandhar and probably, the districts of Kumaon, Garhwal and Rohilkhand) and Nepal accepted his sovereignty.
In the North-West, nine states accepted his suzerainty. These were the kingdoms of the Malavas, the Arjunayanas, the Yaudheyas, the Madrakas, the Sanakanikas, the Abhiras, the Prarjunas, the Kakas and the Kheraparikas. Samudra Gupta was a practical statesman. He could foresee that it was impossible to keep entire India under one administration. Therefore, he wisely returned back the conquered states, particularly which were far away from the centre of his power, to their rulers themselves.
These rulers acknowledged his sovereignty, were bound to obey his orders given at times and were duty-bound to present themselves at the royal-court when asked for it. Some of them married their daughters with the Emperor on their own and some of them inscribed his name on their coins.
Besides, Samudra Gupta formed certain specific rules which were observed by dependent rulers while visiting the royal-court. Thus, Samudra Gupta pursued an imperialistic policy and also paved the way for his successors for further extension of the empire.
Thus, a large number of rulers w hose states were situated at the frontiers of the empire of Samudra Gupta either accepted his suzerainty, paid him tribute and rendered him personal obedience or paid him homage (as was the case with the rulers in the South).
Besides, Samudra Gupta commanded respect amongst independent rulers of many neighbouring states. The Kushana rulers of the North-West, the Saka rulers of west India, the rulers of Sri Lanka and those of the countries of South-East Asia had cordial relations with him and respected him.
Thus, Samudra Gupta was a great general and conqueror. He created a big empire, assumed the titles of Maharajadhiraja and Vikramanka and performed one or even more Asvamedha sacrifices. His empire included almost the whole of Northern India, with the exclusion of Kashmir, Western Punjab, Western Rajputana, Sindh. N. W.F.P and Gujarat. But then it also included the highlands of Madhya Pradesh and Orissa with a long stretch of territory along the eastern coast extending as far south as Madras.
A considerable portion of north India was directly governed by the Emperor himself through his officials. Several tributary states surrounded these directly administered territories on all sides except on the South. Beyond them lay the territories of the Kushana and Saka rulers on the north-west and the west. Samudra Gupta did not try to bring under his direct rule many conquered territories.
It was a proof of his practical statesmanship. If he had tried to bring all conquered kingdoms under his rule, it would have meant not only extreme administrative burden on him but might have even proved a fruitless attempt as it is exhibited many times by the history of India that it is difficult to retain control over distant provinces.
Samudra Gupta occupies a distinguished place amongst the great rulers of India and. more particularly so. amongst the Gupta rulers. The greatness of the Gupta empire started with him. It was he who because of his successful military campaign built up a vast empire and created an area of influence over the larger part of Indian sub-continent.
He, thus, proved himself a brilliant general and a successful conqueror. Harishena described him as a hero of hundred battles and Dr V. A. Smith has compared him with Napoleon the Great. We have no specific or detailed account of his battles but his conquests in North India and his brilliant campaign to the far South are sufficient proofs that he must have fought many battles.
Therefore, he is regarded as a born military genius and commander. His successful military career was primarily responsible for building up that empire which reached its zenith during the reign of his son, Chandra Gupta II. Three types of coins represent him in a military garb. In one he is depicted in complete military dress with a bow and an arrow in his hands; another depicts him as holding a battle-axe; in the third he is hunting a tiger. These figures of Samudra Gupta have been drawn from his real life.
They suggest that he was a great warrior and hunter. His figure on the coins suggest that he was a tall man of good physique with strong muscles and fully developed chest Another type of coins depict the horse of Asvamedha which proves not only his faith in Brahamanic religion but also his ambition of digavijaya (wars for conquests). Samudra Gupta possessed not only a powerful army but also a strong navy. That the far flung kingdoms of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and South-East Asia solicited his friendship were its proofs.
Samudra Gupta was also a practical statesman. Dr Romila Thapar, of course, has commented that the destruction of the western republican states proved disastrous for the later Guptas as those alone could act as buffer states against the invasions of the Hunas. But, to blame Samudra Gupta for the weakness of the later Guptas seems an act of injustice to him.
No ruler of north India could build up a great empire without destroying these states. Samudra Gupta had to do it. The same was done by Chandra Gupta Maurya and with the same purpose. Samudra Gupta did not touch the North-Western States of West Punjab, N.W.F.P. and Sindh. Rather, he maintained good relations with them. So, if at all, buffer states were necessary for the security of the empire, he not only kept them but also maintained friendly relations with them.
However, the best proof of his statesmanship was his treatment of many vanquished rulers and those of neighbouring states. He restored the kingdom of many rulers who were defeated by him.
All kingdoms of the South were restored to their rulers after getting their homage. It happened with many rulers in the North as well once they accepted his suzerainty. It was an act of practical statesmanship because he could realise the difficulty or in many cases complete futility to retain direct control over them because of lack of proper means of communication and travelling facilities at that time.
Further, it was his diplomatic skill which helped him in maintaining good relations with and also command respect of the rulers of the neighbouring states and also of distant states like Sri Lanka and many states of South-East Asia.
Besides, Samudra Gupta was a cultured man, an efficient ruler and patron of art and literature. Hanshena described him as a poet and musician. He was titled Kaviraj as is engraved on one type of his coins. On some other coins he has been represented as playing on a Veena. Dr R.C. Majumdar writes, “Brilliant, both as a general and a statesman, Samudra Gupta also possessed many qualities of head and heart better suited to a life of peaceful pursuits.”
Samudra Gupta proved successful as a ruler as well. He not only protected his empire from foreign foes and maintained peace within its frontiers but also helped in its progress. Art and literature progressed during his time. His coins represent the progress of fine arts, while his patronage to scholars helped in the progress of literature. It is suggested that the great scholar of his age Vasubandhu lived during his time and got his patronage.
Harishena described him as a kind and charitable ruler. He also restored the prestige of Brahamanic religion. That he was tolerant to other religions is clear from the fact that Meghavarma, the king of Ceylon, was granted permission to build a monastery at Bodh-Gaya for Buddhist pilgrims.
Thus, the age of Samudra Gupta was an age of progress in almost all fields, a process in which he himself participated. He established an empire, administrated it well and helped in its cultural progress. Therefore, all historians have praised him in different words. Dr V.A. Smith writes, “Samudra Gupta was a man of exceptional personal capacity and unusual varied gifts. He stands forth as a real man. a scholar, a poet, a musician and a warrior.”
Dr R.C. Majumdar writes, “There can be no doubt that Samudra Gupta was a striking, almost unique personality, and he ushered a new age in the history of India.” The all-round progress which ultimately gave the Gupta age the title of golden age of Ancient India, really began with the period of Samudra Gupta. Of course, his son, Chandra Gupta II was largely responsible for this but whatever was achieved during his age, a good beginning of all that was already made by Samudra Gupta.
Dr R.C. Majumdar has rightly commented, “Samudra Gupta, as far as we can judge of him from the materials at our disposal, was the visible embodiment of the physical and intellectual vigour of the coming age which was largely his own creation.”
Ruler # 3. Rama Gupta:
The recovery of a few passages of a lost dramatic work the Devi-Chandra- Gupta by Visakhadatta and its certain references in the the Harsha Charita by Banabhatta and the Kavyamirnansa by Rajashekhar suggest that Samudra Gupta was succeeded by his son Rama Gupta whose wife was Dhruvadevi. While fighting against the Sakas, Rama Gupta was placed in such a difficult position that he agreed to surrender his wife Dhruvadevi to the Saka king.
But his younger brother Chandra Gupta opposed this ignominious agreement, himself went to the Saka camp in the disguise of Dhruvadevi and murdered the Saka king. This incident raised his prestige amongst the people while the reputation of Rama Gupta suffered heavily. Ultimately, Chandra Gupta killed Rama Gupta, succeeded to the throne and also married Dhruvadevi.
It is difficult to refute this story which has widespread acceptance since the seventh century A.D. But at the same time there is no historical evidence to prove it. The contemporary records of the Gupta period contain no reference to Rama Gupta which implies that it was Chandra Gupta II who succeeded his father Samudra Gupta.
Besides, it does not appeal to reason that immediately after the death of Samudra Gupta the empire became so weak that the emperor had to accept such a dishonourable proposal of the Saka king.
Further, viewing from the point of view of social morality of that age, it is unbelievable that a king who not only murdered his elder brother but also married his widow queen could justify his claim to the throne and command as well the respect of the people, as Chandra Gupta certainly did.
Therefore, nothing can be conclusively suggested. However, it is certain that if at all Rama Gupta ascended the throne after Samudra Gupta he did not prove himself a capable ruler and his reign was short-lived.
There is another possibility also that Rama Gupta might have occupied the Western part of the empire after the death of Samudra Gupta or might be a regional ruler but was shortly defeated and killed by Chandra Gupta who had succeeded to the throne of Samudra Gupta.
Ruler # 4. Chandra Gupta II (Nearly 380-413 or 415 A.D.):
Chandra Gupta was the son of Samudra Gupta born of his chief queen Dattadevi. He was also named as Deva Gupta, Deva Raja or Deva Sri. Some scholars have identified him with Chandra Gupta Vikramaditya of Ujjayini of Indian legends whose court is said to have been adorned by nine scholars (Navaratna) of repute including Kalidasa.
But, it is not accepted by all. The great Hindu rulers had started to assume the title of Vikramaditya. Chandra Gupta II did the same. Of course, he defeated the Sakas and it is believed that Kalidasa, famous scholar of Sanskrit, was at his court, yet it is not correct to identify him with the legendary king Chandra Gupta Vikramaditya.
Chandra Gupta proved an ambitious and capable ruler and a conqueror. He had inherited a fairly large empire from his father. He extended it further both by diplomacy and wars of conquest. His chief opponent was the Saka ruler of Gujarat and Kathiawar. At that time, the Saka kingdom had become weak because of internal conflicts. Chandra Gupta took advantage of it and invaded the kingdom of the Sakas.
The details of the campaign are not known but ultimately Chandra Gupta succeeded. He killed the then Saka Chief Rudrasimha III and annexed all his kingdom near about 409 A.D. The Gupta empire then extended up to the shore of the Arabian Sea in the west which facilitated direct cultural and commercial relations with the western world. Chandra Gupta probably engaged himself in other wars of conquest also.
An inscription, engraved on the iron pillar near Qutab Minar at Delhi states the achievements of a king titled Chandra. Though it is not yet certain that this Chandra stands for Samudra Gupta or Chandra Gupta II, yet it is suggested that in all probability it stands for the latter emperor. If this identification is accepted then it would mean that Chandra Gupta II led military expeditions in the East as well as in the North- West and advanced up to Bactria.
It seems that in the East the whole of Bengal was annexed by him. But in the North-West it is not certain whether the territories of the Punjab and the Kushana dominions beyond it were brought under his direct control or not. Probably, his north-western campaign was successful and he reached, in the North-West, up to Bactria as no other Indian ruler had done by then, but the territories beyond Punjab were not annexed to the empire and left free to be ruled by their local rulers.
Yet, Chandra Gupta succeeded in destroying the Saka and Kushana kingdoms in India and providing political and administrative unity to practically entire North India except Kashmir and the North-West frontier of India.
Chandra Gupta strengthened his position by a policy of matrimonial alliances with certain other rulers in India. He himself married a princess of Naga family named Kuveranaga and married his own daughter, Prabhavati to Vakataka king Rudrasena II. Both the Nagas and the Vakatakas held strategic positions on his frontiers and therefore, marriage alliances with them certainly brought him political advantages and must have rendered him useful service while he pursued his policy of expansion in the West and the North-West.
The daughters of the Kadamba ruler Kakutsthavarman of Kuntala (N. Kanara in Bombay) were also married in the Gupta family. Thus, Chandra Gupta II successfully pursued the policy of matrimonial alliances also with powerful royal families as was done by his grandfather.
Chandra Gupta was named as Devaraja and Devagupta as well. In Sanchi inscription, No. 8, engraved by one of his officers, Amarkaradeva, he has been named Devaraja. In the records of the Vakataka rulers, the father of queen Prabhavati has been referred to Chandra Gupta as well as Devagupta. Another name of Chandra Gupta was Dhava. In the Mahrauli inscription near Qutab Minar at Delhi Chandra and Dhava words have been used for the same person. However, his popular name in history remained Chandra Gupta.
Chandra Gupta was successful as a ruler and as an administrator. His was a period of all-round achievement in which he himself largely participated. Religion, literature, sciences, fine arts, economic prosperity and the rest developed in his age. Whatever was achieved during the period of his father was further glorified by him. The empire of Samudra Gupta was further extended and consolidated.
The administration was more efficiently organised and the people, in spite of numerous wars, enjoyed peace and prosperity. This led to further progress in literature, sciences, fine arts etc. Thus, in fact, the greatness of the Gupta age was primarily achieved by Samudra Gupta and Chandra Gupta. Various coins of Chandra Gupta II’s reign provide useful information about his personality.
Chandra Gupta’s gold coins were as brilliant as those of his father. Besides, he issued coins of silver and copper as well. On many copper coins he himself was depicted on the one side, while on the other Garuda, the vehicle of god Vishnu, was depicted. On one type of his gold coins, he was represented as slaying a lion. This scene, probably, has been depicted from one of the events of his life.
In one of the coins of Samudra Gupta, he was depicted slaying a tiger. That was also a depiction of a real scene from among the events of his life as he had the opportunity of killing only a tiger, lions being not available within the territory of his kingdom. But Chandra Gupta II had the opportunity of hunting a lion as Saurashtra where lions were available was included in his empire.
He, therefore, was titled Sinha-Vikrama as well. On another type he stood with his left hand on the hilt of his sword; on another he held a flower in his hand which indicated that he was a lover of nature; and. on yet another type, he was depicted accepting Prasada before a deity of Vishnu. Yet on another type of coins, he was depicted riding a horse which indicated that he was fond of war and hunting.
All these different types of coins represent his personal qualities and tastes as well as the growing imperial power and its grandeur. His empire included practically the whole of North India and stretched from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea and therefore, largely controlled foreign sea-trade. The control of Indian commerce with the western world drew immense economic advantage to the Gupta empire and was primarily responsible for the economic prosperity of his age.
Besides, a good government under which peace and order prevailed and the patronage of the emperor to his people helped in their intellectual and cultural progress. All this made his period as the most glorious one amongst the Gupta rulers.
Thus, the work began by Samudra Gupta was successfully completed by his son, Chandra Gupta II. Dr R.C. Majumdar comments, “Samudra Gupta, the victor of a hundred fights, is a hero of history. Chandra Gupta II, who brought to maturity the new era of political greatness and cultural regeneration, won a place in the hearts of his people.” That is probably the reason why Chandra Gupta II is identified with the legendary king Chandra Gupta Vikramaditya of Ujjayini.
Ruler # 5. Kumara Gupta (Near about 415-455 A.D.):
Chandra Gupta II was succeeded by his son Kumar? Gupta born of his chief queen Dhruvadevi. He brought about certain administrative reforms and ruled successfully for about forty years. He performed Asvamedha sacrifice and assumed the title of Mahendraditya though it is not certain whether he had any new conquest to his credit. One inscription has been found at Mandasor which was engraved by a guild of silk-weavers.
That inscription gives an indication that Kumara Gupta I conquered western Malwa and annexed it to his empire. It also seems that he probably tried to conquer territories south of the river Narmada, which spoiled his relations with the Vakatakas and resulted in the hostility of the Pushyamitras (whose kingdom lay south of the river Narmada) towards the close of his reign.
During the later part of his rule, the empire was menaced by the invasion of the Hunas as well who, after the occupation of the Gandhara-Pradesh, had started proceeding towards the Indus valley. However, his son Skanda Gupta succeeded in defeating the Hunas.
Kumara Gupta was a successful ruler who kept intact the vast empire inherited from his father and also maintained peace and prosperity within its frontiers. The defeat of the Hunas by his son Skanda Gupta proves that the military strength of the empire also remained intact under him.
Kumara Gupta assumed titles like Mahendraditya, Sri-Mahendra, Asvamedha-Mahendra, etc. He has been accepted as one among the great Gupta rulers who succeeded in maintaining peace, prosperity and integrity of the extensive empire which he inherited from his father during forty years of his rule.
Ruler # 6. Skanda Gupta (455-467 A.D.):
Kumara Gupta died when Skanda Gupta was away from the capital to repulse the invasions of the Hunas on the north-west frontier of the empire. Taking advantage of his absence, probably, his step brother Puru Gupta ascended the throne immediately after the death of his father. But he was soon replaced by Skanda Gupta. However, it is not certain as no clear evidence is available to prove the accession of Puru Gupta on the throne.
On the pillar-inscription at Bhitri the names of the Chief queens (Mahadevis) of Chandra Gupta I, Samudra Gupta and Chandra Gupta II have been inscribed but the name of the Chief Queen of Kumara Gupta is absent. Therefore, conclusion has been drawn by certain scholars that probably, Skanda Gupta was not the son of the chief queen of Kumara Gupta but was born of a minor queen and therefore, he had to fight against his brother to capture the throne.
The same inscription describes that a great calamity had fallen on the royal dynasty but does not clarify the calamity as to whether it was due to revolts of some provincial governors, invasion of the Hunas or war of succession. It, however, refers that Skanda Gupta succeeded in overcoming that calamity-. Therefore, it is not certain that he had to fight against Puru Gupta to capture the throne. The only certainty is that when he succeeded to the throne he had to face a severe difficulty which he overcame.
Skanda Gupta was engaged in hostilities against his enemies almost from the beginning of his reign. But he proved himself a capable general. He defeated the hostile Pushyamitras. But, while he was busy fighting against the Hunas, probably, the Vakataka ruler Narendrasen occupied Malwa. However, the rest of the territories of the empire were kept intact by him.
But his greatest achievement was to save the empire from the invasions of the white Hunas. Skanda Gupta had defeated them once as the crown-prince but they were yet threatening the empire with increased force. The Hunas, who largely contributed to the downfall of the Roman empire and had threatened the integrity of Persia, were trying to penetrate deep into the Indian territories.
Skanda Gupta valiantly fought them and defeated them somewhere at the northern valley of the river Ganges so severely about 460 A.D. that they could not dare to attack the empire for nearly next fifty years.
Skanda Gupta saved India from their barbarous atrocities when they were at the height of their power, and when they repeated their attacks after fifty years or so they were a spent-force and therefore, could not do much damage to India. We know about his success against the Hunas from the Junagarh-inscription.
Skanda Gupta has been regarded as the last great Gupta ruler. Skanda Gupta had assumed the title of Vikramaditya which he rightly deserved. His pillar inscriptions at Bhitri and Kahoya describe that hundreds of rulers accepted his suzerainty. During his rule he succeeded to maintain the power, prestige and glory of the empire. Probably, the Vakatakas had snatched away Malwa from him but because Skanda Gupta was engaged in fighting against the Hunas.
There is no proof that the Vakatakas captured Malwa after fighting against Skanda Gupta. Skanda Gupta, certainly, defeated the Pushyamitras, saved India from the invasions of the Hunas and provided security and glory to the empire which he inherited from his father. Skanda Gupta was a successful commander who won all battles against his enemies. He was a successful ruler as well.
Junagadh- inscription testifies that he was a capable, considerate, pious and a well-meaning successful ruler. In the Aryamanjisrimulakalpa too, Skanda Gupta has been described as an intelligent ruler who looked after the welfare of his subjects carefully. Dr Majumdar, Dr Dandekar and Dr Jayaswal have praised Skanda Gupta because he was the first ruler of Asia who defeated the Hunas.
As an individual too, Skanda Gupta was an educated, humble, simple and a liberal person. According to the writings of Hiuen Tsang, king Sakraditya had helped in constructing the Buddhist-Sangh at Nalanda. Sakraditya was the title of Skanda Gupta. It has been proved by the inscription at Kahom. Thus, Skanda Gupta had helped in constructing the Sangh at Nalanda which, finally, emerged as one of the greatest universities of Asia as well.
Therefore, all scholars have regarded Skanda Gupta as a great warrior, good administrator, kind ruler and a pious person and have assigned him a place among the Gupta rulers. The empire began to decline only after his death as the family could not produce a single ruler who could successfully check this decline.
Ruler # 7. Puru Gupta (467-469 A.D.):
Puru Gupta succeeded the throne after the death of his step-brother Skanda Gupta. Probably, he had to fight against Kumar Gupta II, son of Skanda Gupta to get the throne. The military campaigns of Skanda Gupta had already taxed heavily the resources of the empire. These family feuds of the Guptas further weakened them. Besides, Puru Gupta had ascended the throne at a ripe age, died very shortly and therefore, did nothing to check the decline of the empire.
The Successors of Puru Gupta:
It is not clear as to who succeeded Puru Gupta. The coins found at Bhitrai and Nalanda suggest that he was succeeded by Narasimha Gupta; another set of coins found at Nalanda suggest that he was succeeded by Budha Gupta; while the stone inscription of Nalanda suggests that he was succeeded by Kumara Gupta II. Dr Sriram Goyal maintains that Puni Gupta was succeeded by Narasimha Baladitya I (469-473 A.D.). Evidence is also available that there was a ruler named Kumara Gupta II in 474 A.D. But nothing is certain about the succession and the period of rule of any of these rulers.
Ruler # 8. Budha Gupta (477 to nearly 500 A.D.):
The obscurity finishes with the accession of Budha Gupta, son of Puru Gupta from his chief queen Chandradevi. He ruled for about twenty years It seems that, in name, the Gupta Empire was yet intact but, in reality, the effective control of the Gupta monarch was very limited.
There were different rulers who titled themselves as Maharajas within the legal boundaries of the Gupta Empire. It seems that provincial governors of Budha Gupta behaved as independent rulers and owed allegiance to the Emperor only in name.
The family feuds of the Gupta princes and threatening invasions of the Hunas from the north-west and those of the Vakatakas from the south were beyond the control of Budha Gupta. It was sufficient for him that he could manage to keep intact at least the outward image of power and respect of the empire.
The Successors of Budha Gupta and the Disintegration of the Empire (500-570 A.D.):
Probably, Narsimha Gupta Baladitya II who was the brother of Budha Gupta succeeded the throne after him. But, Vainya Gupta in the East and Bhanu Gupta in the West declared their independence. It is also probable that Narsimha Gupta ascended the throne after Vainya Gupta and Bhanu Gupta. However, it is certain that even the outward unity of the empire was broken and different royal princes established their independent kingdoms in various parts of the empire.
Very little is known about the history of the reigns of these later Gupta rulers. It is believed that Bhanu Gupta amongst them had to fight against the Huna King Torarnana. During this period, the Hunas succeeded in capturing Malwa and the son and successor of Toramana, Mihirakula attacked up to the borders of Magadha and forced Narsimha Baladitya to pay him tribute.
But, later on, with the help of his feudatory chiefs, Narsimha was able to avenge by defeating Mihirakula in a battle. Probably this very– Narsimha Baladitya founded the monastery of Nalanda. The last praiseworthy achievement of the later Guptas was their success against Mihirakula.
Yasodharman established a strong kingdom at Malwa. He also is supposed to have defeated Mihirakula and founded a strong empire. His success provided an incentive to other ambitious governors who broke away from the empire and set up independent kingdoms for themselves.
The last Gupta rulers were Kumara Gupta III and Vishnu Gupta. But they were the rulers of small principalities. And, after them we find no name of any Gupta ruler. Thus, by 570 A.D., even the name of the empire vanished away.