Samudragupta

From Academic Kids

Samudragupta, ruler of the Gupta Empire (c.AD 335 - 380), and successor to Chandragupta I, is considered to be one of the greatest military geniuses that India ever produced. His name is taken to be a title acquired by his conquests (Samudra means `oceans'). Samudragupta is believed to have been his father's chosen successor even though he had several older brothers. It is therefore believed that after the death of Chandragupta I, there was a struggle for succession in which Samudragupta prevailed.

The main source of Samudragupta's history is an inscription engraved on one of the stone pillars set up by Ashoka in Kausambi (present day Allahabad). In this inscription Samudragupta details his conquests. This inscription is also important because of the political geography of India that it indicates by naming the different kings and peoples who populated India in the first half of the fourth century AD The inscription states that its author is Harishena, who was an important officer of Samudragupta's court.

The beginning of Samudragupta's reign was marked by the defeat of his immediate neighbours, Achyuta, ruler of Ahichchhatra and Nagasena. Following this Samudragupta began a campaign against the kingdoms to the south. This southern campaign took him south along the Bay of Bengal. He passed through the forest tracts of Madhya Pradesh, crossed the Orissa coast, marched through Ganjam, Vishakapatnam, Godavari, Krishna and Nellore districts and may have reached as far as Kancheepuram. Here however he did not attempt to maintain direct control. After capturing his enemies he reinstated them as tributary kings. This act prevented the Gupta Empire from attaining the almost immediate demise of the Maurya empire of Ashoka and is a testament to his abilities as a statesman. The details of Samudragupta's campaigns are too numerous to recount here. These can be found in the first reference below. However it is clear that he possessed a powerful navy in addition to his army. In addition to tributary kingdoms, many other rulers of foreign states like the Saka and Kushana kings accepted the suzerainty of Samudragupta and offered him their services.

Much is known about Samudragupta through coins issued by him. These were of eight different types and all made of pure gold. His conquests brought him the gold and also the coin-making expertise from his acquaintance with the Kushana. Samudragupta is also known to have been a man of culture. He was a patron of learning, a celebrated poet and a musician. Several coins depict him playing on the lyre. He also restored the practice of the Ashwamedha sacrifice. Though he favoured the Brahmanical religion like the other Gupta kings, he was reputed to possess a tolerant spirit. A clear illustration of this is the permission granted by him to the king of Ceylon to build a monastery for Buddhist pilgrims in Bodh Gaya.

Beyond doubt Samudragupta was a great military general, but apart from that, his personal accomplishments are equally remarkable. He showed great magnanimity towards all those kings who were defeated. His polished intelligence and good knowledge of scriptures won him many admirers. He gathered a galaxy of poets and scholars and took effective actions to foster and propagate religious, artistic and literary aspects of Indian culture. He had good proficiency in music and was perhaps an accomplished Lyrist (Lyre or Veena is a musical instrument). This fact is amply demonstrated in his lyrist type coins. Most king took pride in trumpeting their bravery but Samudragupta is the only king in whole of Indian history who showed softer side of his personality (Kumargupta, his grandson, have copied this type and minted few Lyrist type gold coins, which are exceedingly rare). These coins are unique, very special and rare.

Vincent Smith has elevated Samudragupta in Indian history as the Napoleon of India. His tradition of (Milito) religious toleration reflects in the Allahabad inscription and speaks thus " put to Shama the preceptor of the lord of the gods. Brahaspati by his sharp and polished intellect and Tamburu and Narad by lovely performance." Samudragupta had several sons. His rule is presumed to have been till about 375AD.

Samudragupta probably died in AD 380, and was succeeded by his sons Ramagupta and Chandragupta.


Preceded by:
Chandragupta I
Gupta Empire Ruler
(335-380 CE)
Succeeded by:
Chandragupta II

Sources

  • R. K. Mookerji, The Gupta Empire, 4th edition. Motilal Banarsidass, 1959.
  • R. C. Majumdar, Ancient India, 6th revised edition. Motilal Banarsidass, 1971.nl:Samudra-Gupta

pt:Samudragupta sa:समुद्रगुप्त sv:Samudragupta

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