In the first four parts of this series we have seen how the fourth ruler of the Gupta dynasty Maharajadhiraja Samudragupta, who was chosen as the successor by his father Chandragupta I, built upon the kingdom he inherited and turned it into a vast empire. He had the distinction of not losing a single war. His military strategies and prowess were ably matched by his intellect and administrative capabilities. He set up administrative systems that survived long after his time providing testimony of their efficiency. He was a poet himself and patronised art and artists. He set the ball rolling for Hindu renaissance after centuries of foreign (mleccha) rule. Hence it is from his reign that we see the return of several Vedic traditions. In this concluding part we shall bring forth the personality of this great ruler and the contributions he made to usher the ‘Golden Age of Bharat’.
Maharajadhiraja Samudragupta had a long reign of twenty years which witnessed political unity of the country and the internal peace which his strict yet benevolent administration assured the citizens ensured economic prosperity, overseas trade relations and cultural progress due to royal encouragement. The period saw all-round development of Sanskrit literature including prose, poetry and drama. The king himself was an accomplished poet who earned the title ‘Kaviraj’, the king of poets. Sadly, his compositions have not survived but Harishena lay emphasis on Samudragupta’s wisdom, sharp intellect and learning ability. His musical talents were enviable and according to Harishena Samudragupta was so adept at playing the ‘tumburu’ (a musical instrument) that would even make Devarishi Narad envious of the king’s talent. He was even an expert veena player which is attested to by his ‘lyrist’ type coin.
Rhetorician Vamana says that the son of Chandragupta, known as Chandraprakasa was a great patron of letters and appointed Buddhist scholar Vasubandhu as his minister. Though scholars differ on both the identity of Chandraprakasa as well as the time when Vasubandhu lived, it has largely been accepted that the ruler being referred to by Vamana is none other than Samudragupta. Vamana’s views are in agreement with what Harishena says about his patron.
A large part of the credit of revival of Vedic traditions and Hindu religions after centuries of royal patronage goes to Maharajadhiraja Samudragupta. Harishena also makes a reference to Samudragupta’s devotion towards his religious duties and sacred scriptures which he displayed by undertaking Yagnas and fulfilling other religious obligations. He patronised Brahmins by donating cows and land for their sustenance. He took care of every section of the society including the poor and downtrodden. He even showed benevolence to conquered kings by restoring them on their thrones.
The empire became prosperous under his benevolent rule and the rich variety of gold coins issued by him indicate his power as well as the wealth and grandeur of his empire. At least five different types of coins of Maharajadhiraja Samudragupta have been discovered. One of the coins depicts him fully dressed in warrior gear with a bow in his left hand and arrow in his right, another shows him with a battle axe and in the third one he is seen in a turban and waist-cloth shooting a tiger with his bow and arrow. While these three coins are dedicated to his military prowess, the fourth one depicts his musical talent. The lyrist type coin shows him in a waist-cloth, sitting cross legged on a couch and playing the veena. The fifth type of coin was issued to commemorate the Ashvamedha Yagna undertaken by him. The artistic execution of these gold coins provide a prelude to the progress in art which would mark the Gupta Era as the ‘Classical Age of Bharat’.
Maharajadhiraja Samudragupta’s reign is the beginning of the Age which is particularly memorable to Hindus as it witnessed the evolution of the form of Vedic religion which is followed by millions of Hindus today as well. The revival of Vaishnavism and Saivism replacing Buddhism and Jainism and shaping up of Puranic literature which completed the break from Vedic Age and set modern Hinduism on a solid foundation can be attributed to Maharajadhiraja Samudragupta and his reviving several Vedic traditions which had been lost over time.
Historians RC Majumdar and AS Altekar say “Maharajadhiraja Samudragupta was a ruler of robust and powerful build, whose physical vigour, matched by his intellectual and cultural attainments heralded a new era in which Aryavarta (Northern Bharat) regained new political consciousness and national solidarity after centuries of political disintegration and foreign domination and reached high-water mark of moral, intellectual, cultural and material prosperity which marked it as the Golden Age of Bharat to which untold generations of the future were to look back for guidance and inspiration”.
Therefore, it can be said with certainty that Maharajadhiraja Samudragupta who laid the foundation for the golden age of intellectual activities and Bharatiya culture that continued to flourish under his successors, thereby making the Gupta Age ‘the Golden Age of Bharatiya’ history.
- A Political History of Imperial Guptas (From Gupta to Skand Gupta) – Sri Tej Ram Sharma
- The Classical Age – Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (Source)
- The Vakataka Gupta Age – RC Majumdar & AS Altekar (Source)
(Featured Image Source: Booksfact.com)
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