The Gupta Empire is credited with ushering a Golden Age in Bharat. Chandragupta II, son of Maharajadhiraja Samudragupta, was one of the powerful rulers of the Gupta dynasty who earned the title Vikramaditya.
Chandragupta II – lineage, titles & family
Chandragupta was the son of Maharajadhiraja Samudragupta and his chief queen Dattadevi. He was officially chosen as the successor by Samudragupta himself, ahead of his elder brother Ramagupta. He had two queens, namely Kuberanaga and Dhruvadevi (Dhruvasvamini). Chandragupta II was also known as Devaraja which was one of his favorite names while the Vakataka records referred to him as Chandragupta and Devagupta.
Mandasor record of 524 describes him as “who is like a moon in the galaxy of Gupta kings with the famous name Chandragupta”. Similarly, the Mehrauli Pillar inscription praises him by saying “his name was Chandra and he was holding the glory of a full moon on his face”. His titles are testimony of Chandragupta II’s glory. His various titles include Apratiratha (having no equal or antagonist), Paramabhagavata (devout devotee of Bhagwan Vishnu), and Maharajadhiraja as well as Bhattaraka-Maharajadhiraja.
Several of his coins credit him with the title Vikramaditya by variously referring to him as Vikramaditya, Vikrama, and Vikramanka thereby testifying his valor. His popular title Vikramaditya also finds mention in Supia Stone Pillar Inscription belonging to his grandson Skandagupta’s time (Gupta Era 141).
Diplomacy of Chandragupta through matrimonial alliances
Matrimonial alliances worked out by Chandragupta are rightly known as the master-strokes of his diplomacy.
Chandragupta married Naga Princess Kuberanaga thereby sealing an alliance with the Nagas. Similarly, by virtue of having their daughter Prabhavatigupta married to Vakataka Prince Rudrasena II, Chandragupta ensured that in addition to Vakataka politics coming under the influence of the Gupta Empire, several off-shoots and extended political influences also came under the control of the Guptas. Kadamba King Kakusthavarman’s daughter was married either to Chandragupta’s son Kumaragupta or his grandson (Kumaragupta’s son).
Since Rudrasena II died suddenly just 5 years after ascending the throne, Prabhavatigupta became the regent queen of her minor sons and carried out the administration of the Vakataka kingdom with the help of officers deputed by Chandragupta from Pataliputra. Chandragupta II even engaged Kalidasa as a tutor for the young Vakataka Princes.
Conquests of Chandragupta II
Even though Chandragupta was nominated by his father Samudragupta to take over the throne after him, his elder brother Ramagupta who was serving as the Governor of Malwa asserted his authority in the Malwa region, and his uncle Kachagupta occupied the throne at Pataliputra. It was, therefore, a while before Chandragupta could regain the Magadha throne by defeating Kachagupta and subdue Ramagupta so as to gain total control of the Gupta Empire.
Several kings subdued by and areas captured by Samudragupta seemed to have tried to reestablish their independence while Chandragupta II was occupied with his brother and uncle. Kings in North West and Bengal are said to have raised their heads for independence. In fact, a confederacy was formed by the kings of Bengal to throw off the Gupta supremacy.
Chandragupta II routed the confederacy of the Bengal kings. He faced the challenge posed by the Kushanas in North West with such fury that he is believed to have uprooted them in their breeding ground in Bactria. Both these victories of Chandragupta II find mention in the Inscription of Chandra in the Mehrauli Iron Pillar.
As already mentioned, even though Chandragupta II was selected as the heir by Samudragupta, he wasn’t a direct successor to his father. By the time he came to the throne, the Gupta Empire was tottering after suffering a major defeat by a Saka chief as attested by Vishakadatta’s Devichandraguptam.
Chandragupta II not only killed the Saka chief but also killed his brother Ramagupta and later regained Pataliputra (Magadha) which confirms the fact that Chandragupta II had earned his supreme sovereignty by the prowess of his arms (as mentioned in the Mehrauli inscription) and enjoyed a long rule of around 4 decades.
The Mehrauli Pillar Inscription lists the following achievements of King Chandra:
- Conquest of Vanga countries by battling alone against a confederacy of enemies united against him.
- Conquest of Vahlikas in a running fight across the 7 mouths of the river Sindhu
- Spread of his fame as a conqueror of up to Southern seas
- Achievement of sole supreme sovereignty in the world by the prowess of his arms
The Mehrauli Pillar Inscription states that Chandragupta II raised the pillar to honor Bhagwan Vishnu on the hill known as Vishnupada to celebrate his conquests. Udayagiri inscription of Chandragupta II records his campaign for the conquest of the earth.
Of the Vanga/Bengal region, Samudragupta had conquered only Samatata. The conquests of Pundravardhana, Damodarpur, and Rajshahi districts of Bengal are credited to Chandragupta II. Eventually, the whole of Vanga came under the suzerainty of Chandragupta II.
Chandragupta II also held sway over the southern regions with the Gupta rulers of Banavasi tracing their origin to Chandragupta Vikramaditya. Attesting Chandragupta II’s association with the south are mention of Gupta-parthivakala in Talagunda inscription, finds at Satara, Rashrakuta records, and Gupta rulers of Banavasi. Many kings of the south often compared their own achievements to that of Chandragupta II, thereby showing the sway he held over this region.
Religious beliefs, coins, and characteristics of Chandragupta II
His own inscriptions and title Paramabhagavata indicate that Chandragupta II was a devout devotee of Bhagwan Vishnu. In fact, he is said to have been such a great Vishnu devotee that he considerably influenced the religious leanings of his family members as well, a fact attested to by Gadhwa, Bihar, and Bhitari inscriptions of his successors. The Chakra-Vikrama coins of Chandragupta II show the emperor receiving a gift from Bhagwan Vishnu who manifests Himself before his devotee for that purpose.
The various types of coins issued by Chandragupta II are the Archer type, Lotus Reverse type, horseman type, Lion-silver type, Lion-combatant type, Lion-trampler, Lion-retreating type, and he was the first to issue copper coins. His numismatic innovations comprise of the couch, chhatra, lion, horse, Garuda, and Devi Lakshmi on a lotus as also gold, silver, and copper coinage.
Special mention must be made of silver coinage with Gupta features that were issued after the conquest of Western Kshatrapa by Chandragupta II. The reverse of the coin carried the figure of Garuda, vahana of Bhagwan Vishnu, standing facing with outspread wings. These coins came in two varieties carrying different legends. Variety A had the legend Paramabhagavata Maharajadhiraja Sri Chandragupta Vikramadityah (Chandragupta II as a devotee of Bhagwan Vishnu) and Variety B carried the legend Sri Guptakulasya Maharajadhiraja Sri Chandragupta Vikramankasya (Chandragupta Vikrama of the Gupta lineage).
His coins talk about his bravery (his having conquered the earth and attaining heaven through his meritorious acts), his Lion-type coins attest to his valor and invincibility and his silver coins show his devotional side.
Fa-Hien’s observations of Chandragupta II’s reign
The Chinese Buddhist monk Fa-Hein traveled to Bharat and stayed here during six years of Chandragupta II’s reign. Some of his observations are very interesting. He notes that although Buddhism was flourishing, it was Hindu Dharma that was widespread. This isn’t surprising considering the fact that Hindu Dharma was revived by Chandragupta II’s father Samudragupta under whose reign Vaishnavism and Saivism replaced Buddhism and Jainism.
Chandragupta II was a great Vaishnava himself. Fa-Hein says that relations between followers of different religions were cordial and Chandragupta II is said to have had Saivas and Buddhists among his high-ranking officers as well. There was no hint of any religious persecution, notes the Chinese pilgrim.
He says that serious crimes were a rarity, vegetarianism was prevalent among the upper classes while meat-eating was confined to the lower ones, temples and monasteries were well maintained, the poor and destitute were cared for and provided with food and medicines as per their needs, and there were rest houses in large towns and on highways catering to the comforts of travelers.
Chandragupta II not only consolidated the empire built by his legendary father Maharajadhiraja Samudragupta but also saved it from collapse at the hands of the Sakas during the initial years after his father’s death. He not only put down revolts in the Bengal region but also permanently halted the Sakas from making inroads into Bharat.
He also continued patronizing Hindu Dharma and its various sects and thereby continued the revival of Hindu Dharma started by Samudragupta. The famous poet Kalidasa is said to have been the court poet of Chandragupta II. Kalidasa was also employed to teach the Vakataka Princes, sons of Prabhavatigupta, by Chandragupta II.
As is apparent from the inscriptions Sanskrit was the preferred language and continued to be patronized by Chandragupta II much like Samudragupta. The Golden Age that began under Maharajadhiraja Samudragupta continued under his son Chandragupta II as well. The reign of Chandragupta II came to an end sometime between 412 and 415 CE.
- A political history of Imperial Guptas (From Gupta to Skanda Gupta) – Shri Tej Ram Sharma
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