Expansion of the Empire
Samudragupta (329-375 CE) – Samudragupta was chosen by his father, Chandragupta I, on the throne as evident from Allahabad Pillar Inscription. The inscription further mentions that this selection was seen with jealousy among his brothers however ministers and people of the court were rejoiced to see a worthy person taking over the throne. Eulogy given in this inscription is main source of reconstructing the political situation during his reign.
India Conquest – Allahabad Pillar Inscription plays a major part in reconstructing history and life of the Gupta king Samudragupta. This long inscription is written in 32 and a half lines. Line 1 to 16 form 8 verses which talks about general character of the king, his accession, accomplishments against a confederacy. Line 17 to 30 form a long prose which states his Aryavarta conquest with mention of frontier kingdoms. Line 30 and 31 form concluding verse. Line 31 and 32 talks about the details of the author. Line 32 and a half is about the certification from a officer.
Samudragupta defeated a confederacy of four kings: Achyuta, Nagasena, Ganapati and a king of Kota Kula. V A Smith, J Allan, J F Fleet and other early scholars hence have mentioned that there were only three kings. The name of the fourth king has not survived except the first character which is ‘g’. D R Bhandarkar suggests that there was a fourth king whose name was Ganapati as he is again mentioned later in Aryavarta conquest part of the inscription. He further suggests that the first three were Samudragupta’s brothers who probably being jealous on his accession put their strength together in association with an unhappy king belonging to Kota Kula. Mention of this particular conquest along with his accession suggests that this conquest was not made far from his country and probably was taken as soon as he was appointed as a king. Hence the proposition that this conquest was made to consolidate his rule is hard to be ruled out. Let’s see who all these kings were.
- Ganapati – Ganapatinaga has been identified with Ganapati or Ganendra whose coins are found at Narwar, Doab and Besnagar (Vidisha). Bhavasataka (Nagarajasata) of Nagaraja has a verse praising a king of Naga by the name of Gajavakra to whom all kings look up to from fear of Mayuras (Mauryas). His capital was located at Dhara.
- Nagasena – V A Smith does not give any identification of this king. D R Bhandarkar points to Harshacharita of Bana where a mention of Nagasena of Naga house of Padmavati is found. He suggests that this Nagasena would be the same who was defeated by Samudragupta. His kingdom fell when his policy was disclosed by a Sarika bird. Padmavati has been identified with Pawaya in Madhya Pradesh.
- Achyuta – Some copper coins with name Achyu were found which made V A Smith and Rapson to identify this Achyu with Achyuta. This Achyu was supposed to belong to the Naga family of Ahichchhatra (Ramanagar near Bareilly), the ancient capital of Panchala. Buhler states that the characters on coin resemble with those of on Allahabad Pillar Inscription.
- Kota Kula king – V A Smith does not provide any identification for him. As per inscription he was captured when Samudragupta was rejoicing in his capital at Pushpapura (Pataliputra). Dr Bhagvanlal Indraji indentifies this with a tribe called Koda near Sopara in Maharashtra and with Kada of the Kadasa coins found near Saharanpur. However Smith disagrees as the characters on the coins are of the time of the Maurya king Ashoka. Cunningham also groups these coins with the Kuniuda coins of region Saharanpur.
Dakshinapatha Conquests – The long prose, line 17-30, begins with his conquests of Dakshinapatha. This conquests was a kind of ‘Dharma-vijaya’ where the kings were captured and released later. The following kings are mentioned:
- Mahendra of Kosala – As this part comes under southern India hence it should be differentiated with Kosala of northern India which is situated near Saketa. Maha-Kosala or Dakshina-Kosala, as it might have been called, is identified by Cunningham with following boundaries; Amarkantak on north, source of river Mahanadi on south, valley of Wen-Ganga on west and Hasda and Jonk rivers on east. This constitutes present Raipur, Bilaspur, Patna and Sonpur districts. V A Smith suggests that in its narrowest limits, this region would be 200 miles from north to south and 125 miles from west to east. However in its greatest extent, it would be a 200 miles square area. The ancient capital was at Sripura (Sirpur). Smith says that nothing more is known about this king, Mahendra. Kosala is associated with Ikshvaku family since time immortal as evident from Ramayana speaks of Kosala with its capital at Ayodhya. Later in the time of Buddha, Kosala was extended to cover eastern part of Uttar Pradesh and was ruled by Prasenjit of Ikshvaku family but with its capital at Sravasti. Is there a possibility that Kosala further extended and penetrated into Dakshipatha? D R Bhandarkar suggests that epigraphy and tradition states so. Two province of Dakshinapatha, Mulaka and Ashmaka, were so called after two Ikshvaku rulers, son and father, of these names as stated in Puranas. Inscriptions on the Buddhist stupas at Jaggayyapeta (EI Vol XX, p2) and Nagarjunakonda talk about Ikshvaku rulers, Maharaja Vasishthiputra Chamtamula, his son Madhariputra Virapurushadatta and latter’s son Vasishthiputra Ehuvula Chamtamula II. The first of these celebrated many vedic sacrifices including Asvamedha. This suggests that he was ruling over a vast land and may be South Kosala was included in his kingdom. Sonepur plates of Mahabhavagupta II Janamejaya (EI Vol XXIII, p 251) speaks about a place called Kosala. This Kosala might be the capital of South Kosala kingdom. However identification of this Kosala is not very easy. J Burgess puts Jaggayyapeta inscription to about third or fourth century CE while Vogel puts that to third century CE as he assigns the rule of King Purisadata to third century CE and before the accession of the Pallavas to Vengi throne. In that case Mahendra might be an Ikshvaku king, probably a grandson of Chamtamula II as the latter is separated by two generations from Samudragupta. What was the capital of his kingdom, there is no conformity on this. However in ninth century CE, the capital of Kosala was at Sripura (Sirpur) as two plates of Tivaradeva, who styled himself as ‘Supreme lord of Kosala’ were issued from Sirpur. Probably this was the capital of early Ikshvaku rulers as well. R K Mookerji, D R Bhandarkar, A N Dandekar, O P Singh agrees with the identification of Cunningham and Sirpur as capital. In conclusion, this region would be comprising of present Raipur, Bilaspur districts of Chattisgarh and Sambalpur district of Orissa.
- Vyaghraraja of Mahakantara – The name ‘Maha-Kantara’ means ‘great forest’. V A Smith identifies this region as situated on west of Kosala which at present comprises Chindwara and Baitul and is full of forests. D R Bhandarkar identifies it with present Vishakhapattanam and Ganjam based upon a copper plate grant of Narasimahdeva II where this region is mentioned as dakshina-jhada-khanda. R D Banerji identifies Mahakantara with eastern Gondwana region and Vyaghraraja as a feudatory of Vakataka king Prithivishena as evident from Nachne-ki-talai and Ganj inscriptions (EI Vol XVII, p 13). R K Mookerji, A N Dandekar accepts this identification. However Dubreuil, V S Sukthankar, Rao Bahadur K N Dikshit disagree with this identification. Dubreuil & K N Dikshit states that the inscription belongs to fifth century CE, Sukthankar puts the latter inscription to seventh century CE. However R D Banerji does not agree with both scholars and stick to his dating as he says that the characters are similar as the Pune plate of queen Prabhavatigupta. Dating based solely upon the styles of characters is not an accurate science hence such discrepancies are expected among the opinion of various scholars. D R Bhandarkar do not give much attention to date issue but agrees that the inscription is surely not of fourth century CE which make Vyaghraraja a feudatory of Prithivishena II instead of Prithivishena I. Another point is that kingdom of this Vyaghraraja, Bundelkhand with Ajaigarh and Jaso states, is situated in north but not in south so this identification does not hold good. King Vyaghraraja is not yet identified with conformity. In conclusion, this region would be comprising of present Gondwana region including Vishakhapattanam district of Andhra Pradesh and Ganjam district of Orissa.
- Mantaraja of Kurala – V A Smith & J F Fleet uses term Kerala instead of Kurala and thus states that it is a surprise that the temporary conquest of Samudragupta extended till southern part of Indian peninsula. However D R Bhandarkar disagrees on change from Kauralaka to Kairalaka as there are change of two syllables of a name which consists of three. Hence it should be read as Kurala or Korala. He identifies it with present Sonpur region. Dubreuil accepts Bhandarkar’s reading however does not attempt to identify it. Barnett identifies with Korada, Aiyangar with Khurdha and Keilhorn with Kunala which is mentioned in the Aihole inscription of the Chalukya king Pulakesin II (EI Vol VI, p 3). This Kunala is identified with Kolleru lake between Godavari and Krishna rivers. However Dubreuil sees no reason why it should be identified with Kunala as the names do not resemble each other. D R Bhandarkar states that n and l in Pali and Prakrit is interchangeable as seen in few other instances. Hence Kunala = Kurala = Kulara = Kolleru seems justified. Another support arrives from the conquest of Pulakesin II where he conquered Kalinga, Pishtapura and Kunala from north to south whereas Samudragupta conquered Kurala, Pisthapura and Kottura from south to north. R K Mookerji identifies Kurala with Kuluta in Madhya Pradesh. No identification is yet possible for king Mantaraja. A N Dandekar accepts Bhandarkar’s identification with Sonpur. In conclusion, this region would be comprising of present Sonpur district in Orissa.
- Mahendragiri of Pishtapura – Pishtapura was the same fortress which was conquered by the Chalukyan king Satyasraya (Pulakesin II). V A Smith identifies it with a town named Pithapuram of Madras Presidency, now in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. R D Banerji, R K Mookerji, A N Dandekar agrees with this identification. J F Fleet feels uneasy in recognizing a name which ends with ‘giri’ and he therefore separates out Mahendra and giri. However Smith suggests that the whole word should be taken as the name of a king. As ‘giri’ is mostly known for ‘gosain’ chiefs whose were mainly found in Bundelkhand region but we cannot restrain that this suffix was only applicable to gosain clan in fourth century CE. Even if it is restricted to goasin, it is not unlikely that Samudragupta faced a gosain chief with name Mahendragiri at Pishtapura. However no proper identification is provided by Smith. D R Bhandarkar does not identify Mahendragiri as a gosain king however he agrees that the name of the king was Mahendragiri. However identification of this Mahendragiri is still in dark. In conclusion, this region would be comprising of present East Godavari district of Andra Pradesh.
- Svamidatta of Kottura – J F Fleet and V A Smith identify Kottura with Kottur in Coimbatore. Dubreuil identifies it with Kothoor in Ganjam in Andhra Pradesh. R D Banerji, D R Bhandarkar, R K Mookerji, A N Dandekar agrees with this identification. No identification is yet found for Svamidatta by any scholar. In conclusion, this region would be comprising of present Kothoor in Ganjam district of Orisaa.
- Damana of Erandapalla – V A Smith does not give any proper identification, J F Fleet identifies it with Erandol in Khandesh district of Maharashtra and J Allan, Y L Gupte agree with him, Dubreuil identifies it with Erandapali near Chicakole which is mentioned in Siddhantam plates of king Devendravarman of Kalinga (Epigraphia Indica Vol XII). This is located in Srikakulam in Ganjam district of Andhra Pradesh. R D Banerji, A N Dandekar accepts this identification of Dubreuil. In conclusion, this region would be comprising of present Srikakulam (old Chicacole) in Ganjam district of Orissa.
- Vishnugopa of Kanchi – Kanchi is no doubt the present Kanchipuram in Tamilnadu. V A Smith suggests two possibilities for identification of Vishnugopa, either he could be an early Pallava king as evident from their inscriptions where Vishnugopa is seen as an ancestor of Simhavarman. Another possibility is that he could be identical with Vishnuvarman who was killed by a Kadamba king as evident from a Kadamba inscription of fifth century CE. D R Bhandarkar, Dubreuil agree with the Pallava identification.
- Nilaraja of Avamukta – V A Smith, D R Bhandarkar do not give any identification for this place or king. R K Mookerji mentions that it should be small state in between Kanchi and Vengi. Nilaraja may be connected with Nilapallin of Godavari district. Jayaswal suggests that it could be the Ava province which capital was at Pithunda. As no identification is given by many scholars hence we may accept Jayaswal’s identification with Ava province.
- Hastivarman of Vengi – Vengi as a kingdom is well known in history annals. V A Smith states that it is on eastern coast lying between river Krishna and Godavari and comprises of about 120 mile in length. The territory was not very extended inland and the capital is probably the current village of Pedda Vengi or Cinna Vengi situated about 15 km from Ellore in Andhra Pradesh. This country was under a long rule of a Pallava branch. E Hultzsch suggests that Hastivarman may be identical with Attivarma, a king of Kandara family, whose early copper plate grant is available and who was ultimately a Pallava. Interestingly, Atti in Tamil is equivalent for Hasti in Sanskrit. Smith gives another probable identification, which later is accepted by Aiyangar. He further points to a grant made by king Vijaya-Nandivarman who was the son of king Chandavarman, of Salankayana dynasty, was issued from victorious city of Vengi. This grant is dated to fourth century CE. Hastivarma was probably the grandson of this Vijaya-Nandivarman. R K Mookerji, A N Dandekar agrees with this identification.
- Ugrasena of Palakka – V A Smith indentifies it with Palakkadu, a division of Palaghat in Malabar. The chief town of this is Palaghatcherry situated about 800 m above sea level. Dubreuil identifies it with Palakka as referred in few Pallava inscriptions and situated south of Krishna river near Nellore. R K Mookerji agrees with Dubreuil’s identification. However no identification of Ugrasena is provided by any scholar. In conclusion, this region would be comprising of present Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh.
- Kubera of Devarashtra – V A Smith suggests that though Devarashtra is not identified however it may probably be Deogiri known as Daulatabad and Devarashtra is probably same as Maharashtra. Dubreuil identifies this with Devarashtra-vishaya as evident from an Eastern Chalukya grant, issued by king Bhima I. In this case it should be near Vishakhapattanam. D R Bhandarkar, R D Banerji, R K Mookerji, A N Dandekar agree with this identification. No identification for Kubera is given. In conclusion, this region would be comprising some part of present Ganjam district of Orisaa.
- Dhananjaya of Kusthalapura – V A Smith states that no identification is possible until it is not accepted that the name Kusthalapura is an abbreviation of Kusasthalapura, a name of Dvaraka in Gujarat. Barnett identifies it with Kuttalur near Polur in Tamilnadu, Aiyangar points to a river named Kusasthali which lies south of Krishna and referred in a poem, Kalingattupparani. R K Mookerji agrees with Barnett and Aiyangar. This region is not identified satisfactorily.
V A Smith states that after studying the southern route of Samudragupta, it seems that Malik Kafur, a general of Alauddin, in1309-10 CE took the same path as taken by Samudragupta. He states that the glorious march of Samudragupta started southward from South Kosala on eastern coast, passing through Krishna and Godavari region of Vengi, then to Kanchipuram and ultimately reaching till the end of southern tip, Kumarin of India peninsula. He then moved northward passing through Nellore and then to Maharashtra on western coast thus completing the whole of South India.
Dubreuil however gives a different perception. He says that it is probable that Samudragupta first got some success but later he was repelled when he faced superior forces. His march is not like that of Alexander who marched forward victoriously, but it was an unsuccessful attempt of a king who failed in annexing south India into his kingdom. He succeed in conquering South Kosala and was even successful conquering over Korala, Pishtapura, Kottura and Erandapalla. But then he faced a string confederation of the kings who were located near Godavari river. This confederacy was probably lead by Vishnugopa of Kanchi who was the most powerful ruler among them. This made Samduragupta to repel back to his country.
As the inscription does not differentiate between various kings and states and has one single quote for all, that all were captured and release later on. In this case what made Dubreuil suggesting that Kosala and few others were conquered however later kings made Samudragupta to move back as there is no such indication in the inscription. Is his inference is based upon the fact that all the kings were released later on due to some unexpected situation like defeat in the last battle. R D Banerji, D R Bhandarkar, R K Mookerji, A N Dandekar do not agree with Dubreuil’s proposition. They say he is correct to state that Samudragupta did not go beyond Kanchi however he is wrong that he meet defeat in the hands of a confederacy. The reason for release of all conquered kings is the type of conquest which Samduragupta selected for south India, dharma-vijaya. Arthasastra mentions that in dharma-vijaya conquest the conqueror liberates the kings and take some spoils in return. This dharma-vijaya is considered most righteous among all kinds of conquests. If Vishnugopa had defeated the sovereign king of North India, why the contemporary and later Pallava records are silent about this monumental feat of their ancestor? This is not a small feat in any measures so they must have felt proud mentioning it in their records however there is no such example.
What is the arrangement of the order of places given in the inscription? J F Fleet mentions that these are stated as per their geographical location. If we accept all the identifications given by V A Smith and his statement of the order of conquest, there arises an issue. Smith’s statement that Samudragupta went back via Erandapalla and Devarashtra would be wrong as Erandapalla is not mentioned in the last of list but in between preceding Vengi and Kanchi. In that case the order of places are not in their geographical order but in their political importance order as suggested by Dubreuil. He suggests that as Kanchi was most superior among many other southern kingdoms so Kanchi is mentioned before Vengi though Vengi is north of Kanchi.
In such case, there seems to be two confederacies which Samudragupta would have faced. One was lead by Kosala and constituted Mahakantara, Kurala, Pishtapura, Kottura and Erandapalla. Second confederacy was lead by Kanchi and consisted of Avamukta, Vengi, Palakka, Devarashtra and Kusthalapura. Why Samudragupta does not move further south towards Pandya and Kerala countries? D R Bhandarkar suggests that it could be that the Pallavas were sole sovereign of southern most parts of India and Kerala and Pandyas were under them as feudatories. Hence defeating Vishnugopa implicitly is seen as defeat of all his feudatories. However there is no strong evidence to support the statement that Pandyas and Keralas were acting as feudatories of Pallavas. If we do not accept the identification of Devarashtra with Maharashtra and Erandapalla with Erandol of Khandesh then there is no mention of any king of Deccan in the inscription. If these identifications are accepted then what about central Deccan which was with Vakatakas? Vakatakas are dealt later in this article so we leave this issue open as of now.
In conclusion, Samudragupta did defeat all the kings which are mentioned in the inscription in his dharma-vijaya conquests in which he released the conquered kings. As the list is not arranged in geographical order so it is quite likely that he faced various confederacies formed by alliances of neighboring kingdoms and headed by the strong-most among them. Two such confederacies are possible, one headed by Kosala and another by Kanchi. It is very clear that he did not move south of Kanchi, however the reason for this is not very clear. Two possibilities, either he was repelled back from Kanchi or the kingdoms down south were under control of Kanchi and defeating Kanchi results in overall defeat. Thinking that a king is lying in his record is a taboo so it should be assumed that southern stated were under control of Kanchi. We should not doubt on an inscription till there are evidences against what is written.
Aryavarta Conquests – In line 21 the chronicler writes that the Kings of Aryavarta were uprooted with their kingdom violently exterminated and annexed to the Gupta kingdom. Following kings were exterminated (no kingdom name is specified in the inscription):
- Rudradeva – V A Smith provides no identification for this king. Rao Bahadur Dikshit identifies him with the Vakataka king Rudrasena I. R K Mookerji, K N Dikshit, K P Jayaswal, A N Dandekar agrees with this identification. However D R Bhandarkar does not agree with this as Vakataka were located in Dakshinapatha and not in Aryavarta.
- Matila – V A Smith does not attempt any identification for this king. D R Bhandarkar suggests that he could be the same Mattila whose seals were found at Bulandshahar however J Allan says that as no honorific title is used in the seal so he can’t be termed as a king. D R Bhandarkar states that many such royal seals are found where no honorific title is given hence we should not reject this identification as no honorific title is present. R D Banerji, R K Mookerji, A N Dandekar agrees with Bulandshahar seal identification.
- Nagadatta – V A Smith suggests that he may belong to the same dynasty as Ramadatta and Purusadatta whose coins are obscurely connected with those of the Northern Satraps. K P Jayaswal identifies him with the father of Maharaja Mahesvara Naga, a Naga chieftain of the fourth century CE whose seals were discovered at Lahore.
- Candravarman – V A Smith identifies him with the same king whose rock inscription is found a Susania in West Bengal and he is referred as ‘lord of Pushkarana’. However he later changed this view and agrees with the identification given by Haraprasad Sastri who identifies him with the Chandra of Mehrauli Iron Pillar inscription. The main reason of this change by Smith is the location of Pushkarana which is mentioned in Susania inscription and was identified with Pokharan of Rajasthan by Sastri. It is not possible that there was a ruler in the time of Samudragupta who was ruling from Bengal to Rajasthan. However K N Dikshit found a place with name Pokharan located about 40 km north east of Susania. D R Bhandarkar mentions Chandravarman might be some chief of Susania region. R K Mookerji agrees with Bhandarkar. R D Banerji mentions that Chandavarman of Mehrauli pillar and Susania rock inscription are same person.
- Ganapati Naga – V A Smith points to Cunningham who identifies this king to be of the one of the dynasties known as seven or nine Nagas whose capital was at Nalapura (present Narwar), in between Gwalior and Jhansi. Though the coins of this king only gives label ‘Ganapati’ however their resemblance with other Naga coins, that of Skanda Naga, Brhaspati Naga, cannot be denied. All these coins are found at Narwar only. R D Banerji, D R Bhandarkar, O P Singh also agree with this identification.
- Nagasena – V A Smith suggests that he is probably the same king who is also mentioned in the earlier part of the inscription along with Achyuta. He might be a member of the same dynasty as Virasena of earlier date whose coins are found in Punjab. Rapson proposes his identification with the Nagasena of Padmavati whose downfall is given as one of the examples of ‘disasters due to mistaken carelessness’ in Harshacharita of Bana. He further suggests that as Nagasena, Achutya, Ganapati and Nagadatta look like belonging to Naga clan so the nine kings as mentioned in the inscription could be denoting ‘Nava Naga’ or ‘Nine Nagas’ however J Allan does not agree with this view. R D Banerji, D R Bhandarkar, R K Mookerji, O P Singh agree with Rapson’s identification.
- Achyuta – V A Smith and Rapson suggest that he is probably same as Achyuta of earlier part of the inscription who ruled over Ahichatra near Bareilly. R D Banerji, R K Mookerji, D R Bhandarkar, O P Singh agrees with this identification. Banerji suggests that he was a king of Panchala kingdom.
- Nandin – V A Smith does not give any identification for him. D R Bhandarkar states that we need to consider Acyutanandin as a single word only. R K Mookerji, O P Singh, H C Raychaudhuri take him as a separate king of the list however does not provide any satisfactory identification. Raychaudhuri suggests that we may take him as Sivanandi who was a Naga king.
- Balavarman – V A Smith does not give any identification for him. K N Dikshit identifies him with an ancestor of same name of Bhaskaravarman who pertained to Vajradatta family of Pragjyotisha (present Assam region). R D Banerji, R K Mookerji, A N Dandekar agrees with this identification however D R Bhandarkar mentions that as this region, Kamarupa (Assam), is not included in Aryavarta but is specified under frontier kingdoms of Samudragupta so this identification cannot be accepted.
- Kings of forest countries – These kings of Ataviraja were not violently exterminated however reduced to servitude. Smith identifies these with the Gonds and other tribes living in the north of Narmada. D R Bhandarkar points to a copper plate grant where Parivrajaka king, Hastin, is referred as the master of the Dabhala kingdom which was included under eighteen forest kingdoms, ashtadas-atavi-rajya. This Dabhala could be Dahala in Bundelkhand region which was held by Kalachuris of Tripuri. The Attavi country which comprises no less than eighteen tiny kingdoms may have been spread along Bundelkhand and Baghelkhand.
Frontier States – Line 22 and 23 talk about the frontier kingdoms who fully gratified the sovereign’s commands by obedience, by paying homage in his court and giving their share towards the taxes. Following frontier kingdoms are mentioned in the inscription.
- The Kingdom of Samtata – V A Smith points to Brhta Samhita which puts Samtata on the eastern part of India. Hiuen Tsiang, who came to Indian in seventh century CE, also describes about this country which is about 750 km in circuit and bordering on sea. He states that this region lies about 300 km south of Kamarupa (present Assam) and 225 km east of Tamralipti (present day Tamluk in West Bengal). These indications suggests that Samtata country was situated in the delta region of Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers which is comprised of south part of present West Bengal including Kolkata and northern part of Bangladesh including Dhaka. R D Banerji identifies it with south-eastern Bengal. N K Bhattasali identifies it with present Dhaka and Myanmar region lying east of Brahmaputra. Hieun Tsiang also mentions about the capital which was between 4 and 6 km in circumference however he does not mention any name of the city. N K Bhattasali states that Kamta in Comilla district of Bangladesh was the capital of Samtata.
- The Kingdom of Davaka – J F Fleet suggests that Davaka may be another name of Dhaka. R D Banerji agrees however V A Smith does not. He says that though proper identification is not yet done however this region may be situated between Samtata and Kamarupa as it is mentioned in this order in the inscription. As per this Bogra, Dinajpur and Rajshahi in Bangladesh would be inside Davaka. An argument against this could be that the kingdoms mentioned in Dakshinapatha conquests were not in their geographical position so the same case might be there for frontier states as well. Yuan Chwang mentions this region of Devaka with boundaries as Pundravardhana in north east, Kamarupa in north, Samtata in west and Tamralipti in south east. This suggests present central Bangladesh would be the Davaka region. K L Barua identifies it with Cachar district of Assam which was known as Davaka in ancient times. N K Bhattasali mentions that the chief city of Davaka should be identified with modern Dabok in Nowgong region of Assam. R K Mookerji takes the view of Bhattasali in his study.
- The Kingdom of Kamarupa – Kamarupa does not need any identification and is identified with present Assam. However boundaries of this ancient kingdom was not same as the present boundaries of Assam state. As per a statement of Hiuen Tsiang, the Great River (Brahmaputra) was the western boundary of this kingdom. D R Bhandarkar suggests that Kamarupa comprises of the western Assam and Davaka of the eastern part. R D Banerji assigns lower Assam as Kamarupa.
- The Kingdom of Nepal – This corresponds to current country of Nepal however the boundaries of the kingdom might not be same as of present. It is a well known fact that the lower part of this region was under the control of Ashoka as he erected his pillars at many places within this region.
- The Kingdom of Kartapura – V A Smith states that nothing positive is known about this place however if the frontier states are mentioned in geographical manner then this province might have been in Himalayas, west to Nepal. J F Fleet identifies it with present Jalandhar. C F Oldham points to Katuria Raj of Kumaon. It denotes Katyur valley with Baijnath or Kartikeyapura as capital of Katyuri Rajas in Almora district. R D Banerji, R K Mookerji, A N Dandekar agree with this identification. Banerji mentions that Kangra valley would be the more appropriate location.
Frontier Tribes – The inscription also mentions about frontier tribes who were paying tributes and homage to the emperor. These are as follows:
- Malawa – D R Bhandarkar suggests that these were same as Malloi of the Greeks who were settled near confluence of Akesinos (present Chenab) And Hydraotis (present Ravi) rivers. They may have moved further south and settled in central India. O P Singh accepts the identification with Malloi and their migration to south. He further mentions that these people were the descendants of a Dravidian race which flourished in southern Punjab a few centuries before the Christian Era. They offered a stiff resistance with their 90000 capacity armed force against Alexander The Great. Brhat Samhita has classified this tribe to be in northern central region which still retains its name at present time. This region has following boundaries, Bundelkhand (Jhansi, Gwalior region) on east, Rajputana (western Rajasthan) on west, Narmada river on south and Northern Rajasthan on north. Hence it comprises central part of India including Bhopal, Indore and Ujjain. Vishnu Purana mentions Malawas as dwelling on Paripatra mountain which might be Aravali mountains of central India. Their tribal nature and constitution is attested from two sources, coins and inscription. Their coins, which are found in abundance in Rajasthan, have legends like ‘Malavanha’ meaning ‘of the Malavas’ or ‘Malavanha Jaya’ meaning ‘victory to the Malavas’. An inscription of Yasodharman and Vishnu Vardhana dated in year 589 mentions, ‘from the supremacy of the tribal constitution of the Malavas’. This suggests that they were never ruled under a monarchy but as a tribal unit.
- Arjunayanas – R K Mookerji mentions that Ptolemy knows of a people in Punjab whom he calls the Pandoonoi=Pandavas with whom the Arjunayanas (called after Arjuna) may be connected. V A Smith disagrees with Cunningham where the latter suggests that the reference given in Brhat Samhita for Arjunayana probably provides hints of their relative position. They are mentioned with Madras, Yaudheyas and other north Indian tribes in Brhat Samhita. Smith states that a mere mention with these tribes does not given any hint to locate them. Some coins of theirs are found however finding spot is not recorded. As the coins are similar to Western Satraps hence Smith suggests that this tribe might be dwelling at Alwar and Bharatpur with Agra and Mathura as its eastern boundary. Cunningham puts their coins into Mathura category as there were procured from there. D R Bhandarkar suggests they could be occupying present Alwar and Bharatpur region. R K Mookerji, O P Singh agree with this identification of Bhandarkar.
- Yaudheya – Panini speaks about them as ayudha-jivin samgha means tribe subsisting on arms and assigns them to Punjab region. Kautilya uses term sastr-oparjin while describing them. Yaudheyas trace their origin from Yaudheya, a son of Yudhisthara of Mahabharata. Smith puts Beas or Ravi river as their north-western boundary. Their coins are found between Sutlej and Yamuna rivers and are dated between 50 and 350 CE. One coin type of theirs, known as warrior type coins, has a legend ‘Jaya Yaudheya ganasya’ meaning ‘victory to the Yaudheya tribe’. Based upon Buddhist symbol found on earlier coins of this tribe, Smith suggests that like other many tribes of India, Yaudheyas also left Buddhism and came back to orthodox Hinduism stream. They are mentioned in an inscription of Rudradama of Saurastra dated 150 CE which states that he annihilated Yaudheyas who had become arrogant and disobedient. R K Mookerji identifies these to be located in Johiyawar tract of Bhawalpur state occupying northern Rajasthan and south-east Punjab. A N Dandekar accepts the identification with Johiyawar.
- Madrakas – This tribe is mentioned in Brhat Samhita and Mahabharata as Madra. Their region is located between Ravi and Chenab rivers. This made them immediate neighbors of Yaudheyas. The capital was at Sakala or Sagala of Miling Panha. Cunningham identifies Sakala with Sangla Tibba in Gujranwala region however Smith does not agree with him. He identifies it with Sialkot which is located east of Ravi. D R Bhandarkar, O P Singh, R K Mookerji, A N Dandekar accept Smith’s identification. O P Singh mentions that this tribe was ruled by a Paurava king when Alexander invaded India.
- Abhiras –As this tribe sounds very similar to Ahirs so we need to be careful in identification of this one. Mahabharata mentions that Arjuna was waylaid by Abhiras in Panchaldesa when he was going from Dwaraka to Mathura. Salya-parva of Mahabharata mentions that river Saraswati disappeared in consequence of her dislike for Abhiras and Sudras. Periplus calls their country Abiria. These Abiria chiefs served their Saka lords as Gunda Inscription (EI XVI, p235) of Kshatrapa Rudrasimha, dated Saka year 103=181 CE, records a construction of a well by Senapati Rudrabhukti who was the son Senapati Bapaka and who is therein described as an Abhira by extraction. Another reference to an Abhira king, Isvarasena, comes from Nasik cave inscription (EI VIII, p 288) which is dated to 200 CE. However region around Mumbai seems very far west for being a frontier province. Ptolemy’s province of Abiria was on western coast and the country between Tapi river and Devagarh was known as Abhira. However this country seems to be included within the empire of Samudragupta. In these circumstances, Ahirwada seems to be the exact location of Abhira of the inscription. This region is located west of Betwa. R K Mookerji agrees with this identification. Ahirs are occupying this area from ancient times and Walter Elliot regards Ahirs as a great north Indian pastoral race which occupied an important position in political history of India.
- Prarjuna – Raychaudhuri points that they are same as Pajjunaka of Arthasastra. V A Smith identifies it with Narsinghpur in Madhya Pradesh. R K Mookerji, A N Dandekar agrees with Smith.
- Sanakanika – V A Smith suggests that this tribe might be dwelling near Udayagiri as an inscription on a cave talks about a chief of Sanakanika. It mentions three generations of the Sanakanika chiefs starting from Maharaja Chhagalga whom name as per AMT Jackson is of Turkish origin.
- Kaka – AMT Jackson identifies it with Kakupur near Bithoor in Uttar Pradesh. K P Jayaswal identifies it with Kakapur, 30 km north of Sanchi. However V A Smith states that it would be Sanchi itself whose old name was Kakanada. There is a Kaka royal family mentioned in Rajtarangini and which was in existence during British period. A N Dandekar, D R Bhandarkar, R K Mookerji agree on identification with present Sanchi.
- Kharaparika – V A Smith suggests that this tribe might be occupying Mandla region of central India. Hiralal states that it is Kharpara which is mentioned in Batihagarh inscription (EI XII, p 46). D R Bhandarkar, R K Mookerji, A N Dandekar agree with Hiralal’s identification.
Foreign Powers – With the above conquests, Samudragupta’s fame spread far and wide. Frontier kingdoms entered into his service with following terms, kany-opayana-dana (presents of maidens for marriage), yachana (ruling with Garuda banner or badge), atma-nivedana (allowing some of their territories to be ruled by viceroys of Samudragupta and soliciting his commands). The following kingdoms are mentioned:
- Simhala – Simhala is an ancient name of Sri Lanka. Mahavamsa mentions that a brother of Meghavarna, king of Sri Lanka, visited Bodhgaya in company of other monks and reported back about bad arrangements at the Buddhist site. Meghavarna sent an embassy to the court of Samudragupta to get permission for constructing a temple and inn at Bodhgaya. The permission was granted and the construction was carried out. These buildings were also mentioned by Hiuen Tsang.
- Murunda – Sylvain Levi states that these are the same as Morunda of Ptolemy who puts them to left bank of Ganges, south of Ghaghra river. He suggests that they had association with the Sakas and the Kushanas. Their mention is also found in Chinese accounts when in third century CE a Chinese envoy met on the way to India with other envoys which were returning back to China. Marunda is also mentioned in Vayu Purana where they are depicted as a foreign tribe. J Allan states that it seems this Murudna kingdom was fairly large in early centuries covering a great part of Ganges valley however their power declined during the Gupta rise and this gave an opportunity to them for expansion. As there are many rulers and countries falling under North India region during Samudragupta’s rule, this made Lassen to suggest that Murundas were same as the people of Lampaka who were ruling along the northern bank of Kabul river, between the Aliyal and Kumar rivers.
- Saka – Saka Satrapas were ruling over Mathura and north India during first century CE. However Mathura was under the dominion of Samudragupta. Smith suggests that during Samudragupta’s time, Sakas might be ruling over western regions around Indus river with their eastern boundary touching Malwa region. J Allan states that these Sakas should be identified with the Western Satraps whose coins bear similarities with the Kushana coins. D R Bhandarkar agrees with Allan’s identification and further elaborate that these Mahakshatrapa were ruling in Saurashtra at the time of Samudragupta. R K Mookerji mentions that these would be Sakas of western India ruling from Ujjain under Chastana family. Rudrasimha II would be contemporary of Samudragupta.
- Daivaputra-Shahi-Sahanushahi – V A Smith states that these three word which are written without any punctuation puts lots of difficulties in their identification. Cunningham suggests that these three words should be taken as a single phrase and denotes the kings of Kushana line. His argument was that all these three titles were used by the Kushana kings. R D Banerji, D R Bhandarkar, R K Mookerji, A N Dandekar accept Cunningham’s representation. However V A Smith takes all these three words as three different kings and states that Shahi and Sahanushahi titles were used by Saka kings as well. J F Fleet also do not consider these three words as single phrase. Allan states that there are evidences to show that by the third and fourth century CE these titles were no longer those of one great suzerain but has become the peculiar title of the ruler of the smaller states into which the Kushana empire had been broken up. D R Bhandarkar, R D Banerji state that all the three words denote single dynasty, Kushanas. Kanishka II would be contemporary of Samudragupta as evident from Mathura pedestal inscription (EI XIX, p 97). Mathura would have been the eastern boundary of his kingdom.
- Smith identifies Daivaputra with the Kushana kings. Chinese historian frequently mention the devaputra of India and Sylvain Levi suggests that by Devaputra they mean the king whose title is Devaputra. Kennedy suggests that these Devaputra should be located in Punjab. Allan states that it could be that the Chinese writers simply use this word with meaning ‘great emperor’ instead of a specific clan known as Devaputra.
- Smith identifies Shahi with the Kidara Kushana kings whose coins have legend ‘kidara kushana shahi’. He states that during the time of Samduragupta, the Great Kushana princes were still reigning in Punjab hence Shahi Kidara must apparently be placed further south. Allan however states that Kidara Kushana were later than Samudragupta period as suggested by their coins.
- Sahanushahi king are identified with the king of Persia by Smith. Sapor or Shahpur II was the Sassanian king of Persia who has a long rule from 309 to 381 CE. Sapor has cordial relations with the Kushana kings as his predecessor, Hormazd II, married a daughter of a Kushana king. He further states that if Persia seems very far then this Sahanushahi may denote the Kushana kings of Oxus who were related to the Persian empire as well. Allan agrees with Oxus identification however he suggests that the king might be ruling from Kabul rather than from Oxus. He states that the coins of Samudragupta show influence from the Kushana coins but no influence from the Persian coins and this suggests that probably there was no intercourse in between these two empires.
Restoration of lost kingdoms – The inscription further mentions that Samudragupta reinstated few kingdoms however does not mention any name. D R Bhandarkar states that Harisena, the author of the inscription, had good reasons to keep his silence over this complicated matter. It seems that those kingdoms now were on good terms with Samduragupta and their mention in the inscription would bring back the memories of unfortunate past. However is it possible to guess which those kingdoms could be?
The inscription talks about many kings and kingdoms however it is silent about the Vakatakas which would have held a considerable reputation at that time. Pune plates of Prabhavatigupta (EI Vol XV, page 39) confirms a link between the Guptas and the Vakatakas. Prabhavatigupta was the daughter of the Gupta king Chandragupta II and was married to Vakataka king Rudrasena II. This made Prithivishena I, father of Rudrasena II, contemporary of Chandragupta II. Their fathers would be contemporary as well hence Samdragupta was contemporary of Rudrasena I. This Rudrasena I was son of a Gautamiputra who held no tile like maharaja etc which suggests that Vakatakas were either lost their kingdom or were still in their embryo phase. The second possibility is ruled out as this Gautamiputra is the grandson of Pravarsena I who was the founder of the Vakataka dynasty. This suggests that the Vakatakas lost their kingdom and it was restored by Samduragupta which made Rudrasena I to hold title of Maharaja.
There are five kinds of military expeditions observed in the India conquest of Samudragupta. These are as follows:
- Prasabh-oddharana – violent extermination as exercised on Aryavarta kings
- Paricharki-karna – slavery as exercised on all Atavika rulers
- Kara-dana, ajna-karna, pranam-agamana – obeying orders, paying taxes and paying homage in his court as exercised on frontier kingdoms
- Grahana-moksha – conquer and release as seen in his Dakshinapatha conquest
- Utsana-rajavamsa-pratishthapana – restoration of lost kingdoms
Ashvamedha Sacrifice – After all his conquests and consolidating his empire, Samudragupta performed Asvamedha yajna (horse sacrifice) which is evident from his coins and also mentioned in the inscriptions of his successors. As the Allahabad Pillar Inscription does not talk about this sacrifice hence it is possible that the inscription was engraved before this celebration. D R Bhandarkar suggests that after returning from all his conquests, Samudragupta would have stopped at Kaushambi, near Allahabad which was at the meeting point of north-south and east-west route, where the famous pillar of Ashoka was standing. This gave him an idea to inscribe his achievements on the same pillar. The gold coins struck to commemorate this even have a sacrificial steed standing near a decorated sacrificial altar on obverse and a figure of a lady, probably his queen, standing wearing a loose robe on reverse with legend ‘ashvamedhaparakrama’.
Samudragupta was not only an able ruler but also a good musician as evident from Allahabad Pillar Inscription. Harisena compares him with Narada, Kasyapa and Tumburu in musical talents. His Lyrist type coins also depict his talent where he is shown with a veena, an Indian musical instrument. He was also a good poet as Vamana, in his Kavyalankara, mentions that Samudragupta was the patron of famous poet Subandhu. Harisena also mentions in his Allahabad Pillar Inscription that Samudragupta was a learned scholar and refers him as ‘kaviraja’ and wanted to be in company of learned. Unfortunately we do not have any poetical composition of his time or any of his couplets quoted by later scholars. On this ground, some scholars have suggested that Samudragupta was not a poet and Harisena being the court poet portrayed the king’s image in best possible colors.
J Allan, A S Aletkar are of opinion that Samudragupta was the first Gupta ruler who started his coins. He issued eight different kinds of coins of pure gold. His commonest coin type is Standard Type which the earliest type and resembles with the Kushana coins. He also struck a unique coin which depicts Chandragupta I and his wife, Kumaradevi, with legend Licchavyah. As his mother was a Licchavi princess hence he struck these coins to celebrate the relationship between the Guptas and the Licchavis.
Looking upon his military accomplishments, it is quite evident that he enjoyed a very long rule. His earliest epigraph is Gaya copper plate grant which gives 9th year of the Gupta Era, 329 CE. The earliest inscription of Chandragupta II is dated in 375 CE which may be taken as the last ruling year of Samudragupta.