The Guptas – Part 4

The Kacha Problem

Kacha (375 CE) – There is no doubt that Chandragupta II succeeded Samudragupta as it is mentioned in inscriptions that he was selected by Samudragupta himself. However did he succeed immediately or there was some gap is not very clear. The problem arises with the findings of the Gupta coins with legend ‘Kacha’ and an inscription and coins of Ramagupta.

A small number of extremely rare gold coins have given rise to a controversy regarding the identification of that king. The coins have a circular legend ‘Kacho gamavajitya divam karambhir-uttamair-jayati’ (having conquered the earth, Kacha wins the heaven by his excellent deeds) on obverse and legend ‘sarvarajaochchetta’ on reverse.  Let’s have a look on different theories proposed by various scholars.

Kacha = Samudragupta – This theory is accepted by J Allan, V A Smith, H C Raychaudhuri, D C Sircar, V V Mirashi, R K Mookerji, S Chattopadhyaya, Ashwini Agrawal, C Ray Chowdhury and J F Fleet. J Allan assigns Kacha’s coins to Samudragupta as same legend, sarvarajochchhetta, is found on the coins of both the kings. He states that there is no doubt in associating Kacha with Samudragupta as legend on Kacha coins is almost synonymous with that on the Archer Type coins of Samudragupta. D R Bhandarkar, D K Ganguly do not agree with this proposition. Chandragupta II also has same title, sarvarajochchhetta, as evident from Prabhavatigupta’s Pune plates. In that case assignment of Kacha to Samduragupta just on support of similar legend is not correct.

J F Fleet suggests that Kacha may be a less formal name of Samudragupta however this name would have been quite known otherwise it would not appear on coins. The earliest Gupta coins must be attributes to Samudragupta as per Allan. A N Dandekar mentions that it is not observed that a Gupta king struck coins with his two proper names. We have many coins of Chandragupta II but none of that has his another name, Devagupta, on coins. Hence identifying Kacha with Samudragupta is not correct. It could be that Kacha was the original name of the person and on coronation of he took Samudragupta as a name.

If Samdudragupta was the name taken after his coronation then when did he struck his coins with legend Kacha?  It is highly impossible that he struck those coins in the reign of his father. If he got this name after his India conquest and he struck his coins after being influenced by the Kushana coins, in such circumstances it is confusing that why will he put his old name when new name is already assumed.

Kacha = brother of Samudragupta – This theory is accepted by H Heras, R N Dandekar, B P Sinha, P L Gupta, S R Goyal, Rapson and B N Thakur. The theory proposes that Kacha was a rebel brother of Samudragupta who took over his throne when the former was away and busy with his conquests. However when Samudragupta returned back, he fought for his throne and won it back.

R D Banerji mentions that Kacha could be another son of Chandragupta I as he having many sons is evident from  Allahabad Pillar Inscription which also mentions that Samudragupta was elected as yuvaraja in his father’s lifetime. Kacha might have lost his life during the war of independence fought by Chandragupta I. In this case, should we assume that a person who never was a king struck his coins? Banerji explains that the Kacha coins were struck by Samudragupta in memory of his brother who lost his life. In this spirit, these should not be taken as coins but as commemorative medals.

A N Dandekar states that if Kacha had done something great which should be commemorated then why his name is not mentioned in Allahabad Pillar Inscription. Also why in the inscription it is mentioned that equal births were jealous and envious on Samudragupta’s selection as heir. However his last point would put no problem if we assume that Kacha was already dead when Samudragupta rose to throne hence he was not in the jealous party. But problem is with war of independence theory of Banerji? There is no support to this theory, neither in inscriptions and nor in literature.  Another point would be that if we accept that Samudragupta was the first Gupta ruler who issued coins, as suggested by Allan and Altekar, then if Kacha’s coins are found then he would have ruled after Samudragupta only.

A S Altekar has proposed that the weights of the Gupta coins increase with successive rulers. Skandagupta coins are of 117 grain standard and those of Chandragupta II are of 121 grain standard. Kacha coins are from 111 to 118 grains which suggests that he reigned in between Chandragupta II and Samudragupta.

Kacha =  Brother of Chandragupta I – B Ch Chhabra suggests this theory. He states that Kacha as name is derived from Ghatotkacha, Kachasya ayam Kachah, meaning thereby son of Kacha (Ghatotkacha). But in this case, the name Kacha is derived from half name of Ghatotkacha, is this proper? Chhabra gives some contemporary examples to prove this. He further suggests that last years of Chandragupta’s rule were problematic and Kacha wrestled the throne from his old aging brother. He issued coins, copying the coins of Chandragupta I, the copy is so similar that legends on both coins are very same.

But if the Gupta coins were started during Samudragupta’s time then how come Kacha minted his coins earlier? Chhabra mentions that they have discussed this topic in the Numismatic Society of India  many times and now everyone agrees that it was Chandragupta I who issued his king-and-queen type coins first ever in the Gupta dynasty. In such a case, as Kacha rules after Chandragupta I so no issue with him issuing his coins.

But then how to infer statement of Allahabad Pillar Inscription which mentions that Chandragupta I selected Samudragupta as his successor in his court assembly. Chhabra states that this court assembly was made in specifically for this event after the court disputes and troubles were over, the trouble of Kacha. Few above lines before this particular statement in the inscription are lost and Chhabra suggests that these lines might have some vital information related to this theory. When the lines are lost, scholars are free to propose their theories and this on from Chhabra is among many such theories but look very promising.

Kacha = a sub-ordinate of Chandragupta II – O P Singh, after studying various theories, propounds that the best possibility is that Ramagupta was a sub-ordinate king of Malwa under Chandragupta II. Sakas attacked Ramagupta and the latter asked Chandragupta II for help. Chandragupta II readies for help and destroyed Sakas in the end.

Kacha = A Foreigner – B S Sitholey identifies him with some foreign interloper who usurped the throne when Samudragupta was busy in his southern conquest. D K Ganguly mentions that we cannot take Kacha as a foreigner as his coins are always found along with other Gupta coins which suggests that he was very much related to the Gupta family.

Kacha = Ramagupta – This theory is accepted by A S Altekar, D R Bhandarkar and K P Jayaswal. Devichandraguptam tells a story of Chandragupta and Ramagupta who were brothers. Both were besieged at fort of Alipura by the Saka enemy. Ramagupta agreed to surrender his wife to the enemy which Chandragupta resented. He went to the enemy camp in disguise of the queen and killed the enemy. Later he also killed his brother and get the throne.

D R Bhandarkar, K P Jayaswal suggests that Kacha was another name of Ramagupta. D K Ganguly mentions that we cannot take Kacha as Ramagupta as none of the Gupta king has mentioned any other name then their proper name on their coins. Ramagupta is well known from his inscriptions hence the name expected on coins should be Rama or Ramagupta but not Kacha. O P Singh states that the characters of Ramagupta and Kacha as portrayed in many evidences are like two poles apart. Ramagupta is portrayed as a coward who surrendered his wife to the enemy however Kacha in his coins is mentioned as ‘sarvarajaochchetta’, exterminator of all kings. In this situation, both can not be taken as a same person.

In my opinion, Kacha might be a younger brother of Samudragupta who may have ruled after Samudragupta for a brief period.