The multi-volume History and Culture of the Indian People, a definitive work authored by numerous scholars, contains the most accurate and clear history of the Guptas.
R.C. Majumdar, the General Editor of the volume titled The Classical Age, and K.M. Munshi, who has written a foreword to the volume have held that the glory of the Gupta Era was extraordinary. Indeed,K. M. Munshi has written that this extraordinary glory was possible because of Dharma.
“Politically, this was the age of integration in India. After more than three hundred years of fragmentation and foreign domination, northern India was again united under the vigorous rule of a powerful monarch of versatile talents. A brilliant general, a farsighted statesman, a man of culture and a patron of arts and letters, he became the symbol and architect of a mighty creative urge among the people which, while drawing vitality from tradition and race-memory, took on a new shape and power.”
Samudragupta– the valiant and the model king, was succeeded by his no less brilliant son, Chandra Gupta Vikramaditya, acclaimed as the greatest of the Gupta Emperors. In his reign…the last trace of foreign rule disappeared from the land and the rule of Pataliputra extended from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea.”
Chandragupta Vikramaditya’s daughter Prabhavatigupta was given in marriage to the home of the Vakatakas. The chief value upheld during that period was the reinvigoration of Dharma. We can recall the words of Dr. S L Bhyrappa in this context: “Every country has its own language. The language of India was Dharma.” It is only when we speak in that language that our people will understand things quickly and easily.
The foundations that the Guptas and their friends laid back then survives almost intact even to this day. But in the period that ensued, we lost this spirit and inspiration inherent in Sanatana Dharma as a consequence of which, all of India plummeted down.
The Guptas took immense pride in declaring that they were the descendants of the Licchavi ancestry. In the Gupta coins, there is a mention that Chandragupta Vikramaditya was the “grandson of the Licchavis”. The Guptas spoke glowingly about the glory of their maternal clan.
When the Nagas became boundlessly powerful and posed a threat to the integrity of Sanatana Dharma, Samudragupta softened them and through gentle persuasion, influenced them to see the value in accepting Sanatana Dharma. The Nagara Brahmanas emerged as a consequence of this. In the Gupta Empire, we discern the harmony that is mentioned in the Manu and other Smritis.
The other specialty of Samudragupta is the fact that he restored the empires of the kings that he had defeated, and didn’t usurp any of them. It appears that the details that Kalidasa provides in the Raghuvamsha regarding Raghu’s campaign of military conquest applies to Samudragupta:
आपादपद्मप्रणता: कलमा इव ते रघुम् ।
फलै: सम्वर्धयामासुरुत्खातप्रतिरोपिता: ॥ (IV-37)
In his campaign of military conquest, Raghu defeated the kings of various countries and then restored them to their previous positions. This (action) yielded plentiful fruit like the saplings of rice that are plucked out and then replanted in the same place.
गृहीतप्रतिमुक्तस्य स धर्मविजयी नृप: ।
श्रियम् महेन्द्रनाथस्य जहार न तु मेदिनीम् ॥ (IV-43)
Because Raghu was a Dharmavijayi King he received only a symbolic tribute from Mahendra, the King of Kalinga and did not gobble up his kingdom.
Arthashastra and Dharmashastra texts classify victorious kings into three types: Dharmavijayi, Lobhavijayi, and Asuravijayi.
Of these, the Dharmavijayi King is the greatest. He extracts only a symbolic tribute from the vanquished. The Lobhavijayi King is second-best. He gobbles up both the territory and the treasury of the vanquished. The Asuravijayi King is the most despicable. He not only slaughters everybody in the camp of the defeated king, he also seizes territory and treasury. When Indians forgot their duties of being a kshatriya and put their guard down,such Asuravijayi invaders massacred our people with at most barbarism.
One can regard Samudragupta’s example in order to understand the meaning of Kshatra. Samudragupta was well-versed in all manner of weaponry. He had undergone rigorous practice in archery and swordsmanship. Additionally, a study of his coins reveals that he was also an expert in wielding the axe. These coins variously, depict pictures of Samudragupta taming a tiger, performing the Ashwamedha Yajna, waiting for the Deity’s Prasada with folded hands, and playing the Vina.
Harishena writes in the Prayagashasana (Prayaga Inscription):
“Samudragupta was a good poet and Vina exponent. He had taken a vow that he would not play the ‘Veena’ till such time that his Empire was not happy and prosperous. He ruled for more than forty years. The first twenty years were spent in instituting proper systems in place. He travelled extensively in the Dakshinapatha (roughly: South India). He made everyone his feudatory. He lived a truly peaceful and contented life in the last twenty years of his rule and spread this peace among his people.”
Samudragupta displayed the same expertise in playing the Veena that he showed on the battlefield as a seasoned, expert warrior. He also showed this prowess in composing poetry. He was an expert in literature and music. one of the key figures in his court was the renowned Buddhist scholar, Vasubandhu, who was also his minister and guide. We learn of the exact greatness of Buddhism From Vasubandhu’s works. It must be clarified that the Buddhism of Vasubandhu is not the Buddhism of today.
It was the Guptas who infused cultural kinship through art. The Ajanta paintings reached their artistic pinnacle during the Gupta reign. Their era also marked a transition from Ashwaghosha’s poetry characterized by extreme and pathetic renunciation to that of Kalidasa’s life-affirming poetry.
- Kalidasa made creative and positive corrections to Ashwaghosha.
- Samudragupta did the same to Ashoka. One must indeed perceive these as creative modifications and corrections.
- When we compare the triads of Ashoka-Kanishka-Ashwaghosha and Samudragupta-Chandragupta II-Kalidasa, we will clearly understand where each stands in relation to the other. Ashwaghosha never became a model for any great Indian poet who came after him. Likewise, Ashoka never became a model for any great Indian monarch who followed him. However, Kalidasa became both the Guru and the Kavikulaguru of every Indian poet. Samudragupta and Chandragupta Vikramaditya became the inspiration for every Indian Samrat, or Emperor. Their Varaha flag was adopted by and became the proud Flag of Victory of the Badami Chalukyas, Kalyani Chalukyas, Vengi Chalukyas, and above all, the Vijayanagara Empire. It became the compass of all manner of progress and prosperity
In the early days of the West’s acquaintance with India, they branded Samudragupta as India’s Napoleon. Napoleon Bonaparte lived in the eighteenth century CE. Samudragupta was a great warrior-emperor who predated him by least thousand two hundred years. When a similar comparison is drawn between Kalidasa as India’s Shakespeare, the intent is merely to show that Kalidasa was as popular and as renowned in India. But then such comparisons also reflect a colonialist’s arrogance. They imposed this mindset via their education system, which made a complete generation ignorant of their rich past.
Source: Bharathiya Kshatra Parampare by shatavadhani Dr. R. Ganesh.
Dr Sindhu Prashanth