Kumaragupta I - Successor Of Chandragupta II

Kumaragupta I was the son of Chandragupta II and grandson of the Great Samudragupta of Gupta dynasty. Kumaragupta I ruled Gupta empire between 415 - 455 A.D (233 to 191 BCE as per new translations). He was born to Chief queen of Chandragupta II, Dhruva Devi also known as Dhruvasvamini. He was also known as Shakraditya and Mahendraditya. He ruled fairly for a long 40 years. Kumaragupta I was the Gupta ruler who built the world famous ancient Nalanda University, which flourished during his rule and students from all the parts of the world ( Tibet, China, Korea and central Asia ) came to study here. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

His father Chandragupta II was a great conqueror and he left his son a vast empire in which he added western India as well for his son to rule. At the time when Kumaragupta I took the throne, his empire stretched from Bengal to Kathiawar and from Himalayas to river Narmada. Much alike his predecessors, Kumaragupta I was an able ruler and he was successful in keeping such vast empire intact, protecting his kingdom from attacks throughout his life.

According to contemporary literary evidences and the Vaishali seal and Mandasor inscription, the succession of Kumaragupta I to the throne was a much complicated event and was not smooth. In Vaishali seal, it is inscribed that Govindagupta the eldest son of Chandragupta II, ascended the throne after the death of Chandragupta II. Dr. Bhandarkar also support this theory. He adds that Kumaragupta I ascended the throne after the sudden death of Govindagupta. This was not acceptable by many as it lack solid evidences. The modern scholars cast-off the theory on the grounds that the name of Govindagupta is not found in the Gupta genealogical list. The inscription of Vaishali seal did not mention the identity of Govindagupta and his relation with Kumaragupta I. According to some historians, Govindagupta might have been the governor of Vaishali province. But the most widely accepted theory was, that Kumaragupta I was the immediate successor of Chandragupta I.

There are many epigraphic records which are the extant sources, through which much of the information regarding the reign of Kumaragupta I can be known. There are about 13 epigraphic records assigned to the period of Kumaragupta I. A stash of coins belonging to Kumaragupta I has been discovered in the Satara district of Maharashtra. It was evident from these coins that Kumaragupta I invaded some portions of south India. According to some historians, Kumaragupta I conquered Deccan region. This conquest was spurious, since no conclusive epigraphic evidences support it.

The inscriptions and records contemporary to Kumaragupta I clearly state that Kumaragupta I had established a strong foundation of the provincial administration. The empire was divided in to several provinces during Kumaragupta I for ease of administration. Kumaragupta I maintained a strong provincial administration by appointing efficient and competent governors to those provinces. These governors are responsible only to the king and the kinghimself kept a watchful eye on the proper maintenance of administration. From the records found in Dinajpur and Rajshahi regions of Bengal indicates that Bengal was a province during his rule. The regions of Malwa and Mandasor were also some of the important provinces during his rule.

Kumaragupta I ruled very ably and peacefully for 40 years but towards the end of his rule, Gupta empire was attacked by pushyamitra's and the white Huns. During Kumaragupta I's rule, the Vakataka empire which was a friend to Gupta empire during the rule of Chandragupta II became rival. The rivalry of Kumaragupta I with Vakataka was the main reason of invasion by Pushyamitra's. The Pushyamitras became the allies of Narendersena of Vakataka with whom the Guptas were extremely hostile. The Bamnal horde of the Gupta coins discovered towards south of Narmada with the image of gold bars, testify political unrest in the kingdom due to Pushyamitra invasion. But Kumaragupta I very successfully defeated both the Pushyamitra's and the white Huns and performed the Ashvamedha yagna ( Horse sacrifice to please gods ) to celebrate his victory. He was able to protect every inch of land handed over to him by his father to rule. Although he was not interested in expansion but he consolidated the existing Gupta empire and ruled ably. Several coins were found which belonged to Kumaragupta I both gold and silver. He also issued gold coins to commemorate Ashvamedha yagna.

With the end of Kumaragupta I, the downfall of great Gupta empire started. There was a conflict on who was the immediate successor of Kumaragupta I. Some believe that Purugupta might be the successor of Kumaragupta I while that theory has no proofs at all. Some historians believe that Skandagupta and Purugupta are the same person.

But most of the inscriptions prove that Skandagupta was the successor of Kumaragupta I.

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