Samudragupta - The Napoleon Of India

Samudragupta - The Napoleon Of India
Samudragupta was a great conqueror unlike Ashoka Maurya who denounced wars at a point of time in his life. Samudragupta was regarded as Napoleon of India by historians for his conquests throughout India. In the entire Indian history very few rulers match the stature of Samudragupta who is praised and remembered for his numerous achievements. He was the son of Chandragupta I of gupta dynasty and he was the greatest of all the kings of Gupta dynasty.

Early life :

Samudragupta was the son of Chandragupta I and the Lichchhavi princess, Kumaradevi and the name of his wife is Dattadevi. His succession to the throne was a very strange thing as he was the younger son of Chandragupta I. He has a elder brother named Kacha. It is believed that Samudragupta was chosen by Chandragupta I as his successor as he saw the leadership qualities and bravery in Samudragupta. This decision of king was publicly announced in an open assemblyof the king's counselors who accepted the selection with joyous satisfaction. Kacha became pale faced with disappointment.

Samudragupta was the son of Chandragupta I and the Lichchhavi princess
After studying the inscription of Allahabad pillar, some scholars concluded that there were other sons of Chandragupta I who aspired to the throne, and therefore, the accession of Samudragupta was disputed. Perhaps Samudragupta, the new king, had to fight with a rival brother named Kacha. Kacha was defeated very badly by Samudragupta.

Samudragupta succeeded his father around 335 A.D (320 -269 BCE as per new translations) and ruled up to 375 A.D.  He took pride in the fact that he was the son of Lichchhavi Princesss Kumaradevi, and claimed himself as the Lichchhavi-Dauhitra ( the son of daughter of the Lichchhavi's ).

Reign :

After succeeding his father, Samudragupta did not rest until he conquered almost the whole of India. His reigning period may be described as a vast military campaign. To start off with, he attacked and defeated his immediate neighbours - Achyutha Naga of Ahichchatra, Naga Sena of Padmavati and Ganapathi Naga of Mathura, marking his victory over the three major northern powers.

Then he moved towards South of India to expand his empire. He defeated the kings of south and he restored southern kings as tributary kings after defeating them, thereby becoming a real statesman. This is called " Dharma policy ". Because of difficulty of maintaining such a vast empire and communication problem which arise with long distances he opted for passive ruling of south through defeated kings instead of active ruling.

Since the southern kings were given their authority and supremacy to rule their kingdoms, he shifted complete focus on expanding his empire in the north, following which his second northern campaign began.

Samudragupta was the son of Chandragupta I and the Lichchhavi princess
The war, which started for the control of northern basin, stretching from present Allahabad to the borders of Bengal, ended with the entire Ganges valley, Assam, Nepal and parts of East Bengal, Punjab and Rajasthan falling in to his hands. He was victorious in all his campaigns and he succeeded in conquering the major portion of Aryavata ( land between the Himalayas and the Vindhyas and between the western and eastern seas )

Now his eyes fell on the tribal kingdoms as well, existing largely in Central India, he conquered all the 18 forest kingdoms which were ruled by tribes, reinstating the chiefs as Serfs or Puricharikas.

The Kushana rulers in the Kabul valley and Saka rulers in the far north-west, which were the neighbouring kingdoms of Samudragupta, were frightened by his victorious conquests and agreed to pay him taxes in-person.

His conquests were proved by the writings of his court poet named Harisena. He describes in his writings that Samudragupta exterminated nine north Indian states, subdued eighteen Atavika kingdoms ( Forest kingdoms ), and in his blitz like campaign humbled the pride of twelve south Indian rulers, nine border tribes and five frontier states of Smatata, Devaka, Karupa, Nepal and Krtripur.

Samudragupta was a great warrior. He was depicted on his coins as a muscular warrior flaunting the marks of hundreds of wounds on his body received in battles. The conquests made him the lord-Paramount of India. Samudragupta is reputed to have never been defeated in any battle. He was victorious throughout his life.

Religion and Arts :

Samudragupta was a strong follower of Hinduism and he was a Brahmin. He gave permission to build a buddhist monastery at Bodh Gaya by the Buddhist king of Ceylon, Meghavarna. This indicates that he also had respect towards other religions. As a symbol of the supremacy and imperial power, Samudragupta performed an Asvamedha Yagna ( Horse Sacrifice to please Gods ) and assumed the title of Maharajadhiraja. To commemorate the occasion he issued special gold coins which contained the figure of the sacrificial horse on one side and the inscription of Asvamedha Prakarama on the other. This signifies that he performed the yagna to revampthe position of Brahmanas and their supremacy over the society.

Now coming to arts, he had a great interest in music and was believed to be excellent at playing Lyre or Veena. He appointed numerous poets and scholars in his court. Harisena, a great poet belonged to his court.
Samudragupta coins

Achievements :

Samudragupta started the monetary system. He introduced seven types of coins - the standard type, the archer type, the battle axe type, the ashwamedha type, the tiger slayer type, the king and queen type and the lyre player type. He patronized research and inventions in religious, arts, astronomy, science and literary aspects of Hindu culture. He played a key role in further extending the Gupta empire. He maintained a powerful Navy.

Death :

Samudragupta was succeeded by his son Chandragupta II, who was also called as Vikramaditya, under whom the empire continued to prosper and flourish.

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