After the death of Budhagupta, which took place immediately after the turn of the century, the process of feudalisation of the state structure accelerated and eventually became a serious threat to the very existence of the empire.
According to Goyal, partly due to the influence of the Buddhist ideology which turned the attention of the Gupta emperors away from conquests and directed it to cultivation of religious virtues, and partly due to the internal dissentions which led to the murder of the several emperors in quick succession, the imperial family could not meet the challenges successfully.
Thus Buddhagupta, Chandragupta III, Vikramaditya, Vainyagupfa and Dvadashaditya were all murdered. It was against the background of these bloody internal political strifes of the imperial family that the Hunas invaded the co for the third time. This invasion was very fine and very soon it became apparent that only a of the calibre of Skandagupta could save situation for the empire.
By AD 500 the Hunas, under Ramanila, known from his coins only, had conquered Gandhara. Huna power in Punjab was consolidated Toramana. From Punjab, Toramana invaded Gupta Empire. It seems that Harigupta, a scion the Gupta family, made common cause with Huna invader. Toramana conquered the antan at least upto Kaushambi; and from there the Hu went towards Malwa.
The conquest of the Gupta Empire by the Hunas was facilitated by the feudal structure of administration, which made it easier for the Hi king to enlist the services of the local chiefs ' support of his cause. Thus, Dhanyavishnu, a hig official of the empire deserted the Gupta empero and offered his services to the invader rajadhiraj maharaja Toramana Shahi Jauvla. The Malw region was occupied by Toramana by AD 510.
Bhanugupta was unable to check the advance o Toramana and the latter occupied almost the whol of the valley of the Ganga. He was helped b Prakashaditya in this adventure. Toramana died in AD 511-12.
Toramana was succeeded by Mihirakula or Graha. Baladityaraja II was the Gupta contemporary of Mihirakula. Mihirakula followed an anti-Buddhist policy and he was a staunch Shaiva. On the other hand, the contemporary Gupta emperor Narasimhagupta II or Baladityaraja was a devout Buddhist, a patron of the Nalanda convent. He could not, according to Goyal, fight Mihirakula because of his religious affiliation.
However, the struggle against the Hunas was carried on by some powerful feudatories of the empire. One of them was a Maukhari chief, probably Ishvaravarman. Another chief who came to the rescue of Baladitya j 11 was probably Yashodharman of Malwa.1 Mihirakula was captured by the forces of Yashodharman. In the meantime, the brother of Mihirakula had usurped his throne. Mihirakula, therefore, sought and obtained an asylum in Kashmir.
Later, he treacherously killed the king of that region and occupied the throne. He next killed the king of Gandhara and renewed his project of exterminating Buddhism. Still later, Yashodarman became an independent sovereign and carried his victorious arms even against the Guptas. He, however, rose and vanished like a meteor between AD 530 and 540.
Others quickly emulated his example. The most important among them were the Maukharis and the Later Guptas. The Maukharis, ruling at first as feudal chiefs in Bihar and UP, assumed independence in the middle of the sixth century AD About 544 AD Ishanavarman Maukhari assumed the full royal title of maharajadhiraja. The Later Guptas, ruling as feudatories in Malwa and Magadha, established independent kingdoms.
By AD 550 the Guptas had no hold even on Magadha. Dronasimha, the son of Maitraka Bhatarka, assumed the title of maharaja. Thus we see that the erstwhile Gupta Empire disintegrated into several parts. A kingdom was established also in Samatata by Gopachandra.
Besides these, there were many other reasons which contributed to the decline of the Gupta Empire. The Guptas had a huge army till the time of Skandagupta. Largely because of this mighty military power he was able to tame the tide of the barbarian Huna invasion. However, the consolidation of the samantas in their respective regions created problems for the Gupta administrative system as well as for the Gupta treasury.
Further, the growing practice of land grants, along with the surrender of revenue and administrative rights, resulted in huge loss of revenue to the Gupta treasury and undermined Gupta authority in general. Thus it became difficult to maintain a huge professional army. The later Gupta rulers became largely dependent upon the armies of the feudatory rulers.
Such armies could not protect the empire of the magnitude created by Samudragupta and maintained by Chandragupta II, Kumaragupta 1 and Skandagupta. Another problem which arises naturally with the passage of time is the growth of the royal family. As polygamy becomes a norm among the emperors, the number of claimants to the throne also increases.
The problems get compounded in the absence of any rule regarding the succession to the imperial throne such as primogeniture. This gives rise to internal dissensions and division of the nobility, ultimately contributing to the diminishing authority. The energy and wit needed to run an empire are wasted in court intrigues. This is evident from the problems related to Kachagupta, Ramagupta and many such cases in the later periods.
Some scholars have conjectured that in the wake of the Huna invasions the lucrative foreign trade had diminished considerably affecting the fortunes of the Gupta Empire. The migration of a guild of silk-weavers from Gujarat to Malwa in AD 473 and their adoption of non-productive professions shows that there was not much demand for cloth produced by them. The advantages from Gujarat trade gradually declined.
After the middle of the fifth century AD the Gupta kings made desperate attempts to maintain their gold currency by reducing the content of pure gold in it. But this was of little help. The number of these debased coins also decreased.
All these provide evidence of the declining economic resources of the state. Although the rule of the imperial Guptas lingered till the middle of the sixth century AD, the imperial glory had vanished a century earlier.