Complete biography of Samudragupta – the greatest ruler of India


Complete biography of Samudragupta – the greatest ruler of India. Samudragupta was the greatest of the Gupta rulers, the founder of the Guptas empire, the “Indian Napoleon” by virtue of his military exploits, a diplomat and statesman of the first order, an able and efficient administrator, “the prince of poets”, (Kaviraj) the protector and defender of the poor and the weak.

Samudragupta was the greatest of the Gupta rulers, the founder of the Guptas empire, the “Indian Napoleon” by virtue of his military exploits, a diplomat and statesman of the first order, an able and efficient administrator, “the prince of poets”, (Kaviraj) the protector and defender of the poor and the weak.

The slaughter of the haughty and the arrogant, and a very wise and benevolent monarch. Beside the gold coins, the Allahabad Pillar inscription throws flood of light on the life, ideals and deeds of Samudragupta.


Chandragupta-I was succeeded by his son Samudragupta who became the ruler after subduing his rival Kacha, an obscure prince of the dynasty. He ruled from 335 A.D. to 375 A.D. He was one of the greatest ruler of ancient India.

He ranks with Ashoka, though in fundamentals both differed radically from each other. “While Ashoka” says R.K. Mukerjee,” stands for peace and non-violence, Samudragupta for the opposite principle of war and aggression. The one had contempt for conquests, the other had a passion for them”.

Samudragupta was one of the greatest warriors of history. His ambition was inspired by becoming “Raja Chakravarti” or a greatest emperor and “Ekrat”, undisputed ruler. In the North, he adopted the policy of “Digvijaya” which meant the conquest and annexation of all territories. In the South, his policy was “Dharma Vijaya” which meant conquest but not annexation.

(I) Northern Indian Campaigns

From the “Allahabad Pillar Inscription” we find that the first few years of Samudragupta were spent in waging wars against neighboring countries of Northern and Central India. The Naga Kings were the most powerful kings. The kings like Achyuta of Ahichchhata, Nagasena of Mathura and Ganapati Naga of Padmavati and a prince of the Kota family were defeated by him.


Ahichchhatra was the modem Ramanagara and Bareilly district of Uttar-Pradesh. Nagasena and Ganapati Naga were the Naga princes who ruled over Mathura and Padmavati Gwalior state. A battle was fought at Kausambhi near Allahabad in which all three Naga Kings were killed and the territories of these rulers were annexed to Gupta dominions.

If the “Allahabad Inscription” is to be followed strictly, Samudragupta after defeating these three kings in first “Aryavarta” of Northern. India, he led an expedition in South where he have violently over thrown the nine-kings of Aryavarta or Northern India such as-Achyuta, Balvarman, Chandravarman, Ganapatinaga, Matila, Nandin, Nagadata, Nagasena, Rudradeva and many other neighbouring kings.

All these petty rulers ruled over the territories which were parts of the Upper Gangetic Valley, Central India and Eastern India. Having defeated them, Samudragupta annexed their territories with the Gupta Empire.

Another great war which Samudragupta waged in the North was against the Kota kings probably reigning in Northern Rajputana. The Kotas, like the Nagas were also defeated and their territory incorporated in the Gupta Empire.


Samudragupta is also said to have waged wars against the Indian and foreign tribes inhabiting the North-Western India and the Punjab.

The important kingdoms which he subjugated were the Malavas, Abhiras, Aijunayanas, Kakas, Kharaparikas, Mudrakas, Prarjunas, Sanakanikas etc. (in west) and Davaka, Samatata and Kartripura kingdoms accepted the suzerainty of the Samudragupta.

(II) South Campaign

After establishing his authority in the North firmly, Samudragupta paid his attention towards the South. In the Southern campaigns of conquest, he followed the principles of “grahana” or capture of the enemy, “moksha” or liberation and “amigraha” or favoring him by reinstatement in his kingdom.


It is clear that in South India Samudra gupta was satisfied with establishing his authority without annexing any land. It is possible that he thought it unwise to keep such far of lands under his direct control. For the conquest of South, he had to launch a travel of about 300 miles. Samudragupta marched to South India through Sambalpur.

In the South India, he defeated twelve kings who were King-Mahendra of Kosala (which undoubtedly denotes the districts of Bilaspur, Raipur and Sambalpur); Vyaghraraja of Mahakantara (which probably was in the forest region of Jeypore state in Orissa), Mantaraja of Kaurala (this place is not satisfactorily identified.

It is probably Jonpur district in the Central Province); Mahendragiri of Pishtapuram (Pishtapuram is modern Pithapuram in the Godavari district); Svamidatta of Kottura (probably Kothoor in Ganjan District); Damana of Erandapalla (in Vizagapatam district); Vishnugopa of Kanchi (which is Cojeevaram in Madaras); Hastivarman of Vengi (Ellore in Krishna-Godavari district), Nilaraja of Avamukta (probably a small Pallava Kingdom in the vicinity of Kanchi); Ugrasena of Palakka (in Vellore district); Kuvera of Devarashtra (in Vizagapatam district); and Dhananjaya of Kushthalapura (in North Arcot district).

In this way the South­western coast, he turned towards the South-East and reached his capital via Maharashtra and Khandesh.


(III) Campaigns Against The Forest Kingdoms

The other region where Samudragupta laid his hand was Atavika or forest kingdoms which spread from the Ghazipur district in Uttar-Pradesh to Jabalpur district in the Madhya Pradesh. The Eran Inscription corroborates these conquests.

He forced another eighteen chiefs to his suzerainty whose kingdoms lay in the forests. This subjugation of the forest Kingdom opened up the line of communication between the North and South.

(IV) Vassal States

We are told by the “Allahabad Pillar Inscription” that five kingdoms and nine tribal states became his vassals by paying him tribute obeying his orders and offering him homage.

The five kingdoms were-Samatata or South- Eastern Bengal; Davaka or Now gong district of Assam, Kamarupa or Upper-Assam, Nepal and Kartripura (which may be identifiable with Kumaon, Garwal.

(V) Extent Of His Empire

The empire of Samudragupta was comprised of the whole of Northern India excluding Kashmir, Western Punjab and Western Rajputana. In this way, his empire extending in North, from Himalaya to Narmada river in the South including the ports of Cambay, Bhroach and Sopara in the Western coast and in the East, from the river Brahmaputra to the Arabian sea in west.

The region comprising Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, a portion of Central provinces, the Vamdhya Rajputana, Gujarat, Sindh and Eastern Punjab constituted in his dominion.

Examiner’s Choice

• These urban handicraft were supplemented by the manufacture of beautiful pieces of terracotta, which are found in profuse qualities.

•Terracotta’s were meant mostly for use of upper classes in towns. With the decline of town in Gupta, and especially in post-Gupta time, such terracotta almost went out of fashion.

• The Satavahana inscriptions show that there were in western India at that time guilds which acted as banks.

• One inscription states that an oil-pressers guild (Talikanikaya) received two amounts of money as fixed deposit. For one amount the rate of interest payable was 12% and for the other 9%.

(VI) Relations With The Island States Samudragupta’s relations with foreign powers can be perceived clearly from the “Allahabad Pillar Inscription”. The names of the Kings with whom Samudragupta had relations are mentioned in the inscription were :-

A. “Daivaputra-Sahi-Sahanushahi” i.e., the Kushana Kings of the Western Punjab and Afghanistan, who, probably wanted military assistance from Samudragupta against the Sasanian power.

B. The “Saka-Munandas ” who may be identified with the Saka Chiefs of Western Malava and Kathiawar. According to a different view the reference was to the saka Chiefs of Laghman.

C. The “King of Ceylon” who acknowledged his authority. In the Chinese records we find the relations of Samudragupta with Ceylon.

Meghvarna, the king of Ceylon sent two monks to visit Bodh-Gaya and sought the permission of Samudragupta to build a monastery at Bodh-Gaya and he accorded the permission.

D. The “Sarvadvipavasin” or “all other inhabitants of islands” wanted friendship with Samudragupta. Perhaps, this phrase may refer to the islands close to India, the Maldives and Andamans or it may be a reference to South- East Asia.

It is not possible to say what kind of relation the foreign Kings wanted to have with Gupta. But it can be concluded that the weak Kingdoms submitted to the authority of the Guptas, while the strong ones like the Sakas and the Kushanas wanted only diplomatic relations.

(VI) “Asvamedha Yanjna

After the completion of his conquests, Samudragupta performed the “Asvamedha Yanjna ” or horse sacrifice. We have come across gold coins which seem to have been struck on that occasion and which were distributed among the Brahmanas as gifts. These coins show a figure of the horse to be sacrificed before an altar and the legend.

“The Maharajadhiraja of irresistible valour having conquered the earth now wins heaven.” The reverse of the coins shows the figure of the queen and the legend “Asvamedha Parakramah”, “he whose supremacy has been established by the Asvamedha”.

There is the stone figure of a horse now in the Lucknow museum which seems to refer to the “Asvamedha Yanjna or horse sacrifice. It has an incomplete Prakrit legend “ddaguttassa deyadhamma.”

8. Coins Of Samudragupta

Samudragupta seems to “issued seven different types of gold coins such as -“Standard type”, Lyrist-type, “Asvamedha-type”. Battle Axe- type, Archer types, Kacha-type and Tiger-type. The Lyrist type coins indicated the great love of Samudragupta for music particularly for “Vina”, a musical instrument.

The “Asvamedha-type” coins suggest the religion of Samudragupta. These coins portray Samudragupta performing “Asvamedha-Yanjna” or horse sacrifice. Finally, the Battle Axe Types, Archer type, Kacha-type and Tiger type all indicate the military powers of Samudragupta.

“The unconquered conqueror of unconquered kings”. Excepting the Lyrist and tiger-types all other types of coins bear legends which indicate the conquests and military prowess of Samudragupta. The artistic execution of these coins clearly suggests the height attained in the field of art.

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