After establishing that, towards the close of the third and the beginning of the fourth century AD, eastern UP in general and Prayaga region in particular became important enough to produce an empire- builder dynasty, Goyal looked into the factors leading to the rise of the Central Ganga Valley. He has approached the problem from two points of view: the geo-political and the socio-economic.
The main thrust of his argument is based on the fact that the rise of the Gupta Empire coincided with an overwhelming revival of Brahmanism. And both these were connected to each other in terms of their area, association, religious proclivities and varnal caste.
The influx of foreign tribes in India after 500 BC resulted in the changed texture of the population in the north-western part of India. In the third century AD this part came under the Sassanian hegemony. Western India was still under Western Kshatrapas. Vakatakas in the Deccan had established a big state influencing western and northern India as well.
However, they could not establish their authority in north India which itself was divided under small indigenous powers particularly after the disintegration of the Kushana Empire. Magadha was occupied by the Murundas who were replaced by the Lichchhavis by the end of the third century AD the Mathura-Padmavati region was under the Nagas and Kaushambi was being ruled by the Maghas.
The eastern Punjab and Rajaputana were ruled by the Malavas, the Yaudheyas, the Arjunayanas, the Sanakanikas and the Madrakas etc. The administrative and the political structure of all these republican states were “unsuited for imperialistic career”.
At this same time, Goyal argues, that Brahmanical revival was a unifying force and as such was extremely nationalist in character. From the post-Kushana period, under the impact of the reviving Brahmanism, the forces of disintegration weakened and the idea of a universal empire i.e. chakravatikshetra became popular.
This was endorsed by the Puranas which declared that the chakravartins were the essence of Vishnu. This idea became quite popular and we see many ruling families such as the Bharashivas, the Nagas, the Vakatakas and the Guptas performing Vedic sacrifices.
Generally speaking, one would expect to find that the dynasty which became the spearhead of this movement was produced by the region which was its greatest stronghold. From the Mauryan to the pre-Gupta period, north, and northwest region on the one hand, and Magadha on the other, had been under the influence of Buddhism, Jainism and Ajivikism. The greatest stronghold of Brahmanism in the post-Kushana period was the upper Ganga basin.
The economic condition of the upper Ganga basin shows that it enjoyed great prosperity in the early Gupta period. The discovery of fourteen hoards of the Gupta gold coins implies industrial progress and favourable balance of trade in the Gupta and pre-Gupta times. This is also shown by countless mounds and ruined sites in this region which flourished during the Gupta period.
The social milieu of the pre-Gupta age also witnessed a change in favour of the brahmanas. Thus, the Manusmriti, completed towards the beginning of the Gupta age, declared “a brahmana who knows the Veda deserves to be made a king, a commander- in-chief, the wielder of power of punishment.” Accordingly, the Shungas, the Kanva.s, the Satavahanas, the Kadambas and the Vakatakas were all brahmanas.
The brahmanas dominated at various other levels of state structure as well. Interestingly, the right to bear arms i.e. danda was regarded as the exclusive privilege of the kshatriyas but, in the nost-Mauryan period, Manu extended it to the brahmanas and the vaishyas, especially to the former.
Kamandaka and Katyayana insisted that ministers and leaders of the army should be recruited from amongst the brahmanas. Similarly, brahmanas, now a militarised group, received primacy in theparisad, judicial administration etc.