Before the rise of the Gupta dynasty, Northern India was divided into number of small monarchical kingdomes and republics. In this regard Dr. Mookheijee observes.
“The period between the decline of Kushana Empire and the rise of the Gupta was marked by the growth of a number of republican and monarchical states ruling in Rajputana and the adjoining region.”
Monarchical Kingdom :
1. The Nagas:
It is known from the Puranas, the Nagas were very powerful in Vidisa, Kantipuri, Mathura and Padmavati. The Nagas had spread in the different parts of the country, Sisha, Bhogin and Sadachandra, Chandramsa were some of the famous rulers of the Naga dynasty of Vidisa.
Allahabad Inscription of Samudragupta describes that Samudrgupta had defeated the two Naga kings. They were King Ganapati Nag and Nagasena. Some scholars are of the view that king Virsena of Mathura was also a king of Naga dynasty. His coins have been discovered in Mathura, Punjab and District Bulandsliar etc.
2. Ahichattra Kingdom:
Bhadraghosa, Suryamitra, Phalguni Mitra, Agnimitra, Brihatsvatimitra, etc. were the kings Ahichattra kingdom and the coins of the first three centuries of A.D. refer to these kings. Some of the coins refer the name of Achyutta who was defeated by Samudragupta.
3. Vakataka Kingdom:
It is said that Vindhyasakti was the founder of Vakatak dyansty. But some scholars are of the view that it was Pravarsena who founded the Vakataka dyansty.
He was a powerful king and performed four horse-sacrifices and adopted the title of ‘Samrat’. He was succeeded by his Son Rudrasena. Samudragupta defeated Rudrasena and incorporated his kingdom into his empire.
4. Ayodhya Kingdom:
Certain coins let us know about Dhandeva and Vishakliadev, the ruler of Ayodhya. Dhandeva was probably the descendant of Pushyamitra, Satyamitra, Ayumitra and Sanghmitra were the other rulers of Ayodhya.
5. The Maukhari Kingdom:
Sunderverman was the king Maukhari dynasty and ruled in Oudh.
6. Kaushambi Kingdom:
Certain coins refer to Sudeva, Brihatsvatimitra, Asvaghosa, Agnimitra, Devamitra, Jyeshthmitra and Prajapatimitra as the ruler of Kausambi.
7. The Guptas:
The Guptas were a local before they conquer the whole of Northern India, Srigupta is regarded the founder of the Gupta dynasty. Srigupta was succeeded by Ghatotkacha. After Ghatotkacha, Chandragupta -1 succeeded him as the king.
(1) The Arjunayans:
The Arjunayanas ruled in the modern Bharatpur and Alwar States in Rajasthan. They had become prominent during the reign of the Indo-Greek kings but after them the Sakas subdued them.
There after, they again rose after the decline of the Kusahanas but were ultimately defeated by the Guptas.
(2) The Yardley’s:
The Yaudheyas had established their rule in the East Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and parts of Rajasthan. The Sakas and the Kushanas and subdued them but after their fall they again came into prominence. They were ultimately subdued by the Guptas.
(3) The Malavas:
The Malavas ruled in Punjab at the time of Alexander’s invasion but later on they settled in Rajasthan and made Malavnagar near Jaipur their capital. However they were also subdued by the Guptas.
(4) The Lichchavis:
This was a very old republic. It existed in the time of Lord Buddha and was a very strong republic before the rise of the Guptas. It is said that Chandragupta-I had married a Lichchavi Princess.
(5) The Sibis:
The Sibis were a strong power during Alexander’s invasion. Later on they settled in Rajasthan and made Madhymika, near Chitor, their capital.
(6) The Republic of Kunindas ‘: This rupublic was between the Yamuna and the Sutlej and upper courses of the Bias and probably Chatra was their capital.
(7) The Kulutas:
The lived in die valley of Kabul and were successful in overthrowing the Kunindas.
(8) The Audumbaras:
The Audumbaras in the eastern part of Kangra, Gurudaspura and Hoshiarpura. Dharaghosa, Sivadas and Kudradasa were some of their famous rulers.
The rulers in Magadha before Guptas:
Scholars are of different views as to who were the rulers FN Magadha before the, guptas. Dr. Dandekar is of the view that Magadha formed the part of the Satavahana Empire. Dr. Mookherjee opines that the Lichchhavis were ruling over Magadha. Dr.RD.Baneiji is of the opinion that the Kushanas ruled over Magadha before the rise of the Guptas. Many scholars support this view. Dr Jayaswal expresses the view that there was the rule of the Kota-Kula in Pataliputra before the rise of the Gupta.
Some other scholars say that the Murundas ruled over the Magadha in second and third centuries A.D. Some others say that the Maukhary dynasty was ruling over Magadha in the third century A.D.
Thus it cannot be definitely said as to who were the rulers of Magadha before the rise of Guptas.
Rise of the Guptas:
There opened a new chapter in the history of India with the rise of the Guptas to power in the beginning of the fourth century A.D. Scholars give different views regarding the origin of the Guptas.
There is a great controversy among the scholars regarding the caste of the Guptas. According to Dr. Ray Chaudhury and some other scholars, Guptas were Brahmins. Dr Ray Chaudhury points out that Chandragupta-II married his daughter Pravabati Gupta with the Vakataka king Rudra Sen of Brahaman dynasty.
Secondly, the gotra of Prabhavati was ‘Dharan’ which is a Brahman goitra. However, this view is not acceptable to many scholars.
Some scholars say that the Guptas were Kshatriyas. These scholars point out that ‘Kaumudi Mahatsava’ indicates that the Kshatriya king sundervarman had adopted Chandra Sena. This Chandra Sena who was Chandragupta-I must have been a Kshatriya. Secondly, the marriage of Lichchhavi Princess Kumar Devi of Kshatriya dynasty, with Chandragupta- I also goes to show that he was a Kshatriya.
Thirdly, the Guttal king of Dharvad. (Bombay Province) referred to Vikramaditya (Vikramaditya Chandragupta-II) as Somvamsi Kshatriya. Fourthly, Sirapur prasasti describes Mahasiva Gupta as Chandravamsi Kshatriyas which indicates the early Gupta kings must have been Kshatriya. Lastly, ‘Arya Manushri- Mula-kalpa’ describes Guptas as Kshatriyas. This view is also not accepted by others.
Another group of scholars is of the view that Guptas were Vaishyas. They point out that the fact that Guptas have no mentioned their caste in the inscriptions indicates that they were of low cast. Secondly, the Goitra of Prabhavati was ‘Dharini’ which indicates that Guptas were Sudras. ‘Kaumudi Mahotsava’ refers Chandrasena as ‘Kraskar’ which means of low caste, lastly his mention of “Ajyata Jato Hunan’s in ‘Kaumudi Mahotsava’ shows that Skandagupta was a jat. This view of Dr. Jayaswal has also been criticised.
However, most of the scholars point that the Guptas were Kshatriyas.
Originals home of the Guptas:
Scholars are not unanimous about the original home of the guptas According Dr. Jayaswal, in the early period the Gupta kings ruled in Kaushambi province. But this view has not been generally accepted. Dr. R.C. Majumdar and Dr. D.C. Ganguly Point out that Bangal was the original home of the Guptas.
According to Dr. D.C. Ganguly “the early home of the imperial Guptas is to be located in Murshidabad. Bengal and not in Magadha”.
A majority of the scholars are of the view that the original home of the Guptas was either eastern Uttar Pradesh or western Magadha. Allen, Ayanger, Mookherjee and many others hold the view that Pataliputra was under the rule of the Guptas. The Puranas also mention that the provinces of Uttar Pradesh and Magadha were under the rule of the early Gupta kings.
Founder of Gupta Dynasty:
From the inscriptions it is known that Sri Gupta was the founder of Gupta dynasty. He ruled from 240-280 A.D. Sri Gupta has been described as the Adiraja of the Gupta Dynasty in the Poona copperplate inscription of Pravabati Gupta.
The Chinese traveller using who visited India during the seventh century A.D (671-695) A.D. has mentioned that Maharaja Srigupta had built a Buddhist temple for the Chniesc piligrims at Mrigakshivana and had granted twenty four villages for its maintenance.
Srigupta died in 280 A.D. and was succeeded by Maharaja Ghatotkacha. Nothing much is known about the reign of this ruler who died after a long rule in the year 319 A.D. The son and successor of Ghototkacha was Chandragupta-I