Short essay on the Origin of the Guptas


We have altogether five principal theories regarding the original homeland of the imperial Guptas. These are Bengal, Magadha, Sarnatha, Panjab and Prayaga. Out of these the first three regions are based on the identification of I-tsing’s Mi-li-kia- si-kia-po-no where China Temple was located. D.C. Ganguly calculated the distance and located it somewhere in Murshidabad district of West Bengal.

However, according to R.C. Majumdar this only proves that Shrigupta ruled over parts of Bengal and not that it was the early home of the Guptas. Jagannatha Agrawal and B.P. Sinha, basing their arguments on the translation given by Beal, identified the place with Sarnatha in eastern UP. The third view regarding the Magadha region was propagated by V.A. Smith and A.S. Altekar.

However, even this was not based on sound logical grounds. It seems that the fact that Magadha was the nucleus of the first major agrarian empire of ancient India must have prompted these historians to somehow associate the Guptas too with that region.


The fourth view is represented by that K.P. Jayaswal. He suggested that the Guptas w Karaskara Jats (or modern Kakkar Jats), original from the Punjab. His view did not find any suppo the fifth view is held by S.R. Goyal, who written the most detailed and incisive account the Gupta political history in recent years.

He argued that the initiative to form an empire con only rest, not with Magadha, but the eastern p of the Upper Ganga basin. His argument is b on the hypothesis that the early inscriptions a coins of a dynasty are usually found mostly in t region in which it originates such as early Bactri Greeks, Kushanas, and Vakatakas etc. In the case the Guptas:

(a) The Chandragupta-Kumaradevi typ coins, the earliest of the Gupta gold coin-seri have been mostly discovered in the eastern UP at findspots being Mathura, Ayodhya, Luckno Sitapur, Tanda, Ghazipur, and Varanasi in UP a Bayana in Bharatpur region. No coin of this seri has been found in Magadha.

(b) As many as fourteen hoards of the Gup gold coins have been discovered in the eastern U while two each in Bihar and Bengal, three in M and one each in Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujara Bharsar (Varanasi), Tanda (Faizabad), Kotw (Gorakhpur), Allahabad, Basti, Kasarva (Ballia) Tekri Debra (Mirzapur), Madankola (Jaunpur Gopalpur (Gorakhpur), Jhusi (Allahabad), Jaunpu Rapti, Devattha (Ballia), and Kusumbhi (Unna hoards are located in eastern UP, Hazipur an Banka hoards in Bihar, Kalighat and Hugli hoard in Bengal, Mithathal hoard in Punjab, Bayana hoar in Rajasthan, Pattan (Baitul), Sakori (Damoh) an Bamnala (Nimar) hoards in MP and Kumarkha hoard is located in Gujarat.


(c) The nine hoards of eastern UP region hav yielded coins belonging mostly to the early Gupt rulers i.e. Chandragupta I, Kacha a Samudragupta, whereas the coins yielded by th hoards of Bengal and Bihar belong to Chandragup II and Kumaragupta I.

(d) Out of fifteen inscriptions belonging to the first 150 years of the Gupta rule from Bengal, Magadha and the eastern UP eight belong to the eastern U.P., two to Magadha (both are supposed to be spurious) and five to Bengal which belong to the comparatively later period.

(e) The contents of the inscriptions show that those found in Bengal are land grants whereas those found in eastern U.P. are eitherpratishthashasana (Bhitari) or digvijaya shasana (API).

(f) The provenance of the Allahabad pillar inscription (API) is a strong pointer to the fact that the centre of power of the early Guptas was the Prayaga region. It is because the provenance of an inscription of this pure prashasti type is always indicative of the ruler’s predilection for the place.


R.C. Majumdar, commenting on Goyal’s arguments comments, “the fallacy of his argument is established by the fact that all the known inscription of Ashoka have been found far away from Bihar, which must have been the homeland of the Mauryas.

However, Goyal collected additional data in support of his contention. The reference in the Vishnu Purana clearly shows that Magadha was included in the joint-state of the Guptas and the Lichchhavis, the later being known as the Maagadha. Hence, the region west of Magadha extending upto Prayaga in the eastern UP was ruled by the early Gupta Kings.

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