Gupta Empire – Golden Era of Indian History
Six hundred years after the Great Maurya Empire, another most prominent civilization of Ancient India flourished in Patliputra, Magadha. This great civilization was known as the Great Gupta Empire.
The seeds of this great empire were sown by Maharaja Srigupta in the late second century AD. Although it is believed that area he ruled was quite insignificant and his influence was limited to present day North Bengal (Areas around Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri), but he managed to get a strong-hold of the region.
Maharaja Srigupta was succeeded by his son Ghatotkacha. Ghatotkacha (280 AD – 319 AD) ruled for thirty nine years and his achievement was that he relentlessly made efforts to expand the empire in the Gangetic Plains of Northern India. He was the father of Chandragupta I, who assumed the title of Maharajadhiraj (kings of the kings).
By the time of Chandragupta I (319 AD – 335 AD), Kushan Empire had completely collapsed in most of the parts of Northern India. Chandragupta I consolidated upon this fact and assumed a stronghold on the regions of Prayag, Awadha and Magadha with his capital at Patliputra. Chandragupta married Kumaradevi, the princess of Lachchhavi Kingdom. Chandragupta I was succeeded by Samudragupta the Great in 335 AD.
Samudragupta is considered to be one of the greatest Gupta Emperors. He was an excellent statesman. Samudragupta was a Hindu but he had tolerance for other religions too. The construction of Buddhist Monastery at Bodh Gaya is attributed to him. During his reign a number of mathematicians, writers and thinkers flourished in India.
Samudragupta was succeeded by Chandragupta II (Vikramaditya), although for a brief period his elder brother Ramagupta also assumed power but Ramagupta was killed by Chandragupta Vikramaditya to assume power and the throne of Magadha. Chandragupta II did well to expand the Gupta Empire till Afghanistan in the west and Bengal in the East. He was also able to win kingdom of Gujarat and parts of Rajasthan in the Gupta Empire. Panchatantra and Kama Sutra were written in this era. Kalidasa was one of the most famous poet of this time.
Chandragupta Vikramaditya was a powerful king. He was able to free India from the attacks of Sakas, Mlecchas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Tusharas, Parasikas, Hunas etc.
The Later Rulers and Decline of Gupta Dynasty
Chandragupta was succeeded by his son Kumaragupta I (413 AD – 455 AD). After the death of Great Chandragupta Vikramaditya the kingdom became unstable. The Huna attacks from the North-West were making the kingdom weak day by day. In 455 AD, as soon as Kumaragupta I died the tribal in Narmada region declared a war against the Gupta Empire. His successor, Skandagupta, initially did well to suppress the attacks in Narmada Region and North-Western Region (by the Huna Tribes) but after his untimely death in 467 AD, the Great Gupta Empire started breaking down.
The Hunas were able to break the defenses of the Gupta Empire in North-Western Region (present day Afghanistan) and were able to invade several provinces including Malwa, Gujarat and Thanesar. Hunas were finally driven out of the country by Narasimhagupta by 500 AD. The last known ruler of Gupta Dynasty was Vishnugupta who ruled till around 550 AD.
As the Gupta Empire disintegrated, a young boy, son of Prabhakara Vardhana and younger brother of king of Thanesar, emerged as the new emperor of India. He was Harshavardhana who ruled over india for 41 years, till 647 AD.