Around 335 AD, after the death of Maharajadhiraja Chandragupta I, Gupta Empire was succeeded by its second ruler, Samudragupta, The Great.
Samudragupta is considered to be one of the Greatest rulers of the Indian History (the other two being Ashoka, the Great and Akbar, the Great). Samudragupta was a great warrior, a sound statesman, an artist and proficient diplomat.
Historical description of Samudragupta’s reign comes from an account of Harisena (a poet in Samudragupta’s court), that is inscribed on the Ashoka Pillar in Allahabad. The text is inscribed in Pali, an Ancient Indian Language and the inscription quite vividly describes about the versatile personality of Samudragupta. According to the inscription, as soon as Samudragupta came into power he waged various wars in order to expand his empire. He is considered to be the ‘Napoleon of India’.
Expansion of Gupta Empire under Samudragupta
After coming to power Samudragupta waged wars against nine princely states of Northern India. He also captured rulers of Southern Indian kingdom, whom he later reinstated on their respective thrones as tributary kings. These kings paid services to Samudragupta. During his reign the kingdom expanded from Pakistan to the west to Bengal in the east. It also covered Orissa and parts of present day Andra Pradesh towards the South (might have gone as far as Kanchipuram in the South).
Samudragupta as a Poet, Musician and a follower of Hinduism
From the depiction of Harisena’s inscription it is clear that Samudragupta was a great patron of art. He is described as a learned king who was always keen to learn more. He was titled ‘Kaviraj’ (Royal Poet). Many of his coins portray him playing Veena (an Indian musical instrument). Samudragupta was illustrated as a perfect masculine figure with a perfect built.
Samudragupta was a righteous king. He was severe to the wrong-doers. He promoted Hinduism as was also called as ‘Dharam-Pracharak’. He was a tolerant towards other religions. An example of this can be sited from the fact that he allowed king of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) to build monastery at Bodh Gaya.
Personal Life of Samudragupta
Samudragupta (or Samudragupta Vikramaditya) was married to Dattadevi. Around 375 AD, Samudragupta fell ill and the fight for the throne started amongst the successors. Out of the two most capable successors Samudragupta favored the elder brother Ramagupta, but the mother Dattadevi, who knew about lustfulness of her elder son, wanted the righteous younger son Chandragupta II to succeed to the throne.
At first, Chandragupta Vikramaditya respected the elder brother’s wish and refrained from the throne but when Ramagupta forcefully married Chandragupta’s fiancé, Dhruvuswamini, the internal balance of the family collapsed. Finally, in around 380 BC Chandragupta II killed both Ramagupta and the Saka king Rudrasimha III to become the next Great Gupta Ruler.