Samudragupta (reigned 335-380) is the second ruler of the Gupta Dynasty, who ushered in the Golden Age in India. He was a benevolent ruler, a great warrior and a patron of arts. Samudragupta, son of Chandragupta I, was perhaps the greatest king of Gupta dynasty. He took the Gupta dynasty from its insignificant position to its dizzy heights. For his marvellous achievements he has been described as the Napoleon of India. Dr. V.A. Smith remarks “Samudragupta, the second Gupta monarch was one of the most remarkable and accomplished king of India history”.
Chandragupta I selected Samudragupta as his successor in the presence of all his courtiers in the royal court. Therefore, Chandragupta-I blessed him, saying, “Protect you this Earth”. If Chandragupta-I and Kumardevi were the joint rulers, Samudragupta succeeded both of them. He was, in fact, proud of being the son of the daughter of the Lichchhav.
He ascended the throne about 335 A.D. The selection of Samudragupta as king was accepted with joyous satisfaction by the counsellors. But those who were of equal birth and were rivals to the throne became ‘pale-faced’ with disappointment. So scholars conclude that there were other sons of Chandragupta-I who aspired to the throne and therefore, the accession of Samudragupta was disputed. It is said that the revolt of the other princes was headed by the eldest brother Kacha. But Samudragupta suppressed the revolt, killed Kacha and ascended the throne. But some other scholars say that Kacha able to seize the throne for a brief period during which he struck some coins. And several such coins bearing the name of Kacha have been found. But other scholars do not accept this view. They believe that Samudragupta had another name as Kacha, and the coins bearing that name were of Samudragupta himself The coins of Kacha earn the epithet ‘Sarva- Rajochhetta’ which term can be applicable only to a great warrior and conqueror like Samudragupta. Allan says, “Kacha was the original name of the emperor and he took the name Samudragupta in allusion to his conquests”.
After the death of his father, his son Samudragupta started to rule the kingdom and did not rest until he conquered almost the whole of India. His reigning period may be described as a vast military campaign. To begin with he attacked the neighboring kingdoms of Shichchhatra (Rohilkhand) and Padmavati (in Central India). He conquered the whole of Bengal, some Kingdoms in Nepal and he made Assam pay him tribute. He absorbed some Tribal states like the Malvas, the Yaudheyas, the Arjunayanas, the Abhiras and the Madura’s.
Samudragupta’s territories extended from the Himalayas in the north to the river Narbada in the south and from the Brahamaputra River in the east to the Yamuna River in the west. His greatest achievement can be described as the political unification of most of the India or Aryavarta into a formidable power. He assumed the title of Maharajadhiraja (The King of the Kings).
Samudragupta extended his Kingdom in the west over Khandesh and Palaghat. However he preferred to maintain friendly terms with Vatakata in Central India. He performed Aashvamadha Yajna (Horse Sacrifice) after winning every big battle. This great warrior had a benevolent heart. He showed great nobility towards all those kings who were defeated. He gave various tribal states autonomy under his protection. Knowing the invincible power of Samudragupta the frontier states came forward to submit themselves to him. Apart from the vastness of his kingdom, Samudragupta received homage from a handful of foreign kings. The Kushans princes of the North-West ruled in peach beyond. The Indus basin also, friendly relations were maintained with the King Mahendra of Ceylon who had built a splendid monastery at Bodh Gaya after obtaining the permission of Samudragupta.
Samudragupta was a man of exceptional abilities and unusual varied gifts – warrior, statesman, general, poet and musician, philanthropist, he was all in one. As a patron of arts and letters, he epitomized the spirit of his age. Coins and inscription of Gupta period bear testimony to his “versatile talents and ‘ Indefatigable energy”.
Most certainly, Samudragupta is the father of Gupta monetary system. He started maintaining seven different types of coins. They are known as the Standard Type, the Archer Type, the Battle Axe Type, the Aashvamedha Type, the Tiger Slayer Type, the King and Queen Type and the Lyrist Type. They exhibit a fine quality of technical and sculptural finesse. He died in 380 A.D.