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Chandra Gupta II (Vikramaditya)
Gupta Emperor
ChandraguptaIIOnHorse.jpg
Coin of Chandragupta II the Great. British Museum.
Reign 375 - 415 CE
Predecessor Ramagupta
Successor Kumara Gupta I
Consort Dhruvuswamini
Royal House Gupta dynasty
Mother Datta Devi
Religious beliefs Vedic Hindu

Chandragupta II the Great (very often referred to as Vikramaditya or Chandragupta Vikramaditya) was one of the most powerful emperors of the Gupta empire. His rule spanned 375-413/15 CE, during which the Gupta Empire achieved its zenith. The period of prominence of the Gupta dynasty is very often referred to as the Golden Age of India. Chandragupta II the Great was the son of the previous ruler, Samudragupta the Great. He attained success by pursuing both a favorable marital alliance and an aggressive expansionist policy. In this his father and grandfather set the precedent.

Contents

Biography

Not much is known about the personal details of the great king. His mother, Datta Devi, was the chief queen of Samudragupta the Great. After Samudragupta's death, Ramgupta his brother took over the throne and also married Chandragupta's fiance 'Dhruvaswamini by force. The most widely accepted details have been built upon the plot of the play 'Devi-Chandraguptam' of Vishakadatta. The play is now lost but fragments have been preserved in other works (Abhinava-bharati, Sringara-prakasha, Natya-darpana, Nataka-lakshana Ratna-kosha). There even exists an Arabic work Mujmalu-t-Tawarikh which tells a similar tale of a king whose name appears to be a corruption of 'Vikramaditya'.He holds a semi-mythical status in India. The most popular native calendar which happens to be a lunar calendar goes after his name. It is widely believed that the great poet in Sanskrit, Mahakavi Kalidasa was one of the jewels of his royal court.

Silver coin of Chandragupta II the Great, minted in his Western territories, in the style of the Western Satraps.
Obv: Bust of king".[1]
Rev: "Chandragupta Vikramaditya, King of Kings, and a devotee of Vishnu" in Brahmi, around a peacock.
15mm, 2.1 grams. Mitchiner 4821-4823.

The fragment from Natya-darpana mentions the king Ramagupta, the elder brother of Chandragupta, surrendering his queen Dhruvaswamini to the Saka king of the Western Kshatrapas Rudrasimha III, after a defeat at the Saka king's hands. To avoid the ignominy the Guptas decide to send Madhavasena, a courtesan and a beloved of Chandragupta, disguised as the queen. Chandragupta changes the plan and himself goes to the Saka King disguised as the queen. He then kills Rudrasimha and later his brother Ramagupta. Dhruvaswamini is then married to Chandragupta.

We do not know what liberties Vishakadatta took with the incidents, but Dhruvadevi was indeed the king's chief queen as seen in the Vaisali terracotta seal that calls her 'Mahadevi' Dhruvasvamini. The Bilsad pillar inscription of their son Kumara Gupta I also refers to her as Mahadevi Dhruvadevi. A Ramagupta too is mentioned in inscriptions on Jain figures in the District Archaeological Museum, Vidisha and some copper coins found at Vidisha. The fact that the king and Dhruvadevi are the protagonists of Vishakadatta's play indicates that marrying his widowed sister-in-law was not given any significance by the playwright. Later Hindus did not view such a marriage with favour and some censure of the act is found in the Sanjan copperplate inscription of Amoghavarsha I and in the Sangali and Cambay plates of the Rashtrakuta king Govinda IV.

The Allahabad pillar inscription mentions the marriage of Chandragupta II the Great with a Naga princess Kuberanaga. A pillar from Mathura referring to Chandragupta (Candragupta) has recently been dated to 388 CE.[2]

Chandragupta's daughter Prabhavati, by his other queen Kuberanaga, a Naga princess, was married to the powerful Vakataka king Rudrasena II.

The Empire

Gold coins of Chandragupta II the Great. The one on the left is the obverse of a so-called "Chhatra" type of Chandragupta II, while the one on the right is the obverse of a so-called "Archer" type of Chandragupta II.

His greatest victory was his victory over the Shaka-Kshatrapa dynasty and annexation of their kingdom in Gujarat, by defeating their last ruler Rudrasimha III.

His son-in-law Rudrasena II died fortuitously after a very short reign in 390 AD, following which Prabhavatigupta ruled as a regent on behalf of his two sons. During this twenty-year period the Vakataka realm was practically a part of the Gupta empire. The geographical location of the Vakataka kingdom allowed Chandragupta to take the opportunity to defeat the Western Kshatrapas once for all. Many historians refer to this period as the Vakataka-Gupta age.

Chandragupta II the Great controlled a vast empire, from the mouth of the Ganges to the mouth of the Indus River and from what is now North Pakistan down to the mouth of the Narmada. Pataliputra continued to be the capital of his huge empire but Ujjain too became a sort of second capital. The large number of beautiful gold coins issued by the Gupta dynasty are a testament to the imperial grandeur of that age. Chandragupta II also started producing silver coins in the Shaka tradition.

His Reign

Faxian (Wade-Giles Fa-hsien) was the first of three great Chinese pilgrims who visited India from the fifth to the seventh centuries AD, in search of knowledge, manuscripts and relics. He arrived during the reign of Chandragupta II and gave a general description of North India at that time. Among the other things, he reported about the absence of capital punishment, the lack of a poll-tax and land tax. Most citizens did not consume onions, garlic, meat, and wine.[citation needed]

Culturally, the reign of Chandragupta II marked a Golden Age. This is evidenced by later reports of the presence of a circle of poets known as the Nine Gems in his court. The greatest among them was Kalidasa, who authored numerous immortal pieces of literature including The Recognition of Shakuntala. One other was Varahamihira who was a famous astronomer and mathematician.[citation needed]

The next day after the Hindu festival Diwali is called Padwa or Varshapratipada, which marks the coronation of King Vikramaditya. The Hindu Vikram-Samvat calendar was apparently started on this day and this day is celebrated as New Year's Day in some places.

Shak-Samvat is synchronised with the Shak-Samvat calendar, which starts around April. This calendar was initiated by Gautamiputra Satakarni who defeated the Saka king Vikramaditya, thus starting the Shalivahana era or Shaka Calendar[citation needed]

The famous iron pillar

The iron pillar of Delhi, erected by Chandragupta II the Great.

Close to the Qutub Minar is one of Delhi's most curious structures, an iron pillar, dating back to 4th century CE. The pillar bears an inscription which states that it was erected as a flagstaff in honour of the Hindu god Vishnu, and in the memory of Chandragupta II. The pillar also highlights ancient India's achievements in metallurgy. The pillar is made of 98% wrought iron and has stood more than 1,600 years without rusting or decomposing. This iron pillar is similar to the Pillars of Ashoka found mostly in northern India. From Chandragupta II kings were known as Parama Bhagavatas, or Bhagavata Vaishnavas. The Bhagavata Purana entails the fully developed tenets and philosophy of the Bhagavata cult whereis Krishna gets fused with Vasudeva and transcendds Vedic Vishnu and cosmic Hari to be turned into the ultimate object of bhakti.[3]

Mythological Stories Related to Vikramaditya

There are many mythological stories in rural-urban India which talk about king Vikramaditya. One the famous work of collection of 32 stories is Sihasan Battisi which talks about the greatness of King Vikramaditya to King Bhoj in 32 different stories. There are other documented stories like 'Vikram Betaal' or 'Betaal Pachchisi' which about talk about the greatness of King Vikramaditya. Rural folk stories of Chhattisgarh, a state in India, have many interesting stories about King Vikramaditya, his guru named 'Manva-Patwa' and his queen(s).

Campaigns against foreign tribes

  • Fourth century AD Sanskrit poet Kalidasa, credits Chandragupta Vikramaditya (aka Raghu) with having conquered about twenty one kingdoms, both in and outside India. After finishing his campaign in the East, South and West India, Raghu aka Vikramaditya (Chandragupta II) proceeded northwards, subjugated the Parasikas (Persians), then the Hunas and the Kambojas tribes located in the west and east Oxus valleys respectively. Thereafter, the glorious king proceeds across the Himalaya and reduced the Kinnaras, Kiratas etc and lands into India proper[4].

Notes

  1. ^ "Evidence of the conquest of Saurashtra during the reign of Chandragupta II the Great is to be seen in his rare silver coins which are more directly imitated from those of the Western Satraps... they retain some traces of the old inscriptions in Greek characters, while on the reverse, they substitute the Gupta type (a peacock) for the chaitya with crescent and star." in Rapson "A catalogue of Indian coins in the British Museum. The Andhras etc...", p.cli
  2. ^ Falk, Harry. (2004) "The Kaniṣka era in Gupta Records." Silk Road Art and Archaeology 10. Kamakura: The Institute of Silk Road Studies, pp. 167-176.
  3. ^ Kalyan Kumar Ganguli: (1988). Sraddh njali, Studies in Ancient Indian History: D.C. Sircar Commemoration: Puranic tradition of Krishna. Sundeep Prakashan. ISBN 8185067104. p.36
  4. ^ (Raghu Vamsa v 4.60-75.
  5. ^ Inscription of Vikramaditya was found in Kaaba
    • Vikramaditya inscription found in the Kaaba in Mecca proving beyond doubt that the Arabian Peninsula formed a part of his Indian Empire.The text of the crucial Vikramaditya inscription, found inscribed on a gold dish hung inside the Kaaba shrine in Mecca, is found recorded on page 315 of a volume known as Sayar-ul-Okul treasured in the Makhtab-e-Sultania library in Istanbul, Turkey. Rendered in free English the inscription says:
    "Fortunate are those who were born (and lived) during king Vikram’s reign. He was a noble, generous dutiful ruler, devoted to the welfare of his subjects. But at that time we Arabs, oblivious of God, were lost in sensual pleasures. Plotting and torture were rampant. The darkness of ignorance had enveloped our country. Like the lamb struggling for her life in the cruel paws of a wolf we Arabs were caught up in ignorance. The entire country was enveloped in a darkness so intense as on a new moon night. But the present dawn and pleasant sunshine of education is the result of the favour of the noble king Vikramaditya whose benevolent supervision did not lose sight of us- foreigners as we were. He spread his sacred religion amongst us and sent scholars whose brilliance shone like that of the sun from his country to ours. These scholars and preceptors through whose benevolence we were once again made cognisant of the presence of God, introduced to His sacred existence and put on the road of Truth, had come to our country to preach their religion and impart education at king Vikramaditya’s behest." For those who would like to read the Arabic wording I reproduce it hereunder in Roman script: "Itrashaphai Santu Ibikramatul Phahalameen Karimun Yartapheeha Wayosassaru Bihillahaya Samaini Ela Motakabberen Sihillaha Yuhee Quid min howa Yapakhara phajjal asari nahone osirom bayjayhalem. Yundan blabin Kajan blnaya khtoryaha sadunya kanateph netephi bejehalin Atadari bilamasa- rateen phakef tasabuhu kaunnieja majekaralhada walador. As hmiman burukankad toluho watastaru hihila Yakajibaymana balay kulk amarena phaneya jaunabilamary Bikramatum". (Page 315 Sayar-ul-okul). [Note: The title ‘Saya-ul-okul’ signifies memorable words.]
    ata shrivikramadityo helya nirjitakhilah|:
    Mlechchana Kambojan Yavanan Neecan Hunan Sabarbran||
    Tushara Parsikaanshcha tayakatacharan vishrankhalan|
    hatya bhrubhangamatreyanah bhuvo bharamavarayate||
    (Brahata Katha, 10/1/285-86, Kshmendra).
  6. ^ Kathasritsagara 18.1.76-78.
  7. ^ Cf:"In the story contained in Kathasarit-sagara, king Vikarmaditya is said to have destroyed all the barbarous tribes such as the Kambojas, Yavanas, Hunas, Tokharas and the Persians "(See: Ref: Reappraising the Gupta History, 1992, p 169, B. C. Chhabra, Sri Ram; Cf also: Vikrama Volume, 1948, p xxv, Vikramāditya Śakāri; cf: Anatomii͡a i fiziologii͡a selʹskokhozi͡a ĭstvennykh zhivotnykh, 1946, p 264, Arthur John Arberry, Louis Renou, B. K. Hindse, A. V. Leontovich, National Council of Teachers of English Committee on Recreational Reading - Sanskrit language.

References

  • R. K. Mookerji, The Gupta Empire, 4th edition. Motilal Banarsidass, 1959.
  • R. C. Majumdar, Ancient India, 6th revised edition. Motilal Banarsidass, 1971.
  • Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund, A History of India, 2nd edition. Rupa and Co, 1991.

See also

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Samudragupta the Great
Gupta Emperor
375 – 414
Succeeded by
Kumara Gupta I







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