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The Imperial Guptas A Political History

The Imperial Guptas A Political History
Item Code: NAC955
Author: Kiran Kumar Thaplyal
Publisher: Aryan Books International
Edition: 2012
ISBN: 9788173054327
Pages: 490 (19 B/W and 19 Color Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 9.8 Inch X 7.2 Inch
weight of the book: 1.10 kg
From the Jacket

The present volume comprising 12 Chapters and six Appendices discusses Gupta history, based on the latest evidence. The problems discussed critically include: the name of the first king, the bearing of Chandragupta I’s marriage with Lichchhavi princess; authorship of Chandragupta I-Kumaradevi coins; identification and chronological position of Kacha; the Nalanda and Gaya copper plates of Samudragupta; significance of the epithet Lichchhavi-dauhitra; Samudragupta’s policy towards different powers; meaning of chir=otsan=avamedh= dhartta; literary, numismatic and epigraphic evidences for the historicity of Ramagupta; marriage alliance of the Guptas with the Nagas and the Vkatakas; epigraphic and numismatic evidences for Chandragupta II’s Saka conquest; identification of Chandra of Mehrauli inscription; the date, status and chronological position of Govindagupta; Ghatotkachagupta’s marriage with a Vakataka princess his status as governor of Kumaragupta I, his rebellion against him, and his short reign in Malwa; the struggle for, and the order of, sucession after Kumaragupta I; the view of Skandagupta’s identification with Purugupta and that of the division of empire between them; name and status of Skandagupta’s mother; invasion of the Pushyamitras and the Huna ; Toramana’s occupation of Eran; identification of Prakasaditya; genealogy and chronology of Gupta kings; relationship between Prakasadharman and Yasodharman who defeated Toramana and Mihirakula, respectively; identification of Biladitya, contemporary of Mihirakula; role of the Later Guptas, Maukharis, Hunas and Yasodharman in the downfall of the Gupta empire; evidence for three Kumaraguptas; king’s name and date on the fifth Damodarpur copperplate; Jaina sources and epigraphs on the end of the Gupta rule.


About the Author

Professor Kiran Kumar Thaplyal (b. 1936), after obtaining first class first Master’s degree in Ancient Indian History and Archaeology (1957, Lucknow University), served Archaeological Survey of India (1957-60), and later Lucknow University (1960-96) as Lecturer, Reader, Professor and Head of the Department of Ancient Indian History and Archaeology, Dean, Faculty of Arts, and Emeritus Professor. Epigraphy was one of the subjects he taught to the post-graduate students.

He is recipient of several Scholarships, Fellowships, and gold medals including one for the best Ph.D. thesis. He was a Visiting Fellow at the Vikram University, Ujjain, and at Kurukshetra University, a Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, and a member of Central Advisory Board for Archaeology. He has been honoured with Brahmi award for his contributions to Indology. In 2007, Lucknow University felicitated him for his ‘contribution to knowledge and development’. The Numismatic Society of India elected him its General President (2007), and awarded him Altekar Silver Medal (2010). In 2007, his friends and admirers brought out a Felicitation Volume in his honour.

He has published more than 100 research papers, and edited Jaina Vidya and Select Battles n Indian History (2 vols.). The books authored by him include Studies in Ancient Indian Seals; Inscriptions of the Maukharis, Later Guptas, Puspabhutis and Yasovarman of Kanauj; Sindhu Sabhyata; Jaina Paintings; Guilds in Ancient India; Coins of Ancient India (jointly);Village and Village Life in Ancient India.



The present work is a project of the University Grants Commission. The history of the Imperial Guptas has been a favourite subject of a number of historians dealing with the history of ancient India. The Gupta dynasty is known for kings who were great conquerors, capable administrators, and some of them also had keen interest in literature and music. The Gupta age is characterised by all round development in the field of sculpture, painting, literature, science and mathematics. As an individual king, more works have been authored on the Maurya ruler Asoka than on any other king of ancient India; but as a dynasty, the works on the Imperial Guptas outnumber those of any ancient Indian dynasty. Despite this, on many points the evidence relating to the history of this dynasty remains inadequate, or dubious, and at times it is interpreted by different scholars in a way which is mutually conflicting, and the chronological position of some kings still remains highly controversial. Fresh pieces of evidence are being brought to light by the discovery of new inscriptions, coins, and literary references, and a considerable number of them, it can be presumed, are still waiting to be discovered. New readings of the text of inscriptions, is at times, facilitated by the availability of better facsimiles, and the find of new evidence may lead to confirmation or rejection of the old readings, or provide an altogether new information regarding some aspects of history. In the present work, an attempt has been made to include the latest available source material, and various interpretations offered by different scholars.

In the case of some kings, because of the paucity of evidence, not much information is available regarding the events of their reigns; and there has been much discussion on such aspects as their historicity, or their status, or their place in the genealogy and chronology of the Gupta dynasty. In case of Kacha (Chapter 4), whose status as king is known only from his coins, which are the only source of his existence, the bulk of the matter is devoted to the discussion of various views regarding determining his position in the genealogy and chronology. In the case of Ramagupta (Chapter 6), the information about his career that can be garnered from literary sources is that he agreed to surrender his queen to the aka invader and that his younger brother, Chandragupta, disguising himself as the queen killed the aka king, and later also Ramagupta, and married the latter’s widow. Most of the space regarding him in this work is devoted to the reappraisal of the evidence-literary, epigraphic and numismatic, with a view to ascertaining whether or not a king named Ramagupta existed in the Gupta dynasty, and if he did exist, what was his chronological position. In the case of Govindagupta (Chapter 8), about whose status, date, and chronological position there is a lot of controversy, most of the discussion is related with such matters as to whether he was the elder or younger brother of Kumaragupta I; whether he held the office of yuvaraja; whether he served as governor of Vaisali; whether the Mandasor inscription refers to his status as a king or as a prince serving as governor; and if he did become king whether he attained that position in natural course or by the use of force, and whether he succeeded Chandragupta II, or Kumaragupta I, or Skandagupta-the three views expressed by different scholars.

The sources of the Gupta history have been discussed by several scholars, and in some cases in great details. P L Gupta, for example, in his Imperial Guptas, has devoted as many as 166 pages to the sources. In this work only the salient features of the more important ones have been briefly discussed in Chapter 1. Sources, particularly epigraphic and numismatic, pertaining to each Gupta king, have been briefly enumerated before detailing his history. K P Jayaswal and some other scholars relied much on literary evidence, some of which, in the light of more trustworthy epigraphic and numismatic evidence, appears dubious in nature, and a few literary works which were used for the reconstruction of history by some scholars have proved as modern forgeries. However, such information from literary sources which is not mythical in nature, and is not contradicted by epigraphic and numismatic evidence, has been utilized in the present work. Some references to literary texts are based on secondary sources.

It has been my endeavour to mention the views of different scholars on different problems, highlighting their main points, and indicate concurrence or otherwise in regard to them, and if possible, suggest new interpretations. In cases where the evidence was meagre or indecisive, I have merely mentioned the views of different scholars, leaving it to the readers to draw their own conclusions. The evidence relating to the history of the Gupta kings who ruled after Skandagupta is rather meagre and in some cases conflicting, and the Huna invasions and the conquests of Yasodharman loom large. There could very well be a separate chapter on some important dynasties contemporary to the Guptas, such as the Vakatakas, the Maukharis, the Later Guptas, the Aulikaras and the Hunas giving a connected account of their history. But I have refrained from doing so as I wanted to be focused on the history of the Imperial Guptas. The history of these dynasties is very briefly touched upon in relation to the Gupta history, either in the text or in the footnotes. As the work deals with the political history of the Imperial Guptas, matters relating to society, religion, economy, art, etc., of the Gupta period have not been discussed.

In the Bibliography, under subheading A, is given a list of all the inscriptions of the kings of the Gupta dynasty and the important ones of contemporary dynasties, with bibliographical details, and in the text, by way of reference the serial number of the inscription in question from the list is cited within brackets. This has been done with a view to minimizing the number of footnotes. The work contains six Appendices dealing with certain aspects relating to Gupta history which needed some detailed discusion. In the case of Appendix III, since the views (together with the references) of different scholars, past and present, have been incorporated in King Chandra and the Mehrauli Pillar, edited by M C Josh and S K Gupta, the references have been cited from that work. I have not given a detailed Bibliography as the same is available in The Imperial Guptas-A Bibliography by Jagdish S Yadava and Nirmala Yadava and published by the American Institute of Indian Studies, New Delhi in 1997.

When several scholars have expressed the same view, generally reference has been made to only one or to a few of them. In case the same scholar has contributed a number of articles on the same subject, I have mentioned either a few or only one of them in the Bibliography. If a scholar authored a book in which he incorporated his views expressed in his articles published earlier (e.g., A S Altekar in the Coinage of the Gupta Empire, and D R Bhandarkar, in Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Vol. III), I have mostly cited the book. The enumeration of all articles relating to history of Imperial Guptas authored by me has been done with a view to acknowledging the gratefulness to the editors and publishers of the journals or volumes in which they have been published. It would also give an idea to the readers that I have been dabbling with the history of the dynasty intermittently since long. The material contained in them has been incorporated in the present work with or without modification. The diacritical marks used in this work are those followed in the publications of the Archaeological Survey of India and have been shown in a separate page.

My debt to the earlier scholars who contributed to the Gupta history is immense, as will be evident from references to their books and articles in the text and footnotes. Prof S P Shukla and Dr Prashant Srivastava went through the entire manuscript and offered valuable suggestions. The latter also helped in meticulously preparing the manuscript press- ready and in several other ways. I sincerely thank the two scholars, who are my former students. The Gupta gold coins-types in black and white have been reproduced from the Catalogue of the Gupta Gold Coins in the Bayana Hoard, by A S Altekar. When the book was about to be sent to Press, I could get coloured photographs of some of the Gupta gold coins in the State Museum, Lucknow, and also the permission of its authorities to publish them. Shri Vikas Arya deserves my thanks for bringing out this work nicely and promptly.




  Preface vii
  List of Illustrations xiii
  Roman Equivalents of Nagari Letters xv
1. Sources 1
2. Caste and Original Home of the Imperial Guptas 27
3. Maharaja Gupta to Mahdrajadhiraja Chandragupta I 42
4. Kacha: Identification and Chronological Position 69
5. Samudragupta: Expansion of the Empire 89
6. Ramagupta: From Legend to History 145
7. Chandragupta II: Further Expansion of the Empire 168
8. Govindagupta: Controversies Galore 199
9. Kumaragupta I and Rebel Ghatotkachagupta 215
10. Skandagupta: Triumph over the Invaders 239
11. Successors of Skandagupta: Phase of Decline 278
12. Factors Leading to the Decline and Fall of the Gupta Empire 332
  Appendices 349
I. Chandragupta I-Kumaradevi Type of Coins 349
II. Reappraisal of the Evidence Relating to the Asvamedha of Samudragupta 365
III. King Chandra of the Mehrauli Pillar Inscription 379
IV. The Gupta Era 399
V. Genealogy and Chronology of the Imperial Gupta Kings 406
VI. Imperial Gupta Kings vis-a-vis Scions of the Feudal Family of Kausambi 415
  Plates (I-VIII) 427
A. List of Inscriptions 429
B. Select Books and Articles 434
  Index 447

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