ACK-123: Vikramaditya (Chandragupta II)

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Chandragupta II (A.D. 380-413/15), also referred as Vikramaditya (Valour/Power of Sun) or Chandragupta Vikramaditya, was one of the most influential emperors of the Gupta dynasty as well as one of the most familiar and celebrated names in Indian history. He was the son of Samudra Gupta & Maharani (the chief queen) “Datta Devi” and grandson of Chandra Gupta I. During his reign, art, architecture, and sculpture flourished, and the cultural development of ancient India reached its peak. The period of prominence of the Gupta dynasty is very often referred to as the "Golden Age" of India.

Biography

Samudra Gupta was followed by his elder son Ramagupta (375-380AD) who was a bit of blot on that proud family's good name. Apparently he was having immense trouble with the central Asian Saka invaders who refused to budge from borders of the empire and threatened to come in. Rama Gupta sued for peace, and the Saka king agreed on one condition that his queen Dhruvadevi be surrendered to him. Which was okay with Ramagupta, but not his younger brother Chandragupta who, disguised as the queen, entered the Saka camp and killed their king. After this Chandragupta also killed his brother and married Dhruvadevi and succeeded the throne.

Chandragupta ascended the throne of Patilaputra (now called Patna, the capital of state Bihar) in about 375AD. Four days after the Hindu festival of Diwali is the Padwa or Varshapratipada, the day on which the coronation of King Vikramaditya is believed to be held.

The Empire

Chandragupta II was a conqueror like his father Samudragupta. Conquests (though not many since Samudra Gupta had pretty much already conquered all there was to conquer), able administration, the arts flourishing, literature being produced in huge quantities, relations with foreign kings being excellent. Inheriting a large empire, he continued the policy of his father, Samudra Gupta, by extending control over neighbouring territories. Westward from 388 to 409 he subjugated Gujarat, his greatest victory came when he managed to quash the stronghold of the Rudrasimha III of Shaka (also called Satraps or Kshatrapas or Indo-Scythians) dynasty and annexed their kingdom in Gujarat ( the region north of Bombay (Mumbai), Saurastra (now Saurashtra), in western India, and Malwa, with its capital at Ujjain). Saka (called the Saka Satraps), whose ancestors were Scythian tribes from the regions around Lake Balkhash (Balqash) in Kazakhstan.

On the eastside, he crushed the Cheifdoms of Bengal creating a coast to coast unified Empire. He created a second capital at Ujjain. In the north west he subjugated Presians, Huns and Kambojas in areas east and west of Amu Darya in Afganistan.

His diplomatic tactics in giving his daughter Prabhavati (by his other queen Kuberanaga*, a Naga princess) in marriage to Rudrasena II. The Vakatakas (Vakattaka) king of Deccan helped greatly in securing the vital territory for himself, which could prove advantageous in the event of an attack upon the Saka- Kshatrapas of the west from the north. When Rudrasena II died in 390 AD, Prabhavati acted as regent for her two sons, thereby increasing Gupta influence in the south. Therefore this period in history is called the Vakataka -Gupta age.

His victory over Rudrasimha III provided exceptional wealth, which added to the prosperity of the Guptas. The Guptas at his period had sea trade with the countries of the west. Broach, Sopara, Cambay were ports that facilitated trade. During this period, Ujjain appears to have been the inland centre upon which most of the trade routes converged. Chandragupta occupied the throne for nearly forty years. Pataliputra was a flourishing city.

The emperor may also have made a matrimonial alliance with a dynasty in Mysore. After this, his empire began from the mouth of the Ganges to the mouth of the Indus River, which is now the region from North Pakistan down to the mouth of the Narmada.

Some of his silver coins bear the title Vikramaditya (“Sun of Valour”), which suggests that he was the prototype for the king Vikramaditya of later Hindu tradition.

His Reign

The Chinese Buddhist traveller-pilgrim Faxian (Fahien), who visited India during Chandra Gupta II’s reign, spoke highly of the system of government, the means for dispensing charity and medicine (the emperor maintained free rest houses and hospitals), and the goodwill of the people. From his description it is known that capital punishment was absent during the reign of Vikramaditya. Poll-tax, land tax and the presence of a strongly embedded caste system. However, he never visited the emperor or his court.

He is almost certainly the King Chandra eulogized in the Sanskrit inscription on iron pillar in the Qūwat al-Islām mosque in New Delhi`s Qutub Minar campus, which dates back to 4th century. This pillar bears an inscription, which states that it was erected as a mark of respect for 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.The government erected a fence around the pillar to prohibit the popular tradition of standing with your back to the pillar, making your hands meet behind it, as a token of good luck.

A pillar from Mathura referring to Chandragupta (Candragupta) has recently been deciphered, dates back to 388 CE.

*The Allahabad pillar inscription mentions the marriage of Chandragupta with a Naga princess Kuberanaga.

It is said that Chandra Gupta II was a devout Hindu, but he also tolerated the Buddhist and Jain religions.

His son Kumara Gupta I succeeded after Chandragupta II.

Based on information available at : voice.indiasite.com, www.bhaarat.org, dic.academic.ru, www.webindia123.com, www.indianetzone.com, en.wikipedia.org

This Amar Chitra Katha is provided by “Shailendra Rao”.

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