Kumaragupta
Maharajadhiraja, Parama-bhattaraka, Paramadvaita, Mahendraditya
Kumaragupta fighting a lion, as depicted on his gold coin[1]
Gupta Emperor
Reignc. 415 – c. 455 CE
PredecessorChandragupta II
SuccessorSkandagupta
SpouseAnantadevi
IssueSkandagupta
Purugupta
DynastyGupta
FatherChandragupta II
MotherDhruvadevi
ReligionHinduism

Kumaragupta I (Gupta script:

Ku-ma-ra-gu-pta,[2] r. c. 415-455 CE) was an emperor of the Gupta Empire of Ancient India. A son of the Gupta emperor Chandragupta II and queen Dhruvadevi, he seems to have maintained control of his inherited territory, which extended from Gujarat in the west to Bengal region in the east.

Kumaragupta performed an Ashvamedha sacrifice, which was usually performed to prove imperial sovereignty, although no concrete information is available about his military achievements. Based on the epigraphic and numismatic evidence, some modern historians have theorized that he may have subdued the Aulikaras of central India and the Traikutakas of western India.

The Bhitari pillar inscription states that his successor Skandagupta restored the fallen fortunes of the Gupta family, which has led to suggestions that during his last years, Kumaragupta suffered reverses, possibly against the Pushyamitras or the Hunas. However, this cannot be said with certainty, and the situation described in the Bhitari inscription may have been the result of events that happened after his death.

Early life

Kumaragupta was a son of the Gupta emperor Chandragupta II and queen Dhruvadevi.[3] Chandragupta's last inscription is dated c. 412 CE, while Kumaragupta's earliest inscription is dated c. 415 CE (year 96 of the Gupta era). Therefore, Kumaragupta must have ascended the throne in or shortly before 415 CE.[4]

Kumaragupta bore the titles Maharajadhiraja, Parama-bhattaraka, and Paramadvaita.[5] He also adopted the title Mahendraditya, and his coins call him by several variants of this name, including Shri-Mahendra, Mahendra-simha, and Ashvamedha-Mahendra.[6] Shakraditya, the name of a king mentioned in Buddhist texts, may also have been a title of Kumaragupta (see #Religion section).[7]

Reign

Kumaragupta had inherited a large empire built upon the conquests of his father Chandragupta II and his grandfather Samudragupta. No concrete information is available about his military achievements. The inscriptions issued during his reign have been discovered in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Bangladesh; an inscription of his son has been discovered from Gujarat. In addition, his garuda-inscribed coins have been discovered in western India, and his peacock-inscribed coins have been discovered in the Ganges valley. This suggests that he was able to maintain control over the vast territory that he inherited.[8] Thus, even if his reign was militarily uneventful, he must have been a strong ruler for being able to maintain a stable government in a large empire, as indicated by epigraphic and numismatic evidence.[3]

There are some indications that Kumaragupta's reign was not devoid of wars and disturbances. For example, he worshipped the war god Karttikeya, and his gold coins suggest that he performed the Ashvamedha ceremony which was used by ancient kings to prove their sovereignty.[9] However, since there is no concrete information available about any military conquest by him, it is not certain if this performance is indicative of any conquests.[6][10]

Possible south-western conquests

Kumaragupta's coins have been found in present-day Maharashtra, which was located to the south-west of the core Gupta territory. These include 13 coins from Achalpur, and a hoard of 1395 silver coins from Samand in Satara district. His coins discovered from south Gujarat resemble the coins issued by the Traikutaka dynasty, which ruled this region. This has led to suggestions that Kumaragupta defeated the Traikutakas.[11]

Possible annexation of Dashapura

Bilsad pillar inscription of Kumaragupta, in the Year 96 of the Gupta era (415-416 CE).[12]
Bilsad pillar inscription of Kumaragupta, in the Year 96 of the Gupta era (415-416 CE).[12]

The 423 CE Mandsaur inscription mentions a line of kings whose name ends with -varman, who probably had their capital at Dashapura (modern Mandsaur). The inscription describes one of these kings, Nara-varman, as an "Aulikara", which seems to have been the dynasty's name. The inscription describes a guild of silk-weavers who had migrated from the Lata region of present-day Gujarat to Dashapura. It then abruptly moves away from this topic and mentions "while Kumaragupta was ruling the whole earth". It further states that a sun temple was built in c. 436 CE during the reign of Nara-varman's grandson Bandhu-varman: it was later destroyed or damaged by other kings, and the guild had it repaired it in c. 473 CE.[6]

According to one theory, Bandhuvarman ruled Dashapura as a feudatory of Kumaragupta I, the subject of this article.[13] However, historian R. C. Majumdar argues that the "Kumaragupta" referred to in the inscription is the later king Kumaragupta II. According to Majumdar's theory, the temple was built in c. 436 CE when Bandhuvarman ruled as a sovereign, and was repaired in c. 473 CE during the reign of Kumaragupta II. Bandhuvarman's grandfather Naravarman and his father Vishvavarman seem to have been independent rulers, because none of the three inscriptions issued during their reigns refer to a Gupta overlord. Therefore, according to Majumdar, irrespective of who the "Kumaragupta" mentioned in the Mandsaur inscription is, the Dashapura area seems to have been annexed to the Gupta empire sometime after this inscription was issued, that is, during c. 424-473 CE. Majumdar theorizes that the Dashapura region was annexed to the Gupta empire during the reign of Kumaragupta I, either through military conquest or diplomacy.[14]

Other possible campaigns

Some coins of Kumaragupta's coins depict him as a rhinoceros-slayer, which some scholars such as Tej Ram Sharma see as possible evidence of his successes against the king of Kamarupa in present-day Assam, where the Indian rhinoceros is abundant. Another category of his coins portray him as a tiger-slayer, which according to historian H. C. Raychaudhuri, may allude to his incursions of the territory to the south of the Narmada River, where tigers are abundant. However, historian S. R. Goyal dismisses both of these coin-based theories as fanciful.[15]

Administration

Kumaragupta I, "Archer type" coin. King Kumaragupta, nimbate, holding arrow and bow with Garuda standard behind. Brahmi Legend  Ku-ma-ra vertically to the right. Reverse: Goddess Lakshmi, seated facing on open lotus, holding diadem and lotus. Circa 415-455 CE.
Kumaragupta I, "Archer type" coin. King Kumaragupta, nimbate, holding arrow and bow with Garuda standard behind. Brahmi Legend Gupta allahabad ku.jpgGupta ashoka m.svgGupta allahabad r.svg Ku-ma-ra vertically to the right. Reverse: Goddess Lakshmi, seated facing on open lotus, holding diadem and lotus. Circa 415-455 CE.

Epigraphic evidence suggests that Kumaragupta ruled his empire through governors (Uparikas), who bore the title Maharaja ("great king"), and administered various provinces (Bhuktis). The districts (vishayas) of the provinces were administered by district magistrates (Vishyapatis), who were supported by an advisory council comprising:[16]

Ghatotkacha-gupta (not to be confused with his ancestor Ghatotkacha) governed the Eran region during Kumaragupta's reign. His c. 435-436 inscription suggests that he was a member of the Gupta royal family, probably a son or younger brother of Kumaragupta.[14] He is most probably same as the Ghatotkacha-gupta mentioned in a seal found at Vaishali, and the Ghatotkacha-gupta who is known to have issued a gold coin.[17] He may have assumed independence for a short period, possibly after the death of Kumaragupta.[18]

Chirata-datta ruled the Pundravardhana-bhukti (province) in present-day Bengal as a subordinate of Kumaragupta. His known dates range from c. 443 to c. 447 (years 124-128 of the Gupta era).[18]

The 436 CE Karamdanda inscription mentions Prithivishena, who was initially mantrin and kumaramatya (minister) of Kumaragupta I, and later became his mahabaladhikrita (general).[19] His father Shikharasvamin had served Chandragupta II as a mantrin and kumaramatya.[20]

Kumaragupta seems to have established diplomatic relations with the Liu Sung emperors of China, as suggested by visits of Chinese delegations to India, and the exchange of an Indian envoy.[16]

Personal life

Standing Buddha, inscribed Gupta Era "year 115" (434 CE, falling in the reign of Kumaragupta), Mathura.[21]
Standing Buddha, inscribed Gupta Era "year 115" (434 CE, falling in the reign of Kumaragupta), Mathura.[21]

Kumaragupta had at least two sons: Skandagupta and Purugupta. The inscriptions of Skandagupta, who became the next king, do not mention the name of his mother, in a departure from the tradition. Purugupta was the son of Mahadevi (queen) Anantadevi. Historian R. N. Dandekar theorizes that Anantadevi was a Kadamba princess, as the Talagunda pillar inscription suggests that the Kadamba king Kakusthavarman established a matrimonial alliance with the Guptas.[5]

The Bihar stone pillar inscription of Skandagupta suggests that Kumaragupta also married the sister of one of his ministers.[5] As mentioned above, Ghatotkacha-gupta (not to be confused with the earlier king Ghatotkacha) was probably a son or younger brother of Kumaragupta.[14]

The Chinese traveler Xuanzang mentions Budhagupta after king Shakraditya (identified as Kumaragupta I by some scholars) while naming the patrons of the Nalanda monastery. Based on this, historian R. K. Mukherjee theorizes that Budhagupta was also a son of Kumaragupta I. However, the epigraphic evidence makes it clear that Budhagupta was a son of Kumaragupta II, not Kumaragupta I.[22]

Religion

Epigraphic evidence indicates that various faiths including Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Buddhism, and Jainism, flourished during Kumaragupta's reign.[16] Kumaragupta's silver coins describe him as a devotee of the god Vishnu (parama-bhagavata or bhagavata). His gold, silver, and copper coins feature Vishnu's vahana Garuda.[23] He was also a devotee of the war god Karttikeya (also known as Skanda): his coins feature Karttikeya seated on a peacock. He named his son Skandagupta after the god, and his own name "Kumara" appears to have been based on another name of the god.[15]

According to the Buddhist writers Xuanzang (7th century) and Prajnavarman (8th century), the Buddhist mahavihara at Nalanda was established by a king called Shakraditya.[7] Modern scholars identify king Shakraditya with Kumaragupta based on the following points:

Xuanzang mentions Budhagupta (a successor of the later king Kumaragupta II) after Shakraditya: he states the monastery was enriched by the endowments of the kings Shakraditya, Budhagupta, Tathagatagupta, and Baladitya. This casts some doubt on the identification of Shakraditya with Kumaragupta I.[22]

Last years

Mankuwar Buddha
The Mankuwar Buddha, dated to the end of the reign of Kumaragupta I in 448 CE, only uses the title Maharaja (
"Great King") in the inscription "in the year 129, in the reign of the Maharaja, the glorious Kumaragupta".[24] Mankuwar, District of Allahabad. Gupta art, Lucknow Museum.[25][26]

The earliest known regnal date of Kumaragupta's son Skandagupta is c. 455 CE (year 136 of the Gupta era). This proves that Kumaragupta's reign ended in or before this year. Historian V. A. Smith read the dates on some of Kumaragupta's coins as c. 455 CE (years 134 and 135 of the Gupta era), based on which modern scholars theorize that Kumaragupta ruled until 455 CE. However, numismatist P. L. Gupta has disputed Smith's reading, and has dated the end of Kumaragupta's reign to c. 450 CE.[27]

According to one theory, the later years of Kumaragupta's reign were not peaceful. This theory is based on the c. 448 CE Mankuwar Buddha inscription issued during Kumaragupta's reign, and the Bhitari pillar inscription of Skandagupta:[18][28]

However, it cannot be said with certainty that Kumaragupta faced trouble during his last years. For example, it is possible that the drafter of the Man Kuwar inscription used a wrong title simply because of carelessness or ignorance.[11] Thus, it is possible that the troubles referred to in the Bhitari inscription occurred after Kumaragupta's death: these troubles probably resulted from a disputed succession to the throne, and caused a civil war.[30] However, this is a mere conjecture, and according to another theory, the situation described in the Bhitari inscription may have been the result of a Huna invasion. This theory is based on the Junagadh inscription which suggests that Skandagupta defeated the mlechchhas (foreigners, possibly the Hunas) before c. 455 CE. It is also possible that both of these theories are true: Skandagupta may have been dispatched to the frontier to check a Huna invasion; meanwhile, Kumaragupta died in the capital, leading to a succession dispute.[31]

According to one theory, Kumaragupta's sons Skandagupta and Purugupta may have been involved in a succession dispute.[16] Another possibility is that Purugupta - the son of the chief queen - was a minor at the time of Kumaragupta I's death, because of which Skandagupta - the son of a junior queen - ascended the throne.[32] Skandagupta succeeded Kumaragupta, and was succeeded by Purugupta, whose descendants became the subsequent kings.[33]

Coinage

Silver coin of Kumaragupta.[34]Obv: Bust of King Kumaragupta with cap decorated with crescents.Rev: Garuda bird, circled by legend in Brahmi "Parama-bhagavata rajadhiraja Sri Kumaragupta Mahendraditya" ("Most devout King of Kings Kumaragupta Mahendraditya").
Silver coin of Kumaragupta.[34]
Obv: Bust of King Kumaragupta with cap decorated with crescents.
Rev: Garuda bird, circled by legend in Brahmi "Parama-bhagavata rajadhiraja Sri Kumaragupta Mahendraditya" ("Most devout King of Kings Kumaragupta Mahendraditya").
Elephant-rider coin of Kumaragupta. Obverse legend: "Kumaragupta, who has destroyed his enemies and protected his client kings, is victorious over his foes".[35]
Elephant-rider coin of Kumaragupta. Obverse legend: "Kumaragupta, who has destroyed his enemies and protected his client kings, is victorious over his foes".[35]
Horseman type coin of Kumaragupta. Circa 415-455 CE.
Horseman type coin of Kumaragupta. Circa 415-455 CE.

Among the Gupta kings, Kumaragupta issued the largest varieties of coins.[36] His 628 coins in the Bayana hoard belong to 14 different types.[28]

The varieties of his coins include the following:

Some repoussé coins discovered at Khairatal have also been attributed to Kumaragupta by earlier scholars. These coins depict a garuda with outstretched wings and legend Mahendraaditya. The other side is blank. It is likely that these coins were not issued by Kumaragupta or any other Gupta ruler.[43]

Inscriptions

At least 18 inscriptions from Kumaragupta's reign are available. All of these inscriptions were issued by private individuals rather than the Gupta royals, and most of them aim to record religious matters. Nevertheless, they provide valuable historical information, such as a genealogy of the Gupta kings, dates, locations of places in the Gupta empire, and names of royal officers. The earliest extant Gupta inscriptions from the Bengal region were issued during Kumaragupta's reign.[44]

A Linga dedicated in Gupta Era 117, during the reign of Kumaragupta I, from Karamdanda, District Gonda, Uttar Pradesh. Lucknow Museum.
A Linga dedicated in Gupta Era 117, during the reign of Kumaragupta I, from Karamdanda, District Gonda, Uttar Pradesh. Lucknow Museum.
Inscriptions issued during Kumaragupta's reign
Find spot Image Type Period Source
Bilsad (or Bilsarh), Etah district
Stone pillar Gupta Era 96 (c. 415 CE) [44][45]
Gadhwa (or Ghadwa), Allahabad district
Stone Gupta Era 98 (c. 417 CE) [44]
Gadhwa (or Ghadwa), Allahabad district
Stone Undated [44]
Gadhwa (or Ghadwa), Allahabad district Stone Undated [44]
Udayagiri
Cave Gupta Era 106 (c. 425 CE) [44]
Mathura Jain idol Gupta Era 113 (c. 432 CE) [44]
Dhanaidaha, Bangladesh Copper plate Gupta Era 113 (c. 432 CE) [4]
Mathura
Buddha image Gupta Era 115 (c. 434 CE) [46]
Tumain
Stone Gupta Era 117 (c. 436 CE) [4]
Karamdanda, Uttar Pradesh
Stone linga Gupta Era 117 (c. 436 CE) [4]
Kalaikuri-Sultanpur, Bangladesh Copper plate Gupta Era 120 (c. 439 CE) [4]
Damodarpur near Phulbari, Bangladesh Copper plate Gupta Era 124 (c. 443 CE) [4]
Mathura Broken idol Gupta Era 125 (c. 444 CE) [4]
Damodarpur Copper plate Gupta Era 128 (c. 447 CE) [4]
Baigram (or Boigram), Bangladesh Copper plate Gupta Era 128 (c. 447 CE) [4]
Man Kuwar (or Mankuwar), Uttar Pradesh
Buddha image Gupta Era 129 (c. 448 CE) [4]
Sanchi Stone Gupta Era 131 (c. 450 CE) [4]
Mathura Buddha image Gupta Era 135 (c. 454 CE) [4]

An inscription on a figure of a yaksha from Mathura in the reign of Kumaragupta has been dated to 432 CE, and a pedestal (with no king's name on it, but presumably from Kumaragupta's reign) has been dated to 432 CE.[47]

References

  1. ^ CNG Coin [1]
  2. ^ Allen, John (1914). Catalogue of the coins of the Gupta dynasties. p. 61.
  3. ^ a b R. C. Majumdar 1981, p. 66.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Tej Ram Sharma 1989, p. 173.
  5. ^ a b c Tej Ram Sharma 1989, p. 174.
  6. ^ a b c R. C. Majumdar 1981, p. 67.
  7. ^ a b c Sukumar Dutt 1988, p. 329.
  8. ^ Tej Ram Sharma 1989, pp. 174–175.
  9. ^ Tej Ram Sharma 1989, pp. 174–176.
  10. ^ Tej Ram Sharma 1989, pp. 175–176.
  11. ^ a b c Tej Ram Sharma 1989, p. 176.
  12. ^ Fleet, John Faithfull (1888). Inscriptions Of The Early Gupta Kings And Their Successors. pp. 42-45.
  13. ^ R. C. Majumdar 1981, pp. 67–68.
  14. ^ a b c R. C. Majumdar 1981, p. 68.
  15. ^ a b Tej Ram Sharma 1989, p. 175.
  16. ^ a b c d Tej Ram Sharma 1989, p. 179.
  17. ^ R. C. Majumdar 1981, pp. 68–69.
  18. ^ a b c d R. C. Majumdar 1981, p. 69.
  19. ^ Raychaudhuri, H. C. (1972). Political History of Ancient India, Calcutta: University of Calcutta, pp.500–1
  20. ^ Upinder Singh 2008, p. 486.
  21. ^ "Collections-Virtual Museum of Images and Sounds". vmis.in. American Institute of Indian Studies.
  22. ^ a b c Tej Ram Sharma 1978, p. 26.
  23. ^ J. N. Banerjea 1982, p. 781.
  24. ^ Fleet, John Faithfull (1960). Inscriptions Of The Early Gupta Kings And Their Successors. p. 47.
  25. ^ Mookerji, Radhakumud (1997). The Gupta Empire. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 142. ISBN 9788120804401.
  26. ^ "Mankuwar Buddha Image Inscription of the Time of Kumaragupta I siddham". siddham.uk.
  27. ^ Tej Ram Sharma 1989, p. 182.
  28. ^ a b Tej Ram Sharma 1989, p. 177.
  29. ^ R. C. Majumdar 1981, p. 70.
  30. ^ R. C. Majumdar 1981, pp. 70–71.
  31. ^ R. C. Majumdar 1981, pp. 72–74.
  32. ^ R. C. Majumdar 1981, p. 81.
  33. ^ Dilip Kumar Ganguly 1987, p. 103.
  34. ^ Vincent Arthur Smith; Stephen Meredyth Edwardes (1924). The early history of India: from 600 B.C. to the Muhammadan conquest, including the invasion of Alexander the Great. Oxford : Clarendon Press. p. Coin plate No.2.
  35. ^ CNG Coins [2]
  36. ^ a b Ashvini Agrawal 1989, p. 24.
  37. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, pp. 24–25.
  38. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, p. 25.
  39. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, pp. 25–26.
  40. ^ a b c d Ashvini Agrawal 1989, p. 26.
  41. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, pp. 26–27.
  42. ^ a b c d e Ashvini Agrawal 1989, p. 27.
  43. ^ a b c Ashvini Agrawal 1989, p. 28.
  44. ^ a b c d e f g Tej Ram Sharma 1989, p. 172.
  45. ^ Fleet, John Faithfull (1888). Inscriptions Of The Early Gupta Kings And Their Successors. pp. 42-45.
  46. ^ "Collections-Virtual Museum of Images and Sounds". vmis.in. American Institute of Indian Studies.
  47. ^ 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.

Bibliography