Chandragupta 1 was a Gupta dynasty king who ruled over northern India. He was the first ruler of the Gupta dynasty, according to his title Maharajadhiraja ("king of great kings"). Although a generally accepted hypothesis among modern historians is that his marriage to the Lichchhavi princess Kumaradevi helped him expand his political control, it is unclear how he turned his small ancestral kingdom into an empire. The Gupta empire was further extended by their son Samudragupta.
Information About the Founder of Gupta Dynasty
Father: Ghatotkacha (king)
Children: Samudragupta, Prabhavati Gupta
Reign: c. 319-335 or 319-350 CE
Coronation: c. 319-320 CE
Who Founded Gupta Dynasty?
Chandragupta was the son of Gupta king Ghatotkacha and the grandson of the dynasty's founder Gupta, both of whom are referred to in the Allahabad Pillar inscription as Maharaja ("great king"). Chandragupta took the title Maharajadhiraja ("great king") and issued gold coins, suggesting that he was the founder of Gupta dynasty. However, this is only an assumption, and the identity of the Gupta era's founder is unknown.
The Allahabad Pillar inscription indicates that Chandragupta I reigned for a long time, as he named his son as his successor, probably after reaching old age. However, the precise length of his reign is a matter of contention. Chandragupta ruled in the first quarter of the fourth century CE, but his reign's exact period is unknown. His assumption of the title Maharajadhiraja has led to speculation that he established the Gupta calendar period, with the epoch marking his coronation.
The following are some estimates for Chandragupta's reign:
A. S. Altekar: 305-325 CE.
S. R. Goyal: 319-350 CE.
Tej Ram Sharma: 319-353 CE.
Upinder Singh: 319-335 CE or 319-350 CE.
Marriage of the Gupta Empire Founder
Chandragupta, the founder of the Gupta dynasty, married Kumaradevi, a Lichchhavi princess. During the time of Gautama Buddha, an ancient clan known as the Lichchhavi was headquartered in Vaishali, present-day Bihar. In the first millennium CE, a Lichchhavi kingdom existed in what is now Nepal. The identity of Kumaradevi's Lichchhavi kingdom, on the other hand, is unknown.
The Lichchhavi dynasty of Nepal claims that their legendary ancestor Supushpa was born in the royal family of Pushpapura, which is Patliputra in Magadha, according to an inscription from the 8th century. The Lichchhavis ruled at Pataliputra during Samudragupta's reign, according to historians like V. A. Smith. This inscription, on the other hand, says that Supushpa ruled 38 generations before the 5th-century king Manadeva, or centuries before Chandragupta's reign. As a consequence, even if the argument in this inscription is valid, it cannot be used as proof of Lichchhavi’s rule at Pataliputra during Chandragupta's reign.
Since Nepala (that is, Nepal) is stated as a distinct, subordinate kingdom in Samudragupta's Allahabad Pillar inscription, the Lichchhavi kingdom of Kumaradevi is unlikely to have been located in modern-day Nepal. Due to a lack of other evidence, historian R. C. Majumdar believed that the Lichchhavis ruled at Vaishali during Chandragupta's reign, which is the only other base of the clan known from historical records.
Chandragupta's gold coins feature portraits of Chandragupta and Kumaradevi, as well as the legend Lichchhavayah ("the Lichchhavis"). In the Gupta inscriptions, their son Samudragupta is referred to as Lichchhavi-dauhitra ("Lichchhavi daughter's son"). Except for Kumaradevi, none of the dynasty's queens' paternal families are mentioned in these inscriptions, suggesting that the Gupta family thought Kumaradevi's marriage to Chandragupta was important.
It's more likely that Chandragupta's marriage allowed him to broaden his political power and dominions, allowing him to take the title Maharajadhiraja. The inclusion of the Lichchhavis' name on the coins is most likely a sign of their contribution to the Gupta power expansion. Chandragupta was most likely the ruler of the Lichchhavi territories after the union. Alternatively, the Gupta and Lichchhavi states should have combined, with Chandragupta and Kumaradevi as sovereign rulers of their respective states before the reign of their son Samudragupta, who became the supreme ruler of the unified kingdom.
The size of Chandragupta's empire is uncertain, but considering that he was the first ruler of Gupta dynasty, it had to be much larger than that of the earlier Gupta kings.
Several kings were subjugated by Samudragupta, according to the inscription on the Allahabad Pillar. Several modern historians have attempted to assess the size of the territories that he would have inherited from Chandragupta based on the names of these kings. These historians theorize that northern Bengal was a part of Chandragupta's kingdom because the king of the northern part of the Bengal region is not mentioned among the kings subjugated by Samudragupta. However, such conclusions cannot be drawn with certainty since the identification of some of Samudragupta's subjugated kings is disputed.
Nonetheless, the inscription's data can be used to classify the territories that were not part of Chandragupta's kingdom:
Samudragupta defeated the kings of present-day western Uttar Pradesh, so Chandragupta's kingdom possibly did not stretch far beyond Prayaga (modern Prayagraj).
Since Samudragupta defeated the kings of the forest zone, which is associated with this area, Chandragupta's kingdom in the south did not include the Mahakoshal area of Central India.
Since the Allahabad Pillar inscription mentions Samatata as a frontier kingdom in that area, Chandragupta's kingdom in the east did not include southern Bengal. Furthermore, the inscription on the Delhi Iron Pillar indicates that the later king Chandragupta II defeated the Vanga kingdom in that area.
The Allahabad Pillar inscription describes Nepala (modern-day Nepal) as a frontier kingdom in the north.
Coinage in the Gupta Dynasty
Mathura, Ayodhya, Lucknow, Sitapur, Tanda, Ghazipur, and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh; Bayana in Rajasthan; and Hajipur in Bihar have all discovered gold coins with portraits of Chandragupta and Kumaradevi. The portraits of Chandragupta and Kumaradevi on the obverse of these coins are followed by their names written in Gupta script. The legend "Li-ccha-va-yah" appears on the reverse, which portrays a goddess sitting on a lion. Chandragupta and Kumaradevi are most likely represented as joint rulers on the coins. The name of the woman depicted on the reverse of these coins is unknown. She was unlikely a Gupta queen, as the depiction of a female figure seated on a lion is typical of a goddess in Indian historical art.
The Successor to the Gupta Empire Founder
Samudragupta's father Chandragupta chose him as the next ruler, according to the Allahabad Pillar inscription and the Eran stone inscription. Chandragupta appointed him to "secure the earth," according to the Allahabad Pillar inscription, indicating that Chandragupta renounced the throne in his old age and appointed his son as the next ruler. The discovery of coins from a Gupta ruler named Kacha has fuelled speculation about Chandragupta's successor. One theory suggests that Kacha was another name for Samudragupta. Another hypothesis is that Kacha, Samudragupta's older brother, succeeded their father Chandragupta.