Monday, May 3, 2010


Vast territories in the northern part of India were covered by forest and inhabited by tribes.

Civilized settlements existed in the plains of the Indus and the Ganga. Four important

kingdoms of this period were the Magadha, the Avadh, the Vatsa and the Malwa. The

other small kingdoms were Kasi, Matsya, Kuru and Panchala. Besides these kingdoms there

were many non - monarchial clans. The most important was the Virji confederation of eight

clans, of which the Licchavis, who ruled from Vaisali as their capital was prominent. The

others were Sakyas of Kapilavastu and the Mallas. These clans had no hereditary rules. An

assembly was in charge of administration helped by a council and an elected chief. The four

kingdoms maintained matrimonial relation, though fighting among themselves for supremacy

was common. Magadha emerged as the strongest power with an able line of rulers.

While Magadha was establishing their way over northern India, the regions of west, Punjab,

Sind and Afganistan were divided into many states. Kamboja and Gandhara are two of the

sixteen Mahajanapadas mentioned in the Buddhist scriptures.

Magadha Empire

The history of the Magadha kingdom was unleashed in south Bihar in the 4th century BC and

the drama commenced in the Saisungha dynasty by a chieftain named Sisunga in about 642


Bimbisara was the fifth king of this kingdom. He contributed extending his dominions by the

conquest of Anga the modern Bhagalpur and Monghyr district. He is said to reigned for

twenty eight years, according to the puranas. He is regarded as the person who laid the

foundation of Magadhan greatness. His policy of diplomacy and war, and able administration

made Magadha a great empire.


The period of the Mauryan Empire marks a new epoch in the history of India. It is said to be

a period when chronology becomes definite. It was a period when politics, art, trade and

commerce elevated India to a glorious height. A period of unification of the territories which

lay as fragmented kingdoms. Moreover, Indian contact with the outside world was

established effectively rule during these period.

The accounts of the Greeks

Arthashastra by Chanakya or Kautilya is treatise on statecraft. It gives us a picture of

administration, society and the economy of the country. Mudrarakshasa is a sanskrit play by


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Visakadatta. It is said to be a political literature revealing the struggle

unleashed by Chandragupta Maurya with the help of Chanakya to

overthrow the Nandas. It is also an insight into Chandragupta life.

The Jataka and Chronicles of Ceylon gives us an idea that period. Indika

written by Megasthenes gives an account of the Mauryan capital,

administrative system and social life. The rock edicts of Ashoka also

provides ideas about the Mauryan rule.

Indica written by Megasthenes which exists as writings by later writers throw light on the

people, government and institutions of India under Chandragupta Maurya. His topographical

account of the Mauryan capital Pataliputra when he visited it as an ambassador and

description of the administrative system are reliable.

The Ceylonese Chronicles, the Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa gives the accounts of the

conversion of Ceylon. They also have helped in reconstructing the history of Ashoka.

Chandragupta Maurya

The Mudrarakshasha describes Chandragupta as Mauryaputra. Another account by Somadeva

represents him as the son of the last Nanda monarch from his Sudra concubine Maurya by

name from which was derived the name Maurya. The Mahavamsatika connects the Mauryans

with Sakyas who belong to

the solar race of Kshatriyas.

According to the Jains

tradition Chandragupta was

the son of the daughter of the

chief of a village of peacock

-tamers (Mayur Posakh). The

peacock figures that appear

in the emblem of the

Mauryas in the some punch

marked coins and sculptures

testify this. Others are of the

view that he was a

commoner and not a prince.

Chandragupta was brought

to the limelight of the

Mauryan empire by

Chanakya who had a grudge

against Dhananda who insulted him in the court. The Nanda dynasty had lost all its capability

owing to the extravagant life led by the rulers. The tyranny that was unleashed spread an air


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of discontent. The defeat of Punjab in the struggle with Alexander, set the conditions for

having a change in the rule.

According to Mudrarakshasha, Buddhist and puranic accounts Chandragupta defeated the

Nanda army after invoking a revolution against the Nanda rulers in Patliaputra. He acceded

to the throne in 321 BC. His empire included Magadha and Punjab. The Junagarh rock

inscription of Rudradaman proves the inclusion of the Saurastra in his empire. The Jain

tradition also establishes Chandraguta 's connection with north Mysore. It also said to include

the Hindukush in the west. The four satrapies also became parts of the Mauryan empire

during Chandragupta Maurya. In course of 18 year Chandragupta consolidated his empire.

After which he is said to have abdicated the throne and became disciple of the Jain Saint

Bhadrabahu, and settled in Shravanabelagola (Mysore). After a reign of 24 years he died in

about 297 BC.


Bindusara, also called "Amitrachates" meaning slayer of enemies, by the Greeks, succeeded

to the throne of the Mauryan empire after Chandragupta's abdication. He also had the

opportunity of having the guidance of Chanakya who continued as minister. The period of his

accession to the Mauryan throne witnessed a series of revolt by the people of Taxila. The first

revolt was effected owing to the improper administration of prince Susima. To the inherited

Mauryan territory of Bindusara he added parts of south.


The Sungas

After the Mauryan rule Pushyamitra, the founder of the Sunga dynasty established his rule.

The Sungas ruled for over a hundred years. The extent of the Sunga kingdom under

Pushyamitra extended from Punjab and extended to the southern regions of the Narmada. The

Sunga dynasty had a line of ten rulers. The last of the Sunga king was Devabhuti.

The Sunga period though is less reflected as a great role in Indian history yet it is significant

in the matter of its administration, religion, art and literature.

The Sungas administrated the kingdom with the help of a mantriparishad. This council

existed in the centre and the provinces. The provinces were governed by viceroys. During

the Sunga rule Brahmanism revived its vigour. The Bhagavata form of religion was

prevalent. The Bharbat stupa and the ivory works in its exquisite manner proves the

promotion of art. Patanjali's Mahabhashya is an example of the flourishing literature of the



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The Kanvas

The Kanva dynasty was a Brahman dynasty founded by Vasudeva Kanva, the minister of

Devabhuti, the last Sunga king. This period is said to have witnessed the rule of four kings

extending to a period about 45 years. The extent of Kanva territory was confined to the areas

of Sunga rule. Susarman was the last ruler of the Kanva dynasty. The Kanvas were over

thrown by the Satavahanas.


The Satavahanas were also called Andhras. The Aitareya Brahmana claims the Andhras as,

the exiled and degenerate sons of Viswamitra. Ashoka inscriptions mentions the Andhras as

border people. They were Dravidian people who lived between the Godavari and the

Krishna. Simuka was the founder of the Satavahana dynasty. He was succeeded by his

brother Krishna.

Scholars are of the opinion that the original home of the Andhras - Andhra bhrityas was the

Bellary district. Others claim their records to be found in the Northern Deccan and central

India. Satakarni was the successor after Simuka, and is a considerable figure, known for his

performance of two aswamedha sacrifices. His reign was followed by the rule of

Gautamiputra satakarni. He is said to have defeated the Yavanas, Sakas and Phalanas and reestablished

the ancient glory of the Satavahanas. Gautamiputra satkarni was succeeded by his

son Vasisthiputra Sri Pulamavi in about 130 AD. He extended his rule towards the Andhra

country. Yajna Sri Satakarni was the last great ruler of the Satavahanas. After him the weak

successors resulted in the contraction of the territory of the Satavahanas. Hostility with the

Saka rulers also led to the ultimate parceling of its territories and decleration of

independence .

The Satavahana society reflected the existence of four classes. The persons who controlled

and administered the districts, followed by the officials. They were followed by the Vaidhya,

cultivators. The fourth class were common citizen. The head of the family was the Grihapati.

Both Buddhism and Brahmanism was practiced during the Satavahana rule. A state of

religions tolerance existed among of various sects of people following varied faiths.

Trade flourished and there existed organisation of workers doing various trades. Broach,

Sopara and Kalyan were important trade points. The Satavahana rulers patronised Prakrit

which was the common language used on documents.

The Satavahana empire is said to be partitioned into five provinces. The western territory of

Nasik was possessed by the Abhiras. The Ikshavakus dominated over the eastern part in the

Krishna -Guntur region.


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The Chutus possessed the southwestern parts extended their territory to the north and east.

The south eastern parts were under the Pahalvas.

The Hathigumpha inscription at Udayagiri near Cuttack speaks of a remarkable rule of a

contemporary of the Sungas known as Kharavela of Kalinga. He ruled from about 176Bc to

164 BC. He is said to be the third ruler of the Cheta dynasty.

In the first year of his rule he is said to be have furnished and improved his capital Kalinga.

In the second year he subdued and destroyed the capital of the Mushikas disregarding the

rule of Satakarni.

In his eighth year he destroyed the fortification of Gordha and entered as far as Rajagriha in

the Gaya district. He also conquered king Brihaspatimittra of the Magadha. He also built the

Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves to provide shelter to the Jain monks.

It can be concluded that he was as accomplished ruler and a generous guardian of the people.


After the downfall of the Kushana empire in

about the third century and at the beginning

of the 4th century AD, many independent

states emerged in North India. One of these

states was of the Lichchahavis of Vaisali

who dominated portions of North Bengal

and South Bihar. This clan obtained

possession of Pataliputra, the Capital of the

Kushans. Sri Gupta was the first ruler of this

dominion. After him his son Ghatokacha

ruled with the title of Maharaja. In the fourth

century a Lichchavi princess got married to a

king in the Magadha who was called

Chandragupta I. The reign of Chandragupta I

is said to have come to an end in about 330

AD. The importance of the rule

Chandragupta I centres around the influence

of Kumaradevi the Lichchavi princess, coins

bearing the figures of the princess speaks of

the extent of her influence. Chandragupta became the king of Pataliputra and established a

kingdom along the Ganges.



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Chandragupta I was succeeded by Samudragupta in 330 AD. He reigned for about fifty years.

Inscriptions on a pillar erected by Ashoka gives an account of Samudragupta. After

succeeding to the throne of the empire he subdued the powers revolting against his authority

in the Gangetic plains and brought their dominions to his kingdoms. He is said to have

commanded a military campaign across the Deccan, and also subdued the forest tribes of the

Vindhya region. He performed the Ashvamedha sacrifice to establish and proclaim his

supremacy. His kingdom also included Lower Bengal, upper Assam and Nepal. Tributes and

homage was paid by the rulers and clans including the Malwas, the Yaudheyas,

Arjunayansas, the Madras, the Abhiras in Punjab and Rajasthan and others in Madhya

Pradesh. Samudragupta led an expedition to the south through the forest tracts of Madhya

Pradesh to Orissa, Vishakapatnam, Godavari, Krishna and Nellore district. He is also said to

have intruded into Kanchi the capital of the Pallavas.

Samudragupta maintained diplomatic relations with the Kushana King of North west and the

ruler of Ceylon. His friendly relation with Ceylon is proved by the fact that King Meghavarna

of Ceylon sent an embassy to Samudragupta. With gifts, seeking permission to erect a

splendid monastery near the holy tree at Bodh Gaya for the pilgrims from Ceylon. This

structure constructed with the permission of Samudragupta was known as Mahabohi

Sangharvama. Samudragupta's personal skill was exceptional especially in music and song.

He was also well known for his poetry and had composed many work which had a reputation

of a professional author. He was a devotee of Vishnu and thus can be called a Brahmanical

Hindu. All these and his role as a monarch qualifies him to be called a hero of hundred battle

by a court poet in the Allahabad inscriptions.

Vincent Smith has elevated Samudragupta in Indian history as the Napoleon of India. His

tradition of (Milito) religious toleration reflects in the Allahabad inscription and speaks thus "

put to Shama the preceptor of the lord of the gods. Brahaspati by his sharp and polished

intellect and Tamburu and Narad by lovely performance." Samudragupta had several sons.

His rule is presumed to have been till about 375AD.

Samudragupta was succeeded by his elder son Ramagupta who was said to have been

murdered by Chandragupta II, who did so owing to his brother Ramaguptas uncouth act of

surrendering his queen Dhruvadevi to the Saka ruler who subdued him.

Thus Chandragupta ascended the throne of Patilaputra in about 375AD. On assuming the

throne of the Gupta empire he took to the title of Vikramaditya. Chandragupta II was a

conquerer like his father Samudragupta. His diplomatic tactics in giving his daughter in

marriage to Rudrasena II. TheVakattaka 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

satraps of the west from the north. Chandragupta Vikramaditya's miltary conquests includes

the conquest of Malwa, Gujarat and Saurashtra which were under the Saka rule. He defeated

Rudrasimha III the last of the western satrap ruler and annexed his territories. This provided

exceptional wealth which added to the prosperity of the Guptas. The Guptas at his period had


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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 Gupta administration at this period was mild. Under

the Guptas the King assumed a divine character. Chandragupta II was also identified with

Vikramaditya of Ujjain. Raja Bikram of popular legend was also a patron of the nine gems

including Kalidasa and Varahamihira.

Kumaragupta I was successor of Chandragupta II known as Mahendraditya Kumargupta I, he

ruled from 415 AD to 455 AD. He reigned for about 40 years. His empire extended from

North Bengal to Kathiawar and from the Himalayas to the Narmada. To the south his

kingdom extended as far as the Satara district of the Deccan. He also performed the

Ashwameda sacrifice. Towards the end of his rule, the Pushyamitras who were people

located near Mekala in the Nerbudda valley became powerful and wealthy. The Pushamitras

brought about a temporary eclipse of the Gupta power. This attack on the Guptas were

repulsed by Skandagupta who is considered as the last great Gupta ruler. After the succession

of Skandagupta he had to subdue the Huns, Skandagupta assumed the title of Vikramaditya.

During his campaign against the Huns Skandagupta had to meet great expenses which

resulted in the reduction in the issue of gold coins. The Gupta period in Indian history is

termed as the Golden Age of India. This period extends from 320 to 480 AD. It extends

through the reigns of Chandragupta I, Samudragupta, Chandragupta II, Vikramaditya,

Kumaragupta and Skandagupta.The Gupta dynasty continued its existence after the death of

Skandagupta. He was succeeded by his son Narasimhagupta followed by Kumaragupta II.

Kumaragupta II was followed by Budhagupta. His territory extended from Bengal to central

India. The last Gupta ruler was Bhanugupta. During his reign the Hunas wrested Malwas

from the Guptas. After his decline in 467AD the succeeding rulers were weak and could not

check the invasion of the Huns and other tribes. After the death of Bhanugupta in 570 AD the

Gupta empire declined and broke off.

The Gupta period has been described as the golden age of Indian history. It extended from the

period of 320 AD to 480 AD. During this period literature, art and science flourished.

Religious toleration and freedom of worship speaks greatly of the Guptas. The great writings

of Kalidasa which include Ritusamhara and Meghauta in Sanskrit literature at its highest


The Gupta period is also regarded as a period of Hindu renaissance. Ashoka had succeeded in

making Buddhism as the religion of the majority of people in the Northern India. On doing

this neither Brahmanical Hinduism of Jainism died out owing to Ashokas religious toleration

propagated by Ashoka. After Ashoka all the rulers that followed showed religious toleration

which only added to the prosperity of the territories they ruled. The Guptas though showed a

preference to their family deity Vishnu pursued the policy of perfect freedom of worship.

Music, architecture, sculpture and painting was at its best during the period of Gupta rule.


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The stoner temples of which one at Deogarh in Jhansi, at Bhitergaon in the kanpur district are

few specimens depicting gupta excellence in architecture and sculpture Another area of

Gupta excellence was their metallurgical skill. Various copper statues images of Buddha

reflects the craftsmanship of the gupta period. The pillar at Delhi made of iron in the time of

Samudragupta is also another piece of excellence The Guptas also excellent in the filed of

fine arts. All fields of fine arts received royal patronage. Another area of outmost importance

during the Gupta reign is the exchange of intellectual ideas which is attributed to the royal

patronage and contacts with foreign people of both east and west. Buddhism which was

introduced in China from India fostered religious relations promoting constant

communication. Chinese missionaries visited India to do reverence to the sacred spots of

faith. These visits helped to the sacred spots of faith. These visit helped the Chinese pilgrims

knowledge of Sanskrit. Besides China contacts with various islands of South Asia, Indonesia,

Persia, Greece and Rome also proves the sound Gupta rule and their diplomatic tactics to

provide the best of administration. All these adds to the statement that defines the Gupta

period as the Golden age of India.

Contemporary with the rule of the Guptas their existed various other dynastic of which the

Vakatakas of Bundelkhand of Berar was one. They were Brahmanas and they dominated the

entire Bundelkhand country, Central provinces, Berars, Northern Deccan up to the sea.

Vindyakasthi was its first ruler. His son was Paravasena who performed numerous sacrifices

along with four Ashwamedha sacrifices. Gautamiputrra was his son, Paravasena's grandson

Rudrasena I. After his defeat by the Samudragupta he vacated central India and moved to the

Deccan. Rudradeva's first son Rudradeva II married to the daughter of Chandragupta II,

Prabhadevigupta , thus the alliance of the two families proved advantageous against the

Shakas of western India.


These were a race of fierce nomads who were heard of from about 165 BC when they

defeated the Yuhchi tribe in north western China. After this the Huns moved towards the

Oxus valley and was known as Ephthalites. One section of this group entered Europe and

were known of their fierce and cruel attitudes. In about the second decade of the fifth century

the Huns turned south, crossing Afghanistan and the north western passes entered India.

Accompanied by the Gurjaras and other tribes they gradually occupied both Persia and

Kabul. They attacked the western regions of the Gupta empire in about 458 AD but the able

Skandagupta repulsed their attack. With the collapse of the Persian power and the capture of

Kabul they intruded into India. Toramara was the leader of the Huns and he was successful

in annexing large parts of the Gupta empire.

Toramara was succeeded by his son Mihiragula in about 502 AD, Being a truant his rule was

not favoured by the Huns. Yashodarma king of Malwa and Baladitya a Gupta king organised


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a national uprising against Mihiragula. Mihiragula fled to Kashmir, where he took advantage

of hospitality offered to him and usurped the throne of his benefactor. But he could not live

along to enjoy his victory. In about 540 AD after the death of Mihirakulan the Hun empire

broke up. Local Indian chiefs especially the Maukharis vanquished the Huns from their

dominions. It is believed that in course of time the Huns were absorbed into the Rajputs. The

Invasion of the Huns had brought some significant changes in the course of Indian history.

Firstly it broke up the political unity of Northern India. Secondly There was an intermixture

of the Huns, Rajputs thus resulting in the evolution of new classes. This awakened the

Hinduistic rigidity of caste system to maintain their tradition and practices. After the decline

of the imperial Guptas a group of kings grew important to the north of the Ganges. They

were called the Mukaris. The Mukari clan said to have existed from the period of the

Mauryans. The Mukari chiefs held the Gaya districts of the Guptas, In about the sixth

century they made Kanauj their capital. By the end of the century the conquered the large

parts of Magadha from the Guptas. Insame Varma was one of the greatest king of Mukaris.

Grahavarman was the last king and after his death the rule of the Maukhans was erased. This

was owing to their constant opposition to the Huns.

During the period when the Gupta was weak over Saurashtra. A new dynasty was founded by

Senapati Bhattarka called Valabhi near Bhavnagar in about 5th century AD. He was

succeeded by Dharasena I who is referred to as Senapatis. He was followed by DhruvasenaII

during this period Vallabhi was a centre for Buddhist learning . Dhruvasenas second son

Dharasena IV and assumed the title of Paramabhattaraka, Maharajadiraj, Paramesvara and

Chakravartin. The last king of the dynasty was Siladitya VII. This dynasty lasted about 770

AD when the Arabs over threw it.

Another important ruler of this period was Yasodharman of Malwa, the ruler of Mandosor.

He is said to have defeated Mithiragula the king of the Huns.

The imperial Guptas declined in the sixth century. The country spilt up into a number of

independent kingdoms. Another line of kings with names ending in the names of Gupta rose

in Magadha. After the Mukharis occupied Magadha they entered into a matrimonial alliance

with the king of Thaneshwar. As circumstances changed the Muakharis were forced to take

the protection of Harshas father Prabhakara -Vardhana of Thaneshwar. After the end of the

Maukhari dyasty in the seventh century the power passed to the brother in-law of

Grahavarman, Harsha. The conflicts between the independent kingdoms required a strong

role. It was under Harshavardhana that India again witnessed unity and a good



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