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.
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 MAURYAN EMPIRE (322 BC to 188 BC)
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.
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.
KINGDOMS AFTER THE MAURYAN EMPIRE
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 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
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
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.
THE GUPTA PERIOD
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