Samudragupta was the son of Chandragupta I and though the exact date
of his birth is not known, it seems he must have ascended the
throne after the death of his father Chandragupta I in AD 335. The
information about his reign is on an inscription engraved on a pillar at
Allahabad. The text of this inscription was recorded by Harishena, the
court poet of Samudragupta. Part of the inscription was lost in
the course of time. Harishena's inscription tells us about Samudragupta's
various conquests and small kingdoms existing at that
time. Samudragupta also left an extensive coinage which supports the
information of the inscription.
Samudragupta was a great warrior. His passion of conquest was so
great that he did not rest till he captured almost whole of
India. It seems Samudragupta first waged wars against the
neighbouring kingdoms of Shichchhatra (Rohilkhand) and Padmavati (in
Central India), then ruled by Achyuta and Nagasena. Then he
incorporated in the Gupta empire the kingdom of Kota kings by
defeating him. He also waged wars against tribal states like those of
Malvas, the Yaudheyas, the Arjunayanas, the Maduras and the
Abhiras. The descendants of Kushanas, many chieftains of Sakas, the
Ceylonese hastened to propitiate the great Gupta by offering homage
and tribute or presents.
Samudragupta's daring adventure was his military expedition to the
south along the coast of the Bay of Bengal. He defeated Mahendra of
Khosla, Mantaraja of Kurala, Mahendragiri of Pithapuram, Svamidatta
of Kottura, Damana of Erandapalla, Vishnugupta - the Pallava king of
Kanchi, Kubera of Devarashtrain the Vizagapatam district and
Dhananjaya of Kushthalapur possible in North Arcot. Samudragupta did
not go beyond the river Krishna.
Towards the west, Samudragupta subdued Palaghat, Maharashtra and
Khandesh. He did not annex any part of the Deccan to his empire
as he knew that it would be difficult to control those territories
situated so far from Patliputra.
Samudragupta's territories extended from the Himalayas in the north to
the river Narbada in the south and from the Brahamaputra river in the
east to the Yamuna river in the west. Then there were other kingdoms
like Assam, Nepal, Devaka, Kartipura.
Samudragupta is considered as one of the greatest rulers in Indian
history. He is also compared to Alexander or Napoleon as a
conqueror. He performed Ashwamedha Yajna (horse sacrifice)
after defeating nine kings in the north and twelve kings in the south
to underline the importance of his conquest of almost the whole of
India. He also assumed the title of Maharajadhiraja (King of
Kings) and Chakravartin (Universal Monarch).
Samudragupta was not a only a great warrior but also a great patron of
art and literature. He gathered around himself a galaxy of poets and
scholars, the most prominent ones being Harishena, Vasubandhu and
Asanga. He himself was a great poet and musician. In one of his coins,
he is shown playing the Veena. Samudragupta was a staunch believer of
Hinduism and was a worshiper of Lord Vishnu. He also respected other
religions like Buddhism and also allowed the Buddhist king of Ceylon
to build a monastery at Bodh-Gaya.