History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 2006: Q.3

History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 2006: Q.3

Q3.Describe the expansion of the Gupta Empire under Samudragupta. (30 Marks)


The most important epigraph of Samudragupta’s reign is the prashasti on the unique Allahabad pillar which was composed by his court poet, Harisena .The inscription contains 33 lines. The Allahabad inscription, in prose and verse, eulogizes the achievements, conquests and personality of the Samudragupta. Samudragupta emerges from the Allahabad prashasti as a restless conqueror.

Conquests of Samudragupta and the consequent expansion of the Gupta empire

Samudragupta must have inherited an empire that included the Magadha area of Bihar and adjoining areas of Uttar Pradesh and Bengal, stretching to the Himalayan foothills in the north. His initial military campaigns were directed towards extending his control over territories lying immediately beyond this area.

(1) Campaigns in Aryavarta and forest regions

(a) Line 14 of the inscription refers to his capturing a king of the Kota family who may be a ruler of upper Ganga valley.

(b) Line 21 refers to Samudragupta violently exterminating a number of kings of Aryavarta  namely Rudradeva, Matila, Nagadatta, Chandravarman, Ganapatinaga, Nagasena, Achyuta, Nandin, and Balavarman and making all the kings of the forest his subordinates.

This annexation of the territories of the kings led to an extension of the Gupta empire over the Ganga-Yamuna valley up to Mathura and Padmavati in the west.

(2) Campaigns in Frontier areas  and subordination of sanghas

Line 22 of the prashasti refers to rulers offering tribute, obeying the orders of the Gupta kings, and coming to perform obeisance before him.

a) They include the frontier kings of Samata, Davaka, Kamarupa, Nepala, and Kartripura.

b) The ganas subordinated in this manner include Malavas, Arjunayanas, Yaudheyas, Madrakas, Abhiras, Prarjunas, Sanakanithan, kakas and Kharaparikas.

The relationship between the Gupta emperor and all these groups had certain elements of a feudatory relationship.

(3) Campaign in South

Lines 19 and 20 of the inscription refer to Samudragupta having captured and then released several rulers from Dakshinapath. These include rulers of Kosala, Mahakantara, Kairala, Pishtapura, Kusthalapura, Erandapalla, Kanchi, Avamukta, Vengi, Palakka, Devarashtra, and all other kings of Dakshinapath.

(4) Others

Line 23 of the inscription mentions some rulers rendering all kinds of service to Samudragupta, seeking the use of the Gupta garuda seal and entering into matrimonial alliances with the Guptas of their own accord.

At  the end of his reign, Samudragupta’s empire seems to have comprised much northern India, with the  exception of Kashmir, Western Punjab, Rajasthan, Sindh, and Gujarat. In north-west, Samudragupta claims to have impress his might over the Shakas and The Kushanas. In the south, the kings of the Dakshinapath were humbled but suffered neither annexation nor a reduction to feudatory status.

It can be concluded that the Guptas did not create an all-India empire under their direct control but through their successful military campaigns, they did establish a network of political relationships of paramountcy and subordination that extended over a large part of the subcontinent.  

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