Chandragupta II (also known as Chandragupta Vikramaditya) was one of
the most powerful emperors of the
Gupta Empire in India. His rule
spanned c. 380 – c. 415 CE during which the Gupta Empire
reached its peak. Art, architecture, and sculpture flourished, and the
cultural development of ancient
India achieved new heights. The
period of prominence of the
Gupta dynasty is often referred to as the
"Golden Age" of India.
Chandragupta II was the son of the previous
ruler, Samudragupta. He attained success by pursuing both a favourable
marital alliance and an aggressive expansionist policy in which his
father and grandfather (Chandragupta I) set the precedent.
Samudragupta set the stage for the emergence of classical art, which
occurred under the rule of Chandragupta II.
Chandragupta II extended
great support to the arts.
From 388 to 409 he subjugated Gujarat, the region north of Mumbai,
Saurashtra, in western India, and Malwa, with its capital at
1 Early life
2 Military victories
3 Visit of Faxian
6 Iron pillar of Delhi
7 Identification with the legendary Vikramaditya
7.1 Vikram Samvat
10 External links
Chandragupta II with the name of the king in
Brahmi script, 380–415 CE.
Chandragupta II's mother, Datta Devi, was the chief queen of
Dhruvadevi was Chandragupta II's chief queen, as seen in the Vaisali
Terracotta Seal that calls her "Mahadevi" (Chief Queen) Dhruvasvamini.
The Bilsad Pillar Inscription of their son
Kumaragupta I (r. 414–455
CE) also refers to her as "Mahadevi Dhruvadevi". The fragment from
Vishakhadatta's play "Natya-darpana" mentions that Ramagupta, the
elder brother of Chandragupta II, decided to surrender
Rudrasimha III of the
Western Kshatrapas dynasty, when
faced with a military defeat. Chandragupta himself went to Rudrasimha
III disguised as the queen, and then assassinated the enemy rulers.
According to D. C. Sircar, the only facts in this story are that
Dhruvadevi was Chandragupta's queen and the
Saka ruler Rudrasimha III
held power in western India. Everything else is "Vishakhadatta's own
imagination or some current popular legends embellished by his
Mathura inscription of Chandragupta II.
Allahabad Pillar inscription mentions the marriage of Chandragupta
II with a Naga princess Kuberanaga. A pillar from
Mathura referring to
Chandragupta II has recently been dated to 388 CE.
Chandragupta II's daughter, Prabhavatigupta, by his Naga queen
Kuberanaga was married to the powerful
Vakataka dynasty ruler
Rudrasena II (r.380–385 CE). His son-in-law died in 385 CE after
a very short reign, following which Queen
385–405) ruled the Vakataka kingdom as a regent on behalf of her two
sons. During this twenty-year period, the Vakataka realm was
practically a part of the Gupta empire.
Gold coins of Chandragupta II. The one on the left is the obverse of a
so-called "Chhatra" type of Chandragupta II, while the one on the
right is the obverse of a so-called "Archer" type of Chandragupta II.
Chandragupta is believed to have defeated the
Western Kshatrapas led
by Rudrasimha III, capturing
Gujarat in the process. The
geographical location of the Vakataka kingdom allowed Chandragupta II
to take the opportunity to defeat the
Western Kshatrapas once for all.
Many historians refer to this period as the Vakataka-Gupta Age.
Chandragupta II controlled a vast empire, from the mouth of the Ganges
to the mouth of the
Indus River and from what is now North Pakistan
down to the mouth of the Narmada.
Pataliputra continued to be the
capital of his huge empire but
Ujjain too became a sort of second
capital. The large number of beautiful gold coins issued by the Gupta
dynasty are a testament to the grandeur of that age. Chandragupta II
also started producing silver coins in the
Western Satrap tradition in
his western territories.
Chandragupta II was succeeded by his second son Kumaragupta I, born of
Visit of Faxian
Faxian (c. 337 – c. 422) was the first of the three notable
Buddhist pilgrims from China who visited
India from the fifth to the
seventh centuries CE in search of knowledge, manuscripts, and relics.
Faxian arrived during the reign of Chandragupta II. While he did not
Vikramaditya by name in his travelogue, he
provided a general description of North
India at that time. Among
other things, he reported about the absence of capital punishment, the
lack of a poll-tax and land tax. Most citizens did not consume onions,
garlic, meat, and wine.
Faxian wrote, "The people were rich and prosperous and seemed to
emulate each other in the practice of virtue. Charitable institutions
were numerous and rest houses for travelers were provided on the
highway. The capital possessed an excellent hospital."
Vikramaditya goes forth to war
Chandragupta II kings of
Gupta dynasty are known as Parama
Bhagavatas or Bhagavata Vaishnavas. The
Bhagavata Purana entails the
fully developed tenets and philosophy of the Bhagavata tradition
wherein Krishna gets fused with
Vasudeva and transcends Vedic Vishnu
and cosmic Hari to be turned into the ultimate object of bhakti.
Silver coin of Chandragupta II, minted in his Western territories, in
the style of the Western Satraps.
Obv:Bust of king, with corrupted Greek legend "OOIHU".
Rev: Legend in Brahmi, "Chandragupta Vikramaditya, King of Kings, and
a devotee of Vishnu", around Garuda, the mythic eagle and dynastic
symbol of the Guptas.
15mm, 2.1 grams. Mitchiner 4821–4823.
Chandragupta continued issuing most of the gold coin types introduced
by his father Samudragupta, such as the Sceptre type (rare for
Chandragupta II), the Archer type, and the Tiger-Slayer type. However,
Chandragupta II also introduced several new types, such as the
Horseman type and the Lion-slayer type, both of which were used by his
son Kumaragupta I.
Chandragupta II was the first Gupta king to issue silver
coins, such as the one illustrated at right. These coins were intended
to replace the silver coinage of the
Western Kshatrapas after
Chandragupta II defeated them, and were modelled on the Kshatrapa
coinage. The main difference was to replace the dynastic symbol of the
Kshatrapas (the three-arched hill) by the dynastic symbol of the
Guptas (the mythic eagle Garuda). Further, Chandragupta also issued
lead coins based on Kshatrapa prototypes and rare copper coins
probably inspired by the coins of another tribe he defeated, the
Iron pillar of Delhi
Main article: Iron pillar of Delhi
The iron pillar of Delhi, erected by Chandragupta II
Close to the
Qutub Minar is one of Delhi's most curious structures, an
iron pillar, dating back to 4th century CE. The pillar bears an
inscription which states that it was erected as a flagstaff in honour
Hindu god Vishnu, and in the memory of
Chandragupta II (A
derivation of "Natya-darpana" by Vishakadata states that the pillar
had been put up by
Chandragupta II himself after defeating Vahilakas.
And after this great feat, he put up this pillar as a memory of the
victory). The pillar also highlights ancient India's achievements in
metallurgy. The pillar is made of 98% wrought iron and has stood more
than 1,600 years without rusting or decomposing.
Identification with the legendary Vikramaditya
Main article: Vikramaditya
Vikramaditya is a legendary emperor of ancient India, who is
characterised as the ideal king, known for his generosity, courage,
and patronage to scholars. A number of historians believe that at
least some of the
Vikramaditya legends are based on Chandragupta II.
These historians include D. R. Bhandarkar, V. V. Mirashi and D. C.
Sircar among others.
Based on some coins and the Supia pillar inscription, it is believed
Chandragupta II adopted the title "Vikramaditya". The Khambat
and Sangli plates of the
Govinda IV use the epithet
"Sahasanka" for Chandragupta II. The name "Sahasanka" has also been
applied to the legendary Vikramaditya.
Sanchi inscription of Chandragupta II.
Vikramaditya is said to have defeated the Śaka
invaders, and was therefore, known as Śakari ("enemy of the Śakas).
Chandragupta II conquered
Malwa after defeating the Western Kshatrapas
(a branch of Śakas); he also expelled the Kushanas from Mathura. His
victory over these foreign tribes was probably transposed on upon a
fictional character, resulting in the
According to most legends,
Vikramaditya had his capital at Ujjain,
although some legends mention him as the king of Pataliputra. The
Guptas had their capital at Pataliputra. According to D. C. Sircar,
Chandragupta II may have defeated the Shaka invaders of Ujjain, and
placed his son Govindagupta as a viceroy there. As a result, Ujjain
might have become a second capital of the Gupta empire, and
subsequently, legends about him (as Vikramaditya) might have
developed. Guttas of Guttavalal, a minor dynasty based in
present-day Karnataka, claimed descent from the imperial Guptas. The
Caudadanapura inscription of the Guttas alludes to the legendary
Vikramaditya ruling from Ujjayni, and several Gutta royals were named
"Vikramaditya". According to Vasundhara Filliozat, their reference to
Vikramaditya is simply because they confused him with
Chandragupta II. However,
D. C. Sircar sees this as further proof
that the legendary
Vikramaditya was based on Chandragupta II.
320 CE–550 CE
(240 – 280)
(280 – 319)
(320 – 335)
(335 – 380)
(380 – 413/415)
(415 – 455)
(455 - 467)
(467 – 473)
(473 - 476)
(476 – 495)
(495 – ?)
(540 – 550)
Vikrama Samvat, an Indian calendar era beginning in 57 BCE, is
associated with the legendary Vikramaditya. However, this association
did not exist before 9th century CE. The earlier sources call this era
by various names, including Kṛṭa, the era of the Malava tribe, or
simply, Samvat. Scholars such as
D. C. Sircar and D. R.
Bhandarkar believe that the name of the era changed to "Vikram Samvat"
after the reign of Chandragupta II, who had adopted the title
Jyotirvidabharana (22.10), a treatise attributed to Kalidasa, states
that nine famous scholars known as the Navaratnas ("nine gems")
attended the court of the legendary Vikramaditya. Besides Kalidasa
himself, these included Amarasimha, Dhanvantari, Ghatakarapara,
Kshapanaka, Shanku, Varahamihira, Vararuchi, and Vetala Bhatta.
However, there is no historical evidence to show that these nine
scholars were contemporary figures or proteges of the same
king. Jyotirvidabharana is considered a literary forgery of a
date later than
Kalidasa by multiple scholars. There is no
mention of such "Navaratnas" in earlier literature, and D. C. Sircar
calls this tradition "absolutely worthless for historical
Nevertheless, multiple scholars believe that one of these Navaratnas
Kalidasa – may have indeed flourished during the reign of
Chandragupta II. These scholars include William Jones, A. B. Keith,
Vishnu Mirashi among others.
^ a b c d Kulke, Hermann; Rothermund, Dietmar (2004). A History of
India (Fourth ed.). Routledge. pp. 91–92. Retrieved 1 October
^ a b "Chandra Gupta II". Encyclopædia Britannica.
^ Sircar 1969, p. 139.
^ Falk, Harry. (2004) "The Kaniṣka era in Gupta Records." Silk Road
Art and Archaeology 10. Kamakura: The Institute of Silk Road Studies,
^ a b "The conquest is indicated by the issue of the new Gupta silver
coinage modelled on the previous
Saka coinage showing on observe the
King's head, Greek script, and dates as on
Saka coins" in Early
history of Jammu region: pre historic to 6th century A.D. by Raj Kumar
^ a b "Evidence of the conquest of Saurastra during the reign of
Chandragupta II is to be seen in his rare silver coins which are more
directly imitated from those of the Western Satraps... they retain
some traces of the old inscriptions in Greek characters, while on the
reverse, they substitute the Gupta type (a peacock) for the chaitya
with crescent and star." in Rapson "A catalogue of Indian coins in the
British Museum. The Andhras etc...", p.cli. Most people now realize
that Rapson was mistaken in identifying the central bird as a peacock;
rather, it is the mythic eagle Garuda, the dynastic symbol of the
Guptas. For example, A.S. Altekar says: "... the three-arched hill in
the cntre is replaced by Garuda, which was the imperial insignia of
the Guptas. The view of earlier writers ... that the bird is a peacock
is clearly untenable." in Altekar: The Coinage of the Gupta Empire,
Varanasi: Banaras Hindu University, 1957, p. 151.
^ Agarwal, Ashvini (1989). Rise and Fall of the Imperial Guptas,
Delhi:Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-0592-5, pp.191–200
^ a b Sen, Sailendra (1999). Ancient Indian History and Civilization.
New Delhi: New Age International. pp. 215, 216.
^ Kalyan Kumar Ganguli: (1988). Sraddh njali, Studies in Ancient
Indian History: D.C. Sircar Commemoration: Puranic tradition of
Krishna. Sundeep Prakashan. ISBN 81-85067-10-4. p.36
^ a b c d Kailash Chand Jain (1972).
Malwa Through the Ages, from the
Earliest Times to 1305 A.D. Motilal Banarsidass Publ.
pp. 156–165. ISBN 978-81-208-0824-9.
^ a b c Vasudev
Vishnu Mirashi; Narayan Raghunath Navlekar (1969).
Kalidasa: Date, Life And Works. Popular. pp. 8–29.
^ Sircar 1969, p. 130.
Alf Hiltebeitel (2009). Rethinking India's Oral and Classical Epics.
University of Chicago Press. pp. 254–275.
^ Maurice Winternitz; Moriz Winternitz (1963). History of Indian
Literature. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 42.
^ Sircar 1969, p. 131.
^ Vasundhara Filliozat (1995). The Temple of Muktēśvara at
Cauḍadānapura. Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts /
Abhinav. p. 7. ISBN 978-81-7017-327-4.
^ Sircar 1969, p. 136.
^ Ashvini Agrawal (1989). Rise and Fall of the Imperial Guptas.
Motilal Banarsidass Publ. pp. 174–175.
^ a b c M. Srinivasachariar (1974). History of Classical Sanskrit
Literature. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 94–111.
^ Sircar 1969, p. 165-166.
^ Sircar 1969, pp. 120–123.
Vishnu Mirashi and Narayan Raghunath Navlekar (1969).
Kālidāsa; Date, Life, and Works. Popular Prakashan.
^ Chandra Rajan (2005). The Loom of Time. Penguin UK.
R. K. Mookerji, The Gupta Empire, 4th edition. Motilal Banarsidass,
R. C. Majumdar, Ancient India, 6th revised edition. Motilal
Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund, A History of India, 2nd edition.
Rupa and Co, 1991.
Sircar, D. C. (1969). Ancient
Malwa and the
Munshiram Manoharlal. ISBN 978-8121503488. Archived from the
original on 17 June 2016.
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Coins of Chandragupta II