Samudra Gupta

Samudra Gupta

▪ emperor of India
died AD 380

      Indian regional emperor from about AD 330 to 380 who was the epitome of an “ideal king” of the “golden age of Hindu history,” as the period of the imperial Guptas (AD 320–510) has often been called. The son of King Candra Gupta I and the Licchavi princess Kumāradevī, he is pictured as a muscular warrior, poet, and musician who displayed “marks of hundreds of wounds received in battle.” In many ways he personified the Indian conception of the hero.

      Samudra Gupta was chosen as emperor by his father over other contenders and apparently had to repress revolts in his first years of rule. On pacifying the kingdom, which probably then reached from what is now Allahābād to the borders of Bengal, he began a series of wars of expansion from his northern base near what is now Delhi. In the southern Pallava kingdom of Kānchipuram, he defeated King Viṣṇugopa, then restored him and other defeated southern kings to their thrones on payment of tribute. Several northern kings were uprooted, however, and their territories added to the Gupta (Gupta dynasty) empire. At the height of Samudra Gupta's power he controlled nearly all the valley of the Ganges River and received homage from rulers of parts of east Bengal, Assam, Nepal, the eastern part of the Punjab, and various tribes of Rājasthān. He exterminated 9 monarchs and subjugated 12 others in his campaigns.

      From inscriptions on gold coins and on the Aśoka pillar in the fort at Allahābād, Samudra Gupta is shown to have been especially devoted to the Hindu god Vishnu. He revived the ancient Vedic horse sacrifice, probably at the conclusion of his fighting days, and distributed large sums for charitable purposes during these ceremonies. A special gold coin that he issued commemorated this ceremony, while another showed him playing the harp; all were of high gold content and excellent workmanship.

      Since he was a member of the influential Brahman class, it is reasonable to assume that he supported caste distinctions, and the Guptas may have been responsible for the emergence of Brahmanism as a theological system as well as a code of social behaviour carried into present Hindu society.

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Universalium. 2010.

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