The Gupta Dynasty was founded by Maharaja Sri Gupta. The great rulers of this dynasty were Chandragupta I, Samudragupta and Chandragupta II.

Chandragupta I (AD 319 – 334)

He was the first important ruler of the Gupta Dynasty. Chandragupta I is described in his inscription as Maharaja Dhiraj (King of Kings). He married a princess of the Lichchhavi tribe, named Kumara Devi.

Samudragupta (AD 335 – 380)

  1. The Gupta Kingdom was enlarged enormously by Chandragupta I’s son and successor Samudragupta.
  2. He loved music and poetry. He has been described as Kaviraj. Some of his coins show him playing Veena.
  3. We know about Samudragupta from a long inscription, a poem in Sanskrit, composed by his court poet, Harishena nearly 1700 years ago. This was inscribed on the Ashokan pillar at Allahabad.

This inscription is of a special kind known as Prashasti.

PRASHASTI: – It is an inscription of a special kind. Prashasti as a Sanskrit word that means ‘in praise of’. Samudragupta’ s Prashasti praises the king in glowing terms – as a warrior, as a king who won victories in battle, who was learned and the best of poets.  He is also described as equal to the gods.

HARISENA was the composer of the Prayag Prashasti. He described four different kinds of rulers and tells us about Samudragupta’ s policies towards them: –

  • There were nine rulers in Aryavarta, who were uprooted, and their kingdoms were conquered and made s part of Samudragupta’ s Empire.
  • There were twelve rulers in the far south of Dakshinapath. After being defeated, they surrendered to Samudragupta and then he allowed them to rule again.
  • The king of many kingdoms in the east including Nepal, Assam, Coastal Bengal and several Gana Sanghas in the north-west followed his orders, brought tribute and attended his court.
  • The foreign kings paid homage and offered allegiance to Samudragupta. They also offered the hands of their daughters in marriage. The descendants of Shakas, Kushans, and the ruler of Sri Lanka also submitted to him.


  1. Chandragupta II, the son of Samudragupta, was also called Vikram Aditya or Chandragupta Vikram Aditya.
  2. We know about him from inscriptions and coins. He led an expedition to western India, where he overcame the last of the Shakas.
  3. His court was full of learned people- Kalidasa, the poet and Aryabhata, the astronomer.
  4. The Chinese traveller Fa-Hien visited India during his time who has written a detailed account of his kingdom.


  • Sources of Information

We come to know about Harsha, another significant seventh century king, from his biography and other literary accounts.

  1. Banabhatta was his court poet who wrote his biography called Harshacharita in Sanskrit. This gives us the genealogy of Harsh and ends with him becoming king.
  2. We also have accounts of Chinese traveller, Hieun-Tsang, who visited Harsha’s kingdom and left detailed descriptions of what he saw.
  3. His life and Military Campaign
  4. Harsha ascended the throne of Thaneshwar around 606 CE after the death of his father and elder brother.
  5. His brother – in- law was the ruler of Kanauj and he was killed by the ruler of Bengal. Harsha took over the kingdom of Kanauj, and then led an army against the ruler of Bengal.
  6. He was successful in the east and conquered both Magadha and Bengal.
  7. He tried to cross the Narmada to march into the Deccan but was stopped by a ruler belonging to the Chalukya dynasty, Pulakeshin II.


The Pallavas and Chalukyas were the most important ruling dynasty in south India during this period.

PALLAVAS: – The kingdom of the Pallavas spread from the region around thier capital, Kanchipuram, to the Kaveri delta.

CHALUKYAS: – They were centred around the Raichur Doab, between the rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra.

            Aihole was the capital of the Chalukyas and was an important trading centre. It developed as a religious centre, with several temples.


            He was the best known Chalukya ruler. We know about him from a Prashasti, composed by his court poet, Ravikirti. This tells us about his ancestors, who ae traced back through four generations from father to son. Pulakeshin got the kingdom from his uncle.

            According to Ravikirti, he led expeditions along both the west and east coasts. Besides, he checked the advance of Harsha. Harsha was defeated. Pulakeshin also attacked the Pallava king, who took shelter behind the walls of Kanchipuram.

            The Chalukya victory was short lived. The Pallavas and the Chalukyas gave way to new rulers belonging to the Rashtrakuta and Chola dynasties.


  1. Land revenue remained important for rulers and the village remained the basic unit of administration.
  2. Some new developments took place to win the support of men who were powerful. For example: –
  3. Some important administrative posts were now hereditary, i.e. chief-judicial officer.
  4. Sometimes one person held many offices.
  5. Local administration was well-organised and had its divisions. The important men at local administration were the chief banker, the leader of the merchant caravans, the chief craftsman, the head of scribes.


Maha-danda-nayaka Chief judicial officer
Kumar-amatya Important minister
Sandhi-vigrahika Minister of war and peace
Nagara-shreshthi Chief banker
Sarthavaha Leader of the merchant caravans
Prathana-kulika Chief craftsmen


  1. Kings maintained a well-organised army with elephants, chariots, cavalry and foot-soldiers.
  2. There were military leaders who provided the king with troops whenever he needed them.
  3. They were not paid regular salaries. They received grants of land. They collected revenue from the land and used this to maintain soldiers and horses and provide equipment for warfare. These men were known as Samantas.


Several assemblies are mentioned in the inscription of the Pallavas.

These were: –

  1. Sabha
  2. Ur
  3. Nagaram

Sabha: – It was an assembly of brahmin landowners. This assembly functioned through sub-communities, which looked after irrigation, agricultural operations, making roads, local temples etc.

Ur: – This was a village assembly found in areas where the landowners were not brahmins.

Nagaram: – This was an organisation of merchants. These assemblies were controlled by rich and powerful landowners and merchants.

  • Kalidasa’ s famous play Abhigyana Shakuntalam is the story of the love between a king named Dushyant and a young woman named Shakuntala.
  • The Chinese pilgrim Fa-Hien noticed the plight of those who were treated as untouchables by the high and mighty. They were expected to live on the outskirts of the city. If such a man enters a town or a marketplace, he strikes a piece of wood, touching him or bruising against him.
  • Banabhatta provides us with a vivid picture of the king’s army on the move.

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