• Samudragupta was a very famous ruler of Gupta dynasty. We know about Samudragupta from a long inscription, inscribed on Ashokan pillar at Allahabad.
• Harishena inscribed a long poem on Samudragupta on Ashokan pillar at Allahabad. He was court poet of Samudragupta. This inscription is of a special kind called a prashasti, a Sanskrit word, meaning ‘in praise of’.
• Harishena praised king in glowing terms — as a warrior, as a king, who was learned. He is described him as equal to gods.
• Harishena described four different kinds of rulers and told us about Samudragupta’s policies towards them:
(1) Aryavarta, where nine rulers were uprooted and their kingdoms were made a part of Samudragupta’s empire.
(2) Dakshinapatha where twelve rulers surrendered to Samudragupta after being defeated and later he allowed them to rule again.
(3) Inner circle of neighbouring states, including Assam, coastal Bengal, Nepal & a number of gana sanghas in northwest. They brought tribute, followed his orders and attended his court.
(4) Rulers of outlying areas, perhaps descendants of Kushanas and Shakas and ruler of Sri Lanka submitted to him and offered daughters in marriage
• Chandragupta was father of Samudragupta. Samudragupta’s mother, Kumara Devi, belonged to Lichchhavi gana.
• Chandragupta was first ruler of Gupta dynasty to adopt grand title of maharaj-adhiraja, a title that Samudragupta used. Samudragupta too used that title. His great grandfather and grandfather are mentioned simply as maharajas.
• Chandragupta II was son of Samudragupta, we know about him from inscriptions and coins. He led an expedition to western India, where he overcame last of Shakas.
• Vikram Samvat is era beginning in 58 BCE. It marks victory of Chandragupta II over Shakas.
Harshavardhana and Harshacharita
• Banabhatta, wrote Harshacharita, biography of Harshavardhana. He became king of Thanesar after death of his father and elder brother.
• After death of his brother-in-law, he took over kingdom of Kanauj and then led an army against ruler of Bengal.
• After conquering Magadha and Bengal, he tried to cross Narmada to march into Deccan, but was stopped by Pulakeshin II, Chalukya ruler.
• Xuan Zang spent a lot of time at Harsha’s court and left a detailed account of what he saw.
Pallavas, Chalukyas & Pulakeshin’s Prashasti
• Pallavas and Chalukyas were most important ruling dynasties in south India during this period.
• kingdom of Pallavas spread from region around their capital, Kanchipuram, to Kaveri delta, while that of Chalukyas was centred around Raichur Doab, between rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra.
• Aihole, capital of Chalukyas, was an important trading centre. It developed as a religious centre, with a number of temples.
• Pulakeshin II was best-known Chalukya ruler. His prashasti was composed by his court poet Ravikirti, which talks about his ancestors, who are traced back through four generations from father to son.
How were these kingdoms administered?
• Land revenue remained important for these rulers and village remained basic unit of administration.
• latest development witnessed in process of administration was adoption of new methods by king to gain support of rich and powerful in terms of economic, social, political conditions:
(1) Some administrative posts were hereditary like; Harishena was maha-danda-nayaka [chief judicial officer] like his father.
(2) Sometimes, one person held many offices. For instance, besides being a maha-danda-nayaka, Harishena was a kumar-amatya [important minister].
(3) Besides, important men probably had a say in local administration. These included nagarashreshthi [chief banker], sarthavaha [leader of merchant caravans], prathamakulika [chief craftsman] .
A new kind of army
• Kings maintained a well-organised army, with elephants, chariots, cavalry & foot soldiers.
• Military leaders provided kings with troops whenever he needed them but they were not paid regular salaries.
• Instead, of salary, some of them received grants of land. They collected revenue from land and used this to maintain soldiers and horses and provide equipment for warfare. These men were called samantas.
• king took a huge amount of stuff with him when he travelled. Aside from weapons, there were also everyday items like pots, pans, furniture, food, animals, vegetables, and spices. These were carried on carts or loaded onto pack animals like camels and elephants. Musicians played drums and horns and trumpets to accompany this huge army. Villagers had to welcome travellers along way. They brought gifts of curds, gur, and flowers, and they also brought food for animals. They tried to meet with king and tell him about their problems.
Assemblies in southern kingdoms
• inscriptions of Pallavas mentioned a number of local assemblies:
(1) Sabha: An assembly of Brahmin landowners. This assembly functioned through subcommittees, which looked after irrigation, agricultural operations, making roads, local temples.
(2) Ur: It was a village assembly found in areas where landowners were not Brahmins.
(3) Nagaram: It was an organisation of merchants, were controlled by rich and powerful landowners and merchants.
• Ordinary people in kingdoms:
• Very little information has been gathered concerning existence of normal individuals. Different records of history give a brief look at their lives through plays.
• Kalidasa was known for his plays depicting life in king’s court. Interesting features about these plays were:
(1) king and most Brahmins are shown as speaking Sanskrit
(2) Women and men other than king and Brahmins use Prakrit.
• Abhijnana Shakuntalam is story of love between a king named Dushyanta and a young woman named Shakuntala.
• Chinese pilgrim Fa Xian noticed plight of those who were treated as untouchables by high and mighty. They were expected to live on outskirts of city.