Most Powerful Monarchs of the Gupta Empire:

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One of the most powerful and prosperous kingdoms of Ancient India the Gupta’s emerged from the ruins of the mighty Kushan Empire. Their period is considered the Golden Age of the Indian Subcontinent as it was during this time when the subcontinent progressed in the field of art, literature, science, technology, and culture.

Famous scholars like Fa-Hien and Hiuen Tsang also appreciate the beauty and legacy of this kingdom (Gupta Empire). Furthermore, they also patronized other religions which gave us glimpses of their generous ethics.

The Guptas initially ruled the parts of the middle Gangetic basin i.e. Madhyadesha, Magadha (Bihar), and Uttar Pradesh. From here they gradually extended their empire under the leadership of their brilliant kings.

One of the most important contributions and significance of the Guptas is that they politically unified the northern part of the Indian subcontinent which boosted the country’s growth through trade and centralized government.

Literally, sources of scholars like Kalidasa, Shudraka, and Fa-Hien and inscription like Allahabad Pillar, and Junagarh Rock provides valuable information about the prosperity of this empire.

Famous Kings of the Gupta Empire

The first king of the great Gupta kingdom was Sri Gupta. He is regarded as the founder of the Gupta Dynasty. In later years he also adopted the title of Maharaja.

After him, Maharaja Ghatotkacha became the leader of this dynasty. However, not much information is available about these two early monarchs of this empire apart from their names and titles.

Chandragupta I: Inception of the Guptas

He is believed to be the real founder of the empire and ascended the throne around 319/320 CE. He is also responsible for the rise of the Gupta Era.

Chandragupta I also extended the influence of the Guptas through a matrimonial alliance. He married Kumaradevi, the princess of the Lichchhavi clan of Nepal which strengthened his hold over his empire.

Gupta empire
Image of the coin depicting king Chandragupta I and his queen Kumaradevi
Image of the coin depicting king Chandragupta I and his queen Kumaradevi

Under him, the Guptas gained the territories of Magadha, Bengal, and Uttar Pradesh. Furthermore, the gold coins that belong to Chandragupta I period depict the name of the king and his queen Kumaradevi which testify to the strong relationship between the Guptas and the Lichchhavis.

The period of Chandragupta I lasted for 15 years. After him, there was a struggle for the throne in which another charismatic ruler emerged who is known as Samudragupta who took this dynasty to greatness.

Samudragupta: The Napolean of India

He is known by many names like Napoleon of India, Anukampavan (compassionate), Parakramah (courageous), Apratirathah (invincible) and the list goes on.

King Samudragupta followed the policy of expansion and his military campaign is thoroughly mentioned in the Allahabad pillar inscriptions.

Samudragupta Coin
Gupta empire
Coins of Samudragupta

Samduragupta defeated the Nagas, Abhiras, Malavas, Arjunayanas, etc in the northern campaigns while in the south he defeated a total of twelve rulers. Later he also conquered the forest kingdom of central India also referred to as Atavika Rajyas.

Apart from the military conquest king Samudragupta was also a tolerant ruler towards other religions. He builds a Buddhist monastery at Bodh Gaya at the request of the king of Ceylon Medhavarman.

We covered the story of Samudragupta in detail in our previous post. Hit the link to read the detailed story of king Samudragupta.

Chandragupta II: When Gupta’s reached the greatest territorial extent

After Samudragupta the next great Gupta king was Chandragupta II who ascended the throne after killing Ramagupta.

The Gupta empire reached its greatest territorial extent during the reign of Chandragupta II which made the Guptas the master of the sub-continent.

He crushed the power of the Western Kshatraps and annexed the region of Malwa, Ujjain, central India, and the western sea coast.

ChandraguptaII On Horse
Gupta Empire
Coins of Chandragupta II depicting him holding a bow

In the later year, he made Ujjain his second capital and adopted the title of Vikramaditya and Simhavikrama. Furthermore, a fascinating fact of Chandragupta II’s reign was his Navaratnas which included nine famous scholars or nine gems. It included eminent scholars like Kalidasa, Amarasimha, Dhanvantri, Shanku, Vararuchi, Vetala Bhatta, Kahapanaka, and Varahamihira. The concept of Navratnas was later adopted by the Mughal king Akbar in the medieval period.

Note: Fa-Hien also visited his court

Chandragupta II had a daughter named Prabhavatigupta who was married to the Vakataka King, Rudrasena II. However, king Rudrasena II died at an early age due to which his wife i.e. Prabhavatigupta became the regent of the Vakataka kingdom.

After the succession of Prabhavatigupta King Chandragupta II directly or partially influence the Vakataka court.

Kumaragupta I: The Founder of The Nalanda University

Ascended the throne in 415 CE and founded the famous Nalanda University at Patna. He is also known as a staunch worshiper of Karttikeya.

Kumaragupta Fighting Lion
Gupta Empire
coins of Kumaragupta depicting him fighting a Lion.

It was during his reign when a potent threat emerged from the Oxus valley i.e. The Huns. Although he successfully checked this invasion due to the able military leadership of Skandagupta. Furthermore, he also stopped the rebellion of Pushyamitra in Narmada valley.

King Kumaragupta kept the Gupta empire intact and ruled for about 40 years. He assumed the title of Shakraditya and Mahendraditya.

Skandagupta: The Saviour of India who crushed the Huns

One of the most influential monarchs in Indian history who crushed the Huns. This defeat was so severe that the Huns didn’t plan for another invasion till the death of Skandagupta.

He had fought tons of battles due to which he is regarded as one of the greatest military tacticians in Indian History. He was also able to find the loopholes in the Indian way of warfare and made necessary changes to it.

Gupta empire
Coins of Skandagupta’s reign

He also adopted the title of Vikramaditya. The famous Junagarh or Girnar inscription tells us about that he ordered his governor Parnadatta to repair the Sudarshan Lake.

We covered the story of Skandagupta in detail in our previous article. Read Here. Rise of Skandagupta Vikramaditya

Other Gupta Kings

Kumaragupta II, Budhagupta, Narsimhagupta (Ruled from 473-530AD)

Kumaragupta III ruled from (530-540 AD)

Vishnugupta ruled from (540-550 AD)

The Gupta empire guarded the Indian subcontinent for centuries. It was during their period when India rose to prominence in every possible field of development.


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