Samudragupta (335 CE-380CE): The Warrior who had fought a hundred battles

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Indian history is filled with stories of Hindu heroes who had conquered a large part of the subcontinent through their hard-fought military campaigns.

However modern historians didn’t shed light on the remarkable careers of such Hindu kings and the story of Samudragupta is one of them.

Artistic image of Samudragupta
Artistic image of Samudragupta

According to many historians and from inscriptions Samrat Samudragupta had fought a hundred battles and always led from the front. He was the type of ruler who always relied on his personal might. Furthermore, all the coins of his reign testify that he was a great warrior, patron of the arts, and a staunch leader.

Samudragupta or Napoleon of India was one of the greatest kings of the mighty Gupta dynasty.

Background: Rise of Samudragupta

After the fall of the mighty Kushan Empire, the political situation in northern India crumbled rapidly. The subcontinent’s northern region got divided into several small kingdoms.

The origin of the great Guptas is still debatable but the first three kings of this empire were Sri Gupta, Sri Ghatotkacha Gupta, and Sri Chandra Gupta.

Coins of Samudragupta reign
Coins of Samudragupta’s reign

However, Chandra Gupta 1 is considered as the real founder of the Gupta Empire. He also adopted the title of Maharajadhiraja which gave us glimpses of his strong and bold personality.

Note: Want to know more about Gupta Kings read the story of Skandagupta Vikramaditya the hero who defeated the Huns

Samudragupta was the son the Chandra Gupta and Kumaradevi. His reign is still a topic of debate but most historians have suggested that he might have ruled from 335 CE to 370/380CE.

The Allahabad prasasti briefly describes the life and military conquests of this forgotten Hindu Samrat of the Indian subcontinent.

Samudragupta: A Forgotten Hindu Ruler of Bharatvarsh

He was a great military leader of a visionary caliber. He was a great patron of learning and was a poet too (he also got the title of King of Poets), he was also a great lover of music.

The coins of Samudragupta’s reign depict him playing Vina which confirms the fact the great king had a huge love for music.

His coins also represent him as a God on Earth which clearly reflects his true personality.

Furthermore, during his remarkable rule, there was a rejuvenation of Vedic culture, and rituals like Asvamedha and Brahmanical culture regained their lost prestige.

Military Conquests

The campaigns of Samudragupta led to the tremendous rise of the Guptas in the Indian subcontinent. As mentioned above most of the information about Samudragupta’s conquest is mentioned in Allahabad Prasasti which is a key source for this topic.

Note: Vincent Smith had given him the title of Napoleon of India to Samudragupta.

The famous Allahabad Prasasti Samudragupta defeated at least nine rulers and their territories were annexed by the former.

The monarchs who faced the tide of Samudragupta’s military were Nagasena, Ganapati-naga (rulers of the Naga family at Mathura), Achyuta, and Chandra varman.

The other five kings were Rudradeva, Matila, Nagadatta, Nandin, and Balavarman.

Furthermore, Samudragupta also launched his military campaigns toward south India. In fact, we had heard countless times that during the medieval period the sultanate attacked southern India via Deccan but Samudragupta took a different route and launched his southern Indian campaigns from the eastern side (via Orissa and the east coastal region).

Territorial extent of Samduragupta
Empire of Samudragupta: Source of Image History Guru

It is interesting to note that in north India where the Gupta king followed the policy of strict military conquests but in the south he followed a lenient strategy and didn’t fully annex the territories.   

Many historians had confirmed that in southern India the Gupta kings had defeated at least twelve kings.

The defeated kings include the names of Mahendra of Kosala, Vyaghraraja of Mahakantara (forest region of Orissa), Mahendragiri of Pishtapura (Pithapuram in the Godavari district), Hastivarman of Vengi, Ugrasena of Palakka and Vishnugopa of Kanchi (Pallava king).

Thus this great Hindu king conquered the territory of south India on his own but still, the name of this great king hasn’t won the attention of the school textbook.

To add more lightening to his military career the Gupta king also raged the territories of North West frontier of his empire.

The neighboring kingdoms of the Samudragupta Empire without a doubt had accepted the suzerainty of this powerful monarch. The Sakas of western Malwa and the Kushans of western Punjab are some of them.

The peak of Samudragupta’s Empire and his Legacy

The empire of this king stretched from the foothills of the Himalayas including the territories of almost the whole of north India to the eastern coast of Chingleput.

While the region of south India up to the territories of the Krishna River or beyond that accepted the suzerainty of Samudragupta and was controlled by feudatories.

The king of Ceylon i.e. Sri Lanka Meghavarna requested to Samudragupta for building a Buddhist monastery at Bodh-Gaya. In return, the religiously tolerant Hindu king granted permission for this and the Ceylon built a huge monastery at Bodh Gaya.

This kindhearted behavior of Samudragupta shows his tolerant attitude towards other religions. However, none of the Sultans and Padshahs of medieval India showed this kind of generosity toward other religions.

Samudragupta’s reign marked the beginning of the golden age of the Gupta Empire as it was during his reign when the mighty empire expanded in all directions and reached new heights in the fields of art, culture, and architecture.

After him, his son Ramagupta succeeded ascended the throne of the Gupta Empire.  

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