Samudragupta left his vast empire to his successor, Chandragupta II (375-414 AD). Our knowledge of Chandragupta is derived from inscriptions such as the Mehrauli Iron Pillar, Udaygiri Mathura, Sanchi stone plate, and the account of India given by Fa-hien. Samudragupta had extended his frontier east and southward. His expansion westward halted at Eastern Malwa, and further expansion eastward and southward was not possible. Therefore, the natural direction for expansion in the reign of Chandragupta II lay westward against the kingdom of the “Saka Satraps” of Western Malwa and Gujarat. Samudragupta left the problem of settlement with the powerful Saka neighbors in Western India as a legacy to his successor, Chandragupta II.
Chandragupta II was a great politician. His policy is reflected in his matrimonial alliance with neighbouring states. This policy was especially directed against his powerful neighbours, the Nagas and the Vakatakas. The friendship of these two powers was essential for him to subjugate the Saka of Western India. He married Kuveranaga, a princess of the Naga family, and thus gained the friendship of the Naga power. The Nagas were a powerful political force in Central India, and their alliance consolidated Gupta authority in the region. Prabhavati Gupta, the daughter of Chandragupta by Kuveranaga, was married to Rudrasena II, the Vakataka ruler of Maharashtra. The geographical position of the Vakataka Kingdom was such that it could help Chandragupta II in his projected campaign against the Sakas of Kathiwar, and their hostility could seriously threaten him. Moreover, the Vakataka alliance was a useful deterrent against future revolt by the Sakas in Saurashtra. Rudrasena II, the Vakataka ruler, had a short reign, and after his death, Prabhavati, the daughter of Chandragupta II, became the regent of her minor son, which indirectly increased Gupta influence in the Vakataka court. According to tradition, Chandragupta II’s son married a Kadamba princess from the Kuntala country. This marriage was also politically useful for operations against the Sakas. Thus, by a policy of matrimonial alliance, Chandragupta II encircled the Sakas. Dr. Goyal has tried to downplay the importance of the “matrimonial alliances” made by Chandragupta, but Dr. H.C. Ray Chaudhary has remarked that “matrimonial alliances occupied a prominent place in the foreign policy of Gupta.”
Chandragupta II’s greatest achievement was the conquest of Malwa, Gujarat, and Kathiwar from the western Saka Satraps. The motives behind this campaign were briefly narrated below.
Firstly, western India was a powerful neighbour. It remained a thorn on the side of the Gupta Empire. Samudragupta’s hold on Eastern Malwa led to constant friction with the Saka power in Western Malwa. Chandragupta II, while he was crown prince, served as governor of Eastern Malwa and was aware of the Saka problem on the frontier.
Secondly, Ramagupta’s defeat by the Saka king perhaps occurred due to an invasion of Eastern Malwa by the Saka ruler. However, Chandragupta restored the status quo by murdering the Saka invaders. After his accession to the throne, therefore, Chandragupta II launched his campaign against the western Satrapas.
Thirdly, the Sakas belonged to an alien culture and were treated as ‘Mlechchha’ by the Guptas, who were the standard bearers of Brahmanical culture. Therefore, the Gupta’s found good reason to attack the so-called impure Sakas.
Fourthly, a deep economic motive may have been at the heart of Chandragupta II’s Saka war. A very prosperous trade had grown between the western and Roman empires since the time of the Kushanas. This trade had not declined during the Guptas. The port of Barygaza (or Bharuch) was the chief port of Indian export and import. This motive may have led Chandragupta II to win the war against the Sakas. This view is reflected by S.R. Goyel. Dr. R.C. Majumder has pointed out that some silver coins are more or less direct imitations of the coins of the Saka kings. The date of Chandragupta II’s victory in the Saka war is recorded as the years 409-412 AD.
Results of Saka war
Chandragupta II’s brilliant victory over the Saka Satraps united India with the rest of northern India. It rounded out the Gupta empire by pushing its western limit to the Arabian Sea. The Gupta Empire now extended from the Bay of Bengal in the east to the Arabian Sea in the west. The annexation of Saurashtra and Malwa by Chandragupta II gave the Gupta’s free access to the ports on the western coast, especially to the port of Barygaza. Indian trade with the western world flourished through these ports.
It is possible that Chandragupta II had other successful military campaigns to his credit, but we have no definite information about these conquests. Apart from the Saka war, which led to the annexation of Gujarat and Malwa, Chandragupta II’s contributions were more in the realm of consolidation than expansion. Dr. D.R. Bhandarkar has suggested that Mathura and the surrounding area were conquered from the Kushanas by Chandragupta II. However, scholars have rejected the “D.R. Bhandarkar theory” on the grounds that the Nagas ruled over the Mathura region by defeating the Kushanas.
Samudragupta had uprooted the Naga power in this region and extended his empire up to Iran. Chandragupta II inherited Mathura and the surrounding region from his father and was not forced to conquer the area. There is no written record to prove that Chandragupta II conquered Mathura by force. Chandragupta II may have consolidated his authority further west of Mathura, perhaps by integrating the Vassal tribal states into his government. Out of 1821 gold coins found in the hoard of 1983, many belong to Chandragupta II, which suggests his strong hold on the area. The Saka Murandas of Punjab may also have come under his direct rule. His copper coins have been found in southeast Punjab.
But some historians rejected the view of Chandragupta II and legendary Vikramaditya were the same person. Though Chandragupta II assumed the title of Vikramaditya’, he was not Sahakari Vikramaditya of legends. The differences between these two person were as follows
1. Chandragupta II adopted merely the title Vikramaditya, but the legendary Vikramaditya was Sahakari the real name is not known to all.
2. Ujjaini was the capital of Vikramaditya of the legends; Chandragupta II’s main capital was Patliputra.
3. The legendary Vikramaditya initiated the era of 1580 BC, Chandragupta II didn’t introduce the Gupta Era of 55 AD.
4. All the Navaratna’s or nine gems of legendary Vikramaditya were not contemporary of Chandragupta II. Only Kalidasa was his contemporary. Still the similarity between there are so great that legends grew round his names, though he was never a great conqueror like Vikramaditya, the legends.