About the Book
The present research work on the Imperial Guptas by Professor S.R. Goyal will blaze, we believe, a new trail in the historiography of ancient Indian political history, for it looks upon the history of the Imperial Guptas not from the traditional 'what and when happened approach' but from multidisciplinary integral standpoint in which main political developments and events are put in their proper context by an analysis of their determining influences- social, economic, religious, geographical, etc. with the help of other branches of knowledge, of course without overlooking the need of reconsidering the 'what and when happened' problems afresh, whatever necessary. For example, on such problems as the social origin and original home of the Guptas, location of their capital, Chandragupta I-Kumaradevi coins, early and later chronology of the Guptas, place of Kacha in Gupta history, nature of Samudragupta's conquests and empire, place of Ramagupta in Gupta history, nature of Samudragupta's conquests and empire, place of Ramagupta in Gupta dynasty, identity of Chandra of the Meharauli prasasti, place of Prakasaditya in Gupta history, Gupta-Vakataka relations, impact of religion and feudalism on Gupta history and political ideology and culture, contribution of the Guptas to the Vikramaditya legend, etc. the author has made interesting and cogent suggestions.
Unlike Marxist historians who explain political events and developments by looking at them only in the light of changes in production relations, the author of the present work has tried to study the color scheme of the variegated canvas of the Gupta history in totality and read the meaning of the relation of the central picture with every component of its background. In such a venture none can claim finality but the author of the present work hopes and believes that his work is the most up-to-date study of the political history of the Guptas, that it takes into consideration the recent-most discoveries of sources and that solutions he has offered to various problems are not logical but are also without prejudice to other alternatives which may be offered by other scholars now or when fresh data and new facts come to light.
About the Author
Professor S.R. Goyal is the retired Professor and Head, Department of History, J.N.V. University, Jodhpur. Described as 'one of the five best recent historians of ancient India' by Professor David N. Lorenzen, the great Mexican Orientalist, Professor Goyal combines all the qualities associated with scientific scholarship. He has authored more than thirty-five voluminous research works and over 150 research papers, which cover so diverse fields as political history, religious history, literary history, biographies, numismatics and epigraphy. He was honoured with the General Presidentship of the Silver Jubilee Congress of the Epigraphical Society of India held at Udupi in April, 1999, and was elected the Honorary Fellow of the Society.
Professor Goyal has been deeply involved with the study of Gupta history. Between 1967 and 2004 he produced as many as eight works on the Gupta age, including A History of the Imperial Guptas, his Doctoral thesis, described by Professor A.L. Basham (National Professor of Australia) as 'the best analysis of the Gupta period which I have ever read' and as 'imaginative', 'well-written' and 'a model of historiography' by Professor Eleanor Zelliot (Minnesota, U.S.A.). The various theories propounded in it were described by Professor R.C. Majumdar as 'deserving very careful consideration'.
Among other major works of Professor Goyal are included three volumes on ancient Indian inscriptions, two volumes respectively on Kautilya and Megasthenes, a three volume authoritative study of ancient Indian history in about two thousand pages, a three volume study of ancient Indian numismatics and four volumes on great rulers of ancient India. His Guptakalina Abhilekha, described as a 'corpus-like' volume on Gupta inscriptions, was appreciated by such eminent epigraphists as Professor D.C. Sircar, Dr. G. S. Gai and Dr. K. V. Ramesh and his An Introduction to Gupta Numismatics has been admired by all for its high quality.
Professor Goyal has been honoured with several festschrifts, including Reakppraising Gupata History for S.R. Goyal (ed. By Bahadur Chandra Chhabra et al), S.R. Goyal : His Multidimensional Historiography (ed. By Jagannath Agarwal and Shankar Goyal), Rajasthan Bharati (in two volumes) and a two thousand page Sriramabhinandanam (Reconstructing Indian History for S. R. Goyal) in four volumes.
The political history of the imperial Guptas has been an attractive area of investigation for researchers since a long while and now a veritable library of research monographs and articles on this subject has come into being. But most of these works tread the well-known path of traditional history writing devoted to the reconstruction of history as it was with 'what and when happened' approach. However, the present monograph has been written with a new angle of vision as it looks upon the political history of the imperial Guptas from the standpoint of multidisciplinary integral approach in which main political developments of a period are to be put in their proper context by an analysis of the determining influences-social, economic, religious, geographical etc. Unlike the Marxist historians who explain political developments and events by looking at them only in the light of changes in production relations, we have tried to study the colour scheme of the variegated canvas of the Gupta history in its totality and attempted to read the meaning of relation between the central picture and every component of its background. In such a venture none can claim finality, but it is hoped that we have suggested everywhere in intelligible explanation based on a critically analysed evidence which seeks to prepare an integral picture with the help of multidisciplinary approach. We hope that the solutions we have offered are not only logical but also without any prejudice to other alternatives which may be offered by other scholars now or when fresh data and new facts come to light. This is what we believe multidisciplinary integral approach is all about.
The present work is divided into twelve chapters. In the first chapter we have surveyed the approach of the earlier historians of Gupta history and have explained the necessity and relevance for out own times of studying political history of this period with a multidisciplinary integral approach.
In the second chapter we have analysed the methods and techniques of studying the various types of data for the reconstruction of the Gupta history. In that context we have emphasized the fact that the authors of the historical works and early medieval inscriptions were greatly influenced by the contemporary ideas of history and the methods of interpretation and inference current in the literary world of the time. Without a proper understanding of this fact one cannot appreciate the contents of digvijaya prasastis and the significance of the literary works of historical genre such as the drama Devi-chandraguptam.
Chapter three and four of the work are devoted to the study of the early Gupta age covering the reigns of the first three rulers. The problem of the original home of the imperial Guptas has been studied afresh and we have reiterated our view (which is now accepted by numerous scholars) that they originally belonged to the eastern part of the present Uttar Pradesh with Prayaga as the early center of their power. The problem has also been discussed in the context of various factors leading to the rise of this region. The question of the social milieu of the Guptas has also been studied afresh and it has been shown, with new evidences that they most probably belonged to the Brahmana order. This theory of ours is now generally accepted. In this context significance of the popularity of the Vedico-Agamic movement and the predominance of the Brahmans in the administrative structure and its effects on Gupta history have also been highlighted. Then, the emergence of the Gupta dynasty as an imperial power under Chandragupta I is studied against the background of the contemporary political situation and various other factors. In that connection, the history of some of the contemporary powers, specially that of the Vakatakas, has been dealt with specially in the light of our interpretation of the termdauhitra used in the Gupta and Vakataka genealogies-an interpretation which is now accepted by several scholars. The chapter also contains three appendices the first of which deals with the early chronology of the Gupta dynasty wherein it has been shown that the Gupta-Lichachhavi alliance was contracted by Ghatotkacha, that the Gupta era was initiated by Chandragupata II though it was reckoned from the date of the accession of Chandragupta I and that Samudragupta ascended the throne in c.350 A.D. Appendix ii is concerned with the problem of the authenticity of the Nalanda and Gaya grants of Samudragupta and Appendix iii with the problem of the attribution of the Chandragupta-Kumaradevi type of coins.
Chapter five to seven are devoted to the reign of Samudragupta parakramanka. In chapter five, probably for the first time, the nature of Gupta conquests and of the resultant empire have been studied and the impact of the geo-political factors, Vedic and Vaishnava chakravarti ideals and fast emerging feudalism on the Gupta political structure has been delineated.
In chapter six the revolt of Kacha has been studied against the background of various pulls and pressures that marked the debut of Samudragupta as an emperor. The conquests of Samudragupta in the different parts of the country have been studied in the context of the various political, geographical, economic and religious factors. Specially, the contribution of religion in the making of political decisions in that age has been determined with some precision. Further, it has been shown that Samudragupta led more than one expedition in the South, that he invaded Kalinga in c.359-60 A.D. and that the aim of his adventures in that part of the country was the acquisition of wealth.
The theme of the seventh chapter is Gupta political influence beyond the imperial frontiers. Here the evidence of the Prayaga prasasti on Samudragupta's relations with the North-western foreign potentates has been connected with the tribal movements that took place in Bactria and North-Western India in his reign and also with the evidence of the Meharauli pillar inscription of 'Chandra' who, we believe, was no other than Samudragupta himself. This view of ours is now shared by a large number of scholars. In this chapter we have also discussed the important of commerce as a factor in Samudragupta's relations with Ceylon and 'other islands' and shown the necessity of interpreting correctly prayaga prasasti's reference to these regions. The three appendices of this chapter are concerned with the capital of the Gupta Empire, the date and patron of the two Vasubandhus and the date of Kalidasa. We have placed the great poet in the later half of the fourth century A.D. in the reigns of samudragupta and Chandragupta II both.
Chapter eight deals with the reign of Chandragupta II Vikramaditya. In the reign of Chandragupta II western India became the major stage of the drama of political history. In that context the problem of Ramagupta, who, we believe, revolted in eastern Malwa, is studied and a solution based on more logical interpretation of the archaeological, numismatic and literary data is proposed. Then the causes of the Saka war of Chandragupta II are analyses and his relations with the Vakatakas are discussed and put in their proper historical perspective. In this context the evidence of the newly discovered Vakataka inscriptions, specially the Ramtek Prabhavatigupta memorial inscription, with which scholars are not yet generally conversant, has been highlighted and necessary changes in the pattern of Gupta Vakataka relations have been suggested.
In this chapter we have also discussed the problem of the Hunza inscriptions of the time of Deva Sri Chandra and have shown that he cannot be identified with Chandragupta II. Here it has also been shown that the age of Chandragupta II (and also of Kumaragupta I) was the period of transformation of the Gupta royalty and the repercussions of this change on the political developments have been pointed out.
The next chapter, number nine, discusses the reign of Kumaragupta I. In it we have further highlighted the influence of Dhruvadevi on Gupta politics in general and on the accession of Kumaragupta I in particular. An important problem of the reign of Kumaragupta-I is the place of Govindagupta, his brother, in Gupta political set up. Unlike most other historians we have given reasons to believe that no final solution of this problem is possible in the present state of our knowledge.
The reign of Kumaragupta I also witnessed the unsuccessful revolt of Ghatotkachagupta, who now turns out to be his brother or stepbrother and also a son-in-law of Prabhavati. He, now it seems, revolted in East Malwa with the help of his Vakataka in-law. This fact is now known from the aforesaid undated Ramtek Prabhavatigupta memorial inscription and has been studied in an appendix of this nature perhaps for the first time. We have also shown that Ghatotkachagupta's revolt was followed by the Gupta offensive against the Vakatakas revealing a new alignment of powers in the Deccan.
Chapter ten in devoted to the study of the transformation and decline of the Gupta Empire in the period from the rise of Skandagupta to the death of Budhagupta. The chapter deals with the factors in the royal succession and the identity of Skandagupta's rivals. Herein it is suggested that the invasion of the Pushyamitras on the Gupta Empire and the invasion of the Vakatakas on Malwa were connected events and were the results of the aggressive policy of the Guptas against the Vakatakas in the preceding reign. The Huna invasion, which shook Skandagupta's empire, has been studied afresh and the nature of Skandagupta's achievements is more precisely determined. In an appendix of this chapter Vikramaditya legend as a record of the achievements and personalities of Gupta Vikramadityas has been analysed. In no work on Gupta history this problem has been studied with this angle in detail.
Chapter eleven is concerned with the immediate successors of skandagupta upto Budhagupta. It also deals with the problem of further decline of the empire. It also deals with the problem of further decline of the empire. Herein we have shown that the influence of Buddhism had much to do with the weaking of the central authority in this period. The growth of the feudal-federal structure of the empire and its influence on the fortunes of the state are also discussed. In an appendix of this chapter the problem of the place of Baladityas in the Gupta history is studied afresh.
Chapter twelve, which is the last chapter of this work, deals with the disintegration and collapse of the Gupta Empire. This, we propose, was the age of the Tripartite Struggle between the Guptas, Hunas and Aulikaras of Malwa for the imperial status. In recent years much new light has been thrown not only on the Huna activities in Rajasthan, Malwa and Gujarat but also on the Aulikaras of the house of Yasodharman by the Risthal inscription of 515 A.D. of Adhiraja Prakasadharman and the three Sanjeli grants one of which refers to be third year of Toramana. All these have necessitated a reconstruction of the history of the Tripartite Struggle between the Guptas, Hunas and Aulikaras. We have therefore studied the invasion of the Hunas under Toramana and Mihirakula against this background and given it an entirely new treatment. Further, the expansion of the Huna power has been put in its geographical context and the religious aspect of the Gupta Huna struggle has been analysed in detail. It has also been shown how the influence of Buddhist ideology and the feudalization of state structure undermined the central authority and led to the rise of new powers. In that context, the history of some of the new powers. In that context, the history of some of the new powers has been dealt with. In the appendix of this chapter, which deals with the order of succession after the death of Budhagupta, a rational solution of the problem of the place of Prakasaditya in Gupta history has been suggested.
We have given above only the main points that we have emphasized in this work. We would humbly request the readers to consider further our treatment of minor details here and there not forgetting that wherever possible we have tried to study political events and developments with a multidimensional integral approach, something which is quite new in Gupta historiography.
We are painfully aware that inspite of our best efforts and care some misprints have crept into the work. For this we crave the indulgence of our readers.
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