The Gupta Empire (320 - 540 AD) was one of the largest political and military empires in ancient India. It was ruled by the Gupta dynasty from around 240 to 550 CE and covered most of northern India and what is now eastern Pakistan and Bangladesh. During this period it was considered a Great power. The period of this Jat Empire is considered to be the Golden period in the History of India.
The origins of the Guptas are shrouded in obscurity. Nothing certain is known about the rise of this dynasty. Only this much is known that a person named Srigupta took advantage of the confusion that prevailed in the country after the fall of Kushan Empire and declared himself the ruler of Magadha. Historians write that probably he belonged to a low caste but gradually rose to the position of an independent ruler. He was followed by his son Ghatotkacha. The most likely date for the reign of Srigupta is c. 240-280 CE His successor Ghatotkacha ruled probably from c. 280-319 CE In contrast to his successor, he is also referred to in inscriptions as 'Maharaja' .
At the beginning of the 4th century the Guptas established and ruled a few small Hindu kingdoms in Magadha and around modern-day Uttar Pradesh. Actual rise of the Gupta Empire started when Chandragupta I succeeded to the throne in 320 AD.
Guptas were Jats of Dharan gotra
The Arya Manjushri Mul kalpa, is a history of India covering the period 700 BCE to 770 AD. The history was a Buddhist Mahayana work, by a Tibetan scholar, and was composed sometime in the 8th century CE.
K P Jayaswal brought this material out from above book in his eminently scholarly book :An Imperial History Of India C 700 BC – C 770 AD. K P Jayaswal has spotted and brought out the fact that the second Guptas, (Chandra Gupta II, Samudra Gupta etc circa 200 BCE to 600 BCE) were Jats, who came originally form the Mathura area. They were of the “ Dharan” Gotra, as shown by the inscription of the Prabhavatigupta Plate, where she gives her father’s (and her) goth as Dharan.
Prabhavatigupta (प्रभावतीगुप्त) was the chief queen of Vakataka King Rudrasena II (256-278 CE). She was daughter of Gupta King Mahārājādhirāja Chandragupta II born of the union with a Naga princess Mahādevī Kuberanaga. Prabhavatigupta has recorded herself born in a Naga family of Dharana Gotra, which at present is found in Jats of Rajasthan, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
On the death of Rudrasena II, his queen Prabhavatigupta, the daughter of Chandragupta II (376-413 AD),ruled her husband's kingdom for at least about 13 years, even though she is known to have three sons. Prabhavatigupta issued the Poona copper plate inscription in the 13th year of her rule as the mother of the Yuvaraja Divakarasena. In her Riddhapur copper plate inscription issued in the 19th regnal year of her son Pravarasena II, Prabhavati is represented as the mother of Maharaja Damodarasena and Pravarasena II.  (See details of both Poona copper plate and Riddhapur copper plate in Article on Prabhavatigupta)
K P Jayaswal states that the Dharan Jats still can be found in the U.P Mathura region and they proudly point to their ancient glory, of how their forefathers ruled Hindustan. According to him Gupta is said to have been a Mathura-Jata (Sanskrit- Jata-vamsa). Jata-vamsa, that is, Jata Dynasty stands for Jarta, that is, Jat. That the Guptas were Jat; we already have good reasons to hold (JBORS, XIX. p. 1U). His Vaisali mother is the Lichchhavi lady.
Here is produced point wise account from the famous historian K.P. Jayaswal's book, History of India, PP 115-16 :
- That nowhere Guptas disclose their origin or Caste status. That their caste sub-division was Dharan. Since Prabhavati Gupta daughter of Chandra Gupta II and queen of Rudrasen II Vakataka in her copper plate grant of Pune has shown sub-caste of her family (Gupta) as Dharan (EI XV-41 P-42).
- The Salvas were a branch of the Madras and were ruling at Sialkot. These Madras had a branch named Kuninda, who were related to Koliya Naga.
- Karaskars were thus a Punjabi people a sub-division of the Madras. We know that the Madras were Vahikas and Jartas. This community, thus, consisted of several sub-divisions.
- Since according to grammatical illustration of Chandra-gomin the Jarta defeated the Huns, which means Skanda Gupta defeated the Huns. Hence Guptas were Jartas or Jat.
Bhim Singh Dahiya has proved by applying “Grimm’s Law of Variation” that in Indo-European languages the alphabet “J” changes to “G”. Due to this law the Chinese call Jats as “Getae” and Germans call them “Got”, “Gaut” or “Goth”. The Proto-Germanic name Gaut changes to Gupt as under:
Gapt is considered to be a corruption of Gaut (Gaut→Gavt→Gaft→Gapt, cf. eftir and eptir, "after" in Old Norse). Gapt changed to Gupt in India.
When Chandragupta II, Vikramaditya married his daughter with a Vakataka prince he called tribe as "Dharan" which is a gotra of Jats even today. Skandagupta has written in an inscription of Junagarh that Gupta is a title, which means soldier or a chief.
- What about the Imperial Guptas? Were they Jats? Gupta, as the last name of the homonymous dynasty, has been quite controversial among historians. Latest researches have, however, shown that the last name, used by the members of that dynasty, was Gopata, "meaning thereby defender of the life, prestige: property and faith and was obviously adopted by them as their titlel. It was certainly not Gupta as we generally find in history. Their ethnonym was either Karaskar or as Prabhavati, princess of Chandragupta Vikrmaditya-II, informs us,it was Dharana. Evidence from other sources corroborates the assertion of the princess. KP. Jayaswal, on the authority of the Aryamanjusri-Mulakalpa, a history of India in Sanskrit and Tibetan, Written before 8th century AD., firmly holds that the so-called Guptas were Jats. Unfortunately, we do not have any anthropological data of the Guptas to guide us to determine their racial affinity as we did in case of men belonging to and associated with Harshavardhana's dynasty and others of Sthanishvara.
- However, the features of the figures of Samudragupta and Chandragupta-II (Vikrmaditya) on their coins, if they are any indications, unmistakably betray their Aryan (Nordic) taxonomy. Notwithstanding ed. Oxford.this dubious affinity, the ethnonym i.e. Dharan (gotra), the evidence of the Manjusri-Mulakalpa and the observance of the practice of widow marrige, (a salient characeteristic custom of the Jats since long), by one of the Gupta emperors, go a long way in proving that they were Jats. The survival of the Dharan gotra among the Jats of Rajasthan and their proud assertion that the rule of their ancestors was the "Golden Age of Indian history" points to their descent from that dynasty.
The first notice of this word 'Gupta' was taken by Panini in fifth century BC when two words are mentioned, viz., 'Goptri' and 'Gupti'. V S Agarwal in "India as known to Panini" defines 'Gupti' as 'defence' and 'Goptri' as the art of science of Military arrangements. On this basis the person who was incharge of defence was called 'Gupta' or 'Gopta'. Skandagupta wrote in his inscription that he had "appointed military governors in all provinces" (सर्वेषु देशेषु विधाय गोप्त्रीन) 
Thus we find that this word 'Gupta' means a military governor and used in this sense right from the fifth century BC to the 18th century AD and the so called 'Guptas' themselves used this word in the same sense. The mere fact that the word Gupta is a part and parcel of the names of the emperors, should not, and can not, give any other meaning to this word. If we give 'Gupta' the meaning of surname of the Vaishya caste, then even Chanakya will become a Vaishya because his name was Vishnugupta. Even the Mahabharata used this word 'Gupta' in the sense of military defence. 
While illustrating the use of a tense, grammarian Chandragomin mentions in sanskrit language अजय जर्टो हुणान - Ajay Jarto Hunan meaning "the invincible Jats defeated the Hunas". He was a contemporary of the event and we know from history that 'Guptas' were the only people who defeated Hunas. This has been rightly taken as proof that so called 'Guptas' were Jats. 
Majumdar and Atlekar mention the fact that at the time of marriage of Prabhavati Gupta, daughter of Chandragupta II, the name of their gotra was given as Dharan. The Poona plate of Prabhavati Gupta herself gives the gotra as Dharan. This has been identified with the still existing Dharan clan of Jats of Bikaner and the adjoining districts of the Punjab. , 
Hence Bhim Singh Dahiya concludes that Guptas were Jats.
The Gupta Dynasty - History
There were many important monarchical states during the period between the fall of the Kushanas and the rise of the Guptas such as kingdom of Nagas, Ahicchatra, Ayodhya, Kausambi, Vakatakas, Mukharis and Guptas. East Panjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan were ruled by the Yahudeyas who were quite powerful. Licchavis were the powerful republic at that time. This republic existed even during the life time of Buddha. A matrimonial alliance with a Licchavi princess Kumaradevi brought strength and prestige to Chadragupta-I. The original of the Gupta dynasty is however still in obscurity, too many conflicting representations in the available dramas and inscriptions makes it further tough unless and until a solid evidence is found. Same holds good to the original territory of the Guptas. Some writers are under the opinion that Magadha was their homeland, but some views that it is not.
Sri Gupta (240 - 280 AD)
The Poona copper inscription of Prabhavati Gupta describes that Sri Gupta as the Adhiraja of Gupta dynasty. Portion of northern or central Bengal might have been the home of Guptas then. Though no much evidence is available, from the available records it is understood that Sri Gupta could be the first King of the Gupta lineage.
Ghatotkacha ( 280 - 319 AD)
Ghatotkacha became the successor of Sri Gupta. In two records of Prabhavati Gupta (daughter of Chandragupta II), Ghatotkacha is described as the Gupta king. Neither much evidence is found to clearly regard Ghatotkacha as the first king, nor much is known about him.
Chandragupta (319 - 335 AD)
Ghatotkacha (c. 280–319) CE, had a son named Chandragupta. In a breakthrough deal, Chandragupta was married to Kumaradevi, a Lichchhavi—the main power in Magadha. With a dowry of the kingdom of Magadha (capital Pataliputra) and an alliance with the Lichchhavis, Chandragupta set about expanding his power, conquering much of Magadha, Prayaga and Saketa. He established a realm stretching from the Ganga River (Ganges River) to Prayaga (modern-day Allahabad) by 320. Chandragupta was the first of the Guptas to be referred to as 'Maharajadhiraja' or 'King of Kings'.
Samudragupta (335 - 375 AD)
Samudragupta was the son of Chandragupta I and Mahadevi Kumaradevi, the grandson of Ghatotkacha. He was considered to be worthy for succession and hence was put on the throne by his father. He gained the name "Indian Napoleon" due to his conquests in many directions and in various kinds. The empire of Samudragupta was far the greatest that had seen in India since Ashoka's days. After completion of conquests, Samudragupta performed Horse sacrifice and coins representing Asvamedha Yagna were distributed to Brahmins. His coins gives us a lot of useful information about him. there are as many as eight different types, like Archer, battle axe, tiger slayer, Kacha, Asvamedha, Lyrist etc., Some of his coins such as battle axe, and archer types shows the advancement of the Indianization of the Gupta coinage.
Chandragupta died in 335 and was succeeded by his son Samudragupta, a tireless conqueror. He took the kingdoms of Shichchhatra and Padmavati early in his reign. He then took the Kingdom of Kota and attacked the tribes in Malavas, the Yaudheyas, the Arjunayanas, the Madras and the Abhiras. By his death in 380, he had incorporated over twenty kingdoms into his realm, his rule extended from the Himalayas to the river Narmada and from the Brahmaputra to the Yamuna. He gave himself the titles King of Kings and World Monarch. He performed Ashwamedha yajna (horse sacrifice) to underline the importance of his conquest.
Samduragupta was not only a warrior but also a great patron of art and literature. The important scholars present in his court were Harishena, Vasubandhu and Asanga. He was a poet and musician himself. He was a firm believer in Hinduism and is known to have worshipped Lord Vishnu. He was considerate of other religions and allowed Sri Lanka's Buddhist king to build a monastery at Bodh Gaya.
Rama Gupta (375 - ??? AD)
Though no inscriptions or coins explains Rama Gupta well, there are materials such as Natyadarpan, and the historical drama "Devichandraguptam" which described Rama Gupta as son and successor of Samudragupta. According to Devichandraguptam in Shringararupakam, Rama Gupta sustains a humiliating defeat at the hands of Saka King. In order to secure the security of his people, Rama Gupta agrees to surrender his queen to the Sakas which provokes his brother Chandragupta-II.
Chandragupta-II in disguise of queen Dhruvadevi enters enemies camp and kills the Saka king to restore the huge empire, queen and the dynasty. This incident raises Chandragupta in the eyes of people and Dhruvadevi. The conduct of Rama Gupta gets betrayed by the brother and Rama Gupta kills him and sits on the throne. He then marries the widow of his brother.
Chandragupta II (375- 414 AD)
Chandragupta II, the Sun of Power (Vikramaditya), ruled until 414. It is said that his reign was preceded by a five year rule of his elder brother Ramgupta (375-380 AD), who suffered humiliating defeat at the hands of the Saka rulers.. It forced Chandragupta to set aside his brother and capture the reign of the empire in his own hands in 380 AD. Chandragupta ruled for a period of about 34-35 years from 380 AD to 415 AD. He married his daughter Prabhavatigupta to Rudrasena II, the Vakataka king of Deccan, and gained a valuable ally. Only marginally less war-like than his father, he expanded his realm westwards, defeating the Saka Western Kshatrapas of Malwa, Gujarat and Saurashtra in a campaign lasting until 409, but with his main opponent Rudrasimha III defeated by 395, and crushing the Bengal (Vanga) chiefdoms. This extended his control from coast-to-coast, established a second (trading) capital at Ujjain and was the high point of the empire.
Despite the creation of the empire through war, the reign is remembered for its very influential style of Hindu art, literature, culture and science, especially during the reign of Chandra Gupta II. Some excellent works of Hindu art such as the panels at the Dashavatara Temple in Deogarh serve to illustrate the magnificence of Gupta art. Above all it was the synthesis of the sacred and sensual elements that gave Gupta art its distinctive flavour. During this period, the Guptas were supportive of thriving Buddhist and Jain cultures as well, and for this reason there is also a long history of non-Hindu Gupta period art. In particular, Gupta period Buddhist art was to be influential in most of East and Southeast Asia. Much of advances was recorded by the Chinese scholar and traveller Fa-hsien in his diary and published afterwards.
The court of Chandragupta was made even more illustrious by the fact that it was graced by the navaratna, a group of nine who excelled in the literary arts. Amongst these men was the immortal Kalidasa whose works dwarfed the works of many other literary geniuses, not only in his own age but in the ages to come. Kalidasa was particularly known for his fine exploitation of the sringara (erotic) element in his verse.
With the aid of Mathura and Bilsad pillar inscriptions, it is clear that Chandragupta ruled between 375 AD until 414 AD. Chandragupta is also known as Vikramaditya, Narendrachandra, Simhachandra, Narendra Simha, Vikrama Devaraja, Devagupta and Devasri. He was selected by his father as a successor to the throne. He had two wives, with Kuveranga of Naga family - he was blessed with a daughter Prabhadevi. Prabhadevi was later married to the Vakataka king Rudrasena-II. Prabhadevi was the de facto ruler of Vakataka kingdom between 390 and 414 AD. The geographical location of the Vakataka kingdom allowed Chandragupta to take an opportunity to crush Western Kshatraps once for all.
The greatest of his military achievements was his advance to the Arabian sea and the subjugation of the peninsula of Saurashtra (Kathiawar). The annexation of Saurashtra and Malwa brought him huge wealth and soon made him to open up trade through sea ports. It is believed that Pataliputra continued to be the capital of his huge empire.
Chandragupta-II was a strong and well qualified ruler. He was a staunch Vaishnava and was tolerant to other sects too. According to the Chinese visitor of the time - Fahien, the city of Gaya was completely empty and desolate, the holy places of Bodhgaya was surrounded by jungle. Kapilavastu and Kusinagara were waste except for Ashoka's palace near Sanchi stupa which was still in existence. This shows that the Hinduism was predominant during Gupta rule.
Kumaragupta I (414 - 455 AD)
Chandragupta II was succeeded by his son Kumaragupta I. Known as the Mahendraditya, he ruled until 455. Towards the end of his reign a tribe in the Narmada valley, the Pushyamitras, rose in power to threaten the empire.
Like his father, Kumaragupta-I ruled for forty years. He had two sons, Purugupta (son of Anantadevi) and Skandagupta (son of Devaki??). Kumaragupta-I was known by several names such as Shri Mahendra, Ajita mahendra, Sima Mahendra, Asvamedha Mahendra, Mahendra Karma, Mahendra Kalpa, Shri Mahendra Simha, Mahendra kumar, Mahendra Aditya etc., It is stated that he ruled the whole earth bounded on the north by Sumeru and Kailasa mountains, the Vindhya forests on the south and two oceans on the east and west. People worshipped different Gods and Goddesses and the religion tolerance was seen stronger. His administration and personality kept the entire kingdom intact and integrated for forty years. The repulsion of Hunas immediate after his death proves the integrity of his subjects.
Skandagupta (455 - 467 AD)
Skandagupta is generally considered the last of the great rulers. He defeated the Pushyamitra threat, but then was faced with invading Hephthalites or "White Huns", known in India as Indo-Hephthalites or Hunas, from the northwest. He repulsed a Huna attack c. 455, But the expense of the wars drained the empire's resources and contributed to its decline. Skandagupta died in 467 and was succeeded by his son Narasimhagupta Baladitya.
Succession after Kumaragupta I is a matter of uncertainty. Different theories propose different lines of thoughts on succession by Skandagupta, Purugupta, Budhagupta and Kumaragupta II. Bhitari pillar inscription mentions most about Skandagupta and the Huna wars. The Kahaum pillar inscription boasts on Skanda's achievements. He is stated to have slain hundreds of kings and equated to Indra. At zenith of his power, he ruled entire northern Indian from Kathiawar in the west to Bengal in the east, the empire included Saurashtra, Gujarat and Malwa too.
Skanda followed a policy of religion toleration. He himself was a Bhagavatha, but did not interfere with the religion of his officers or subjects.
Puru Gupta (467 - 473 AD)
With the death of Skandagupta, Gupta empire began to decline. His brother Purugupta appears to have been the immediate successor to Skanda gupta. Purugupta was the son of Kumaragupta-I by his queen Ananthadevi and was old by the time he ascended the throne. A short rule of 6 years probably explains why so.
Narasimhagupta (467-473 AD)
Narasimhagupta (467-473) was followed by Kumaragupta II (473-476) and Budhagupta (476-495?). In the 480's the Hephthalite king Toramana broke through the Gupta defenses in the northwest, and much of the empire was overrun by the Hunas by 500. The empire disintegrated under the attacks of Toramana and his successor, Mihirakula; the Hunas conquered several provinces of the empire, including Malwa, Gujarat, and Thanesar, broke away under the rule of local dynasties. It appears from inscriptions that the Guptas, although their power was much diminished, continued to resist the Hunas, and allied with the independent kingdoms to drive the Hunas from most of northern India by the 530's. The succession of the sixth-century Guptas is not entirely clear, but the last recognized ruler of the dynasty's main line was Vishnugupta, reigning from 540 to 550.
Kumaragupta-II ( 473 - 476 AD)
Narasimha Baladitya was succeeded by his son Kumaragupta-II Kramaditya. The rule seems to have ended about the year 476 - 477 AD. It is obvious that Kumaragupta-II, Narasimha Baladitya and Purugupta altogether could rule only for about ten years.
Budha Gupta (477 - 495 AD)
Budha Gupta ruled for nearly 20 years from 477 AD to 495 AD. A large number of inscriptions refer to Budha Gupta. From the inscriptions we understand that his empire was still intact. According to the life of Hiuen Tsang, Budha Gupta was succeeded by Tathagata Gupta.
Probably Krishnagupta and Harshagupta succeeded Budhagupta in ruling the empire. Budhagupta and Harshagupta was succeeded by Jivitagupta I. Kumaragupta III succeeded Jivitagupta I, but soon had to facemany difficulties. Maukharis became powerful, Gowdas started revolting in West Bengal, King of Andhras were another threat to him. Somehow he claimed victories over them, the next successor Damodaragupta, Mahasenagupta, Madhavagupta and Devagupta-II reigned with much great difficulties.
Deo-Baranark Inscription of Jivitagupta II mentions about Mâdhavagupta, His son Adityasênadêva, his son Dêvaguptadêva, his son Vishnuguptadêva, his son Jîvitaguptadêva (II.). Interestingly this inscription also mentions in Line-5 people like Râjaputras, Râjâmâtyas, Râjasthânîyas etc. It is a matter of research for whom these words are used.
All what we know about later Guptas is the name of rulers like Adityasena, Devagupta-III and the last king Jivagupta III. Gaudas destroyed the fame of Guptas. Though many inscriptions talk about Guptas rule even during 12th to 13th century AD, it is true that only petty kings of Gupta family continued ruling part of the original empire that they could retain.
The Guptas of Magadha or Later Guptas
A minor line of the Gupta clan continued to rule Magadha after the disintegration of the empire. These Guptas were ultimately ousted by the king Harshavardhana, who established an empire in the first half of the seventh century that, for a brief time, rivalled that of the Guptas in extent.
From around the middle of sixth century A.D. till about 675 A.D. the kings who ruled Magadha were known as Magadha Guptas or Later Guptas. However, it is not clear what connection they had with the Imperial Guptas of the earlier period.
- (1) Krishnagupta
- (2) Harshagupta
- (3) Jivitagupta I
- (4) Kumaragupta III
- (5) Damodaragupta
- (6) Mahasenagupta
- (7) Madhavagupta and
- (8) Adityasena.
The Later Guptas entered into matrimonial alliances with other contemporary ruling families. For example. Harshagupta married his sister to a Maukhari king. Throughout this period the Later Guptas remained engaged in battle with one enemy or the other. For esample, Harshagupta had to fight the Hunas; his son Jivitagupta fought against Lichchhavis of Nepal and Gaudas of Bengal: and Jivitagupta's successor king Kumaragupta III defeated Maukhari King Isanavarman.
The next king Damodaragupta, son of Kumaragupta III, was defeated and killed by Maukhari king Sarvavarman and lost a portion of Magadha. For some time the successors of Damodaragupta retreated to Malwa because of the Maukharis but they again established their supremacy in Magadha.
Their most powerful ruler was Adityasena, who ruled in Magadha in 672 A.D., a date which seems to occur in one of his inscriptions. The Later Gupta power survived the empire of Harshavardhana and Adityasena signalised his accession to power by the performance of a horse sacrifice. According to the Aphsad inscription, his empire included Magadha, Anga and Bengal. It is just possible that his kingdom included a portion of eastern Uttar Pradesh. He was a Parama-Bhagavata and got a temple of Vishnu constructed.
Names of the Gupta kings
Tej Ram Sharma has provided the following names of the Gupta kings which have been divide into two categories :
A. Main Rulers
10. Kumaragupta II
13. Kumaragupta III
B. Other members of the dynasty
- Bhim Singh Dahiya : Jats the Ancient Rulers, Dahinam Publishers, Sonepat, Haryana
- K P Jayaswal : An Imperial history of India C 700 BC – C 770 AD, published by Eastern book House, Patliputra Path, Rajendra Nagar, Patna, Bihar, a reprinted by Brite printers, 27 new Rohtak Road New Delhi.
- R N Kundra & SS Bawa, History of Ancient and Medieval India
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