Samudragupta, the second ruler of the Gupta Empire, was one of the most illustrious kings in ancient Indian history. His reign, which lasted from around 335 to 380 CE, marked a significant period of expansion and consolidation of the Gupta Empire. One of the most important sources of information about his accomplishments is the Prayagraj (Allahabad) inscription, also known as the “Prayag Prashasti.” This inscription, composed by Harishena, a court poet and minister in Samudragupta’s court, provides valuable insights into the king’s achievements and military conquests.
1. Military Conquests: The Prayagraj inscription lauds Samudragupta as a warrior king who embarked on numerous military campaigns to expand his empire and establish Gupta dominance over various regions. It mentions that he successfully defeated and subdued many rulers and kingdoms, both in the north and south of India. Some of the notable territories he conquered include the neighboring kingdoms of Dakshinapatha (southern India), the forest-dwellers, and the kings of Samatata (present-day Bengal region).
2. Asvamedha Sacrifice: Samudragupta’s inscription also refers to his performance of the Asvamedha (horse sacrifice), which was an ancient and prestigious ritual in Indian tradition. This ceremony symbolized the king’s prowess and authority, and it further solidified his position as a legitimate ruler and an esteemed monarch.
3. Patronage of Arts and Culture: In addition to his military achievements, Samudragupta is praised in the Prayagraj inscription for being a great patron of arts and culture. He encouraged literature, music, and other forms of artistic expressions, fostering a period of cultural growth and intellectual brilliance in the Gupta Empire.
4. Just and Benevolent Rule: The inscription highlights Samudragupta’s benevolence and justice as a ruler. His subjects were said to be content under his rule, and he was praised for his fairness and compassion towards his people.
5. Diplomatic Relations: The Prayagraj inscription suggests that Samudragupta was not only a conqueror but also a skilled diplomat. It mentions his friendly relations with several foreign rulers, including those from Sri Lanka and distant regions beyond the Indian subcontinent.
Overall, the Prayagraj inscription extols Samudragupta as a powerful and wise ruler, a warrior par excellence, a connoisseur of art and culture, and a just and compassionate king. His military conquests expanded the boundaries of the Gupta Empire and furthered its influence across a vast portion of the Indian subcontinent. His reign is considered a golden period in Indian history, characterized by peace, prosperity, and cultural advancement.