Skandagupta was a Famous Gupta emperor who ruled the Gupta Empire from around 455 to 467 CE. He was the son of Kumaragupta I and the grandson of Chandragupta II, both of whom were prominent Gupta emperors. Skandagupta is known for his military campaigns and efforts to defend his empire from external threats.
One of the most significant challenges during Skandagupta’s reign was the invasion of the Huna or White Huns, a Central Asian nomadic tribe. Skandagupta successfully repelled their attacks, earning him the epithet “Vikramaditya” for his bravery and valor. He is also known for issuing several inscriptions and coins that provide valuable historical information about his reign.
Skandagupta’s rule marked the later stages of the Gupta Empire, which is often considered a golden age of classical Indian art, culture, and science. After his reign, the Gupta Empire gradually declined, and by the end of the 6th century, it had fragmented into smaller kingdoms. Skandagupta’s reign is seen as a crucial period in the empire’s history, where his military achievements played a vital role in maintaining its territorial integrity for some time.
The name of Kumaragupta’s wife was Mahadevi Anantadevi, and their son was named Purugupta. It appears that Skandagupta’s mother was not Mahadevi or Anantadevi. There seems to have been some dispute regarding the succession to the throne after Kumaragupta’s death, and it was Skandagupta’s valor and other qualities that led him to become the ruler of the Gupta Empire. Even during his father’s reign, Skandagupta showcased his extraordinary abilities and bravery by defeating the Pushyamitras, whose rebellion was so formidable that it had unsettled the prosperity of the Gupta era.
Skandagupta, like Krishna returning to his mother Devaki, also sought refuge with his mother after vanquishing the enemies. On this occasion, tears were seen in his mother’s eyes. Rajyashri herself firmly established Skandagupta in power. Perhaps, due to being the eldest son, Purugupta had the right to the throne, but it was Rajyashri’s decision to support Skandagupta due to his strength and valor that prevailed.
|Birth||Date uncertain, likely in the 5th century CE|
|Reign||From approximately 455 CE to 467 CE|
|Major Achievements||Repelling Huna invasions, securing the Gupta Empire against external threats, military victories|
|Death||The date is uncertain, sometime after 467 CE|
The Defeat of the Huns
The most significant event during Skandagupta’s reign was the defeat of the Huns. The Huns were formidable warriors, and their invasions had forced the Yuezhi people to abandon their ancient homeland and move towards Shakasthana. As a result, the Yuezhi migrated to India and Iran, fleeing from the Huns’ onslaught.
In the distant west, the Huns’ invasions had led to the fragmentation of the vast Roman Empire. The atrocities and barbarism of the Hun king Attila had created chaos in the Western world. Now, a branch of these Huns had launched an attack on the Gupta Empire, conquering Kamboja and entering Gandhara.
Skandagupta’s Heroic Defense
Skandagupta’s defense against the Huns was the most significant event of his reign. According to an inscribed pillar, the battle against the Huns was so fierce that it shook the entire world. In the end, Skandagupta emerged victorious, and due to this triumph, his fame spread across all of India. This is why he came to be known as “Eka Veera” (the singular hero) in the entire Gupta dynasty.
According to the Buddhist text “Chandragarbhapariprichha,” the Gupta army numbered 200,000 during the war against the Huns, while the Huns had 300,000 soldiers. Despite the numerical disadvantage, the valor and prowess of the Gupta army led to their victory.
During Skandagupta’s time, the Huns could not advance beyond Gandhara. The prosperity of the Gupta Empire remained intact throughout his reign.
Coinage and Economy
During Skandagupta’s era, gold coins became scarce, and the available gold coins had less gold content compared to earlier Gupta coins. This suggests that the Gupta Empire’s treasury was significantly depleted due to the wars against the Huns, leading to a reduction in the gold content of coins.
During Skandagupta’s reign, there was a regional ruler named “Parnadatt” in Saurashtra (Kathiawad). He undertook the restoration of the ancient Sudarshan Lake located near Girnar. This lake had originally been built during the time of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, and it was the Vaishya ruler “Pushyagupta” who had initially constructed it. Later, during the time of Ashoka, the regional governor, a Greek named “Tushaspa,” and subsequently, the Mahakshatrapa “Rudradama,” also restored this lake. However, during the Gupta era, this lake had fallen into disrepair once again.
Restoration by Skandagupta
Under Skandagupta’s orders, Parnadatt undertook the rejuvenation of this lake. Unfortunately, the dam of this lake broke in the very first year of its reconstruction, causing significant inconvenience to the people. Skandagupta, known for his generosity, allocated funds to repair the dam. Parnadatt’s son, “Chakrapalit,” also served in the administration of this region and had a Vishnu temple constructed on the shores of the lake.
During Skandagupta’s rule, there were no significant territorial expansions, likely because the Gupta Empire was already vast under his father, Kumargupta I.