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Chandragupta II

The period of prominence of the Gupta dynasty is very often referred to as the Golden Age of India. It was under the rule of Samudragupta's son, Chandragupta II (very often referred to as Vikramaditya or Chandragupta Vikramaditya) spanning 375-413/15 AD, that the Gupta empire achieved its zenith. Chandragupta attained success by pursuing both a favorable marital alliance and an aggressive expansionist policy. In this his father and grandfather set the precedent.

His greatest victory was his victory over the Shaka-Kshatrapa dynasty and annexation of their kingdom in Gujarat. His other great achievement was the marriage of his daughter Prabhavatigupta with Rudrasena II of the Vakataka dynasty of Central India. Rudrasena II died fortuitously after a very short reign in 390 AD, following which Prabhavatigupta ruled as a regent on behalf of her two sons. During this twenty year period the Vakataka realm was practically a part of the Gupta empire. Many historians refer to this period as the Vakataka-Gupta age.

Chandragupta II controlled a vast empire, from the mouth of the Ganges to the mouth of the Indus and from what is now North Pakistan down to the mouth of the Narmada. The large number of beautiful gold coins issued by the Gupta dynasty are a testament to the imperial grandeur of that age. Chandragupta II also started producing silver coins in the Shaka tradition.

Fa-hsien was the first of three great Chinese pilgrims who visited India from the fifth to the seventh centuries AD, in search of knowledge, manuscripts and relics. He arrived during the reign of Chandragupta II and gave a general description of North India at that time. Among the other things, he reported about the absence of capital punishment, the lack of a poll-tax and land tax and the presence of a strongly embedded caste system. Most citizens did not consume onions, garlic, meat and wine. The exception to this were the Chandalas, who were shunned in society and segregated from other people.

Culturally too, the reign of Chandragupta II marked a Golden Age. This is evidenced by later reports of the presence a circle of poets known as the Nine Jewels in his court (Did this inspire the latter Nine Gems of Akbar's court). The greatest among them was Kalidasa, who is often referred to as the Shakespeare of India.