Chandragupta II the Great was very often also called as Vikramaditya or Chandragupta Vikramaditya in Sanskrit. He was one of the most powerful emperors of the Gupta Empire. He ruled between a span of 375BC to 415 BCE, during which the Gupta Empire reached the peak of its glory.
This prominent period of the Gupta dynasty is often called as the ‘Golden Age of India.’ Chandragupta II the Great was the son of the previous ruler, Samudragupta the Great. He attained success by pursuing both a favorable marital alliance and an aggressive expansionist policy. In this his father and grandfather set the precedent.
With regard to his early childhood, there is not much information available. His mother, Datta Devi, was the chief queen of Samudragupta the Great. After Samudragupta's death, Chandragupta’s brother, Ramgupta succeeded to the throne and also got married to then Chandragupta's fiance 'Dhruvaswamini against his will.
It is widely believed that the great poet in Sanskrit, Mahakavi Kalidasa was one of the jewels of his royal court. As a matter of fact, in one of the parts of the then produced literary works called Natya-darpana mentioned that king Ramagupta, surrendered his queen Dhruvaswamini to the Saka king of the Western Kshatrapas Rudrasimha III, after suffering a defeat from the Saka king.
To avoid the humiliation the Guptas decide to send Madhavasena, a courtesan and a beloved of Chandragupta, disguised as the queen. Chandragupta, however, changed the plan and himself went to the Saka King disguised as the queen subsequently killing Rudrasimha and his brother Ramagupta as well. Eventually, Dhruvaswamini got married to Chandragupta.
Interestingly, the terracotta seal in Vaisali have referred to her as 'Mahadevi' Dhruvasvamini while the Bilsad pillar inscription of their son Kumara Gupta I also referred to her as Mahadevi Dhruvadevi. However, the Allahabad pillar inscription mentioned the marriage of Chandragupta II the Great with a Naga princess called Kuberanaga.
Chandragupta's daughter Prabhavati, from his other queen Kuberanaga, a Naga princess, later on got married to the powerful Vakataka king Rudrasena II. Chandragupta continued issuing most of the gold coin types which were introduced by his father Samudragupta, like the Sceptre type, the Archer type, and also the Tiger-Slayer type. However, Chandragupta also introduced several new types, such as the Horseman type and the Lion-slayer type, both of which were used a lot by his son Kumaragupta.
In addition, Chandragupta was the first Gupta king to issue silver coins. These coins were intended to replace the silver coinage of the Western Kshatrapas after Chandragupta defeated them, and were modeled on the Kshatrapa coinage. The main difference was to replace the dynastic symbol of the Kshatrapas three-arched hill by the dynastic symbol of the Guptas mythic eagle Garuda.
Additionally, Chandragupta also issued lead coins based on Kshatrapa archetypes as well as copper coins which were probably inspired by the coins of another tribe he defeated namely the Nagas.
Chandragupta’s greatest victory was his victory over the Shaka-Kshatrapa dynasty and annexation of their kingdom in Gujarat, by defeating their last ruler Rudrasimha III. Chandragupta II the Great controlled a vast empire, extending from the mouth of the Ganges to the mouth of the Indus River and from the present day North Pakistan to down to the mouth of the Narmada.
Pataliputra continued to be the capital of his huge empire but Ujjain too emerged like a second capital. The exquisite gold coins issued by the Gupta dynasty are all evidences which the imperial opulence of that age. Apart from the gold coins, Chandragupta II also started producing silver coins in the Shaka tradition.
4th century AD Sanskrit poet Kalidasa, credits Chandragupta Vikramaditya with having conquered about twenty one kingdoms, both in and outside India. After finishing his campaign in the East, South and West India, Raghu aka Vikramaditya (Chandragupta II) proceeded northwards, subjugated the Parasikas(Persians), then the Hunas and the Kambojas tribes located in the west and east Oxus valleys respectively. Thereafter, the glorious king proceeds across the Himalaya and reduced the Kinnaras, Kiratas etc. and lands into India proper.
From the point of view of culture, the reign of Chandragupta II was marked as ‘Golden Age.’ A proof of this was presence of a circle of poets known as the ‘Nine Gems’ in his court. The greatest among them was Kalidasa, who was the author of numerous rich literary works including ‘the Recognition of Shakuntala.’
The others included the Sanskrit grammarian Amara Sinha as well as the astronomer-mathematician Varahamihira. The day after the Hindu festival Diwali which is called as Padwa or Varshapratipada, marked the coronation of King Vikramaditya and hence, this day is celebrated as New Year's Day in some places till today.
There is an Iron Pillar situated at a very close proximity to the Qutub Minar is one of Delhi's most curious structures and dates back to 4th century BCE. The pillar had an inscription which stated that the pillar was erected as a flagstaff in honor of the Hindu god Vishnu, and also in the memory of Chandragupta II.
It is believed that the pillar was put up by Chandragupta himself as a sign of his victory over the Vahilakas who earlier defeated Alexander the great. This pillar stands strong till today even after more than 1,600 years having passed by without rusting or decomposing.
Apart from this, some of the characteristics of the Chandragupta’s rule were the absence of capital punishment, the lack of a poll-tax and land tax. And interestingly, most citizens did not consume onions, garlic, meat, and wine also during his rule.