Sandrokottos who? Chandra – the Gupta or the Maurya? That is the question.

Finished reading, ‘India before Alexander – A New Chronology’ by Raja Rama Mohan Roy.

Here’s my review.

If the findings of the author could be validated by the larger academic community then it must be said that this work is truly substantial and path breaking in what it seeks to establish. Not only, does it seek to expose the inherent structural flaws of the rusted framework of the ‘chronology of the Indian history’, put together by the western scholars with a peculiar motivation typical of the west, with all the insoluble difficulties that it occasions, but also proposes a new framework more rigorous and robust; one which is in keeping with the traditional historical lore (Itihasa) of Bharatvarsha.

The author has mentioned that he had been working on this project for over ten years and during this interpose took up a painstaking study of various original sources— both religious and secular. Through these monographs (‘India before Alexander – A New Chronology’, and its sequel), he has presented before us the extraordinary outcomes of his studies.

In the present work, he begins by giving us a somewhat detailed account of the presuppositions, motivations, and methodological approaches put to work by the western scholars to arrive at their framework of chronology for Indian history, still very much in use, and accepted unquestioningly by all concerned, by analyzing the paper ‘On Chronology of the Hindus by Sir William Jones, 1788 CE’. And in the process, he provides us with a rather candid account of the various errors of omission and commission made by western Indologists. Infact, some of their presuppositions are not only patently wrong but totally without a foundation. It is hilarious to note that the great Indologist Sir William Jones unknowingly found himself confounded by the homophonous similarity between Budha (Mercury) and Buddha (Sakya Muni). He indeed misunderstood the former for the latter in his paper.

The primary aim of the author in this exposition is to call into question the two important sheet anchors upon which the whole edifice of the western framework of chronology rests.

  1. The recognition of ‘Sandrokottos’ of the Greeks as emperor ‘Chandragupta Maurya’.
  2. The recognition of ‘Devanampriya Priyadasi’ as emperor ‘Asoka Maurya’, the contemporary of the four Greek kings of which Antiochus being the most conspicuous.  

The author contends that these two identifications are patently wrong. On the contrary, he proposes that ‘Sandrokottos’ must be identified as ‘Chandragupta’ of the imperial Gupta dynasty, and that the epithet of ‘Devanampriya Priyadasi’ belongs to his worthy descendant ‘Kumara Gupta- I, and not Asoka Maurya.

The evidence he cites for these propositions has been cited below in his own words.

[1]: The Kalinga War

“According to Rock edict 13, the conquest of Kalinga and the remorse from the ravages of war were the most important events in the life of Devānāmpriya Priyadarśī. However, these events find no mention in the literature about Aśoka Maurya. On the other hand, there is literary evidence that Kalinga was conquered by Kumāragupta-I. The following verse from Vishṇupurāṇa describes the expansion of the Imperial Gupta Empire:

“Kośala Oḍratāmraliptān Samudrataṭa Purīm cha Rakṣito Rakṣyati|

Kalingam Māhiṣakam Mahendraḥ Bhūmau Guham Bhokṣyanti||”

Śrīrāma Goyala explains the meaning of this verse as follows:

“(Deva) Rakṣita will expand his domain to Kośala, Oḍra, Tāmralipti and Purī near ocean. Kalinga and Māhiṣaka will be under Mahendra. All this land will be ruled by Guha.”

Here Rakṣita stands for Gupta, as both those words mean “protected”, and Mahendra stands for Kumāragupta-I Mahendrāditya. Guha stands for Skandagupta, as Guha and Skanda are synonyms. This important verse gives the following information:

Gupta (Chandragupta II) will protect the territories of (South) Kośala, Oḍra, Tāmralipti, Samataṭa and Purī (which are already part of the Gupta Empire). Kumāragupta-I will expand it further to include Kalinga and Māhiṣaka. Skandagupta will enjoy ruling all this land.

Here, we have emphatic proof that Kalinga was not a part of the Gupta Empire ruled by Chandragupta II, but was conquered by Kumāragupta-I. This is the war that changed Kumāragupta-I, and he accepted Buddhism soon after. Compare this to Aśoka Maurya for whom we have no independent information that he had to fight a war to incorporate Kalinga into his empire. In fact, the evidence points to the opposite. Aśoka should have inherited Kalinga as it was part of the Nanda Empire, which was taken over by his grandfather Chandragupta Maurya in a coup. He did not have to fight a war to capture Kalinga.

To circumvent this problem, modern historians have made up a story about Kalinga gaining independence from the Mauryan Empire before the coronation of Aśoka. There is absolutely no evidence to this effect. In fact, there is supporting evidence that indicates that Kalinga could not have seceded from the Mauryan Empire before Aśoka. Chāṇakya is supposed to have served three kings — Chandragupta, Bindusāra and Aśoka — according to the medieval text ĀryaManjuśrīMūlakalpa . It would have been very unlikely for Kalinga to secede under the watch of Chāṇakya.”

[2]: The Junagarh Inscription

“Skandagupta, son of Kumāragupta-I, says the following in the line four of the Junagadh rock inscription

“Pitari sura-sakhitvam prāptvaty ātma- śaktyā”

The meaning of each word in this sentence is provided below:

Pitari = father, sura = Gods, sakhitvam = friendship, prāptvaty = obtain, ātma = self and śaktyā = from power

Thus the sentence means that the father obtained the friendship of the Gods by his own power. Fleet has it translated as “father by his own power had attained the position of being a friend of the gods”.

Historians have taken it to mean that Kumāragupta-I had passed away when this inscription was recorded, as it is customary in India to say that a person has become dear to God when he or she has passed away.

Fine, but how did Kumāragupta-I do it with his own power? Did he commit suicide? We don’t have any record of that and if he did commit suicide, why would his son Skandagupta be proudly announcing it? What the sentence in the inscription actually means is that Kumāragupta-I had obtained the friendship of the Gods by his own power while he was still alive. At least that is what his son Skandagupta was made to believe as his father Kumāragupta-I had declared himself “Beloved of the Gods” in inscriptions all over the vast empire. Skandagupta was just paraphrasing the word “Devānāmpriya”, meaning “Beloved of the Gods” to “Friend of the Gods”.

[3]: One man many names

If someone calls himself “Devānāmpriya” and “Priyadarśī”, besides resorting to his own name, then we can definitely call him a person with many names. There is evidence that Kumāragupta-I was known as a man with many names. ĀryaMañjuśrīMūlakalpa is a Sanskrit text written by a Buddhist around 800 CE. It was translated into English by a noted historian K. P. Jayaswal. This text gives the following information about the Imperial Guptas:

“Listen about the Medieval and Madhyadesa kings (madhyakāle, madhyamā) who will be in a long period emperors (nṛipendra) and who will be confident and will be followers of via media” (in religious policy, madhyadharmiṇaḥ):

(1) Samudra, the king,

(2) Vikrama, of good fame (kīrttitāḥ), ‘who is sung’.

(3)Mahendra, an excellent king and a leader (nṛipavaro Mukhya).

(4) S-initialled (Skanda) after Ma. (i.e., Mahendra).

His name (will be) Devarāja; he will have several names (vividhākhya); he will be the best, wise, and religious king in that low age.”

Above, the first king is Samudragupta; the second king is Chandragupta II, referred to by the first part of his title Vikramāditya; the third king is Kumāragupta-I, referred to by the first part of his title, Mahendrāditya; and, the fourth king is Skandagupta, identified by his initial S. I would like to draw the readers’ attention to the description of the king called Devarāja above, who was supposed to have several names. Jayaswal has identified him with Skandagupta. Jayaswal says that Skandagupta bore the name of his grandfather (Devarāja), and had a variety of names (virudas). But, there is no evidence that Skandagupta bore the name of Devarāja after his grandfather.

On the other hand, Kumāragupta-I appears to be a better candidate for the title Devarāja and hence indicates that he was known by many names. The author of ĀryaMañjuśrīMūlakalpa says “S-initialled (Skanda) after Ma” and then goes on to say “His name (will be) Devarāja”. Hence, it is likely that the term Devarāja refers to the king with initial M, i.e. Mahendrāditya, adopted name of Kumāragupta-I. Also, Devarāja means King of the Gods, who is Indra. Kumāragupta-I has been called Mahendra by the author of ĀryaMañjuśrīMūlakalpa, as quoted above. Mahendra (Mahā + Indra) is simply “Great Indra” or “Indra himself”. Thus, it is highly probable that it was Kumāragupta-I, and not Skandagupta, who was called Devarāja and a man of many names’.

 [4]: The Allahabad pillar inscriptions

There are several sets of inscriptions on the Allahabad Pillar currently located in the Allahabad Fort, including inscriptions by Devānāmpriya Priyadarśī, his queen, and most importantly, Samudragupta the Great. Here, my intention is to focus on the inscription by Samudragupta the Great, who, according to the accepted chronology was posterior to Devānāmpriya Priyadarśī by six centuries. Samudragupta was one among the greatest conquerors known to Indian history. His eulogy inscribed on this pillar gives the details of his conquests and expanse of his empire.

As Samudragupta was posterior to Aśoka Maurya according to modern history, this pillar is known as the Aśokan Pillar and Samudragupta’s eulogy is supposed to have been inscribed on it later. The reason for calling it Aśokan pillar is simply based on the accepted chronology of Aśoka coming before Samudragupta and there is no other direct evidence to show that Samudragupta carved his inscription on an existing pillar. My contention is to challenge the prevailing wisdom and propose that it was Samudragupta who erected the pillar, and Devānāmpriya Priyadarśī’s inscriptions were inscribed later on this pillar.

Sure, there are obvious objections to the identification of Kumāragupta-I with Devānāmpriya Priyadarśī of major rock edicts and pillar edicts. How do we explain the minor rock edicts associating “Devānāmpriya” with Aśoka? The name Aśoka appears in a few minor rocks edicts as “Devānām Piya Aśoka” at Maski in Raichur district, Karnataka, as “Rājā Aśoko Devānāmpiya” at Udegolam in Bellary district, Karnataka, and as “Devānāmpiya Piyadasi Aśoka Rājā” at Gujarra near Jhansi, Madhya Pradesh. The answer is pretty simple. Devānāmpriya and Priyadarśī were common titles that could be used by anyone who chose to do so. Just because these titles have been used by Aśoka does not mean that nobody else could use these titles. When Princep was translating the inscriptions of Priyadarśī, he identified Priyadarśī first with Devānāmpiya Tissa of Ceylon.

The title Devānāmpriya has been used for other personalities in literature as well. King Ajātaśatru has been called “Devanuppiya” in “Aupapatika Sūtra”. Patañjali, commenting on Pāṇini’s Aṣtādhyāyī 2.4.56, has used this title for a common grammarian. Priyadarśī or Priyadarśana can have two meanings: one who looks handsome or one who looks with friendliness. Priyadarśī was an adjective that has been used for several kings. In the Rāmāyaṇa, Rāma has been called Priyadarśī once. In the play, Mudrārākṣasa, Chandragupta Maurya, grandfather of Aśoka Maurya, has been called Priyadarśī. Gautamīputra Śātakarṇi has been called Priyadarśana in the Nasika inscription. There is nothing unique about these titles.

Finally, we need to provide the explanation for the mention of the five Greek kings in the thirteenth rock edict. The five Greek kings mentioned in the Rock Edict XIII are: Antiyoka, Turamaya, Antikini, Maka, and Alikasudara. Modern historians have identified them with Antiochus II Theos (261-246 BCE) of Syria and Western Asia, Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-247 BCE) of Egypt, Antigonus Gonatas (278-239 BCE) of Macedonia, Magas (300-258 or 250 BCE) of Cyrene, and Alexander (275-255 BCE) of Epirus or Alexander (252-247 BCE) of Corinth respectively. Based on this information, historians have been able to pinpoint the date of coronation of Aśoka to within a couple of years:

“The latest date at which these kings were reigning together is 258, the earliest 261; and if we could be certain that Aśoka was kept informed of what happened in the West, we might therefore fix the twelfth year of his reign between these two years; and hence the date of his coronation between 270 and 273 B.C.”

Let’s take a closer look at the relevant text of Rock Edict XIII:

“Antiyoke nāma Yona Rāja paran cha tena

Antiyokena chatura rājāne Turamaye nāma

Antikini nāma Maka nāma Alikasandare nāma”

The text has the following meaning: “The Greek king named Antiyoka, and beyond that king Antiyoka, four kings, named Turamaya, named Antikini, named Maka, and named Alikasandara”. It is obvious that Devānāmpriya Priyadarśī had close interaction with Antiyoka or Antiochus and he probably had just heard about the other four Greek kings. When Princep first identified Antiyoka, he had identified him with Antiochus III and not Antiochus II as done by current historians. This is of critical importance as Antiochus II was involved in constant warfare and the connections between Mesopotamia and the borderlands of India were entirely cut off during his entire rule.

Regarding the events in the reign of Antiochus II, J. Charpentier writes: “What interests us in this connection is, however, not so much the character of Antiochus II as the main events of his reign. He undoubtedly inherited from his father a war with Egypt, which came to an end only during his very last years, and an unbroken series of troubles with the petty despots and quarrelsome city-states of Asia Minor. As far as the very scanty evidence goes, Antiochus II spent the whole of his reign in the last-named country and in Syria; and there is certainly no evidence whatsoever for his having ever proceeded to the east of the Mesopotamian rivers to visit the outlying provinces of his vast and loosely-knitted empire. Furthermore, we have the direct evidence of the historians, above all that of Justin, the epitomator Pompei Trogi, that during the reign of Antiochus II the most important provinces of the east rebelled, an event which must have entirely cut off the connections between Mesopotamia and the borderlands of India until these were again, for a very short period of time, restored by Antiochus the Great.”

On the other hand, identification of Antiyoka with Antiochus III the Great is on solid grounds:

“The first point to be adjusted is, which Antiochus is referred to. There are several of the names amongst the kings of the Seleucidan dynasty, whose sway commencing in Syria, extended at various times, in the early periods of their history, through Persia to the confines of India. Of these, the two first, Antiochus Soter and Antiochus Theos, were too much taken up with concurrences in Greece and in the west of Asia, to maintain any intimate connexion with India, and it is not until the time of Antiochus the Great, the fifth Seleucid monarch, that we have any positive indication of an intercourse between India and Syria. It is recorded of this prince that he invaded India, and formed an alliance with its sovereign, named by Greek writers, Sophagasenas.”

Antiochus III the Great can be the contemporary of Kumāragupta-I in the revised chronology. Starting with Chandragupta-I as a contemporary of Alexander the Great, the reign of Kumāragupta-I will overlap with the reign of Antiochus III about whom we have definite information that he arrived at the borders of India. If Antiochus III the Great was the contemporary of Devānāmpriya Priyadarśī, how do we account for the other four kings, all of whom were certainly not ruling during the revised time period of Kumāragupta’s rule (213-173 BCE) calculated by me using the start of the Imperial Gupta era in 309 BCE? The answer is simple, and it was given by Professor H.H. Wilson, Director of the Royal Asiatic Society, in 1850 CE. All the Greek kings mentioned by Devānāmpriya Priyadarśī were not his contemporaries. How could Devānāmpriya Priyadarśī be so current about far away kings of distant lands? How can the period of writing of Rock Edict XIII be specified to within a narrow range of time of two years? Kings could change by the time information reached Devānāmpriya Priyadarśī and he decided to include their names in the inscriptions and get them inscribed over his vast empire. In fact, Devānāmpriya Priyadarśī accepts in Rock Edict II that he did not know the names of the four kings who reigned beyond the land of Antiochus by saying, “Yona king named Antiyoka, and the other kings who are the neighbours of this Antiyoka.” Thus the correct purport of Rock Edict XIII is “where the Yona king named Antiyoka (is ruling) and beyond this Antiyoka, (the land of) four kings (the king) named Turamaya, (the king) named Antikini, (the king) named Maka, (and the king) named Alikasudara.”

Thus, while Antiochus was definitely his contemporary, the four kings — Ptolemy, Antigonus, Magas and Alexander — were either his contemporaries or before his time. Thus Antiyoka was Antiochus III instead of Antiochus II as currently believed. Turamaya could be any of the Ptolemy named rulers of Egypt, Ptolemy I to Ptolemy V. Alikasudara referred to Alexander the Great and not to Alexander (275-255 BCE) of Epirus or Alexander (252-247 BCE) of Corinth, who were minor kings and unlikely to be known to Devānāmpriya Priyadarśī. Thus, we have a satisfactory explanation for the identification of Kumāragupta-I with Devānāmpriya Priyadarśī”.

Besides presenting a cogent and compelling argument, backed with solid evidence (the most important parts of which are produced above) thus investing his propositions with firm scholarly merit, the author also shares some very insightful notes relating to the antiquity of several key historical persons in the Indian history such as Buddha, Mahavira, Varahamira, Sankara, and Panini employing textual as well as astronomical evidence from various ancient literary sources, which further strengthens his claims and the new chronology he establishes thereof further.

The findings of the author, if found indisputable upon careful examination by other intellectually honest scholars, certainly have the wherewithal to unlock many hitherto hidden pathways of the glorious antiquity of the Hindu people and could offer a great service in resolving many insoluble difficulties that the unquestioning execution of the flawed ‘chronology in use’ has occasioned.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SatyaVijayi.