There are plenty of source materials to reconstruct the history of the Gupta period. They include literary, epigraphical and numismatic sources. The Puranas throw light on the royal genealogy of the Gupta kings. Contemporary literary works like the Devichandraguptam and the Mudhrakshasam written by Visakadatta provide information regarding the rise of the Guptas. The Chinese traveler Fahien, who visited India during the reign of Chandragupta II, has left a valuable account of the social, economic and religious conditions of the Gupta empire.
Apart from these literary sources, there are inscriptions like the Meherauli Iron Pillar Inscription and the Allahabad Pillar inscription. The first refers to the achievements of Chandragupta I. The most important source for the reign of Samudragupta is the
Allahabad Pillar inscription. It describes his personality and achievements. This inscription is engraved on an Asokan pillar. It is written in classical Sanskrit, using the Nagari script. It consists of 33 lines composed by Harisena. It describes the circumstances of Samudragupta’s accession, his military campaigns in north India and the Deccan, his relationship with other contemporary rulers, and his accomplishments as a poet and scholar.
The coins issued by Gupta kings contain legends and figures. These coins provide interesting details about the titles and sacrifices performed by the Gupta monarchs.
Chandragupta I (320 – 330 A.D.)
The founder of the Gupta dynasty was Sri Gupta. He was succeeded by Ghatotkacha. These two were called Maharajas. Much information was not available about their rule. The next ruler was Chandragupta I and he was the first to be called Maharajadhiraja (the great king of kings). This title indicates his extensive conquests. He strengthened his position by a matrimonial alliance with the Licchavis. He married Kumaradevi, a princess of that family. This added to the power and prestige of the Gupta family. The Meherauli Iron Pillar inscription mentions his extensive conquests. Chandragupta I is considered to be the founder of the Gupta era which starts with his accession in A.D. 320.