IT is well-known that in the fourth and fifth centuries A.C. Sanskrit literature flourished as it
had never done before. This was no doubt mainly due to the liberal patronage which the
Gupta kings extended to Sanskrit authors at their court. Some of these kings were
poets of no mean order. From the Allāhābād stone pillar inscription we learn that the
great Gupta Emperor Samudragupta had obtained the title of Kavirāja, ‘King of poets’,
by his several poetical compositions which even learned men found fit to draw upon.1 His
son Chandragupta II-Vikramāditya was probably the author of several subhāshitas current
under the name of Vikramāditya, collected in some Sanskrit anthologies.2 According to a
tradition recorded by Rājaśēkhara, he submitted himself to a test in the assembly of learned
men at Ujjayīnī.3 when kings themselves took such an active interest in poetry, it is no wonder
that their officers and subjects also did likewise.4 Some of the officers of the Guptas are
known to have been poets. Besides Harishēṇa, the famous author of the Allāhābād praśasti of Samudragupta, who held the high offices of Sāndhivigrahika, Kumārāmatya and Mahādaṇḍanāyaka during the reign of Samudragupta, we know of Śāba of the Kautsa gōtra, the Sāndhivigrahika of Chandragupta II, who is described as the poet of Pāṭaliputra in the
Udayagiri cave inscription. Several other princes and officers must have similarly distin-
guished themselves in that age by their practice of the poetic art.
... This state of things was not, however, confined to the north. In the south also poetry
as well as other fine arts flourished at the Vākāṭaka court. The first thing that strikes
us is that almost all Vākāṭaka grants are throughout written in Sanskrit. The only exception is the Bāsim grant of Vindhyaśakti II, but in this case also the genealogical portion is
in Sanskrit. This grant shows how Sanskrit began gradually to supplant Prakrit in the
drafting of royal charters. Most of the Vākāṭaka grants are written in prose and in a
matter-of-fact manner, and are therefore wholly devoid of poetic embellishment. This
does not however, indicate that the Vākāṭakas took no interest in Sanskrit poetry. From
the Saduktikarṇāmṛita of Śrīdharadāsa we know of a subhāshita composed by Yuvarāja Divākarasēna who is probably identical with the homonymous boy-prince for whom Prabhāvatīguptā was acting as a regent.6 Some other subhāshitas are ascribed to Pravarasēna. Several
good Sanskrit kāvyas must have been written in that age in Vidarbha under the liberal
patronage of the Vākāṭakas, though they have now passed into oblivion; for, otherwise,
early rhetoricians like Daṇḍin would not have regarded Vaidarbhī as the best style of
Sanskrit poetry, and Kālidāsa, the poet of Mālava, would not have adopted it for the composition of his works.7
1 C.I.I., Vol. III, p.8. Fleet’a translation of vidvaj-jan-opajivyamānu-kāvya-kriyābhiḥ as ‘by various
poetical compositions that were fit to be means of subsistence of learned men’ is evidently incorrect,
2 Kavindravachanasamuchchaya, ed. by F. W. Thomas, Introd., pp. 160 f.
3 Rājaśēkhara, Kāvyamimāṁsā (G.O.S.., first ed.), pp. 105 f.
4 Cf. राजनि कवौ सर्वौ लोक: कवि: स्वात्। Ibid., p. 54.
5 C.I.I., Vol. III, p. 35.
6 Saduktikarṇāmṛita (ed. by H. D. Sharma), II, 31, 4.
7 That Kalidasa composed his works in the Vaidarbhi is well known. Cf. लिप्ता मधुद्ववेद्मासन् यस्यनिर्विषया गिर: । सेनेदं वरर्म वैदने कालिदासेन शोषितम् ॥ Avantisundarikatha, p. 2.