THE GUPTA SYSTEM OF ADMINISTRATION
sense of ‘an individual’ is found in several Pāli texts.1 This sense is not at all unsuitable. But it
is worthy of note that Sanskrit lexicons attach the meaning of “the head of a guild or corporation” also to the word kula.2 This is perhaps the best and most correct explanation of Pañchakula or Ashṭakula. These bodies thus comprise the chiefs of five or eight corporations or classes
of a town or village. The Ashṭakula thus consists of headmen of the village guilds of artisanship
who later on degenerated into the principal castes of the village community.
We have pointed out above that Gupta as a family name was known long before 318-19
A.D. when the Imperial Gupta dynasty began to rise to power. Among the instances quoted
from inscriptions was one found at Bhārhut of the Śuṅga regime which records the erection of a
tōraṇa or gateway by Dhanabhūti, son of Aṅgāradyut and grandson of Viśvadēva. Viśvadēva
is here styled a rājan ‘king.’ It is thus evident that Dhanabhūti who erected the tōraṇa belonged
to a ruling family. What we have further to notice is that the names of the three princes are
coupled with metronymics and that whereas Viśvadēva and Dhanabhūti have been styled
Gārgīputra and Vātsīputra respectively, Aṅgāradyut is called Gōtīputra (=Gauptīputra).
What this means is that the mothers of the two former belonged to Brāhmaṇa gōtras but
the mother of the latter pertained to the Kshatriya clan, Gupta. That Gupta was a clan of
nobility even after the Śuṅga period may be seen from a Kārle cave inscription of the second
century A.D. which speaks of a Mahāraṭhi, Agni-mitraṇaka, as being Gōtīputra (=Gauptīputra).3 That Mahāraṭhi denoted the rank of a feaudatory chieftain is too well-known to require
substantiation. It is thus strange that up till the second century A.D. the Guptas did not adopt
any Brāhmaṇa gōtra. Things, however, appear to have changed soon, because when the Guptas
became an Imperial power, they did adopt a Brāhmaṇa gōtra. This is clear from the copper-plate charters of Prabhāvatiguptā, daughter of Chandragupta II. There she styles herself
Dhāraṇa-sagōtrā, “belonging to the Dhāraṇa gōtra.” She was married to Rudradēna of the
family of the Vākāṭakas, whose gōtra, as we know from their grants, was Vishṇuvṛiddha.
According to Kātyāyana-Laugākshi and Āśvalāyana,4 Vishṇuvṛiddha pertained to the Bharadvāja gōtra. But instead of Dhāraṇa we find Dhāriṇi mentioned by Laugākshi-Kātyāyana5 and
as belonging to the Agasti gōtra. Dhāriṇi must be a mislection fro Dhāraṇa, which reading is
clearly established by the grants of Prabhāvatiguptā, and, as a matter of fact, the gōtra lists
enumerated in the Śrautasūtras are full of such misreadings. We may thus take it that as the
Guptas and the Vākāṭakas are thus called Dhāraṇa and Vishṇuvṛiddha, they were considered
as having belonged to the Agasti and Bharadvāja gōtras respectively.
Though the Guptas and the Vākāṭakas had adopted the Brāhmaṇa gōtras, the female
members of the ruling families seem to have retained their Kshatriya clan names. It is true
that the two charters issued by Prabhāvatiguptā call her Dhāraṇa—sagōtrā. Nevertheless, she
has not ceased calling herself Guptā, as the ending affix of her name clearly shows. That this
Guptā is not a component of her proper name is clear from the name of her mother, Kubēra-Nāgā, which is also mentioned in both her grants. Here, too, the ending Nāgā must be taken
as the feminine form of the clan name Nāga just as Guptā is of Gupta. And, as if to leave no
1 See Mahābodhivaṁsa, ed. Strong, p. 154, Kambodian Mahāvaṁsa, chapter 19, verses 1-3; Mahāvaṁsa, ed.
Geiger, pp. 148 and 155; especially Mahāvaṁsa Translation by Gieger, p. 128, note 1. Our attention to these texts
was kindly drawn by C. D. Chatterji.
2 Monier-Williams’ Sanskrit-English Dictionary and V. S. Apte’s Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary, sub-voce.
3 Lüders’ List, No. 1088.
4 Gōtra-pravara-nibandha-kadambam (Bombay edn.), pp. 44 and 45.
5 Ibid., p. 87.