Reviving interest in Skandagupta: The first chapter of the ‘rewriting history’ project

In the call to rewrite history made by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Gupta emperor Skandagupta Vikramaditya may get a re-look in modern India.

Updated - October 24, 2019 12:08 pm IST

Published - October 23, 2019 10:46 pm IST - New Delhi

Rakesh Upadhyay, Centenary Chair Professor, Bharata Adhyayana Kendra, BHU. Photo:

Rakesh Upadhyay, Centenary Chair Professor, Bharata Adhyayana Kendra, BHU. Photo:

Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s call to rewrite India’s history made headlines everywhere, but the book that he was launching during that speech, a biography of Gupta emperor Skandagupta Vikramaditya, is also an important part of that project.

The book, titled Guptvanshik-Veer: Skandgupta Vikramaditya Ka Itihasik Punahsmaran , by Rakesh Upadhyay, is one of the first produced by the three-year-old Bharat Adhyayan Kendra, or the Centre for Indic Studies, set up at Benaras Hindu University (BHU), where he holds the Centennial Chair.

This revival of interest in Skandagupta, the last emperor in India to be given the title of Vikramaditya, is important, according to Professor Upadhyay, not just because he successfully defeated rampaging herds of Huns from running over India in the fourth century AD but also for the “resonances” his life holds for “contemporary times”.

“When we see how the Huns overran many ancient civilisations, ringing their death knell, we come to appreciate even more the role of Skandagupta who, around AD 455 annihilated the Huns, and helped India escape the fate of these other ancient civilisations. India has a civilisational continuity not just because we co-opted other streams but also due to these interventions,” he said.

The political aspect of this book is also to highlight, he said, that “without power there is no culture, without culture there is no power” ( bina Shakti, Shiv nahin, bina Shiv, Shakti nahin ). “Without politics, culture cannot be sustained and without culture, politics itself has no meaning,” he added.

Prof. Upadhyay added that Skandagupta’s life was a blueprint about the “valour that the State and society requires to preserve itself and its ethos”.

‘Vulnerable to attacks’

“Through our history, India has been vulnerable to attacks, and continues to be so, for example, [because of] global terrorism. We have been vulnerable from our northwest through history, and Skandgupta as an example is very relevant,” he said. He has relied on various sources, including edicts in Bheetri (in Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh), Rewa (Madhya Pradesh) and Junagarh (Gujarat), and secondary sources like French writer Silvain Levi, among others.

“There is also a lot of oral history on the terror of the Huns and the defeat handed over to them by Skandagupta still passed on through generations. From Benaras to Gorakhpur up to Magadh, there are places named after those ancient battles, including Audhihaar (where the Huns were defeated) and Mundihaar (where many of the Hun army were beheaded),” he said.

In the call to rewrite history made by Mr. Shah, Skandagupta, an ancient emperor, it is hoped, may get a re-look in modern India.

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