India is probably one of the richest countries in the world in terms of its history and heritage; in terms of rulers and ruling clans. Thousands of years have passed and the country has seen several dynasties, rulers, emperors and conquerors. While those at power in the present day strive to annihilate the country, let us take a look at some of the greatest kings that ruled this land prior to it becoming a hotbed for pseudo-secular political drama. The top 10 greatest kings in Indian history shaped the path we walk on now.
10. Maharana Pratap:
He was a Hindu Rajput ruler of Mewar, a region in north-western India in the present day state of Rajasthan. Known for his gallantry and magnanimity, Maharana Pratap opposed the Mughals, particularly Emperor Akbar. Chittor was conquered by the Mughals; Maharana Pratap won back most of his territory except his cherished Chittor. He had pledged to sleep on the floor and live in a hut until he won Chittor back from the Mughals which unfortunately he never accomplished in his life time.
9. Chandragupta I:
He was a major king in Indian history and also the founder of the Gupta Dynasty. He is believed to have formed several alliances with powerful houses through marriages into those families. He was the Gupta Emperor from 320–335 CE and called himself Maharajadhiraj which means king of kings to show his superiority over others. He ruled over territories like Prayag (Allahabad), Saket (Oudh) and Magadh (south Bihar).
He was the successor of Chandragupta I belonging to the Gupta Dynasty and was the greatest king of that dynasty. Samudragupta is the ruler who is known to have ushered in the Golden Age of India. A great warrior, a connoisseur of art and a generous ruler, Samudragupta was chosen for succession by his father inspite of him not being the eldest of his sons. Another quality that he is remembered for is his tolerance and patronage for other religions.
7. Ranjit Singh:
Ranjit Singh was the founder of the Sikh Empire based in Punjab in the early half of the 19th century. During his rule he brought the whole of the central Punjab from the Sutlej to the Jhelum under his sway. His empire was based on the foundations of the Khalsa with opportunities for accession to commanding positions not restricted only to the Sikhs. He was a tolerant king and was also known as the “Maharaja of Punjab”.
6. Prithviraj Chauhan:
Prithvi Raj III was a king of the Hindu Chauhan dynasty. He ruled the kingdom of Ajmer and Delhi after succeeding to the throne at the young age of 20 and ruled much of present-day Rajasthan and Haryana. His elopement with the daughter of Jai Chandra Rathod of Kannauj, Samyukta , is a popular romantic tale of Indian history. But he is more importantly remember for having defeated Muhammad Ghori in the First Battle of Tarain in 1191 and later killing him during an archery show when blinded and imprisoned by the latter in 1192.
Kanishka, also known as Kanishka the Great, was an emperor of the Kushan Dynasty. His empire extended from Turfan in the Tarim Basin to Pataliputra on the Gangetic plain. With Pataliputra as his main capital, his reign was famous for its military, political, and spiritual achievements. He also had regional capitals as far as present-day Bagram in Afghanistan. Kanishka was a great patron of Buddhism and is still today considered as one of the greatest Buddhist Kings of India.
Shivaji Bhosale was the founder and the greatest king of the Maratha Empire. Hailing from the Bhosle Maratha clan, he created an independent Maratha kingdom with Raigad as its capital. He was crowned as Chhatrapati for leading the struggle against the Adilshahi sultanate of Bijapur and the Mughal Empire. He is remembered as a great warrior and a hero who united most of India against the Mughals. Shivaji is also known for pioneering the guerilla warfare methods using geography, speed, and surprise for attacks against more powerful and larger enemies.
Ashoka is also known as Samraat Chakravartin. He belonged to the Maurya Dynasty and ruled from ca. 269 BCE to 232 BCE. He reigned over most of the Indian subcontinent from the modern Iranian provinces of Khorasan, Sistan and Balochistan (unpartitioned), through the Hindukush Mountains in Afghanistan, to the Indian state of Assam in the east, and as far south as northern Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. He is attributed to the global spread of Buddhism and the emblem of modern India is derived from the Lion Capital of Ashoka.
Akbar was the Mughal Emperor from 1556 until his death. The third ruler of the Mughal Dynasty, he succeeded Humayun at a very young age. He went on to become one of the greatest rulers in Indian history and the greatest Mughal Emperor, too. His empire included nearly all of the Indian Subcontinent north of the Godavari river and he consolidated the same using marriage alliances and diplomacy. Akbar is known to have been a liberal ruler who believed in cultural integration.
1. Chandragupta Maurya:
Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Mauryan Empire and believed to be the first Emperor to have united India into one state. The Mauryan Empire under Chandragupta Maurya was the largest empire in Indian history up until that time. With his chief advisor Chanakya, he built a strong central administration and economy. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest rulers in Indian history known to have conquered Alexander the Great’s easternmost satrapies.