The main feature of the ideas of kingship that developed in the post-Mauryan period was the divine form of the king. Kings started associating themselves with gods and goddesses to attain higher status. The Kushan rulers, who ruled from Central Asia to North-West India (about 1st Century BC to 1st Century AD), used this method extensively. The creation of Kushan history has been done through inscriptions and literary tradition. The kind of Raj dharma (kingdom) that the Kushan rulers tried to present is best evidenced by their coins and sculptures.
- Giant statues of Kushan rulers have been found at a shrine of Maat near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh. Some historians believe that through these idols, the Kushans wanted to present themselves as gods. Many Kushan rulers also had the title of “Devaputra” in the beginning of their names. They may have been inspired by the Chinese rulers who called themselves “Swargaputra”.
- A grand statue of a king has also been shown on the coins of the Kushan rulers. On the other side of the coin is a picture of a deity. Such coins were also issued to depict the Kushans as god-like.
- The second development in the ideas of kingship took place in the Gupta period. There is evidence of many big empires including the Gupta Empire in the Fourth century AD. Many of these kingdoms were dependent on feudatories. These societies subsisted on local resources, including control over land. The feudal lords respected their rulers and also gave military help in times of need. Some powerful feudal lords also became kings and if the kings were weak, they became subordinate to more powerful rulers than themselves.
- The help of literature, coins and inscriptions has been taken in the construction of the history of the Gupta rulers. Along with this, the support of the praises written by the poets in praise of their king or master has also been taken. Historians try to extract historical facts on the basis of these praises, but the kings have been praised excessively, due to which the historical facts have been suppressed. For example, take the famous Prayag Prashasti known as the Allahabad Pillar Inscription. Its author Harishena has described Samudragupta as a very powerful emperor. He writes so far;
“He had no rival on earth. Endowed with many virtues and auspicious deeds, he had erased the fame of other kings with the sole of his feet. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
New ideas of revenue are visible behind such praise.