The Gupta dynasty first seems to be in eminence with the accession of Chandra Gupta I, son of Ghatotkacha to the throne of the ancestral Gupta kingdom. While his two ancestors were given the title of Maharaja (king), Chandra Gupta I is described in his inscriptions as Maharajadhiraj (king of kings) signifying a rise in the family fortunes. A series of gold coins issued by the king also testifies to his rising influence. The well known Gupta era which commenced on February 26, 320 AD is generally attributed to Chandra Gupta I. Hence it is surmised that the Gupta era began on the occasion of the coronation of Chandra Gupta I. According to the Puranas the Guptas ruled over territories (referred to as Janapadas) such as Prayag (Allahabad), Saket (Oudh) and Magadh (south Bihar). This description of the Gupta dominion precedes the reign of Samudragupta and hence must refer to the territories ruled over by Chandragupta I.
The coins issued by Chandra Gupta commemorate his marital union with the Lichchhavi princess. Gupta the Great is always referred to in the genealogical accounts of the imperial Guptas as ‘daughter’s son of the Lichchhavis’. The maternal genealogy is never mentioned in the records of other kings. V. A. Smith places the Lichchhavi kingdom as that the Lichchhavi dynasty was ruling somewhere in North Bihar, between Nepal and Vaisali. A Lichchavi dynasty was also the rulers of Nepal which points to the Lichchhavi dynastes were playing in the politics of the age in eastern India. It is probable Guptas ruled over Gupta by his marriage with Kumaradevi. This considerably strengthened the position of the Guptas and may have allowed its subsequent rapid expansion under Samudra Gupta.
Most records indicate that Chandragupta reigned in the period c. 319–335 AD. The Allahabad inscription on Samudra Gupta by Harishen seems to suggest that he publicly announced Samudra Gupta the Great as the heir apparent and may have abdicated the throne in his son’s favour.