GUPTA EMPIRE | ANCIENT INDIA

After decline of Mauryas, the Gupta came into existence.
Srigupta is considered as the founder of Gupta dynasty.

THE GUPTA EMPIRE BEGINS

The Gupta Empire was an ancient Indian empire that was founded in 319 CE and survived until about 550 CE. The Gupta Empire covered most of north and central India, as well as Bangladesh. It was known to be one of the most peaceful and wealthy civilizations of its time. The Mauryan Empire collapsed in 185 B.C.E, after their final king was assassinated. For the next 500 years, the many states in India were at constant war. When Chandragupta ascended the throne and began the notable empire in 319 CE, the time of darkness was reversed. Chandragupta set up a stable civilization with a well functioning government, but his son, Samudragupta, was the individual responsible for extending the empire. He raided through Indian territories with little mercy. One unique tactic by the ruler was using war elephants in his conquests.

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Gupta period
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Gupta period Dashavatara

CHANDRAGUPTA I (319 CE-335 CE)

He was the first prominent ruler in the Gupta dynasty and assumed the title of “Maharajadhiraja.
He made his empire strong by his own efforts and also by making marriage with Lichchhavis princess.
Lichchhavis were a very powerful family or ruling class of Mithila at that time. So, Kumaradevi, the Lichchhavis Chandragupta I.
He started the Gupta Era in AD 319-320.

SAMUDRAGUPTA (335 AD-375 AD)

He was perhaps the greatest king of Gupta dynasty.
The most detailed and authentic record of this reign is preserved in the Allahabad pillar inscription known as Prayag Prashasti Pillar. Written by his court poet Harisena.
He always believed in the policy of war and conquest and has been termed as the Napolean of India by VA Smith.
He was a staunch Hindu. Allahabad pillar inscriptions mention the title Dharma Prachar Bandhu means he was the upholder of Brahmanical religion.
He performed Ashwamedha Yajna,which was mentioned on his coins. He took the title of Maharajadhiraja. Coins Archer type,Tiger type and the Battle type on some coins,he is represented as playing the veena.

CHANDRAGUPTA II (380 AD-413 AD)

He was the first Gupta ruler to issue silver coins.
He also strengthened his empire by making marriages with powerful dynastic princess. And his daughter Prabhavati was married to Vakataka prince Rudrasena II.
He adopted the title of Vikramaditya and Simhavikrama.
Ujjain is believed to have been made the second capital of Charndragupta II.
Mehrauli Iron Pillar inscription claims his authority over North-Western India and a good portion of Bengal.
Fahien, a Chinese traveler also came during the reign of chandragupta II. (399 AD – 414 AD).
He was also a man of art and culture, his court at Ujjain was adorned by “Navaratna” (Nine gems) including Kalidasa, Amarsimha, Acharya Dinanga, etc.

KUMARAGUPTA I (413 AD-455 AD)

Kumaragupta adopted the title of Mahendraditya.
Founded Nalanda University (a renowned university of ancient India).
Kalidas (The Shakespeare of India) flourished in the reign of both Chandragupta II and Kumargupta I.
Kumaragupta was the worshipper of Lord Kartikeya (son of Lord Shiva, his vehicle is peacock).

SKANDAGUPTA (455 AD-467 AD)

He faced Hunas (a fierce Nomad Horde of Central Asia) effictively.
Restored Sudarshana lake.
The decline of the empire began soon after his death.

GUPTA ADMINISTRATION

Kings were called Parameshwara/Maharajadhiraja/Paramabhattaraka.
The most important officers were Kumaramatyas.
Their military organisation was feudal in character (through the emperor had the standing army).
They issued the largest number of gold coins in ancient India,which were called Dinars.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

The castes were further divided into sub-castes.
Vishti (forced labour) was there.
Position of women declined further. First instance of Sati took place. Bhanugupta’s inscription of 510 AD was the first to account of sati.
The position of Shudras improved substantially.
The practice of untouchability intensified.(especially hatred for Chandalas). Fahien mentions that the Chandalas lived outside the village and were distanced by the upper class.
Nalanda (a university) was established as a Buddhist monastry during the reign of Kumaragupta.

RELIGION

The Bhagavadgita was written, the Buddhism declined.
The Bhagavatism centered around worshipping Vishnu or Bhagvat.
History was presented as a cycle of 10 incarnatioans of Vishnu.
Idol worship became a common feature.
Vishnu temple at Deogarh (near Jhansi), a small temple near Sanchi and a brick temple at Bhitargaon (near Kanpur belong to the Gupta architecture.

ART

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Vishnu as Varaha Avatar

Samudragupta is represented on his coins playing the flute (vina).
2 meter high bronze image of Buddha belonging to the Mathura school (The Gandhara Buddha represents mask like coldness, while the Buddha from the Mathura school imparts a feeling of warmth and vitality.
The Buddha sitting in his Dharma Chakra Mudra belongs to Sarnath.
Buddha images of Bamiyan belonged to the Gupta period.
Ajanta paintings and paintings at Bagh caves near Gwalior in MP, are of this time. They belong to the Buddhist art.
Images of Vishnu, Shiva and some other Hindu Gods feature for the first time in this period.

LITERATURE

Kalidas, the great Sanskrit dramatist, belonged to this period. His books are: The Abhigyanashakuntalam. (considered as one of the best literary works in the world and one of the earliest Indian works to be translated into a European language, the other works being the Bhagavadgita), the Ritusamhara, the Meghadutam, the Kumarsambhavam, the Malavikagnimitram, the Radhuvansha, the Vikramurvashi etc.
Apart from Kalidas others were Sudraka (author of the Mrichchakatikam), Bharavi (kiratarjunrya). To this period belong 13 plays written by Bhasa.
Vishnu Sharma wrote The Panchatantra.
The Gupta period also saw the development of Sanskrit grammar based on Panini and Patanjali. This period is particularly memorable for the compilation of Amarakosha by Amarashimaha.
Ramayana and the Mahabharata were almost completed by the AD 4th century.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

  • Aryabhatt, the great mathematician wrote the Aryabhattiya and the Suryasiddhanta. In the Aryabhattiya he described the place value of the first nine numbers and the use of zero. He also calculated the value of π and invented Algebra. In the Suryasiddhanta, he proved that the Earth revolves round the Sun and rotates on its axis. In this way, the discovered the cause of the solar and lunar eclipses and the methods for calculating the timings of their occurrence. He also said that the heavenly bodies, like the moon, were spherical and they are shone by reflecting the light of the Sun.
  • Varahimira wrote the Panchasidhantika and the Brihatsamhita. He said that the moon moves round the Earth and the Earth, together with the moon, moves round the sun.
  • Brahmagupta was a great mathematician. He wrote the Brahma-sphutic Siddhanta in which he hinted at the law of gravitation.
  • In the field of astronomy, Romakasidhanta was compiled.
  • Vagbhatta was the most distinguished physician of the ayurvedic system of medicine.
  • Palakapya wrote the Hastyagarveda, a treatise on the disease of elephants.
  • The court language was Sanskrit.
  • Dhanvantri- a physician famous for ayurveda knowledge.

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