Industry and trade were generally prosperous during Gupta period. There was a balance of foreign trade. The three important southern ports of Muziris, Arikamedu, and Kaveripattanam also lost their importance. There were two types of merchants in the Gupta period namely Sresthi and Sarthavaha. Luxury goods were the principal articles of long distance trade. The internal trade used to be carried on by roads and rivers. Foreign trade was used to be carried on by sea and land. The major change in foreign trade was the decline of the Roman trade.
In Gupta period, Indian ports always maintained relations with Sri Lanka, Persia, Arabia, Ethiopia, the Byzantine Empire, China and the islands of the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka was an important port both in the foreign trade of the island and in the inter-oceanic commerce between the East and the West. The volume of external trade of India with China greatly increased during the Gupta period. Chinasunka a Chinese silk, had a good market in India.
Trade relations with Western Asia furnished during the later part of this period. This trade strengthened the ancient trade relations between India and the Western countries.
According to Cosmas, agricultural products, aloes, clove-wood, and sandalwood were exported, in his time, from the east coast of India to Sri Lanka. They exported it to the Western and even Persian and Ethiopian ports. Horses were imported from North-West India.
The following is the highlight during the Gupta period.
- Silk Route linked India to other markets.
- Indian merchants traded cashmere shawl, cotton, spices for Chinese silk.
- Gupta, Tamil kingdoms in southern India traded actively most of by sea.
- Indian sailors used seasonal winds for getting into foreign markets across Arabian Sea.
- Trade played key role in propagating the Indian culture.
Art and Architecture
The Gupta period was famous for vast progress in area of art, science and literature and due to this progress it has been called “a golden age”. The Gupta period covers an important place in the history of Indian art and architecture. The following are the highlights of the art and culture of Gupta Empire.
- Most remarkable was the Bhitari monolithic pillar of Skandagupta.
- Nagara and Dravidian styles of art came during this period.
- There was absence of growth of Gandhara style.
- But Mathura’s one pleasant standing Buddha statue shows a little Greek style.
- The temple at Deogarh near Jhansi, the sculptures in the temple at Garhwas (near Allahabad) were great source of showing effects of the Gupta art.
- The unearthed statue of Buddha at Sarnath is a symbol of Gupta art.
- Most of the paintings are seen at Bagh caves near Gwalior which shows the greatness and preciseness of Gupta art.
- The paintings of Ajantha mostly demonstrate the life of the Buddha.
- Kalidasa was a great poet and play writer during Chandragupta II. His master-piece was the Shakuntala. His other plays are Malavikagnimitra ,Vikramorvasiya and Kumarasambhava. His two lyrics are Ritusamhara and Meghaduta.
- During the Gupta period Metallurgy also made a wonderful impact. The craftsmen were expert in their art of casting metal statues and pillars.
- The most antique item in Sultanganj is the huge copper statue of Buddha. This is now kept at Birmingham museum, was of seven and a half feet height and a ton weight. The Delhi Iron pillar of the Gupta period is rust free even today.
- Chandragupta II and his successors also issued gold, silver and copper coins.
- Samudragupta was a great poet. Samudragupta patronized Harisena. Harisena was a one of the scholars.
- Dandin was the author of Kavyadarsa and Dasakumaracharita.
- Vasavadatta was written by Subhandhu.
- Visakadatta was other renowned author of this period. He was the author of two drams:Mudrarakshasa and Devichandraguptam.
- The Panchatantra stories were composed by Vishnusarma during the Gupta period.
- Sudraka was a renowned poet. He wrote his book Mrichchakatika .
- Bharavi’s Kritarjuniya is the story of discriminations between Arjuna and Siva.
- The Buddhist author Amarasimha created Amarakosa.