The Gupta Empire: A Detailed Summary
The Gupta Empire is referred to as the Golden Age of India because of the extensive inventions and discoveries in science, technology, engineering, art, dialectic, literature, logic, mathematics, astronomy, religion and philosophy that illuminated the elements of Hindu Culture.
The Gupta Empire came into power in around 275 AD. It marked the end of 500 hundred years of domination of the provincial powers and resulting disquiet that began with the fall of the Mauryas.
Dynastic History of Gupta Empire
• He founded the Gupta Dynasty in the 3rd century AD.
• He used the title of Maharaja.
• He succeeded Srigupta.
• He also took the title of Maharaja.
Chandra Gupta I (319-334 AD)
• He assumed the title of ‘Maharajadhiraja’.
• He started the Gupta Era in 319 AD which marked the date of his accession.
• He married Lichchavi princess Kumaradevi and started matrimonial alliance that helps him to control the portion of Bihar and Nepal.
Samundra Gupta (335-380 AD)
• He has been called the “Indian Napoleon” by V.A Smith because of his extensive military conquests.
• Virasen was his commander-in-chief during southern campaign
• Vasubandhu was his minister who was a famous Buddhist scholar.
• Eran inscription (Madhya Pradesh) is a useful source of information of his campaign.
• He was devotee of Vishnu though a follower of the Brahmanical religion. He granted permission to the Buddhist king Meghavarman (King of Cylon) to build monasteries to Bodh Gaya.
• He assumed the titles of Vikramanka and Kaviraja.
Chandra Gupta II (380-412 AD)
• He is credited with the maintaining in his court nine gems (Navrantnas) - Kalidas, Amarsinh, Dhanvantiri, Varahminhira, Vararuchi, Ghatakarna, Kshapranak, Velabhatt and Shanku.
• Fa-hein visit India during his reign.
• Adopted the title of “Vikramaditya”.
• He was the first Gupta ruler who had started silver coin.
• The exploits of a king called Chandra are glorified in an iron pillar inscription fixed near Qutub Minar in Delhi.
• Some historians put Ramagupta between Samundra Gupta and Chandra Gupta II. In the play Devichandraguptam of Visakhdatta, Rama Gupta was the elder brother of Chandra Gupta II.
• He rescued Druvadevi from the saka king and later marries her.
Kumara Gupta I (413-467 AD)
• He was the son of Dhruvadevi who extended the Gupta Empire from North Bengal to Kathiawar and from the Himalayas to the Narmada.
• During his reign, Hunas invaded India.
• He founded Nalanda University.
Skanda Gupta (455-467 AD)
• He repulsed the ferocious Hunas attacks twice and his heroic feat entitled him the title of ‘Vikaramaditya’ as inscribed on Bhitari Pillar inscription.
• He was Vaishnava but followed the tolerant policy of his predecessors.
Administration of Gupta Empire
• All the power was concentrated with the king. Often an element of divinity was attached to the kings.
• The king adopted the titles of such as Paramveshvara, Maharajadhiraj and Parambhattaraka. Kingship was hereditary but there was no a firm of primogeniture.
• The Gupta rulers has organised a huge army.
• Forced labour or Vishti was also practised in royal Army.
• The king acted as the fountainhead and decided all disputes in general, punishments were light and mild.
• A council of ministers and civil officials assisted the king
• The most important officers in the Gupta Empire were the Kumaramatyas.
• The royal seal bore the imprint of Garuda. Started in the Deccan by the Satavahanas, the practice of granting land and fiscal administrative concessions the priests and administrators became regular affairs in the Gupta times.
• A new office of Sandhivigrhaka was created during Samundra Gupta who was responsible for the peace and war. Harisena held this title.
Art and Architecture during the 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) was 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 which 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.