GK SERIES FOR SSC, IAS, PCS, HAS, HCS
AND OTHER COMPETITIVE EXAMS
THE GUPTA DYNASTY
GOLDEN AGE OF INDIA
On the ruins of the Kushan empire arose a new empire, which established its way over a good part of the former dominions of both Kushans and Satavahanas. The first two kings of the dynasty were Srigupta and Ghatotkacha.
CHANDRAGUPTA I (AD 319 – 335):
- First important king of Gupta Dynasty.
- Started the Gupta era in 319-320 AD.
- He enhanced his power & prestige by marrying Kumara Devi, princes of the Lichchavi clan of Nepal.
- He acquired the title of MahaRajaAdhi Raja.
- Struck coins in the joint names of himself, his queen and the Lachchavi nation, thereby acknowledging his marriage alliance.
- First Gupta ruler to introduce silver coinage.
- Also started a new era calendar famously known as ‘Gupta Samvat’(started in 320 AD).
SAMUDRAGUPTA (AD 335 – 375):
- The Gupta kingdom was enlarged enormously by Chandragupta’s son & successor Samudragupta.
- His court poet Harisena wrote a glowing account of the military exploits of his patron. In a long inscription at the Prayag Prashasti pillar (at Allahabad), the poet enumerated the people & countries that were conquered by Samudragupta.
- Samudragupta believed in the policy of war and conquest and because of his bravery and generalship he is called the ‘Napoleon’ of India (by the historian V.A. Smith).
- In the region called AryaVrata he defeated nine rulers and Nagasena was one of them.
- Samudragupta is said to have composed numerous poems of high merit. Some of his coins represent him playing vina. He also performed Asvamedha sacrifice.
- He assumed the titles of Kaviraj.
- SamudraGupta patronized Buddhist monk Vasubandhu and has been titled as DharamPrachar Bandhu in the Allahabad inscription.
- Though a follower of the brahmanical religion, he was tolerant of other faiths.
- Received a missionary from Meghavarman, the ruler of SriLanka, seeking his permission to build a Buddhist temple at Gaya, which he granted.
CHANDRAGUPTA – II (AD 380 – 413):
- Samudragupta was succeeded by Ramgupta but Chandragupta II killed him and married his queen Dhruvadevi.
- He entered into matrimonial alliance with the Nagas (of upper and the Central Provinces) by marrying princess Kubernaga whose daughter Prabhavati was married to Rudrasena-II of the Vakataka family.
- Took the title of Vikramaditya by defeating Rudrasimha III, a Kshatrap king of Ujjain. He also took the title of Simhavikrama.
- He issued copper coins.
- The iron pillar inscription, fixed near Qutabminar in Delhi mentions a king Chandra (considered by many as Chandragupta II only).
- During his period Ujjain and Pataliputra became important learning centers.
- His court was adorned by celebrated nine gems (navratnas) - Ghatakarpara, Vraharuchi, Shanku, Amarsimha, VetalBhatta (equivalent to Birbal), Varahmira, Kshpanaka, Dhanvantri, Kalidasa
- Chinese pilgrim Fahien visited India at this time.
KUMARAGUPTA – I (AD 413 – 455):
- He adopted the title of Mahendraditya.
- Founded Nalanda University (a renowned university of ancient India).
- He was the worshipper of Lord Kartikeya (son of Lord Shiva).
- Kumaragupta is famous for maximum number of inscriptions during Gupta period. Best source of information about his rule is Bhilsada Inscription.
- In the last years of his reign, the peace and prosperity of the empire was disturbed due to the invasion of Turko-Mongol tribe, Hunas. During the war with the Hunas, Kumaragupta died.
SKANDAGUPTA (AD 455 – 467):
- Kumaragupta-I was followed by Skandagupta. He faced Hunas effectively.
- Restored Sudarshana Lake in Girnar region of Gujarat.
- He shifted his capital to Ayodhya.
- After his death, the great days of the Guptas were over. The empire continued but central control weakened, and local governors became feudatory kings with hereditary rights.
FEATURES OF GUPTA EMPIRE:
- Kings were called Parameshwara /Maharajadhiraja /Paramabhattaraka.
- The most important officers were Kumaramatyas.
- Their military organization was feudal in character (though the emperor had the standing army).
- They issued the largest number of gold coins in Ancient India, which were called Dinars. Silver coins were called rupyakas.
- Important officers were:
o MahaDandnayika(Chief Justice)
o Sandivigrahika (defence Minister or war minister)
o MahaBaladhikrita (chief of army)
o Dandaposika( head of police department)
o Bhandagaradhikrita (Treasurer)
o Mahapakshpatalika (Auditor)
· ‘BrihatSamhita’ of Varahmira tells us about the presence of caste based society during Gupta period.
- Vishti (forced labour) was there. ManuSmriti and NaradSmriti talks about various types of slavery.
- Position of women declined further. First instance of Sati took place at Eran, MP.
- The position of shudras improved substantially.
- The practice of untouchability intensed. (Especially hatred for Chandalas). Fa-hien mentions that the Chandalas lived outside the village and were distanced by the upper class.
- Nalanda (a university) was established as a Buddhist monastery during the reign of Kumara Gupta.
- Bhagavad-Gita was written during this time only. Buddhism declined.
- Bhagavatism centered around worshipping Vishnu or Bhagvat.
- Idol worship became a common feature.
- Dashavatara temple at Deogarh near Jhansi.
- Vishnu temple at Tigava near Jabalpur.
- Vishnu temple at Udaigiri (along with Ajanta & Ellora).
- Brick temple of Bhitargaon near Kanpur.
- Brick temple which is a stupa at Sarnath.
- Buddhist monastery (Bodh Vihara) at Nalanda.
- In Southern India, the rock cut temples were also at the peak of magnificence.
- Samudragupta is represented on his coins playing the lute (vina).
- 2 mt 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 Gupta period.
- Ajanta Paintings and paintings at Bagh, near Gwalior in MP, are of this time. They belong to the Buddhist art.
- Kalidas, the great Sanskrit dramatist, belonged to this period. His books are: Abhigyanashakuntalam, (considered as one of the best literary works in the world & one of the earliest Indian work to be translated into European language, the other work being the Bhagavadgita), Ritusamhara, Meghadutam, Kumarasambhavam, Malavikagnimitram, Raghuvansha, Vikramurvashi etc. Out of these, Ritusamhara, Meghadutam, Raghuvansha were epics and the rest were plays.
- Apart from Kalidas, others were Sudraka (author of Mrichchakatikam), Bharavi (Kiratarjuniya), Dandin (Kavyadarshana and Dasakumaracharita).
- To this period belong 13 plays written by Bhasa. Most famous of these was Charudatta.
- Vishakhadatta wrote Mudrarakshasa and Devichandraguptam.
- Vishnu Sharma wrote Panchtantra and Hitopdesh.
· Aryabhatta wrote Aryabhattiya, SuryaSiddhan, BrahmSiddhanta
· 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 Amarasimha.
- Ramayana & Mahabharata were almost completed by the 4th century AD.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY:
- Aryabhatta, the great mathematician wrote Aryabhatiya and Suryasiddhanta.
- In Aryabhatiya, he described the place value of the first nine nos. & the use of zero. He also calculated the value of pie and invented Algebra.
- In Suryasiddhanta, he proved that the earth revolves round the sun and rotates on its axis. In this way he 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 shone by reflecting the light.
- Varahamihira wrote Panchasi- dhantika and Brihatsamhita. He said that the moon moves round the earth and the earth, together with the moon, move round the sun.
- In the field of astronomy, Romakasidhanta was compiled.
- Vagbhatta was the most distinguished physician of the Ayurvedic system of medicine.