Guptas empire : Socio – Economical & Political conditions

Sources

  • Plenty of source materials to reconstruct the history of the Gupta period that includes literary, epigraphical and numismatic sources.

  • Puranas throw light on the royal family tree of the Gupta kings.

  • Contemporary literary works like the Devichandraguptam and the Mudhrakshasam provides the information regarding the rise of the Guptas.

  • The Chinese traveler Fahien, who visited India during the reign of Chandragupta II, has left a valuable account of the social, economic and religious conditions of the Gupta empire.

  • Apart from these literary sources, there are inscriptions like the Meherauli Iron Pillar Inscription and the Allahabad Pillar inscription.

  • The coins issued by Gupta kings contain legends and figures. These coins provide interesting details about the titles and sacrifices performed by the Gupta monarchs.

guptasPolitical history of Guptas:

  • The founder of the Gupta dynasty was Sri Gupta. He was succeeded by Ghatotkacha.

  • These two were called Maharajas. Much information was not available about their rule.

Chandragupta I (320 – 330 A.D.)

  • He was the first to be called Maharajadhiraja (the great king of kings).

  • Married Licchavi princess Kumaradevi, with this strengthened his position.

  • Meherauli Iron Pillar mentions his large conquests.

  • Considered to be the founder of the Gupta era which starts with his accession in A.D.

  • First Indian Queen featured on a coin was Kumari Devi.

Samudragupta (330-380 A.D.)

  • Greatest of the rulers of the Gupta dynasty.

  • He was the restorer of the asvamedha’.

  • Prayaga Prasasti composed by Harisena, the poet at his court.

  • Because of his ability in composing verses, called as Kaviraja.

  • He was the patron of the great Buddhist scholar Vasubandu.

  • He was an ardent follower of Vaishnavism but was tolerant of other creeds.

For his military achievements, he has been aptly complemented by the historian V.A Smith as the Indian Napoleon.

  • Allahabad Pillar inscription mentions that he defeated 12 rulers in his South Indian Expedition.

  • His image depicting him with Veena in the coins, proof of his skillfulness & interest in music.

Chandragupta II Vikramaditya (380-415 A.D.)

  • Like his father, he also strengthened his political power by matrimonial alliances.

  • He married Kuberanaga, a Naga princess of central India.

  • He gave his daughter Prabhavati in marriage to the Vakataka prince Rudrasena II.

  • The greatest of the military achievements of Chandragupta II was his war against the Saka satraps of western India.

  • After this victory he performed the horse sacrifice and assumed the title Sakari, meaning, ‘destroyer of Sakas’. He also called himself Vikramaditya.

  • Nine gems’ or ‘Navratnas’ was a famous Scholastic Assembly in the court of Chandragupta II.

Fahien’s Visitguptas

  • Fahien visited India during the reign of Chandragupta II.

  • He came to India by the land route through Khotan, Kashgar, Gandhara and Punjab and returned by the sea route, visiting on the way Ceylon and Java.

  • The main purpose of his visit was to see the land of the Buddha and to collect Buddhist manuscripts from India.

  • Fahien provides valuable information on the religious, social and economic condition of the Gupta empire.

Kumargupta I mahendraditya (415-455 A.D.)
  • Chandragupta II was succeeded by his son, Kumargupta I.

  • He died during the war with the Hunas.

Skandagupta Vikramaditya (455-467 A.D.)
  • He was the last ruler of the Gupta dynasty, probably came to the throne when the war Pushyamitra was still going on.

  • He succeeded in defeating the Hunas and in maintaining the integrity of his ancestral empire.

  • He also adopted the title Vikramaditya for his success in Hunas invasion.

  • The decline of the empire begin soon after his death.

Guptas Administration

  • According inscriptions, the Gupta kings assumed titles like Paramabhattaraka, Maharajadhiraja, Parameswara, Samrat and Chakravartin.

  • The king was assisted in his administration by a council consisting of a chief minister, a Senapati or commander-in-chief of the army and other important officials.

  • A high official called Sandivigraha was mentioned in the Gupta inscriptions, most probably minister for foreign affairs.

  • The king maintained a close contact with the provincial administration through a class of officials called Kumaramatyas and Ayuktas.

  • Provinces in the Gupta Empire were known as Bhuktis and provincial governors as Uparikas.

  • Bhuktis were subdivided into Vishyas or districts & they were governed by Vishyapatis.

  • Nagara Sreshtis were the officers looking after the city administration.

  • Villages in the district were under the control of Gramikas.

  • Imposing a fine was a common punishment. There was no spy system.

Social Life

Position of woman:

  • Position of women had also become miserable during the Gupta period.

  • Prohibited from studying the religious texts like the Puranas.

  • The subjection of women to men was thoroughly regularized.

  • Swayamvara was given up and the Manusmriti suggested the early marriage for girls.

Religion:

  • Brahmanism reigned supreme during the Gupta period & had two branches – Vaishnavism and Saivism. Most of the Gupta kings were Vaishnavaites. They performed Aswamedha sacrifices.

  • Religious literature like the Puranas was composed during this period. The progress of Brahmanism led to the neglect of Buddhism and Jainism.

  • Fahien refers to the decline of Buddhism in the Gangetic valley. But a few Buddhist scholars like Vasubandhu were patronized by Gupta kings.

  • In western and southern India Jainism flourished. The great Jain Council was held at Valabhi during this period and the Jain Canon of the Swetambras was written.

Art and Architecture

  • Gupta age is called golden age of India in field of art, science & literature.

  • Nagara and Dravidian styles of art evolved during this period.

  • The temple at Deogarh near Jhansi and the sculptures in the temple at Garhwas near Allahabad remain important specimen of the Gupta art. There was no influence of Gandhara style.

  • But the beautiful statue of standing Buddha at Mathura reveals a little Greek style.

  • The Buddha statue unearthed at Saranath was unique piece of Gupta art.

  • The Bhitari monolithic pillar of Skandagupta is also remarkable.

guptasMetallurgy

  • Metallurgy had also made a wonderful progress during the Gupta period.

  • The gigantic copper statue of Buddha, originally found at Sultanganj now kept at Birmingham and

  • Delhi Iron pillar of the Gupta period were the finest examples for metallurgy of Gupta age.

Paintings
  • The greatest specimen of Buddhist art in Gupta Times is provided by Ajanta paintings.
  • They depict the various events in the life of Gautama Buddha and previous Buddhas, of jataka stories.
  • The paintings of the Gupta period are seen at Bagh caves near Gwalior.
Literature
  • Sanskrit became prominent during the Gupta period. Nagari script had evolved from the Brahmi script.

Amarsimha Amarkosha (Lexicon in sanskrit)

Aryabhatta

Aryabhatiya

Dandin Kavyadarsa & Dasakumaracharita
Kalidasa Abhigyanshakuntalam, MalvikagnimitramVikramorvasiya, KumarsambhavaRaghuvamsa, Ritusamhara, Meghaduta
Subhandhu Vasavadatta
Sudraka Mrich chakatika (Humour)

Vagbhata

Ashtangasamgraha

Varahamihira

Pancha Siddhantika & Brihadsamhita.

Vishakadatta Mudrarakshash & Devi Chandraguptam
Vishnu sharma Panchatantra
Vishnusharma Panchtantra stories
  • Kalidasa’s master-piece Abhigyanshakuntalam, considered as the one among the ‘hundred best books of the world’.
  • Eighteen Puranas, Mahabharatha and the Ramayana written in this period only.

Feel free to comment !!