The Gupta Empire

The Guptas (319/20 AD - 550 AD)

  • Srigupta was the founder of the Gupta dynasty.
  • I-tsing who visited India during 671 to 695 Ad refers to Srigupta as the builder of a temple for Chinese pilgrims (Chini Mandhir) at Gaya (Shikhavana).
  • Srigupta's son Ghatotkacha succeeded him.

Chandragupta-I (319/20 AD - 335 AD)

  • Chandragupta-I succeeded his father Ghatotkacha in 320 AD. he is regarded as the true founder of the Gupta empire. he married a Lichchhavi princess Kumaradevi.
  • Samudragupta, son of Chandragupta-I and Kumaradevi in the Allahabad inscription proudly called himself Lichchhavis-dauhitra i.e. son of the daughter Lichchhavis.
  • Chandragupta-I introduced the Gupta Era beginning with 320 AD. He was the first Gupta king to adopt the title of Maharajadhiraja. He issued gold coins.

Samudragupta (335 AD-380 AD):

  • Samudragupta succeeded his father in Chandragupta-I. He has been called the 'Indian Napolean'.
  • The Allahabad Pillar inscription gives detailed information about Samudragupta, The Allahabad pillar inscription was composed by his court poet Harisena and engraved on the Ashoka's pillar at Allahabad.
  • Samudragupta performed Ashvamedha Yajna.
  • He issued archer type, tiger type and battle type coins. on some of his gold coins, he is represented playing the Veena.
  • He is also called Kaviraja i.e. 'king of poets'.
  • He died in 380 AD and was succeeded by his son Chandragupta-II.

Chandragupta-II (380 AD - 415 AD):

  • Under his reign, the Gupta Empire reached its highest glory.
  • Dattadevi was his mother.
  • he extended the limits of the empire by matrimonial alliances and conquests. he married Kubernaga, the princess of the naga dynasty and married his daughter Prabhavati with the Vakataka prince Rudrasena-II.
  • After the victory over Sakas, he adopted the title of Vikramaditya. After this conquest, Ujjain became the second capital of the Gupta empire.
  • Mehrauli Iron Pillar inscription says that he defeated the confederacy of Vangas and Vahilkas.
  • during his reign, Fa-Hien visited India (between 405 AD - 411 AD).
    Kalidas, Varahamitra, Dhanvantari, Amarasimha resided in his court.

Kumaragupta-I (415 AD - 455 AD):

  • He succeeded his father Chandragupta-II.
    He adopted the title of Mahendraditya.
  • He introduced the worship of God Karttikeya.
  • He founded the Monastery of Nalanda.
  • Kalidasa flourished in the reign of both Chandragupta-II and Kumargupta-I.

Skandagupta (455 AD- 467 AD):

  • He succeeded his father Kumaragupta-I.
    he repaired the dam of Sudarshana Lake.
  • His greatest enemies were Hunas, a ferocious barbarian tribe that lived in central Asia.
  • Bhitari stone inscription in Ghazipur district (UP) describes Skandgupta's powers.
  • He assumed the titles Vikramaditya, Devraj and Sakapan.
  • Skandagupta was succeeded by his brother Purugupta after his death in 467 AD.
  • Although the Gupta dynasty continued to be in existence for more than 100 years after the death of Skandagupta, the glory of the Gupta empire faded at a rapid pace.

Gupta Literature:

  • The Gupta period is remarkable for Sanskrit literature.
  • Kalidasa who is known as Shakespeare of India resided in the court of Chandragupta-II. he wrote many Sanskrit classics like Abhijnanashakuntalam, Malvikagnimitram, Kumarasambhava, Raghuvamsa, Meghadutam, Ritusamharam, Vikramorvasiyam.
  • Visakhadatta also contributed a lot to Sanskrit literature by writing Mudrarakshasa and Devi Chandragupta.
  • The Mrichchhakatika or the Little Clay Cart was written by Shudraka.
  • Vishnushramaan wrote Panchatantra & Amarasimha wrote Amarkosha in the time of Guptas.
  • The two epics Ramayana and Mahabharata were almost completed under the Guptas.
  • Bhavabhuti wrote Uttararama-Charita and Malati-Madhava. In prose, notable works and Dasakumaracharitam by Dandin.

Science and Technology:

  • Aryabhata was a mathematician and an astronomer. he wrote Suryasiddhanta and Aryabhatiya.
  • Aryabhatta calculated the value of π and contributed a lot to trigonometry.
  • Varahamihira was an astronomer as well as astrologer. he wrote Panchasiddhanta and Brihadjataka which was an encyclopedia work.
  • Brahmagupta wrote a book called Brahmasiddhanta in which he talked about gravity.
  • A book called Hastyayurveda was written by Palkapya. it was the first book ever written on veterinary science. Another book called Ashvashastra was written by Salihotra later.

Temple Construction:

  • The proper temple construction was started under the Guptas. model temple of Guptas is Dasavatara temple in Deogarh near Jhansi.
  • Nagara style of temple construction came into being under the Guptas.

Religion:

  • Guptas were the followers of Vaishnavism.
  • The Royal symbol of the Guptas was Garuda.
  • Avatarvada or Jayasamhita was written by Ved Vyas. It contains 18 Parvas. In one of these Parvas, there is a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna called Bhagavadgita. Mahabharta finally completed under the Guptas.
  • Ramayana which contains 7 chapters written by Valmiki also completed during the period of Guptas.

The Post Gupta Period:

North India in the post-Gupta Period:

From the decline of Guptas to the rise of Harsha, four major kingdoms flourished in north India viz.
  1. The present Guptas of Magadha (not to be confused with the main imperial Gupta dynasty).
  2. The Maukharis held the region of western Uttar Pradesh around Kannauj.
  3. In the west, the Maitraka clan, under its leader Bhatarka. They established a kingdom in Saurashtra with Vallabhi as its capital.
  4. Pushyabhutis of Thaneshwar.

Pushyanhutis or Thaneshwar:

  • Prabhakar Vardhan assumed the title of parmabhattarka maharajadhiraja.
  • his sovereignty probably extended to the whole of Punjab in the northwest and part of Malwa in the south.
  • He had two sons, Rajyavardhana and Harsha-Vardhan and a daughter Rajyasi who was married to the Maukhari king Grahavarman.

Harsha:

  • After the death of Rajyavardhana, his younger brother Harshavardhana (also known as Siladitya) ascended the throne in 606 AD at the age of sixteen and ruled for 41 years.
  • Banabhatta wrote Harshacharita (life of harsh and Kadambari).
  • Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang visited India during his reign.
  • The Aihole inscription mentions that Harsha met defeat at the hands of Pulakesin-II, the Chalukya king of Badami.
  • Harsha himself wrote three Sanskrit plays Nagananda, Ratnavali and Priyadarshika.
  • Hiuen-Tsang mentioned two most celebrated events of harsh's reign i.e. the assemblies at Kannauj and at Prayaga.
  • Harsha sent an embassy in 641 AD with Hiuen-Tsang to the Chinese Emperor.
  • He died in 647 AD.

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