(Notes) Civil Services (Prelims) Examination : The Imperial Guptas - Quick Revision Notes (I)

Quick Revision Notes : Civil Services (Prelims) Examination Special

The Imperial Guptas (Indian History)

Ashoka’s death left a vacuum in India for the next 600 years, during which, several foreign tribes overran India. With the ascent of the Gupta power, the northern States were merged into a single empire. This national revival yielded an excellent administration and trade, all-round development with prevailing order and peace. The tax-burden was low compared to the Mauryan rule and the State provided for safe roads for trade. The period saw the revival of religion, sanskrit literature, art and architecture too.

1. After the Mauryas, the two main powers were the Satavahanas in the Deccan and the Kushanas in the north. They carried on brisk trade with the Roman empire. These powers were replaced in the middle of the 3rd century A.D. by the Guptas. The Guptas were Vaishyas by caste and followed Vaishnavism.

2. The main centres of Gupta activity were Magadha (Pataliputra), Prayag (Allahabad), Ujjain (M.P., considered as their second capital), Saket (Ayodhya, U.P.), and Sarnath (Benaras, Varanasi, U.P.).

3. Sri Gupta and his son Ghatotkacha Gupta were the first definite rulers of this dynasty, who also used the term ‘Maharaja’. However, no definite place is assigned to them over which they ruled.

4. Chandragupta-I is considered “real founder”. He started the Gupta Era (320 A.D.). His marriage alliance with the Licchavi (North Bihar) princess Kumaradevi enhanced his status and he ruled over Oudh, Magadh and Prayag.

5. Samudra Gupta’s campaigns have been mentioned by his court poet Harisena in the Prayag Prasasti, which is a valuable source of information for the various States, tribes and their rulers. His victory over the Nagas, Hunas, Vakatakas, etc gave him the title of “Indian Napoleon” (for his conquests), especially the Vakataka ruler Pravarasena (of Berar, Deccan) and Tamralipti (Bengal).

6. The Guptas were secular rulers and offered religious freedom to the society.

7. Chandra Gupta-II (“Vikramaditya”) defeated his elder brother Ramagupta and the Saka chief Basana, because Ramagupta had agreed to offer his wife Dhruvadevi to save the kingdom from Basana. To strengthen his position further, he married his daughter Prabhadevi, by his wife Kuber Naga, to the Vakataka king Rudrasena II. The Vakatakas helped him to end the power of the Sakas of Western India.

8. Vikramaditya is identified with king Chandra of the iron pillar inscription near Qutab Minar, Delhi. 9. The reign of Vikramaditya also saw the visit of the Chinese monk Fahien, who wanted to secure some copies of Buddhist manuscripts from India.

10. Skanda Gupta is famous for saving the empire from the Huna tribe, which had overran Asia and Europe. They suffered a terrible defeat in India.

11. Skanda Gupta appointed Parnadatta as governor to the Sakas at Saurashtra. The famous Junagarh rock inscription in Girnar hills, Kathiawar, refer to the repair of the embankment f the Sudarshan Lake by Parnadatta and his son Chakrapalita.

12. The last important Gupta ruler was Vishnu Gupta.

1 3 . Arc h a e o l o g i c a l sources of Gupta history are available as “prasastis” (charters recording land grants, etc). They are called Tamra sasanas or Tamrapatras (copper plates).

14. Gupta coins were first issued by Samudra Gupta, as the golden “Dinara”. He also issued Chandragupta and Kumaradevi type coins to commemorate his father’s marriage to the Licchavi princess.

15. The first silver coins were issued by Chandragupta- II, on imitation of the western Satraps. Copper coins were also issued.

16. Brahmanical faith, which had been eclipsed for long by the new sects of Buddhism and Jainism, achieved immense splendour under the Vaishnavite Guptas, who also encouraged to revive use of Sanskrit.

17. Devi worship in various forms achieved importance during Gupta period. Lakshmi was worshipped as consort to Vishnu and Parvati to Shiva.

18. Emergence of Bhakti cult, stressing on worship, devotion and love towards a personal God, gained importance during the Gupta period.

19. Literature and intellectual progress also manifested unparalleled progress. Sanskrit was honoured as the State language.

20. Some important scholars/works of the period are:
( a ) Vishnusharma— wrote Panchatantra, a collection of moral stories.
(b) Harisena—author of Prayag (Allahabad) prasasti (insciption)—gives account of Samudragupta’s campaigns.
(c) Vishakhadutta— wrote Mudra Rakshas (on Mauryas and Nandas) and Devichandragupta (on Chandragupta-II and Dhruva Devi).
(d) Shudraka—wrote Mricchakatika (a drama on a Brahmin merchant Charudutt and a courtesan Vasantsena, portrays city life).
(e) Bharavi—epic poem Kirtarjuneya (Arjuna and the disguised hunter Shiva).
(f) Dandin—Dasaku- maracharita (stories of 10 princes).
(g) Subandhu—Vasavdatta (story of prince Kandarpketu and princess Vasavdatta).
(h) Banabhatta—a later date writer—wrote Harshacharita and Kadambari—he was court poet of Harsha Vardhana.
(i) Amarsimha—a lexicographer— he wrote Amarakosa, he listed various metals and alloys.
(j) Kamandaka—Nitisara (on Chandragupta-I’s polity and administration)— is parallel to Kautilya’s Arthasastra.
(k) Puranas—religious literature was made more appealing. Puranas were finally written down.
(l) Kalidasa—greatest literary scholar—wrote the dramas Abhijnanasakuntalam (Shakuntala), Vikramorvasiya, Malvikagnimitra; The epics Raghuvamsa and Kumarasambhava; The poetries Meghaduta and Ritusamhara.

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