Revision Notes : Civil Services
(Prelims) Examination Special
Imperial Guptas (Indian History)
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.
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.
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,
Sri Gupta and his son Ghatotkacha Gupta were the first definite rulers of this
dynasty, who also used the term â€˜Maharajaâ€™. However, no definite place is
assigned to them over which they ruled.
considered â€œreal founderâ€. 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.
Samudra Guptaâ€™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 â€œIndian Napoleonâ€ (for
his conquests), especially the Vakataka ruler Pravarasena (of Berar, Deccan) and
The Guptas were secular rulers and
offered religious freedom to the society.
Chandra Gupta-II (â€œVikramadityaâ€)
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
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.
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.
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
The last important Gupta ruler was
3 . Arc h a e o l o g i c a l
sources of Gupta history are available as â€œprasastisâ€
(charters recording land grants, etc). They are called Tamra sasanas or
Tamrapatras (copper plates).
Gupta coins were first issued by
Samudra Gupta, as the golden â€œDinaraâ€. He also issued Chandragupta
and Kumaradevi type coins to commemorate his fatherâ€™s marriage
to the Licchavi princess.
The first silver coins
were issued by Chandragupta- II, on imitation of the western Satraps. Copper
coins were also issued.
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.
Devi worship in various
forms achieved importance during Gupta period. Lakshmi was worshipped as consort
to Vishnu and Parvati to Shiva.
Emergence of Bhakti cult, stressing on worship, devotion and love towards a
personal God, gained importance during the Gupta period.
Literature and intellectual progress also manifested unparalleled progress. Sanskrit
was honoured as the State language.
Some important scholars/works of
the period are:
( a ) Vishnusharmaâ€” wrote Panchatantra, a
collection of moral stories.
(b) Harisenaâ€”author of Prayag (Allahabad) prasasti
(insciption)â€”gives account of Samudraguptaâ€™s campaigns.
(c) Vishakhaduttaâ€” wrote Mudra Rakshas (on Mauryas and
Nandas) and Devichandragupta (on Chandragupta-II and Dhruva Devi).
(d) Shudrakaâ€”wrote Mricchakatika (a drama
on a Brahmin merchant Charudutt and a courtesan Vasantsena, portrays city life).
(e) Bharaviâ€”epic poem Kirtarjuneya (Arjuna and the
disguised hunter Shiva).
(f) Dandinâ€”Dasaku- maracharita (stories of 10 princes).
(g) Subandhuâ€”Vasavdatta (story of prince Kandarpketu and
(h) Banabhattaâ€”a later date writerâ€”wrote Harshacharita
and Kadambariâ€”he was court poet of Harsha Vardhana.
(i) Amarsimhaâ€”a lexicographerâ€” he wrote Amarakosa, he
listed various metals and alloys.
(j) Kamandakaâ€”Nitisara (on Chandragupta-Iâ€™s polity and
administration)â€” is parallel to Kautilyaâ€™s Arthasastra.
(k) Puranasâ€”religious literature was made more appealing.
Puranas were finally written down.
(l) Kalidasaâ€”greatest literary scholarâ€”wrote the dramas
Abhijnanasakuntalam (Shakuntala), Vikramorvasiya, Malvikagnimitra;
The epics Raghuvamsa and Kumarasambhava; The poetries Meghaduta