Gupta Dynasty

The Gupta Empire was an ancient Indian empire which marked the advent of the classical age in India. The Gupta Empire is believed to have existed between 320 and 550 AD. It was founded by Maharaja Sri-Gupta in 320 AD and at its peak the empire covered most portions of the Indian Subcontinent.
Fa Xian, who is believed to be one of the first Chinese pilgrims to visit India under the rule of the Gupta rulers, mentioned the Gupta Empire as a prosperous and sound kingdom. He was amazed to see the mildness of the Gupta Penal Code in which most offences were usually punished by fines only. He is believed to have travelled India during the reign of the Gupta emperor Chandragupta-II at around 405 BC. Also, there was a widespread peace and prosperity in the reign of the Gupta Dynasty.
The peace, prosperity and mildness in the Gupta regime kindled the pursuit of the artistic and scientific endeavors across the empire.  In fact, this period is marked with extensive inventions and discoveries in the fields of science & technology, mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, literature, art, dialectic and religion because of which it is sometimes famously referred as the ‘Golden Age of India’. Also, the decimal system of numerals was developed during this era which was later adopted by the Arab traders who in turn passed this mathematical system to the Europeans.
Aryabhata, famously known as the inventor of the concept of zero, was a scholar produced by the Gupta Dynasty. He is also known to have determined the theory of earth moving round the sun and studied the concepts relating to the solar eclipses and lunar eclipses. Kalidasa, the famous Sanskrit poet of the 4th century AD, was also a gift ofGupta Dynasty to the Indian literature. He beautifully credited the Gupta Empire for its conquest of twenty-one kingdoms including the kingdoms of the Kambojas, the Kinnaras, the Kiratas, the Hunas, and the Persians in his poetry and was the writer of some legendary plays like Shakuntala. The Gupta Dynasty is also known to have laid the foundation of what is known as the Hindu culture today. Some other notable scholars produced during the reign of the Gupta Dynasty and known to have made great advancements in many academic fields include Vishnu Sharma, Varahamihira and Vatsyayana.
The cultural creativity of the Gupta Empire is marked by the creation of magnificent architecture, sculptures and paintings. It is widely believed that the earliest available Indian epics were written during this phase of the Indian history. These epics include the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It is also believed that on completion these epics were spread to all in the empire for the spread of Hinduism. It was during this period that Hinduism flourished and was spread to most parts of India. Also, Sanskrit poetry, art and drama grew in importance and consequently theGupta period marked the advent of the classical age of Indian art and culture.
Below is the list of major rulers under whom the Gupta Empire flourished:
  • Chandragupta: Chandragupta was the founder of the Gupta Dynasty. He waged many battles and attained the title of Maharajadiraja, meaning king of the kings. He ruled the empire between 319 and 335 AD.
  • Samudragupta: Famously known as the ‘Napoleon of India’, Samudragupta was the son and successor of Chandragupta who ruled the empire between 335 and 375 AD. He is known as the ‘Napoleon of India’ because he was successful in conquering many territories without putting in a hard effort. Under his reign, much scientific and academic advancement were made in many fields including astronomy, mathematics and medicine. Historians believe that after Ashoka’s Maurya Empire, it was the Gupta Empire under Samudragupta which has been supreme throughout India.
  • Chandragupta-II: He is also known as a Vikramaditya and ruled the Gupta Empire between 375 and 414 AD. He was the son of Samudragupta and is remembered for his great conquests. His successful conquest of Malwa and Saurashtra resulted in enhancement of trade and commerce in the empire through the opening of sea ports.
  • Kumaragupta-I: He was handed the helm of the Gupta Empire between 415 and 455 AD. Historians believe him to have been the most powerful of all Gupta rulers as under his reign whole of India was once again united under the reign of the Guptas. His kingdom was secular and in his reign people had their beliefs in different faiths. Despite this fact, there existed a widespread unity in his empire. He is also known by several other names such as Shri Mahendra, Simha Mahendra, Mahendra Karma, Asvamedha Mahendra, Ajita Mahendra, etc.
  • Skandagupta: Though it cannot be stated with absolute certainty but most historical evidences suggest that Skandagupta ruled the Gupta Empire after Kumaragupta-I. His empire constituted of the whole of north and peninsular India and he is believed to have ruled between 455 and 467 AD.

After Skandagupta, the helm of the Gupta Empire was handed to a series of weak rulers such as Purugupta (467 AD to 473 AD), Kumaragupta II (473 AD to 476 AD), Budhagupta (476AD to 495AD), Narasimhagupta, Kumaragupta III, Vishnugupta, Vainyagupta and Bhanugupta. In 480’s, the Gupta Empire had to face a strong offence from the Hephthalite King Oprah along its north-west borders and lost most portions of the north-west Gupta Empire to the Huna before 500 AD. The Hunas were successful to capture some of the most potent and strategically important provinces of the Gupta Empire including Thanesar, Gujarat, Malwa and a few more. The empire disintegrated under the attack of the Toramana and his successor Mihirakula. Eventually, the later Gupta rulers were driven out of Indiaby 528 AD. The rise of Yashodharman in Malwa and the competition from Vakatakas were amongst the other main contributing factors to the downfall of the Gupta Empire.


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