SAMUDRAGUPTA : Samudragupta had a long reign of 40 or 45 years. He succeeded in making himself the paramount ruler of northern India. To begin with, he subdued the princes of the Gangetic plain who failed to acknowledge his authority. The Allahabad inscription, composed by the court poet Harisena in praise of Samundragupta’s spectacular victories, lists the names of kings and countries defeated by the Gupta ruler. Samudragupta succeeded in conquering nine kings of Aryavarta (in the Ganges Valley) and twelve kings from Dakshinapatha, that is a reigon of southern India. In the inscription is also made of two kings of the Nava dynasty, rulers of Ahichhtra. In the next stage he brought the wild forest tribes under his control. Finally, he carried a brilliant expedition into south reaching as far as the Pallava Kingdom. Samudragupta’s southern campaign was successful to began with defeated the king of southern Koshala, Mahendra and then the rulers of the region now known or Orissa, in the civinity of the river Godavari, and the Pallava King, Vishnugopa, whose seat of power was
Kanchi. The other areas mentioned in the inscription have not yet been identified. He did not annex the territories in the Deccan and South, but he performed An Asvameda sacrifice which had been long in abeyance in order to claim imperial rank. Interestingly, gold medals were struck in commoration of his Vedicsacrifices. During Samudragupta’s reign the Gupta empire became one of the largest in the East. Its fluence spread and close ties were established with many other stages. Not without reason did the court poet Harisena writes his eulogyof the valour and might of his king, who, in the words of the inscrption, subdued the world. This assessment made by the court poet of old has considerable influence on many modern scholars whotend to idealise Samudragupta and described him as did Vincent A. Smith as the (as the Indian Nepolian) an outstanding individual possessed of remarkable qualities. By the close of Samudragupta careers his empire extended in the north to the base of them mountains. Excluding Kashmir, probably the eastern limit was the Brahamaputra which the Narmada may be regarded as the frontior in the south. And in the west, the Jamuna and Chambal rivers marked the limits of his empire, Nevertheless, various tribal states in the Punjab and Malwa powers Tributes and 46
homage were paid by the rulers of five frontier kingdoms – Samatata (delta of the Brahamaputra), Davaka (Possibly eastern Bengal), Kamarupa (equivalent to Assam), Kartripura (probably Kumaon and Gharwal) and Nepal. Apart from the vastness of his kingdom, Samudragupta received homage from a handful of foreign kings. The Kushans princes of the North-West ruled in peach beyond. The Indus basin also, friendly relations were maintained with the King Mahendra of Ceylon who had built a splendid monestary at Bodh Gaya after obtaining the permission of Samudragupta. Samudragupta was a man of exceptional abilities and unusual varied gifts – warrior, statesman, general, poet and musician, philanthropist, he was all in one. As a patron of arts and letters, he epitomized the spirit of his age. Coins and inscription of Gupta period bear testimony to his “versatile talents and ‘ Indefatigable energy”. WARRIOR : Samudragupta was a great warrior – this is well proved by the account of Harisena in Allahabad Pillar inscriptions although the description is poetic “whose most charming body was covered over with all the beauty of the marks of a hundred confuse wounds caused by the blows of battle axex, arrows, spears, pikes, swords, lances, javelines”. At least three types of coins – Archar Type, Battle – Axe and Tiger type – represent Samudragupta in martial armour. The coins bearing the epithets like ‘parakramah’ (valour), ‘kritanta-parashu’, vyaghra parakramah’, prove his being a skilful warrior. Thatd Samdudragupta was brilliant commander and a great conqueror is proved by Harisena’s description of his conquests. He mentions that Samudragaupta exterminated nine north Indian states, Subdued eithteen Atavika kingdoms near Bajalpur and Chhota Nagpur, and in his blitz – like campaign humbled the pride of twelve South Indian Kings, Nine borderstribes, and five frontier states of Smatata, Devaka, Karupa, Nepal and Krtripur ‘paid taxex, obeyed orders and performed obeisance in person to the great Samudragupta’. The conquests made him the lord
– paramount of India. Fortune’s child as he was, he was never defeated in any battle. His Eran inscription also stresses his being ‘invincible’ in battle. Samudragupta’s Asvamedha type of coins commeorate the Asvamedha sacrifices he performed and signify his many victories and superemacy.. SCHOLAR, POET AND MUSICIAN : According to Allahabad Prasasti’s exaggerated picture, ‘samudragupta was mano of many sided genius, who put to shame the preceptor of the lord Gods and Tumburu and Narad and others by his sharp and polished intellect and Chorla -skill and musical accmplishment. His title of Kaviraj (King of poets) is justified by various poetical compositions. Unfortunately none of these compositions have survived. The presence of the two celebrated literary personalities like Harisons and Vasubandhu definitely proves that he was a grent patron of men of letters. Harisena’s commemoration of Samudragupta’s knowledge and proficiency in song and music is curiously confirmed and corroborated by the existence of a few rare gold coins depicting him confortably seated on a high-becked couch engaged in playing the Veena (tyre or lute) : the scene is obviously from his private life. 47
Statesman and Administrator : Samudragupta displayed greater foresight in his conquests and in the administrationi and consolidation of his empire. A practical statestesman as he was he adopted different policies of different regions. “His treatment of the nine kings of the north India was drastic, they were ‘forcibly rooted up’ and their territories were incorporated in the dominions of the victor, but he made no attempt to effect the permanent annexation of the twelve southern States; he only exacted a temporary submission from the defeated chiefs, and then withdrew after having despoiled the rich treasures of the south; the policy of Dharm-Vijaya which Samudragupta followed in respect of the kings of south India is symbolic of his statesmanship, and was based on the needs and situations prevailing at that time. It was not an easy task to control effectively the far off regions from Pataliputra particularly when the means of transport and communication were too meager. The later history of India bears testimony to this fact. To the distant tribal states of the Punjab Eastern Rajputana and Malwa he granted autonomy treating them as buffer Kingdows against the foreign rulers like sakas and Kushans. That Samudragupta was an efficient administrator is clear from the very fact that he not only established a bvast empire but also left it as legacy to his successors wellknit and well-organised. The Allahabad Pillar Prasasti makes the mention of officials known as ‘Mahadandnayaka’ ‘Kumaramaty’ and ‘Sandhivigrahika’ and that his administration was severe and tyrannical and that Samudragupta was very firm towards sinners but generous towards righteous people.
Vedic religion and philanthrophy : Samudragupta was the up-holder of Brahmanical religion. Because of his services to the cause of religion the Allahabad inscription mentions the qualifying title of ‘Dharmaprachir Bandhu’ for him. But he was not intolerant of other creeds. His patronage to Buddhist scholar Vasubandhu and the acceptance of the request of the king of Ceylon to build a monastery of Bodh Gaya emply prove that the respected other religions. His Asvamedha types of coins with other coins bearing the figures of Lakshmi and Ganga together with her ‘vahas’ makara (crocodile) testify his faith in Brahmanical religions. Samudragupta had imbibed the true spirit of religion and for that reason, he has been described as ‘Anukampavan’ (full of compassion) in the Allahabad incscription. He has been described “as the giver of many hundreds of thousands of cows” Personal Appearance, despite the small of the coins and the limitations of reproducing the real image by striking the die, can be judged from his figures on the coins ‘tall in stature and of good physique he has strong muscular arms and a fully developed chest. From the above description it is clear that Samudragupta was endowed with no ordinary powers – Physical, intellectual and spiritural. About 380 AD Samudragupta was succeeded by one of his son who was selected as the most worthy of the crown. This ruler is known as Chandragupta-II. Later he took the additional title of Vikramaditya, which was associated by tradition with the Raja of Ujjain who was known for defeating the sakas and founding the Vikram era. Policy of Matrimonial Alliance The most important event of his reign was his matrimonial alliance with the Vakataka king rudra Sena II and the subjuqation of the peninsula of Saurashtra of Kathaiawar 48
which had been ruled for centuries by the Saka dynasty as the Western Satraps. Matrnimonial alliances occupy a prominent place in the foreign policy of the Guptas. The Lichchhavi alliance had strengthened their position in Bihar;Samudragupta had accepted gifts of maidens from neighbouring courts. With the same purpose, Chandragupta II married the Naga Princess Kubernaga and gave his own daughter, Prabhabati, in marriage to Vakataka king, Rudra Sena II. The Vakataka alliance was master stroke of diplomacy as it secured the subordinate alliance of the Vakataka king who occupied a strategic geographical position. It is noteworthy that Rudra Sena died young and his widow reigned until her sons came of age. Other dynasties of the Deccan also married into Gupta royal family, the Guptas thus ensuring friendly relations to the south of their domain. This also means that Chadragupta II did not renew Samudragupta’s southern advantures preferring to seek room for expansion towards the South-west. WAR WITH SAKAS The principal military achievement of Chandragupta-II was the conquest of Malwa, Gujarat and Saurashtra. All of them were ruled for several centuries by Saka chiefs known as Satraps of Great Satraps, since they paid tribute to the Kushans. This particular advaace of Chadragupta-II also involved the subjugation of the Malavas and certain other tribes which were outside the frontiers of Samudragupta. The details of the campaign are not known but Chadragupta’s prolonged stay in Malva along with his feudatory chiefs, ministers and generals is proved by the least three
inscriptions. The capaign was eminently successful. Rudra Simha, the last of the Satraps was killed. The fall of Saka Satrap is allueded to by Bana in his Harsha Charita “Chandragupta in the disguise of a female killed the Saka king possessed of lust for another’s wife at the very city of the enemy”. The Gupta Kingdom. The numismatic evidence proves the annexation. On the lion-slaver type of coins, Chandragupta is represented as slaying a lion with the lengedn ‘Simha-Vikram’ (one who has the prowess of a lion), signifaying probably his conquestof Gujarat where lions were then early common. But the conclusive evidene is that of the silver coins issued by Chandragupta II in the Saka rgions. RESULTS OF THE WAR WITH SAKA SATRAPS : (1) End of the domination of the foreigners. (2) Chandragupta became the pramaount soverign of all Northern India. (3) With the addition of the rice and fertile provinces of Gujarat and Kathiawar, Gupta empire extended fropm the bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea. (4) The Gupta empire now controlled a large part of the Indian commerce and trade with the western world since the western ports were now in Gupta hands and was brought into closer contact with the western civilization. (5) Western border of India was now no longer a source of anxiety. (6) Internal trade also received a fillip (7) Ujjain now because a great center of trade, commerce, education and politics, the Guptaking realisingits importance and it has second capital. EASTERN BENGAL AND BALKH It is almost certain that Chandragupta had other successful military operations to this credit the basis of refernces mentioned in Virasena’s Udaygiri cave inscription 49
that the king set out ‘to conquer the whole world’, and in Sanchi inscription in which one of Chandragupta’s military officer is said to have obtained great glory by winning many battles. But we have no definite and detailed information regarding the nature and result of these campaigns. The military exploits of a king called Chandra are mentioned in Mahrauli iron Pillar inscription. It is stated in the inscription that the king defeated a confederacy of hostile chiefs in Vanga and having crossed in warfare the seven months of the river Sindhu, conquered the Vahilkas. Vanga denotes Eastern Bengal, verynearly the same country as Samatata which is included in the tributary frontier states of Samudragupta. It is possible that some of the rulers refused to accept Chandragupta’s authority and consequently the latter had to fight against them. The compaign resulted in the inconporation of the province in the Gutpta empire. Vahilka, according to Dr. R.C. Majumdar, is almost certainly to be identified with Balkh (Bactria) beyond the Hindukush mountains. ‘Here too,’ the motive of the compaign was probably similar tothat against eastern Bengal, i.e. either the Kushans who referred to sas Daivaputra-Shahi – Shahanushani in Allahabad Pillar Inscription had acknowledged the supremacy of Samudragupta rebelled, or Chandragupta II wanted to establish his authorirty on a firmer basis’. Samudragupta had begun the work of conquest. But it was his son who completed the task and kingdoms on the border but also the territories ruled by foreign hordes like the Sakas and Kushanas. Chadragupta too the title of Vikramaditya (Sun of power) and for this tilte he had a better claim than any other sovereign of northern
India. That he was the real architect of the Gupta empire, there can be no two opinions. Chadragupta II ruled for nearly 35 years. And he was succeeded by Kumar Gupta – O in 415 A.D. He, too, ruled the empire for about 40 years. Details of his reign art not known. However as he, too. Performed the horse sacrifice, probably he added to his inherited dominions. DECLINE OF THE GUPTA EMPIRE The last great king of the Gupta was Skanda Gupta was ascended the throne about 455 A.D. Even during the later years of Kumar Gupta’s reign, the empire was attacked by a tribe called Pushyamitra but it was repulsed, And immediately after the accession of Skanda Gupta, Hunas made inroads, but they too were repelled. However, fresh waves of Invaders arrived and shattered the fabric of the Gupta Empire. Although in the beginning the Gupta king Skanda Gupta tried effectively to stem the march of the Hunas into India, his successors proved to be weak and could not cope with the Huna invaders, who excelled in horsemanship and who possibly used stirrups made of metal, Although the Huna power was soon overthrown by Yasodharman of Malwa, the Malwa prince successfully challenged the authority of the Guptas and set up Pillars of victory commorating his conquest (AD 532) of almost the whole of northern India. Indeed Yasodharman’s rule was short lived, but he dealt a severe blow to the Gupta empire. The Gupta empire was further undermined by the rise of the feudatories. The governors appointed by the Gupta kings in north Bengal and their feudatories in Samatata or south-east Bengal broke away from the Gupta control. The later Gutpas 50
of Magadha established their power in Bihar. Besides, the Maukharis rose to power in Bihar and Uttar Pradeshand had their capital at Kanauj. Proabably by AD 550 Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and passed out of gupta hands. And the rulers of Valabhi established their authority in Guajarat and Western Malw ANOTHER CAUSE: After the reign of Skanda Gupta (467 AD) any Gupta coin or inscription has been found in western Malwa and Saurashtra. The migration of guild of Silk weavers from Gujarata to Malwa in AD 473 and their adoption of non-productive professions show that there was not much demand for cloth produced by them. The advantages from Gujarat trade gradually disappeared. After the middle of the fifth century the Gupta kings made desperate attempts to maintain their gold currency by reducing the content of pure gold in it. The loss of western India complete by the end of the fifth century, must have deprived the Gutpas of the rich revenues from trade and commerce and crippled them economically, and the princes of Thaneswar established their power in Haryana and then gradually moved on to Kanauj. ADDITIONAL NOTE : The causes of the downfall of disappearence of the Guptas were basically not different from those that brought the end many ancient and medieval dynasties. Over and above the usual causes of administrative inefficiency, weak successors and stagnant the fall of the Guptas: dynastic dissensions, foreign inassions and some internal rebellions. DYNASTIC DISSENSIONS AND WEAK RULERS: There is evidence to show that following the death of Kumaragupta and Skandagupta, there were civil wars and struggles for the throne. For instance,
wehave the successors of Buddhagupta, highlighting the rule of more than just one king. Those were Vinayagupta in Bengal and Bhanugupta in Iran. Absence of law of primogeniture along with strong centralized authority in ancient and medieval periods led to chaos. Thus we see that the resources of the empire were frittered away in petty squabbles and wars for the throne. Besides circumstances weakening the Gupta monarchy, the very personalities of the later Gupta Kings contributed to the ultimate fall of this dynasty. They were not only men of weak character but also some of them followed pacifies that affected other spheres of administration, particularly that of military efficiency. FOREIGN INVASIONS: Foreign invasions was the second major factor in the decline and disappearance of the Gutpas. The invasion of barbaric tribe Pushyamitra was not the decisive. A far more important invasion was that of the White Huns, who, after settling in the Oxus vally, invaded India. First appeared during the reign of Budhagupta. Again they reappeared under the command of Toramana who annexed a large portion of the north-western region including parts of Moder U.P. He followed by hisson, Mihirakula, who became the overlord of north India. Indeed he was defeated by Yashodharman of Malwa but the repercussions of these invasions were disastrous for the Gupta Empire. 51
INTERNAL REBELLIONS : As a result of the weakning of Central Authoriy a number of feudal chieftans, principally those of the north-western region, assumed the status of independent rulers might more some names in this regard such as Maitrakas (of Kathiawar), Panivarajaks (of Budndhelkhand), Unchkalpas, Laxman in Allahabad. Etc. After the reign of Buddhagupta, the status of certain, governors of North Bengal and Yamuna – Narmada area around Magadh too assumed independence and became to be known as the later Guptas. By fat one of the most important rebellions was that of Yashodharman of western Malwa who became independentand established his kingdom. He defeated Mihirakula and sesms to have made extensive conquests from the Himalayas to Brahamputra. However, his empire did not last very long. Nevertheless, it set a pattern for other feudal cheiftans, who in due course, broke away from Central authority. Last but not the lest, we might note that the change in the Gupta polity from one of militancy to that of pacifism greatly affected the composition of the empire. We do have instance some of the later Gupta kings who changed from Hinduism to Buddhism and this was reflected inmate total military inefficiency of the later Guptas. Apart from these three major groups of causes, that led to the final disappearance of the Gupta empire, it is to be borne mind that no empire after the Mauryas was a reality. Ver often they were total fictions. With the disappearance of the Mauryan empire no empire in its full connotation came into existence in India since we had no tradition like that of the Greeks where it is held that the State comes into existence for the necessities of life but continues to exist for the good of life, and man, by nature, is a political animal. Somehow, after the Mauryan era the thinking of India became apolitical. The first factor that contributed for this outlook of Indians was the emergence of feudalism about which evidence is there from the days of the Satavahanas. This tendency grew in the Christian ara and was firmly established by
the seventh century AD. Along with this development one more saboteur of political consciousness was the religious perception of ancient Indians. Beginning before the Christian are it came to be gradually established that the kingship has its own dharma known as rajyadhrma while the people had a handul of dharmas like varnashrama dharma and the grihadharma. All these dharmas led the individual loyalty or perception towards a non-political entity. This thinking is given religious sanction by the priestly order. This thinking is given religious sanction by the priestly order of the day. Thus the State never was the architectonic factor in the life of ancient Indian except during the Mauryan era. It is this perception of ancient India that made the emergence and disappearance of hundreds of States mere non-events. The Vakatakas The Puranas recongnise the greatness of the Vakatakas, known as Visdhya Sakti. For over a hundred years the Vakatakas, known as Vindhya Sakti. For over a hundred years the Vakatakas with their capital at Nandi Vardhan ensured peace and tranquility over central India and re-established the orthodox social system which had suffered considerable battering by the inroads of Kushans and Yavanas. In one of Prithivisena’s inscriptions the dynasty is described as one whose economic 52
and judicial administration had been perfected for a hundred years, a significant if vain glorious announcement of the greatness of the Vakatakas. There are four views of the origin of Vakatakas. It is said that the Vakatakas were a northern dynasty since the Puranas maintain this view. But it is held by Jayaswal that they hailed from a place called vakataka. This view is no longer up held. The one evidence is that the Vakatakas never struck and coins in their own names, but utilized those of western Kshatrapas and later of Guptas. No early records of their have been found north of the Narbada. On the other hand there are several indications that they hailed from south. Their Sanskrit and Prakrit inscriptions are similar to those used in early pallav grants. The name Vakataka figures in an inscription of the 3rd century AD on a pillar at Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh. One school holds the view that the Vakatakas were Brahmins by caste. Vakataka records mention of Vishnuvriddhaas the gotra of the Vakatakas. In the Basim copper plate a Vakataka prince is named Gautamiputra. Both these facts make us believe that the Vakatakas were Brahmins. The formal establishment of Vakataka empire is placed at about 284 A.D. it is generally held that Vindhyasakti was one of the earliest kings of the dynasty. The Vakataka grants mention their gotra. It is also said that Vindhyasakti extended his king-dom and performed vedic sacrifices which were in abeyance during the rule of the later Satavahanas. Vindhyasakti succeeded by his son Pravarasena I who was the real founder of the Vakataka empire. He extended his sway further to the north as for as to Narmada. He performed of the seven Soma Sacrifices including Vijapeya and also four Asvamedhas. Pravarasena I assumed imperial titile and his authority was well established all over Hindustan. Pravarasena is attributed a long reign of 60 years, but it is strange that he never struck any coin. There are no visible signs of their supremacy outside Vidharba. At the most south Kosala, which borders on Vidharba might have come under their in fluence. However in the south his kingdow may have extended till the Tungbhadra or a little beyond that.
According to the Puranas, Pravarasena I had four sons. All of them became Kings. It is quite likely that the extensive empire of Pravarasena I was divided among his four sons after his death. Pravarasena’s son Sarvasena established a branch of the dynasty at Bassin which in course of time extended its authority as far south as Karnataka. In fact the Vakatakas in middle India succeed to the empire of the Satavahanas and held their sway north and south of the Vindhyas, and fully earned their title of Vindhya Sakti. Gautamiputra was the eldest son of Pravarasena. His son rudrasena I succeede Pravarasena I and ruled over the northern parts of Vidharba. Possibly he was the contemporary of the Gupta king, Samudragupta. The Gupta ruler himself never attacked the Vakataka ruler. It might have been that Samudragupta thought that it was wise not to attack a power which occupied a strategic position with respect to the powerful western Kshetrapas whom Samudragupta has not yet subjugated. Rudrasena I was succeeded by his son Prithvisena I. This king seems to have pursued a peaceful policy which brought happiness and prosperity to his people. Probably he had a long reign which terminated about 400 AD. It was his son’s alliance with the daughter of Chandragupta II that brought the Guptas and 53
Vakatakas to gether. Prithvisena was succeeded by a son Rudrasena II, who was a devotee of Vishnu unlike his ancestors who worshipped shiva. Rudrasena died after short reign leaving two sons who succeeded one after the other. The first son Divakar Sen’a rule was for a short period. He was succeeded by this brother Damodara Sena. More than a dozen grants of this prince have been found in different districts of Vidharbha. Probably he ruled for nearly 35 years ending with the year 455 AD. Apart from this line, one more line of the Vakatakas was that of Narendar Sena, one of the sons of Pravarasena I. He seems to have followed an aggressive pllicy and made some conquests in the east the north. Probably he married a princess of the Rashtrakuta family. Possibly he had a short reign of about 10 years. Also by the close of his reign the territories were invaded by the Nala kings. Prithvisena II, the son of Narendrasena, raised the prestige of the family. Tow stone inscriptions of his feudatory clearly prove the extension of the kingdom. He was also a worshipper of Vishnu. He may have been followed by one or two princes, but their names are not known to us. After the death of Prithvisena II, the kingdom was incorporated by one more branch of the Vakatakas called Vatsagluma branch. Sarvasena was the founder of the Vatasagluma branch and he was the son of Pravarasena I. He was followed by a son Vidhyasena who is named as Vindhyasakti II in one of the inscriptions. Vindhyasena was followed by his son Devasena. An inscription indicates that Vatasagluma was the capital of his branch of the Vakatakas. Vindhyasena was succeeded by Devasena. He have a very righteous and capable minister named Hastibhoja. The kingdom was entrusted to his care. Devasena was succeeded by a son Hari Sena in about 475 A.D. He was the great warrior but unfortunately much is not known about him. His conquests did not lead to permanent annexation of any territories. His minister Varahadeva caused the Ajanta cave 16 to be excavated and decorated with sculpture and picture galleries. In all likelihood the dynasty was overthrown by the Kalachuris in abouth 550 A.D. The causes that ultimately led to the downfall of the Vakatakas are not clearly
known. One of the works of Dandin throws some light. According to this the central power of the Vakataka empire became weak and the feudatories began to show signs of revolt luring the reign of Harisena’s misguided successors who led a desolute life. This confusion led to the invasion of the Kadambas. Also the Vakatakas suffered a disastrous defeat and the Vakataka ruler was killed in the battle which was fought on the banks of the Wardha. Talking of their importance the Bharasivas and the Vakatakas cannot be looked upon merely as bridge heads to the imperial Guptas. The glory of Samudragupta and his successors has obscured in a measure the great achievements of their predecessors who not only expelled the foreigners from Indian soil but reestablished the imperial tradition which was threatened by Kushan intrusion. Even more it is these dynasties, more than the Guptas, that contributed to the reestablishement of Hinu society and Sanskrit culture over Hindustan as may be seen not merely from the numerous Asvamedhas performed by the kings of these dynasties but the very orthodoxy which they claim for the mselves. The growth of classical Sanskrit literature to its full greatness was also in this period for Harisena’s 54
great prasasti of Samudragupta on the Allahabad pillar bears clear evidence to the evolution and perfection of the Kavya style. It would seem however from the inscription itself that the Vindhya and Maharashtra country the home domains of the Vakatakas, were not attacked or conquered by the Guptas. The continued existence of powerful Vakataka monarchs and their close alliance with the Guptas, under Samudragupta’s successor, would seem to indicate that Samudragupta did not challenge the Vindhyan power but satisfied himself with an allience. Chandragupta II’s marriage with a Vakataka princess and his own daughter Prabhavati’s marriage with a Vakataka monarch are further indications of the fact that the uptas shared their imperial power with the Vindhyan State. Chandragupta II married a Vakataka princes anmd thus allied himself with the historic imperial tradition. His daughter Prabhavati Gupta married Rudra Sena, the Vakataka king. A lady of remarkable ability she seems to have ruled the Vakataka empire as Regent for her son and in her inscriptions we see reflected the pride both of the Vakatakas and the Guptas. Chandragupta’s firm alliance with this great power based on the Vindhyas enabled him to concentrate all his forces against invaders. Despite the personal performance of the Vakatakas for Brahmanism, both Buddhism and Jainism flourished in their vst empire with liberal support of ministers and feudatories, Pravarasena performed the seven Vedic sacrifices including Asvamedha, which he performed four times. Serveral Vakataka inscriptions record grants lf land and even whole villages to pious and learned brahmins. Most of the Vakatakas kings were the followers of Shiva, whom they worshiped under the name of Maheshvara and Mahabhairava. Some of the Vakataka kings were grant patrons of learning and were also authors of Prakrit kavyas. Sarvasena, the founder of the Vatsagulma line was the author ofa Prakrit Kavya harivijaya. This kavya has bee copiously cited by later Sanskrit poets. The capital, Vastugulma, became a great center of learning and culture. Pravarasena – II of the elder branch of the family was also a reputed author of the Gatba Saptasati and of the famous kavyas Sethubandha composed in Maharashtra Prakrit. Dandin and bana praise the kavya Sethubandha. It is also suggested that
Kalidas lived fro some time in the court of Pravarsena II and helped the king in the composition of his kavya. Probably, Kalidas composed his own lyric Meghaduta during this stya there. In the field of architecture, a few shrines came into existence in Vidharaba at Tigowa and Nachna. The pillars in the Tigowa Shrine resemble the Indo-Persepolitan style. Status of the river goddess Ganga and Yamuna guard the entrance of the Sanctum Regarding painting, it is stated that caves XVI, XVII and XIX belong to the Vakataka age. In the cave XVI we have a huge statue of the Dying Princes. GUPTA ADMINISTRATION The two hundred years of Gupta rule may be said to mark the climax of Hindu imperial tradition. From the point of view of literature, religion, art, architecture, commerce and colonial development, this period is undoubtedly the most important in Indian history. The Guptas inherited the administrative system of the earlier empires. The Mauryan bureaucracy, already converted into a caste, had functioned with impartial loyalty under succeeding empires. Under the Guptas we have direct allusions to viceroys, governors, administrators of provinces, and of course to 55
ministers of the imperial government. The Mahamatras or provincial viceroys go back to the Mauryan period and continue, in fact, up to the twelfth century as the highest ranks in official bureaucracy. The position of Kumaramatyas, of whom many are mentioned, is not clear as we know of them in posts of varying importance. The gramikas or the village headmen formed the lowest rung in the ladder. Uparikas or governors were also appointed to provinces. In the Damodarpur plates we have mention of an uparika named Arata Datta who was governing like police chiefs, controller of military stores, chief justice (Mahadanda Nayak) leave no doubt about the existence of an organized hierarchy of officials exercising imperial authority in different parts of the country. 1. Monarchs took high sounding titles – Supreme Lord and Great King of Kings – the empire had a philosophy called imperialism but unfortunately it only touched the social and cultural fields it had no political objectives. 2. King was at the apex – princes often Viceroys. Queens were learned. Kumaradevi of Chandragupta I and Dhruvadevi of Chandragupta II appear o the coins. 3. Council of Ministers were often hereditary – Harisena and saba of Chandragupta II were military generals. Very often, ministers combined many offices – some ministers accompanied the king to the battles. Chief Ministers headed the Ministry. 4. Central Government – each department had its own seal – number of Mahasenapatis to watch over feudatories – foreign ministers like Sandhi proably supervised the foreign policy towards the feudastory states. The whole organization was bureaucratic as in the case of Mauryas. To some extent, the adminstration mellowed with the Guptas – Police regulations were less severe – capital punishments rare. Glowing tributes were paid to the Gupta administration by Fahien. There was no needless intereference of the government in the lives of people. It was temperate in the repression of crime and tolerant in matters of religion. Fahien could claim that he pursued his studies in peace wherever he chose to reside. Provincial administration – known as Bhuktis or Deshes. Officers very often of royal blood – maintained law and order and protected people against external aggression – also looked after public utility services.
Bhuktis were divided into groups of districts called Pradeshes. Pradeshas were divided into Vishyas or districts. The head of the districts was Vishayapati. Probably the provincial head was assisted by various officials. Damdoar plate inscription mentions number of functionaries – chief banker, Chief Merchants, Chief Artisan, Chief of the writer class etc. Whether they formed part of the non-official council of the districts or were elected is not known. Districts divided into number of villages – villages being the last unit. Villages looked after houses, streets, tmples banks etc. – each village had its own weavers, blacksmits and gold-smiths, carpentaers etc. Village headmen known as gramike was assisted by a council called Panchamandali. Each village had its own seal. Towns looked after by Purapalas – town councils. A very revealing feature of the administration was the payment of grants in land instead of salaries. Only personnel of the military service were paid cash salaries. 56
The grants in land were of two kinds. The agrahara grant was only to brahmins and it was tax-free. The second variety of land grant was given to secular officials either as salary or as reward for services. Both these practices were widely used as the time passed by. These grants definitely weakened the authority of the king. Although technically the king could cancel the grants, he could not do so as the time passed by. 11. Not enough evidence on taxation. Officials on tour were provided free rice, curd, milk, flowers, transport, etc. Perhaps they were like modern day officials at the districts level, Local people paid the expenses for apprehending criminals. 12. Three varieties of land – waste land belonging to State which was donated very often. The crown land war rarely donated. The third was the private land. Land revenue and various taxes from the land and from various categories of produce at various stages of production. 13. Administration was highly decentralized – police, control of military stores, chief justice, etc. Probably, recruitment ceased to be based on merit. 14. Parallelism of power – highest concentration and extensive decentralization. Such an administration required a good standing army and complicated system of checks and counter-checks. GUPTA SOCIETY 1. The Gupta age saw the acceptance of the Aryan pattern in northern India. The key status of the Brahmin was established. Good number of books re-written incorporating the view-point of the brahmins confirming the view that the status of the Brahmin was effective and powerful. Added to his, the increased granting of land to brahmins strengthened the pre-eminces of the Brahmin in society. The Brahmin thought that he was the sole custodian of Aryan tradition. Not only, this, the brahmins also monopolized knowledge and the education system. 2. Also, in the Aryan pattern of a society the master of the house occupied higher status. This indicates the disappearance of the indigenous pre-Aryan culture. Luckily this patriarchal Aryan society did not spread to all parts of India as conflict between Aryan and non-Aryan cultures continued. Al though the patriarchal stamp of Aryan and non-Aryan society, as revealed by the low status of women, became increasingly evident, the opposite also appeared in the form of increasing worship of Mother Goddess and fertility cults. In a way, the imposition of Aryan pattern of society on classes other than those of upper castes was incomplete and uncertain.
In the post-Gutan era more and more concessions were made to popular cults as borne out by the spread of Saivism and linga worship. Thus, the Aryan pattern of society could not take routes in the whole of India. Al though women were idealized in literature, they definitely occupied a subordinate position. Only upper class women were permitted a limited kind of education and that too only for enabling them to converse intelligently. Occasionally there are references of women teachers and philosophers. Some of the later day evil practices began to appear in this age. Early marriages appeared, and even pre-puberty marriages. It was also suggested that a widow should not only live in strict celibacy, but pre-ferably burn herself on the funeral pyre of her husband, according to Thapar evidence shows that this practice dates from 510 A.D. as stated in an inscription at era. It gradually came to be followed by the upper classes of central India to begin with and later in eastern India and Napal. 3. Some of the towns of South Bihar were large like those of Magadha. People were generally rich and prosperous. Charitable institutions were numerous. Rest houses 57
for travelers existed on the highways. The capital itself had excellent free hospital endowed by benevolent and enlightened citizens. Interestingly Pataliputra was still a city which inspired awe. Fahien was impressed by it particularly as it possessed two monasteries of interest. According to him, the monks were famous for their learning and students from all quarters attended their lectures. He himself had spent three years in the study of Sanskrit language and the Buddhist scriptures in Patiliputra. Fahien was tremendoulsly impressed by the palaces and halls erected during the time of Asoka in the middle of the city. According to him the massive stone-work adorned with sculptures and decorative carvings appeared to be the work of spirits beyond the capacity of human craftsmen. 4. Fahien also recorded that on his journey from the Indus to Mathura and Yamuna he saw a large number of monasteries tenanted by thousands of monks. Mathura alone had 20 such institutions. 5. It is said that people generally observed the Buddhist rule of life. The Chandalas or outcastes lived outside towns and cities. They were required to strik a piece of wood on entering to town or a bazaar so that people might not become polluted by contact with them. This particular observation shows that the manners and attitudes of people and government underwent a great change from the days of the Mauryas. It may be remembered that earlier the people of Taxila offered herds of fat beasts to Alexander to be slaughtered. Even Asoka did not forbid the slaughter of kine. Fahien observed that through out the whole country no body except the lowest out castes killed any living thing. Drank strong liquor, or ate onions and garlic. Probably this view of Fahien has to be taken with a pinch of salt. What all his remark conveys is that the sentiment of ahimsa was probably very strong in mid-India. Possibly, Fahien was only remarking on Buddhists. ,6. In the field of education the sciences of mathematics and astronomy including estrology, were pursued. The famous writers of the day were Aryabhata, Varahamihira, and a little later Brahmagupta. The first two writers definitely absorbed some Greek elements relating to their respective sciences. By the end of the sixth century India had devised the decimal system for the notation of numeral and employed a special sign for zero. This contribution of India to the world in the sphere of practical knowledge was used in inscriptions only a century after
Aryabhata. 7. The university at Nalanda became an educational center of international fame. Founded in the fifty century by one of the later Gupta emperors, it was endowed munificently by monarchs and rich men frol all parts of India and the Hindu colonies. Both Yuan-chwang and I-Tsing have left detailed accounts of their observations.We have also sufficient epigraphical and archaeological records to know more about it. 8. Formal education was imparted both in brahminical institutions and in Buddhist monasteries. In the latter pupils lived for 10 years but those who sought to join the ranks of monk remained for a longer period. Nalanda was the premier canter of Buddhist learning. 9. Primarily formal education was limited to grammar rhetoric prose, composition, logic, metaphysics and medicine. It is interesting to observe that detailed works on veterinary science appeared and that too they primarily related to horses and elephants. 58
10. Most of technical and specialized knowledge remained with guilds. Unfortunately, this knowledge was transmitted to younger generations on hereditary lines. This knowledge of the guilds has no contact with Brahmin institutions and Buddhist monasteries. Exceptionally the only one subject that brought the guilds and others close was mathematics. Understandably great advance was made in the field of mathematics. 11. Dramatic entertainment was popular both in court circles and outside. Music concerts and dance performances were primarily held in well-to-do house holds and before discerning audience. The generality of people derived pleasure in gambling and in witnessing animal fights specially those, of rams, cocks and quails. Athletics and gymnastics were the well-known sporting tournaments of the day. At various festivals both religious and secular amusements of various kinds were witnessed by people. The festival of spring was an important event for merry-making. Al though Fahien says that vegetarianism was widely prevalent meat was commonly consumed. Wine both local and imported was drunk and chewing of beetle leaf was a regular practice. 12. Caste and occupation were related although it was not very strictly maintained. There appears to be some improvement in the status of the shudra as compared to the Mauryan times. There was a clear distinction between shudras and slaves in the legal literature of the day. Also the term ‘dvija’ came to be restricted to Brahmins. The inscriptions of the day, however indicate that there was social mobility among the sub-castes. 13. The legal text-books primarily base the mselves on the work of manu. The writers of the day were Yajnavalkay, Narada, Brihaspati, Katyayana. Joint family system was well-known. 14. The first major works on astronomy were compiled earlier. Some of the fundamental problems of astronomy were tackled by Aryabhata. It was primarily because of his efforts that astronomy was recognized as a separate discipline. Aryabhata also believed that the earth was a sphere and the shadow of the earth falling on the moon caused eclipses. A near contemporary of Aryabhata was Varahamihira who divided the study of a stronomy into three distinct branches – astronomy, and mathematics, horoscopy and astrology. GUPTA ECONOMY
1. Trade reached its peak during the Gupta period. The annexation of the territory of the Satraps brought areas of exceptional wealth and fertility into the ordit of the empire. The State gathered abundant revenues in the form of custom duties at the numerous ports on the western coast like Broach Sopara, Cambay and a multitude center where most of the trade routes converged. The city of Jjjain is even now regarded as one of the seven sacred Hindu cities, slightly lower than that of Benaras in sanctity. The favoured position of the city made a succession of rulers embellish the city with various religious establishments. 2. Guilds continued to be the nodal points of commercial activity. They were almost autonomous in their internal organization. The government respected their laws. The laws governing the guilds were made by a corporation of guilds in which each guild had a member. The corporation elected a body of advisers who functioned as its functionaries. Some industrial guilds like that of the silk weavers had their own separate corporations. It is also interesting to observe that the Buddhist Sangha was 59
rich enough to participate in commercial activities. At places the Sangha acted as the banker and lent money on interest. This was in addition to their returns from land. They too took one sixth of the produce just as the State. The rate of interest varied. Very high rates of interest were no longer charged for overseas trade showing that there was increased confidence in that form of trade. Generally the rate was 20 per cent as against 240 of the earlier period. This lowering of the interest rate also reveals abundance of goods and conquest decrease in rate of profit. 3. Textiles of various kinds were manufactured. The domestic market was considerable. They had also markets in foreign countries. Silk muslim calico, Linen, wool and cotton were produced in great quantities. Western Indian was known for silk weaving. By the end of the Gupta period there was an eclipse of this industry. Possibly the in creasing use of the central Asian route and the sea-routeut China might have caused this eclipse. However, ivory work remained at its peak and did stone-cutting and carving. In metal-work copper the chief items of production were those of copper, iron and lead. Bronze also began to be used. The pearl-fishers of western India reaped huge profits in foreign markets. A great variety of precious stones like jasper, agate quartz and lapis-lazuli were exported. Pottery indeed remained the most important part of industrial production although the earlier elegant black polished were was no longer produced. For carrying goods pack animals and ox-drawn carts were used. In certain areas elephants were used for transport. The Ganges, Yamuna, Narbada, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri were the maij waterways. There was some change in the items of trade as compared to the preceding period. Chinese silk was imported in great quantities. So was ivory from Ethiopia. The import of horses from Arabia. Iran and Bactria increased during this period. Regarding over-seas trade ships regularly crossed to Arabian Sea the Indian Ocean and the China Seas. Indian trade contacts with East Africa were continued. It is strange to observe that in the period when commercial activity was at its apex the law-makers declared travel by sea a taboo and a great sin. Ritual purity became an obsession with both brahmins and upper castes. It was held that travel to distant lands would lead to contamination with the mlechhas (impure and non-caste
people). Thapar observes that this ban had an indirect advantage to the Brahmin in the sense that it curbed the economic power of trading community. 4. It is generally held that the peoples standard of living was very high. The prosperous urban dwellers lived in comfort and ease. Indeed there was a wide variation in the pattern of living. Out-castes were made to live on the out skirts of towns. Also there was no change in the standard of living of villagers as known from the accounts of foreign travelers. The daily life of a comfortably well-off citizen in towns is described in the Kamasutra. The citizen led a gentle existence devoted to various refinements of life. in social gatherings poetic recitations and compositions were heard. Music was another necessary accomplishment particularly the Playing of veena. The sophisticated townee has to be trained in the art of love and for this purpose the Kamasutra and other books of the same kind were written. It is also said that the courtesan was a 60
normal feature of urban life. According to the Kamasutra the occupation of a courtesan was very demanding profession. “She was often called upon to be a cultured companion like the geisha of Japan or the haetaere of Greec”. GUPTA LITERATURE Out knowledge of the development of Sanskrit literature in the early centuries A.D. is based on writings from the Gupta period. However, tradition associates the work of Ashvaghosha and out-standing writer and play Wright, one of the founders of Buddhist Sanskrit literature and a major philosopher- with the reign of Kanishak (the early second century AD). Many of his works remain unknown, but fragments of the following poems in Sanskrit have been preserved: Buddhacharita (“A life of the Buddha”) Saundarananda (Sundari and Nanda) and the drama shariputraprakarana. (A drama dealing with Shariputra’s Conversion to Buddhism). In ancient India these works of Ashvaghosha had enjoyed wide popularity and the Chinese pilgrim I-tsing who visited India in the seventh century wrote that the “poem” so gladdened the heart of the reader that he never tired of repeating it over and over again. Although the Buddhacharita and the Shariputraprakarana treated only Buddhist themes and propagated the teaching of the Buddha they possessed artistic qualities. Ashvaghosha adheres to the epic tradition and his characters lives are filled with drama and rich emotional experience. In his plays Ashvaghosha lays the foundation of ancient Indian drama which was to come into its own in the works of such writers as Bhasa, Kalidasa and Shudraka. Thirteen plays are attribute to Bhasa but it is as yet difficult to establish which of these early were written by this remarkable dramatist. Bahsa also made use of the epic tradition, although his plays were constructed strictly according to the laws of classical drama. Some modern scholars maintain, and with ample justification, that a number of the plays attributed to Bhasa are the most ancient moderls of Indian tragedy. This was, there is not doubt a bold innovation on the part of Bhasa who thus defined established artistic canon. This trend in ancient Indian drama was developed by the Shudraka, author of the play Mrichhakatiak (The title Clay Cart), which tells of the ardent love of an impoverished merchant for a courtsan. Possibly the greatest in ancient Indian literature is the work of Kalidasa, (late fourthearly fifth century), poet and dramatist, whose wrirtings represent an illustrious page
in the history of world culture. Translations of Kalidasa’s works penetrated to the West at the end of the eighteenth century and were well received. There is good reason to believe that Kalidasa was native of Mandasor in Malwa. It is, therefore, argued that he was brought up in close touch with the court of Ujjain, an active center of commercial and economic activity in western India. Kalidasa’s early descriptive poems, the Ritussamhara and the Meghaduta probably belong to the reign of Chandragupta-II, and his dramas to that of Kumaragupta. It appears that Kalidasa was a prolific writer but as year scholars have only discovered three plays : Shankuntala, Malavikagnimitra, Vikramorvashi (Urvashi won by Valour), the poem Meghadutta (the Cloud Messenger) and two epic poems : the Kumarasambhava (the Birth of Kumara) and Raghuvansha (Raghu’s Line) The core of all Kalidasa writings is man and his emotions, his wordly concerns, his joys and sorrows, His work represents a significant step forward in comparison with the writings of Ashavaghosha who depicted in idealized image of the Buddha and 61
his faithfull disciples. Many of Kalidasa’s heroes are kings: the poet not only extolled their exploits, but he also condemned their ignoble deeds. Some of Kalidasa’s works bear witness to the growth of the epic poem, the so-called mahakavya. Both in his plays and poems Nature and Man’s emotions are distinguished by their lyric quality and humanism. Without swerving from earlier traditions Kalidasa stood out as an innovator in many respects. Also, the very fact that tragic themes do not figure with the exception of Mrichcha Katika by Shudrak shows that the higher strata of society primarily sought entertainment. In ancient India considerable advances were also made by the theator. In the Gupta age special treatises concerning dramatic art started to appear, which provided detailed expositions of the aims of the theratre and theatrical entertainments, the various genres used in thetheatre etc. When ancient Indian plays first made their way to Europe, many scholars wrote that the Indian theatre owed its roots to ancient Greece. However it has since emerged beyond doubt that the theatre in India came into being quite independently. More over Indian the atrical tradition goes further back than that of ancient Greece and is much richer as far as theory is concerned. In the Gupta age the earliest of the Puranas were compiled. These collections of legends about gods, kings and heroes that embody the mythological and cosmological ideas of ancient Indians were compiled over a very long period and subjected to far-reaching editing and modification. Some of the Dharmashastras such as the Laws of Yajnavalkya (third century AD) or the laws of Narada (fourth and fifth centuries AD) also date from the early centuries AD. Worthy of note among the landmarks of Sankrit literature is the Panchatan to (third and fourth centuries AD) a collection of tales and pafables which is very popular both in India and beyond its borders. In the early Middle Ages translations of this work appeared in Pehlevi, Syriac and Arabic. In the Middle East the collection was known as all the influence of the Panchatantra on both Eastern and Western literature was considerable. It was also in the Gupta period that the first works of literature from Southern India written in Tamil appeard. One of the most famous these early works in Tamil was the Kural a collection of parables. The compilation of which is traditional ascribed to
a representative of the farmers’ caste, Triuvalluvar.The Kumar was undoubtedly based on material derived from folklore and already in ancient times won enormous popularity. In the fourth and fifth centuries A.D. Collections of Lyrical poems in Tamil also appeared. The literature of other south Indian appear later in the early Middle Ages. In the end it may be noted that both Sanskrit poetry and prose were greatly encouraged through royal patronage. However it was literature of the elites since Sanskrit was known only to them but not to the people. The Sanskrit plays of this period show that the characters of high social status speak Sanskrit: whereas those of lower status and women speak Prakrit. This particular feature throws light on the status of Sanskrit and Prakrit in society.