GUPTA ART The glorious of the Gupta age proper (C. 350-650) have been made permanent through the visible creations of its art. Different forms of art, e.g. sculpture painting and terra-cotta attained a maturity balance and naturalness of exoression that have for ever remained unexcelled. Some of our most beautiful monuments representing the very acme of India’s artistic achievement among which the immortal Ajanta murals take precedence constitute the cultural heritage of the Gupta period. It is contended that during the Gupta period the proto-type of Hindu temple came into existence. It is rather unfortunate that many of the temples were destroyed by the iconoclasm of Muslims in the first few centuries of the second millennia. Whatever that remains of the Gupta temples the practice of keeping the principal image in the Garbha-griha (womb-house) began from this period. The structure it self was enclosed by a courtyard which in the later period housed a complex of shrines. Also it is from the Gupta period that temples came to be largely built in stone leading to the evolution of the monumental style in Hindu architecture. This practice of free standing temples was not taken up by the Buddhists. They continued to excavate hills. Some of their caves ore richly adorned with paintings like those of Ajanta. In the field of art the Gupta age witnessed classical levels in music. Architecture, sculpture and painting. The Gupta sculptures exhibit a gracious dignity never to be repeated again in Indian sculpture. Plain robes flowing over the bodies appear as though they are transparent. Transparent drapery is used not to reveal the charms of the flesh but to conceal them. If the schools of Bharhut, Sanchi and Mathura are marked by a sensual earthiness and that of Amravati by vital excited movement the Gupta sculpture suggests serenity and certitude. It is however in the field of sculpture that classical heights were reached in the Gupta period. The Buddha images at Sarnath reflect serenity and contentment mirroring the religious atmosphere of the age. This practice of carving images was picked up by Hinduism also. Since Hinduism created the image as a symbol the image are not representational created the image as a symbol the images are not representational just like those of Buddhism. The Hindu gods of the Gupta period were primarily incarnations of Vishnu. The Gupta sculptural style probably grew out of the Kushan style that survived at Mathura. In early fifty century a distinctive icon was greated. It is represented by a red sand-stone figure of a standing Buddha with an immense decorated hallow. The tension which activated earlier tranquility, a spiritual other worldliness which is the hallmark of the Gupta Buddhist.
According to authorities the Mathura style was refined and perfected at Sarnath. A great number of Buddhist eculptures were unearthed here. One unique group is known as the ‘wet Buddhas’ because the sculptures look as if they have been immersed in water. The Mathuran string fold motif is omitted and the sheer muslim Sanghati appears to cling to the body and reveal its basic form. A great example of Gupta sculpture created at Sarnath is that of the seated Buddha preaching the Law, carved of Chunar sandstone. This piece harmonises refined simplicity and Indian love of decoration. This particular image influenced India and also had a significant and lasting effect on brahminical art. In this sculpture the Buddha is seated as a yoqi on a throne and performs the Dharms Chakri mudra. 63
From the end of the fifth century on first under the on-slaught of the Huns and later with the advent of Islam, many of the products of the Gupta art, both Buddhist and Hindu were destroyed. A remarkable piece of Gupta metal-casting found at Sultanganj in Bihar is nearly feet high. Another metal figure but of a smaller size in bronze was found in U.P. A group of small ivory images of Buddhas and Bodhisattavas founding the Kashmri area are prime examples of late Gupta art from about the eighth century. Now for brahminical art. Even during the Kushan period sculptures of Hindu subjects such as the Sun God Surya and of Vishnu were produced at Mathura and else where. During the Gupta period an major group of brahminical sculptures appeared dealing with the various aspects of Vishnu. In the Udaigiri rock-cut shrine near Bhopal Vishnu is presented as the cosmic boar Varaha. The figures of Yakshi were also culled in the Udaigiri shrine. They now appear as river deities. This transformation can be clearly seen in a figure from the doorway of a Gupta temple at Besnagar nearby. It appears to represent the sacred river Ganga. The goddess stands in the classic tribhanga. Paramount among Hindu sculptures of the Gupta period are the reliefs on the exterior walls of the ruins of the Dasavatara Temple at Deogarh near Jhansi. Vishnu is shown asleep on the coils of the giant multi-headed serpant Ananta. Brahma is depicted separately seated on a lotus blossom. In the upper reaches of the relief deities including Indra and Shiva are represented. At the base of this sculptural relief there is a panel depicting events from the epic poem the Ramayana. Also it is interesting to note that the earliest surviving examples of painting in Ajanta Caves belong to the Gupta period. In Cave 1 we see Gupta architecture wrought from solid stone. This cave is also a virtual museum of Buddhist art. From every part of the cave we see paintings depicting the rich and complex Buddhist world of the late fifth century. The subject matter of the paintings is the various lives and icarnations of the Buddha as told in the Jataka tales. The Bodhisattava Padmapani in the tribhanga pose of sculpture holds a blue lotus. This figure expresses remote calm. The absence of shadows suggests an unworldly light. This light is present in all the paintings of Ajanta and is partly the result of the techniques used by the artists. Another elegant Bodhisattava figure in Cave in is shown surrounded by his queen and ladies of the court. It recreates an episode from the Jataka story. In cave 19 we have a fully developed Chaitya façade to Gupta style. It has over-abundance of Buddha images. GENERAL ESTIMATE
The characteristic features of Gupta art are refinement or elegance simplicity of expression and dominant spiritual purpose. An ensemble of these characteristics give Gupta art an individuality. In the first place this art is marked by refinemnt and restraint which are the signs of a highly developmed cultural taste and aesthetic enjoyment. The artist no longer relies on volume to give an impression of grandiose but focuses his attention on elegance with is not lost in the exuberance of ornaments. The keynote of his art is balance and freedomfrom the dead weight of conventions. The dictum is at once apparent if we compare the standing life-size figure of the Gupta Buddha of Yasadinna with the colossal standing Bodhisttava in the Sarnath Museum both from Mathura and in red sand stone. 64
Another characteristic of Gupta art is the concept of beauty for which we have a very appropriate term rupam used by Kalidasa. The men and women in this art-loving age applied the mselves to the worship of beautiful form in many ways. But aesthetic culture did not weaken the strong structure and stamina of life or bedim its supreme objective of yielding to the riotous worship of the sences. Art was worshipped in order to deepen the consciousness of the soul and awaken it to a new sense of spiritual joy and nobility. Kalidasa the supreme genius and poet of this age has expressed this attitude of life devoted to beauty in a sentence addressed to Paravati the goddess of personal Charm by her consort Siva: ‘O fair damsel the popular saying that beauty does not lead to sin is full of unexceptional truth’. The path of virtue is the path of beauty- this appears to be the guiding impulse of life in the Gupta age. To create lovely forms and harness them to the needs of higher life – this was the golden harmony that made Gupta art a thing of such perpetual and inexhaustible attraction. GUPTA RELIGION Both Buddhism and Hinduism were widely prevalent. The characteristic features of Hinduism enabled it to survive till today; whereas the new features of Buddhism led to its final decline. Although Buddhism still appealed in matters of ritual making it to be regarded as a sect of the latter. Jainism escaped from this fate. It remained unchanged; and there fore it continued to be supported by the merchant communities of western India. Added to this in some areas of the Deccan royalty patronized Jainism although it ceased in the 7th century A.D. Although Buddhism gradually declined with in the country it spread beyond the frontiers of India first to central Asia and then to China and also to South-East Asia. A far more important development of the 5th century was the emergence of a curious cult associated with the worship of women deities and fertility cults. These became the nucleus of a number of magical rites which later came to be known as tantricism Buddhism too came under this influence leading to the evolution or a new branch of Buddhism in the 7th century called vajrayana of Thunderbolt Vehicle Buddhism. In this Buddhism female counterparts came to be added to the male figures known as taras. This particular cult exists even tody in Nepal and Tibet. Devi worship – the cult of the mother goddess the oldest of all religious – also seems to have received the imprimature of orthodoxy during this period. We have the avidence of Gunadhya that tantric forms of worship were prevalent in the first century B.C. Kalidasa himself seems to have been a worshipper of the Devi. His name itself proclaims it as it is obviously an assumed one which means the servant of Kali. Besides the benedictory verse in Raghuvamsa clearly states the Sakta
doctrine of the indivisibility of Siva and parvati. The God Mahakala of Ujjain whose worship the poet describes with manifest devotion was as we known from Gunadhya’s story incorporated in Kathasarit Sagara adorned with tantric rites. In fact not only the different modes of Devi worship but the ceremonials of the tantric system in their various forms were well-known in the Gupta period. While the above developments occurred in Buddhism and Jainism Hinduism developed some distinct characteristics which exist even till today. The first is the worship of images which superseded sacrifices. The sacrifices of the olden days were transformed into symbolic sacrifices into the images in the poojas. This naturally led to the decline of the priests who were dominant in sacrifices. Worship of god indeed became the concern of the individual but regulating individual social 65
behaviour still remained the concern of the Brahmin. Man-made traditions of the past began to be treated as sacred laws. Orthodoxy attempted to maintain its power by rigid rules of exclusion. However seeing the difficulty of enforcing the sacred laws a more broad frame of difference came to be evolved as the four ends of manreligion and social law (dharma) economic welfare. (artha) pleasure (kama) and salvation of the soul (moksha). Then onwards it is being maintained that a correct balance of the first three could lead to the fourth. Among those who practiced religion in a serious manner two sects came into existence – Vaishnuvism and Shaivism. Broadly speaking the first was mostly prevalent in northern India while the second in southern India. At this time the tantric beliefs left their mark on Hinduism. Shakti cults came into existence the subtle idea being that the male can be activated only by being united with the female. It was thus that Hindu gods acquired wives and both came to be worshiped. Apart from tantricism the appearance of this feature of Hinduism was probably promoted by the persistence of the worship of the mother Goddess which probably could be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization. Along with these developments the ground was prepared for the concept of svataras also. Hindu thinkers evolved the concept of cyclical theory of time. The cycle was called a kalpa. The kalpa itself is divided into fourteen periods. At the end of each period, the universe re-emerges with Manu, the primeval men. Each of these kalpas is further divided into great intervals and ultimately into Yugas or periods of time. As per the concept of this theory of time we are in the fourth of the Yugas, that is, the Kaliyuga with which the world will its end. The Kaliyuga is also associated with which the world will reach its end 10 the 10th incarnation of Vishnu. All these developments in Hinduism were associated with disputations between Buddhists and brahmins. These debates centred around six systems of thought which came to be known as the six systems of Hindu philosophy – Nyaya or analysis based on logci, Vaisheshika or brood characteristics according to which the universe is composed of atoms as distinct from the soul’ sankhya or enumeration recognizing dualism between matter and soul or athemeis, yoga or application relying on control over the body in order to acquire knowledge of the ultimate law of the Vedas as opposed to pose-Vedic thought, and Vedanta to refute the theories of non-Vedas. As known from the above analysis the first four schools are empirical in nature, whereas, the latter two are metaphysical. In later ages mimamasa and Vedanta gained over the others. The above discourses were at the elite level and the generally of people came to
possess their own books of knowledge. The Puranas as known to us today were composed in this period historical traditions as recorded by the brahmins. They were originally composed in parts but in this period they came to be re-written in classical Sanskrit. Later, knowledge relating to Hindu sex, rites and customs came to be added to them in order to make them sacrosanct. GUPTA EFFLORESCENCE Introduction : Not a golden age but it was a period consummation. Administration : Administration was not found overnight. Began with Bimbisara and elaborated by the Nandas and then inherited by the Mauryans. Such was the legacy of the Gupta’s 66
Mahamatras and the provincial viceroys were inherited from the Mauryan system. Mauryan administrative system became mellowed – less sever punishment one – sixth of the land produce. ECONOMIC PROSPERITY (a) Capitalism emerged in the Mauryan period along with the guilds and ports. (b) Trad with west on a grand scale. (c) Material prosperity was reflected in the art and architecture of the period. (d) Use of the silk was common. (e) Use of intoxicants by the rich was popular. (f) Prosperity was not achieved overnight trade routes during the time of the Sakas and the Kushanas. BEFORE THE GUTPAS : (a) Udayana of Kausambi, 6th century B.C. (Veena – Buddhist books talk of palaces, gardens and Chaityas. (b) Artistic tradition goes back -the stupas of Sanchi and Bharhut, the chaityas of Ajanta, Nasik and Karle the rock-cutcaves of Barabar, and the vihara caves of Udaigiri, Khandagiri and Ajanta. (c) In the first century AD Mathura art became active. It was the Mathura school that first created images of the Buddha. It was also patronized by the Kushanas as borne out by a series of portraits of the Kushana kins. DURING THE GUPTAS : They key note of Gupta art is balance and freedom from convention – a ment between the right of naturalism and the bizarre symbolism of medieval art. In the beginning, the temple was in the form of leafy bower, than a hut of reeds, and then a cellarof wood and bricks. In the Gupta period appears garbha-griha having a small door as entrance – interior walls are bare whereas the exterior are richly carved – Tigowa temple in Jabalpur district, Narasimha temple in Eran and the Udayagiri Sanctuary near Sanchi. The Gupta sculpture was an improvement over the Gandhara sculpture. Their sculptures show close fitting garments and decorated haloes, sculptures also appear in the form of relief on temples. Carved brick work and the terracotta panels in the Bhitoragaon temple. Deogarh temple – a panel representing Vishnu reclining or Ananta – Shiva as a Yogi in this temple is a masterpiece – the same category of the cave temples in the Udayagiri hills. Buddhist sculptures in thisperiod had grown typically India. The Buddha of alm repose and mild serenity and abandonment of
drpery of the Gandhara art, a floral decoration showing the triumph of indigenous tradition, seated images of the Buddha preaching are of great delicacy. Metal images of the Buddha at Nalanda. The Gupta coins also reached classical levels : one side portrait of the king and there verse side appropriate goddess with symbols. Monarchs in various postures : feeding a peacock, shooting a tiger, playing on Veena.The quality of line drawn on the coins and their metallurgical skill are of higher level. 67
Number 16 and 17 cave-paintings of the Ajanta, the finest belong to this period. These two paintings constitute a culmination of classical Indian paintings – resemblance to Sigiriya frescoes. SANSKRIT LITERATURE Before the Guptas : Began with Panini – the Vakatakas and the Bharasivas (Nagas) patronized Sanskrit. The mahabashya of Patanjali was patronized by Pushyamitra Sunga – Patanjali refers to dramatic recitals of Kamasavadha. He also mentions of a poet of the second century B.C. Vararuchi who wrote in Kavya style. Susruta and Nagarjuna were well-versed in Sanskrit – Asvaghosha wrote Buddha Charita and Soundara Manda. Astadhyayi of Panini hints at the existence of dramatic literature. Kalidasa alludes to Sanksrit writers like Saumilla. Asvaghosha of the first century wrote dramas with Buddhist themes and this dramas were based on the norms laid down in Bharata’s Natyashastra. During the Guptas : Sanskrit ast he language of the elite Buddhists also used it. Kalidasa, the exponent of Kavya style – Ritusamhara and Meghadoot during Chandragupta II’s time. Kalidas was contemporary of Chandragupta II, Vikramaditya or Kumara Gupta I, His Meghadoot is a lyric of delicate beauty. Sahakuntalam in his great work. Vishakadatta is the author of Mudra- Rakshasa. Mrichakataka appeared in this period. Panchatantra was probably elaborated. RELIGION : Before the Guptas : In religions filed also the Gupta age witnessed such standards which are till today accepted. Religions, too, like the other filed did not originate during the Gupta period but reached a donsummation. Worhip of Vasudeva in early fourth century B.C. – in the middle second century B.C. Heliodours erected a garudadhwaja. Dharam shastras and Grihyasutras emerged in the fourth century B.C. along with the laws of Manu. The Bharasisvas and the Vakatakas contributed to the Re-establishment of Aryan society and culture and performed Asvamedhas. DURING THE GUTPAS : (1) As idols became objects of worship, the sacrificial part of Hindu religion receded into the background. Pujas gained in importance as opposed to Yajnas. Images worship captivated the imagination of the people (2) Redaction of thamajor Puranas and the Mahabharata. The Puranas created the necessary mythology while sculpture brought the deities to the homes of the common man. The essentials of the later day Hinduism appeared is a simple fashion
in the Puranas. (3) Vaishnavism and Shivism came into existence. (4) Development of the tantric belief – emergence of the Shakti cult. (5) With the development of the panthoon of gods in Hinduism the gods came to be attributed wives. (6) The concept of Yugas was postulate during this period – at the end of each Yuga, the universe is recreated kaliyuga is associated with the coming of Kalikin, the would-be incarnation of Vishnu. (7) Also, the six system of Philosophy came into existence. Nyaya lays stress on logic. Vaisheshika treats matter and soul as separate universes. Sankhya maintains 68
the existence of 25 principles as the causes of creation – is essentially atheistic. Yoga stresses on the control of the body and senses leading to eternity – required knowledge of human anatomy. Meemasa ephasises the ultimate law of the Vedas and their rituals primarily supported by the brahmins. Vednanta is the metaphysical interpretation of the Vedas – the should be reached by the atman of each individual for salvation. (8) Mahayana doctrine was the vogue of the day of this period. Buddhism developed its own tantrics – in the 7th century the Thunderbolt school added female counterparts to Buddhist pantheon known as Taras. Jainism was patronized by the merchant communities. A Jaina council was held at Valabhi in the sixth century and it finalized the Jaina canon. Science : In the field of science, too, the Gupta period witnessed a conusmmeratino. The beginnings of science were far too ancient Metallurgical skill was known from the days of the Mauryas. The scientific knowledge of the Greeks was admired in the post-Gupta era. These beginnings reached a culmination during the Gupta period. Most probably a few eminent ment of science belonged to his period. Aryabhatta was a methematician and he probably conceived the concept of zero. Arterya was a surgeon and he performed operations of Herina and catract. Varahminhira was as astronomer and he anticipated Copernicus. Probably, Charakha and Susruta, two authorities on medicines, belonged to this period. SHORTCOMINGS : (1) All was not well with the Gupta economic prosperity. After the Huna Invasions, trading activity with north-west came to a stop. Also goods from the Gangetic region could not be easily carried to the Western coast. This was one of the causes of the shift of trade towards South-East Asia. (2) The administration of the Guptas was not as successful as that of the Mauryas. Autonomy granted to provinces, districts and villages. The local officials formed into cligues and very often offices became hereditary. Corruption was known. Officials were expected to be treated with rice, curd and flowers – the last time perhaps, had its own implications. (3) Although Sanskrit drama attained great heights, some of the writings of the day show that they were only for a select few of society. Good number of legal codes were prepared like that of Yajnavalka, Narada, Barihaspati and Katyayand. The social system became very rigid. (4) In matters of religion also decadent features started appearing. New cults emerged worshipping female deities. This became the nucleus for a number of magical rites which later came to be known as Tantricism.
(5) It was in the social field the institutionalization of difference between the castes had begun. In the dramatic wrirings of the day, the characters belonging to the upper state of society speak Sanksrit while those of the lower strapa and women speak Prakrit. The status of women declined because of the practice of early marriages. And most of the legal codes of the day reiterate the Brahmin view-point in all matters including the status of women. The lot of Shudras which was downgraded in the Maurya period was legalized. And the institution of untouchability was fully established. 69
POST-GUPTA PERIOD (500-750 A.D.) The political scene in India from the decline of the Guptas until the rise of Harsha was bewildering. Large scale displacement of peoples continued for some time. Small kingdoms vied with each other for the heritage of Guptas. Northern India was divided into four kingdoms of later Guptas of Magadha, the Maukharis, the Pushabhutis and the Maitrakas. The Maukharis first held the region of western U.P. around Kanauj. Gradually they ousted the later Guptas and made them move to Malwa. The pushyabhut is ruled to Thaneswar north of Delhi. They had a marriage alliance with the Maukharis. After the death of the last Maukhari king, probably the Maukhari kingdom and that of pusyabhuti were united into one kingdom. Probably the Maitrakas were of Iranian origin and ruled in Gujarat. They developed Vallabhi as their capital which became an important center of learning. On the periphery of these four kingdoms a number of small principalities were continuously fighting with each other. All the kingdoms came into prominence after the Huninvasion since it left a political vacuum in northern India. Although the political picture was discouraging, there were a few formatives trends in this period. The Gupta imperial tradition seems to have continued. Numerous inscriptions of kings reveal that the kings claimed descent from the Gupta Vakataka dynasties. In the same period even the character of the Hun invaders underwent change. Tormana was no savage but a Hinduised frontier king attacking a decaying empire. He ceased to be a foreigner. His successor, Mihirakula, was undoubtedly one of the known tyrants of history. Let by Baladitya Gupta, the last great monarch of the imperial dynasty, the rulers of north India combined to attack him and overthrow his power in a great battle of 528 A.D. The hun dynasty ended with it. After this event the kingdoms of the age carried on the traditions of the empire. In and around the Vindhyas the Vakatakas rules with effective authority. In the Gangetic valley the Maukhari kings consolidated their rule. True, the imperial tradition was under eclipse, but the country, as a whole was peaceful and prosperous and it was not subject to anarchical disruption. The university of Nalanda flourished in the sixth century. Saintly Sthiramati was its head in the middle of the sixth century. Dharmapala, who extended his patronage to the university in the latter half of the century was an eminent scholar. As a matter of fact, Nalanda witnessed its golden period in this period. It is also to be kept in mind that classical Sanskrit reached its perfection in the sixth century. Bharavi, Kumaradasa and Dandin among the poets and Vishkhadatta among the dramatists lived in the sixth century A.D. Some historians ascribe the development of Indian mathematics and astronomy to the sixth century. Varahamira is said to have died in 587 A.D. Aryabhata was born in 476.
It can equally be said that philosophy, logic and mimamsa matured during this period. Buddhist and Hindu systems of logic witnessed their golden age. It is also noteworthy that vernacular literatures began to grow. Prakrit evolved into a literary language possessing its own grammars. It was this development that enabled Rajasekhara and other to create classical literature of Prakrit in the next century. Thus the old view that the sixth century was a period of anarchy and the age of Harsha that followed it was the last glow of ancient period, cannot be sustained. On 70
the other hand the sixth century was a germinal period which sowed the seeds of later developments. THE HOUSE OF PUSHYABHUTI According to Harsha-Charita, a royal line was founded by one pushyabhuti, a devout Saivite, some where near Thaneswar in the Ambala district of Haraya. Nothing much is known about this ruler. It was only the fourth ruler prabhakaravardhana that the title Maharajadhiraja was assumed. Historians surmise that like the Maukharis, their immediate neighbour in the east, the Pushyabhutis took advantage of the fall of the Gupta empire to find an independent principality. A few details of Prabhkarvardhana are to be found in Harshacharita. He was the great General, who possibly defeated the Hunas also. Bana also mentions that he was the devotee of the sun. Prabhakaravardhana had two sons, Rajhavardhan and Harshavardhana and one daughter, Rajyasri. Grahavarman of the Maukhari dynasty was married to Rajyasri. After the death of Prabhakaravardhan, Rajyavardhan ascended the throne. Soon had news came, Grahavarman was killed by the Malwa ruler. Rajyavardhan leaving the kingdom toteh care of Harshavardhan, went after the Malwa army. The Malwa king was defeated and possibly killed. On his return Rajyavardhana was confronted by Sasanka. All the available authorities declare that Rajyavardhana was killed by Sasanka throught they differ in details. After his death, harsha succeeded to the throne of Kanauj with the title of Rajputra and style of Siladitya. However, the inscriptions of Harsha mention the names of only four of his immediate ancestors. The kingdom was founded by Naravardhana about the close of the fifth or beginning of the sixth century A.D. His grandson Adityavarman was known for marrying a sister of the later Gupta monarch Mahasena-Gupta. It was only under Prabhakaravardhana, the kingdom grew both in territory and influence as he is the first to be styled maharajadhiraja. The Harishcharita calls him a lion to the Huna deer, a burning fever to the king of sind a troubler of the sleep of Gurjara a bilious plague to that scent-elephant, the lord of Gandhara, a looter of the lawlessness of Late and an axe to the creeper of Malwa’s glory. HISTORY OF HARSHA The chief events of Harsha’s reign can be briefly stated. Harsha on coming to the throne set himself to bring the whole of Aryavarta under his sway, which he did in some cases by conquest, in some cases by alliance as with Madhava-Gupta of Magadha and Kumara of Kamarupa. Nepal and Kashmir were also within his empire, While his authority north of the Vindhyas was complete Harsha’s arms met with a definite set back when he advanced towards the south. The emperor of Aryavarta was opposed and defeated on the banks of the Tapti by pulakesin II, the monarch of Chalukyas, who himself assumed the title of emperor on the basis of his victory
over Harsha. After the defeat at the hands of Pulakesin, he seems to have turned more to the arts of peace. Himself a dramatist and a poet of great distinction, Harsha’s court attracted the greatest writers of the day, like Bana, Mayura, Hardatta and Jayasena. The Chinese pilgrim lived at his court and we have there fore a trustworthy description of the life of the times. 71
In his personal religion Harsha was a follower of the Buddha; but as in the case of other Buddhist kings he remained a Hindu. In his own books it is to Shiva that he prays. Daily he fed five hundred brahmins along with a thousand Buddhist monks. At allceremonial festivals of the king, Shiva and Vishnu received full honours along with the Buddha. However, artificial glow illumines the reign of Harsha. It is important to note that Harsha’s empire was one which was composed of powerful independent monarchs, who accepted the suzerainty of Harsha more as a personal homage than as subordiation to an empire. The great dynasty of the Maukharis, though allied to that of Harsha, ruled over the eastern portion fo their hereditary dominions. Madhava- Gupta of Magadha was a powerful monarch. The Maitrekas of Vallabhi and Kumara Bhaskara of Kamarupa were hardly vassals of the empire. The only thing is that all of them recognized the personal greatness of Harsha and accepted him as a suzerain. Thus, his dazzling personality alone gave a semblance of unity to the empire which extended from the Indus to the Brahmaputra. ADMINISTRATION OF HARSHA The administration of Harsha is one inname only. Whatever information we have on it does not speak well of it. And the only relieving feature of this picture is the striking personality of Harsha. Harsha’s interest indirect supervision of administration is one plus point. Hiuentsang writes that “If there was any irregularity in the manners of the people in the cities, he went amidst them.” Inscriptions reveal that Harsha had stayed in two places during his travels. Harsha traveled ingreat state and his camps looked very impressive because he was surrounded by a number of guests. Hieum-Tsand writes: “The king’s day was divided into three periods of which one was given to the affairs of government, and two were devoted to religious work. He was indefatigable, and the day was too short for him.” The way in which Harsha worked was recorded by Bana also. The emperor appointed provincial governors known as Lokapalas who were posted at chosen centers in different quarters. The provinces were known as Bhuktia, districats as Vishayas, sub-divisions of districts as Patakas and Villages as gramas. Next to the sovereign was the chief minister and the mantriparishad. According to Bhandi, a cousin of Rajayavardhana, Harsha’s accession to throne was approved by the parishad. This account is corroborated by the Chinese pilgrim. Avanti was the supreme minister of war and peace, according to Bana. For maintaining law and order, a great number of military and executive officers were employed. At times, some of the high officers were combined in one and the same persons. A few other names also are known: Simhanada was Harsha’s senapati. Harsha treated him with great respect as he was a scholarly man. Also, we hear of a handful of officials who themselves were chiefs indicating that in all probability Harsha’s sovereignty was of a confederate nature. According to Hiuen-Tsang, both ministers and officials received land grants instead of salaries. One-fourth of eth crown land was set apart
for the endowment of great public servants and another one-fourth for the expenses of government and State worship. The army of Harsha was organized into four traditional divisions. Probably 60,000 elephants and 100,000 horses. However, some of the regions were not free from brigands as is known from the experience of Hiuen-Tsand who was way laid. 72
Lawlessness was not the order of the day but there were plots against kings including one against Harsha. The offender was punished by imprisonment for life. for offance against social morality the punishment was either mutilation of limbs or deportation. Trial by or deal was common. Justice was harsh, but as the Chinese pilgrim maintains, the government was very generous and did not make any large demands either on the liberties or pockets of the people. In general, the country was not entirely free from brigands who made traveling very risky. Hiuen-Tsand himself twice had narrow escapes from the clutches of bandits, Villagers haunted by the fear plunder often questioned the right of the King to rule according to Bana. However, as Hiuen-Tsand states that since the government was honestly administered, the people lived on good terms and the criminal class was very small. Regarding administration of provinces and villages very meager information is available. The territory of the empire was called rajya or desa, which was divided into bhuktis, visayas and gramas. The governor of the provinces was, at times, a member of the royal family. The governor appointed his suordinate officials. Probably, the officials mentioned in the Gupta period continued to work in the time of Harsha. Besides the officials of states non-official element was also associated with the local administration. The Madhuban plate of Harsha (grant of an agrahara to some persons) states that the grant was made in the presence of all his chief officers and the resident people who were summoned as witnesses to this transaction. Such orders of the king were, at times, signed by Harsha himself. The Banskhera plate was signed by Harsha and described as one given under his own hand and seal. Often the king’s orders were delivered through messagers to local officers, who in turn, grew up necessary charters and handed over the grant to the grantees. Finally, regarding fiscal administration we get some information from inscriptions. In all probability, land was surveyed measured and divided into holdings with welldefined boundaries. The holdings were of different sizes. At times these were served by common land which in certain cases, had irrigation wells. The names of owners of land were entered in the village records. It appears that record of village census was also kept. It is certain that land revenue was only a modest percentage of total yield. Taxation was light-revenue from crown lands amounted to only one -sixth of the crop, according to traditional standard. The other sources of revenue were trade, and duties at ferries and barrier stations. The enlightened character of Harsha’s administration is shown by the creation of a department of records and archieves. Both good and bad were faithfully recorded in officials annals and state papers while instance of public calamities of good furtuns are set forth indetails. Taxation was light. The land tax was one-sixth of the crop. According to tradition, standard revenue was also derived from trade. Ligth, duties were levied on ferries and barriar stations. In this manner, we have a very shetchy knowledge of Harsha’s administration. Ineed
the administration was not well integaretd as Harsha domain itself was so shaky. However, the fat that the knig devoted himself to the welfare of the people by traveling in the country and the generosity with which he gave grants, shows that he was one of the illustrious rulers of Inda the manner of Ashoka and Shaivaji. EXAGGERATIONS OF BANA AND HUEUN-TSANG : 73
Harsha who ruled between 600 and 647 A.D. was viewed till recently as the last great Hindu rulers, but this assessment is no longer tenable. His achievment were exaggerated both by Bana and Hiuen-Tsang. The chief source for assessing Harsha’s achievement in the Harsha Charitra of Bana. His expression in the book is poetic, allusive, and full of punning references. At oneplace sunset stands for bloody wars, buzzing bees, for arrowsn and blooded moon, for the rising power of Gauda King. “Harsha Charitra is as much based on real events as Scott’s quantin Durward of Waverley.” The points of dispute in Bana’s version and the following First, Bana claims that Harsha installed Bhaskar Varmen on the throne. Secondly many rulers owed their appointments to him. Thirdly, the ruler of Kashmir surrendered the tooth relic of the Buddha to Harsha. Fourthly, the rulef of Sind was stripped of his royal fortune. Fifthly, no mentions made about the defeat of Harsha by Pulakesin. Sixthly, that elephants and horses were not unharnessed for six years by Harsha. Seventhly, description of internal administration is full of panegyrics – no foged documents, no multilation of offenders, no quarrles about revocery of debts, and no occasion to resort to courts of justice. All these remarks of Bana should be taken with a pinch of Salt in view of the facdt that they differematerially with the available information. In like manner the accounts of Hiuen-Tsand, too, era open to debate. First, his praise of Harsha is an eulogy. “He was indefatigable and the day was to sought for him. His qualification moved heaven and earth, and his sense of justice was admired by the gods and men. His renown spread out everywhere.” To describe all his conduct would be to tell again the deeds of Sudhama. He forgot sleep and food in his devotion to good work”. Secondly, his statement that Harsha had 60,000 elephants was an exaggeration. His other statements that after sixth years of struggle and fighting agains the “five Indies” Harsha enjoyed peace for 30 years with out resorting to arms, in sdefinitely false, Thridly, his remark that one-forth of the revenue from the crown lands was earmarked for rewarding scholars or literarymen is an exaggeration. Fourthly his praise of Harsha on account of his predilection for Buddhism is uncalled for because Harsh’s affinity to Buddhism is in no way contrary to the tradtion of ancient India. He states, At the ryoyal lodges every day viands wer provided for 1,000 Buddhist monks and also 500 brahmins. The King’s day was devided into three periods of which one was given to the affairs of government and the other two were devoted to religios work”. Dr. R.C. Majumdar states that his account of Prayag quinquennial conference is ins all likelihood about a perversion of truth. Of course, the information as given by him about the quanquennial assembly on the condition of Kanauj and no the declining nature of Buddhism in the different parts of India, are quite valuable. Apart from this, the praise of these two contemporaries is not reliable because of the following reasons. The unity maintained by Harsha was superficial. In norther India the Maukhar is ruled independently over the astern protions of their hereditary dominions. Madhava -Gupta and Magadha was a powerful ruler. The Maitrekas of
vallabhi and Bhaskar Varman were hardly vassals of the empire. The administrative system not that god as made out by the two contemporaries. Even the Gauda ruler, against whom Harsha took an oath of Vengeance, remained powerful till his death in 637 A.D. and this Gauda rulers was subdued by Bhaskar Varman of Kamarupa, not by Harsha. The Chiecene chroniclers record serious disturbances from 618to 627 A.D. Harsha was defeated by Pulakesinin 637 A.D. A record of the Gurjaras of 74
Broach refues to the defeat of Harsha by prince of Vallabhi. After Harsha’s death one of his ministers usurped the throne, All these go wo show that the Picture was not as the rosy as presented by Bana and Hiuen-Tsand. Indeed, Harsha was undoubtedly a great monarch. At one time the ruler of Kamarupa wasconstrained not to detain a Chinese pilgrim against the will of his mighty ally. The ruller of Kashmir, Sind, Sallabhi and Kamarupa feared and also respected him. Sasanka was forced a withdraw, leaving Kanauj alone. Even after the defeat in the south, Harsha was the only ruler entiled to use music-pace durms. Besides his sense of duty, literacy merits, patronage of scholars and unheard of philanthropy are really remarkable. And the very fact that the capial of Harsha, Kanauj, became the eynosure of all the neighbours from 647 to 1200 A.D., speaks volumes. Thus, without dyenying to Harsha what undoubtedly is his, we have to be critical of the wo Boswells who exaggerate the greatness of their Johnson. Events towards the end of Harsha’s reign are described in Chinses sources. An embassy was sent by the Tanj emperor of the dayin 643 and agina in 647. It was on the second occasion that the Chinese abassador found that Harsha had recently died and the throne was usurped by an undeserving the King. The Chinese ambassador rushed to Nepal and Assam and raised a force with which he defeated the usurper and he was taken to China as a prisoner. The kingdom of Harsha his death, disintegrated rapidly into small states. HARSHAVARDHANA AND HIS TIMES The age of Harsha was a trubulent one. Yet, the general life of people was a prosperous one. In estimating the social life of people during the Harsha, We have to keep in view the administration of Harsha, for the social life of a people anywhere in olden days, to some extent was influenced by its administrative system. Hiuen-Tsang attributes commendable administrative vigilance to Harsha – made tours of inspection throughout his kingdom, and promoted benevolent activities like construction and maintenance of roads, sarais, hospitals, etcl. Hiuen-Tsang states as the government is generous officals requirements are few. Families are not registered and individuals are not subject to forced labour contributions the king’s tenants pay onesixth of the products as the rent.” But talking of justice, cruel punishment continued. Trial by or deal was common. For offences against social morality, disloyal and inferior conduct, the punishment ws to cut of the nose, ear, hand, foot or to banish the offender to another country or into wilderness. Hiuen-Tsnad maintains that as the government was honestly administrated and the people lived on good terms the criminal classes was small. But Chinese pilgrim about whom special care may have been taken by the government was robbed of his belongings, although he records that according to
the laws of the land severe punishments wre inflicted for cirme. Robbery wsa considered to be a second treason for which the right hand of the robber was amputated. But it seems that under the influence of Buddhism the severity of punishment was mitigated, and criminals were imprisoned for life. Talking of political life, in most cases kingshop was hereditary although at times a king was nominated by his predecessor or elected by people or nobels. Nandivarman Pallava was raised to the throne by the mula prakritis. At Thaneshwar 75
the crown was offered to Harsha by a council of nobles headed by Bhandi. Secondly the tradition that the welfare of king depends on the welfare of people was still believed in. Fa-Hien, Hiue-Tsang and Suleiman record that rulers did their best to live up to this anciant maxim. Fourthly quite a number of important rulers loved learning and patronized the arts. Harsha, Mahendra varman, Amoghavarsha I, Bhoja of Dhar somesware III of Kalyan and Ballala Sena of Bengal were writers of no mean repute. Fitthly, the king was all important even though has was assisted by Ministers. Manu’s recommendation of council of seven or eight ministers was normally followed Sixthly the chief source of revenue was land-one-sixth of its produce. A few other taxes were imposed on ports, ferries, etc. Apart from taxation, returns from royal lands, mines etc. and tributes from vassals filled royal coffers. Finally, kingdoms were divided into smaller units for the convenience of administration. And royal armies mostly relied on elephants, infantry and cavalry. From the features delineated above, one can easily deduce that the political structure of the day did impinge upon the lives of people. Relating to social life, Hiuen-Tsang metions four chief castes and also innumerable sub-castes. But Bana mentions that castes mixed freely. Bana even makes mention of his two brothers born of Shudras. The Chinese traveler, Hiuen-Tsang, refers to prohibition, widow-remarriage and the costom of sati. Yet, women were not regarded as inferior to men. Som of the royal ladies were skilled in music and dancing. Rajyasri sat along with Harsha and listened to the discourses on Buddhism. Interestingly, Hiuen-Tsang notes the absence of tailors and shoemakers; the simplicity of brahmins and kshatriyas; the luxuries of king’s nobels and rich men; honesty and morality of the people because of the fear of retribution in life to come: and, suicide of very old men of people afflicted with incurable diseases in the Ganges. Another interesting point mentioned by him is the etiquette of lifting the turban as a mark of greeting is social gatherings. Regarding the temperament of people, the travelers note that they were hasty and inecisve but moral. The people were not deceitful by nature and valued their pledges and promises. The country was prosperous. Vegetables and minerals were abundant. Fish and mutton were consumed occasionally. Onions and garlic were not much used. The brahmins and kshatriyas are reported to have led a simple life, but the nobles and priests led a luxurious life. Hiuen-Tsang calls the Shudras agriculturists, which is significant. In the earlier texts they are represented as serving the three higher varnes. The Chinese pilgrim takes note of untouchables such as scavengers, executioners, etc. They lived outside the villages and consumed garlic and onion. The untouchables announced their entry into the town by shouting loudly so that people might keep awap from them. Coming to the cultural life of people, we cannot ignore the contribution of Harsha to it. Probably Harsh wrote the three dramas Ratnavali, Priadarshika and Nagananda
in Sanskrit. The Chinese traveler, I-Tsing recorded that Harsh versified the story of Jimutayahana in Nagananda and extremely fond of literature. It is contended that the Banskhera and Madhuban copper-plate inscriptions were probably composed by Harsha himself. The other works attributed to him are the two Sanskrit stotras in praise of the Buddha and a work on grammer. Besides Harsha, Bana was the Chief poet who wrote Hadembari and is also supposed to have written the’Parvati-parinay’ and the Chandiskata, A writer Mayura was a master of erotic poetry. A other literary figure was Matanga Divakara. 76
Apart from royal court, the sylvan ashramas were the centers of intellectual activity. Bana records a detailed account of the ashrama of the Buddhist saga Divakaramitra in the Vindhyas. Hiuen-Tsand credits the people of the middle country with clearness and correctness of speech. According to him children were taught the five subjects of grammer, mechanical arts, medicine, logic and philosophy from the seventh year onwards. He was all praise for the great scholars of the day. Among educational centers the most famous was the Nalanda university. It attained international repute. It was patronized by Kumaragupta I, and also by Hrasha. The famous teachers of the university were Dignaga, Dharmapala and Shilabhara. The teacher, Dharmapala, originally belonged to the city of Kanchi and wrote books on Buddhist logic and metaphysics. It was during the time of Shilabhadra that Hiuen- Tsang visited Nalanda. Even though the university was a Mahayana institution, brahminical subjects like the Vadas were included in the curriculum. Those who sought admission in the university were examined by the keepers of the gate. It is said that not more than 20 per cent of candidates could pass this examination of the gate-keepers. There was no fee for education. Boarding lodging and clothing were free. The university derived its revenues from the villages granted to it by royalty. During the time of Hiuen-Tsang there were about 10,000 student and women were also included in it. I-Tsing says that the discipline was strict at Nalanda. Sanskrit was the medium of instruction. The method of teaching was primarily tutorial even though there were some lectures. Time was regulated by a water-clocl. I-Tsing says that there were eight halls and 300 rooms in this university. It possessed an observatory and a laboratory also. With regard to art, the Guptam style was continued. Hiuen-Tsang refers to a copper statute of the Buddha. The brick temple of Laxmana at Surpur is one of the most beautiful in India, unsurpassed in the richness and refinement of its ornaments. Talking of religion, it was a remarkable era. In the Gupta period brahminism reasserted itself. The reading of the Gita was popular with intelligentsia. The leader of Hindu reformation Sankara, in the 8th century, commented on the Gita. By the time of Alberuni it was so popular that Alberuni quotes the text of the Gita. Nevertheless, Hinduism, of the Gupta age witnessed a set-back some developed the dectrine of mimamsa. The doctrine was quite ancient but it became popular with prabhakara at the end of the sixth century. Another great exponent of it was Kumarila in the 7th century. Another doctrine imprimarily concerned with the technique of thought, that is, it is only concerned with rituals. ‘The Mimamsa lives in a world of self-revealed Vedas and is concerned only with correct performance of the rites as laid down”. This doctrine was poles apart from popular puranic religion of people. Also, it contradicts the idea of a popular personal deity which is to be realized either through bhakti or yoga. Luckily this barren ritualism was attacked by
Sankara in the 8th century. Here we must also note that Buddhism was on the declire. Hiuen-Tsang notes the dacay of Buddhism even though he was not conscious of it. But Buddhism gained popularity in Kanara, in certain parts of UP and in Bengal. Thus, there is nothing unique about the life of people during the age of Harsha. The creative urge witnessed in the Gupta period continued. Yet, as the future was to prove, the quiet greatness of this age was only as afterglow. MAUKHARTS 77
The Maukharis are a very ancient family. Possibly they were known to paint and also to Patanjali. We have definite evidence of their ruling as a power only from the 6th century A.D. probably Yagna-Varman founded this family. He was succeeded by Sardula-varman. He in turn was succeeded by Ananta-Varman. The existing records lavish praise on these rulers but they do not throw light on their history. A very interesting feature of this evidence is that mone of the records refer to any paramount sovereigns. Soholars, however, hold the view that the Maukharis were inallprobability feudatories of the imperial Guptas. The evidence as it is shows that Ananta-varman flourished at a time when the Gupta Empire had begun to decline. Another branch of the Maukharis which ultimately became more powerful is known from several seals and inscriptions. The rule of Hari-Varman, Aditya-Varman probably had nothing great. It was only during the reign of Isana-Varman that the family rose to power and prestige. The kingdom is located in the modern State of UP. It is only from Isanavarman on wards that they ceased to be feudatories. It was said about Isana-varman that he defeated andhras and forced the Gaudas to remain in their proper realm. It is a well-known fact that isana-varman issued coins in imitation of Toramana, Gupta coins but distinguished by a date. It was not only Isana-varman who took advantage of the destruction of the Gupta empire, another family known as later Gupta rose into prominence and Challenged the Maukharis bid for imperial power. This led to a long war which continued for more than half a centuy and ultimately resulted in the disappearence of the Maukharis. It was Kumaragupta of the later Guptas who totally defeated Isanaverman. Once again Kumaraguptas son Domodargupta defeated the Maukharis. It is strange that Harsha’s inscriptions which recorded glorious military exploits of Isana-varman is altogether silent about this fight of the Guptas. Althought Isana-varman in all probability had suffered defeat at the hands of the later Guptas, his army was instrumental for defeating the Huns. Isana-varman played a very important role in this victory. Possibly, as the deputy of the Gupta emperor, Isana-varman defeated the Huns but utilized this success to carve out an independent kingdom. Isana-varman was succeeded by his son sarva-varman. We have definite historical proof that he possessed a part of Magadha. Both sarva-varman and his son and successor Avanti-varman are styled as Maharajadhirajas. According to Banabhatta, Prabhakara-vardhana of Kanauj gave his daughter Rajyasri in marriage to the son of Avanti-varman. However nothing of importance is known about both Sarva-varman and Avanti-varman. It was Avanti-varman’s eldest son, Graha-varman that figures prominently in Bana’s Harsha-Charita. Graha-varman was on the throne in early 7th century.
Al these four kings ruled for a little more than half a century. Based on the locations where the coins and inscriptions have been found, it is maintained that Uttar Pradesh or a major part of it constitutes the nucleus of the Maukhari Kingdom. It is generally thought that modern Kanauj on the Ganga was the capital city of the Maukharis. THE LATER GUPTAS 78
The designation later Guptas is a peculiar one as there is no evidence to show that this family was in any way connected by blood with the imperial Guptas. It is also interesting to know that the family never called it self by the name Gupta and one name of its ruler is Aditya-Sena and not Gupta. In all probability, just as the Maukharis, they too were feudatories of the imperial Guptas. To begin with, and later established an idependent kingdom which lasted till about the middle of 8th century A.D. the founder of this dynasty was Krishna- Gupta. He and his two successors, Harsha-Gupta and Jivita-Gupta I must have ruled Magadha around 550 A.D. Most of the evidence relating to this dynastry if from a single inscription issued by the 8th king, Aditya-Sena who ruled in the second half of the 7th century. It is clearly suggested that no one assumed a royal title and each of them was simply called Sri. It was Aditya-sena who assumed fullimperial title. From the limited evidence that is available is is held that Kumara-Gupta the 4th of this dynasty is said to have defeated Isana-varman of the Maukharis. In all probablty the two families were feidndly to begin with but later because of military ambitions they fought with each other. More details are known about the 4th King, Kumarda- Gupta. He defeated the Maukhari king Isana-varman. This great victory over the Maukhari chief made him to be ranked virtually an independent chief. Thus, we can say that he was Kurara-Gupta who had laid the foundation of the greatness of the family some where about 550 A.D. Gradually, the later Guptas came to possess Malwa, Magadha and north Bengal. It is presumed that Kumara-Gupta advanced as far as Allahabad. This struggle was continued in the reign of Damodar-Gupta, son of Kumara-Gupta. Damodar-Gupta was succeeded by his son, Mahasena-Gupta probably in the last quarter of the 6th century. In all probability he defeated Susthita-varman, the father of king Bhaskara-varman of Kamrupa. He probably advanced as faras Brahmaputra river. However, Mahasena-Gupta met with misfortune in the later part of his reign. Both Bhaskara-Varman and the Maukharis attacked Mahasena-Gupta. The situation was made critical by internal discord. Sasanka the Gauda ruler, not only founded an independent kindom, but also ruled over Magadha, the eastern territories of Mahasena-Gupta. Furthermore, in allikelihood Mahasena-Gupta was defeated by the Tibetan king enabling Maukhari Avanti-varman to occupy some territories of Mahasena-Gupta. After Mahasena-Gupta, the power of later Guptas shifted to Malwa. Kumara-Gupta and his brother are described as the sons of the king of Malwa. It is also assumed by historians that it was prabhakaravardhana of Kanauj that stood by the side of the young princes of Malwa. It looks that Mahasena-Gupta appealed for help to Prabhakaravardhana. Although he could not save Malwa, he rescured both the sons of Mahasena-Gupta and made them stay with him. Probably both of them remained
as attendants of rajyavardhana and Harshavardhan till the kingdoms of Magadha and Malwa were restored to them. PALLAVAS Introduction to Pallavas Chalukyas etc. The history of the region south of the Vindhyas between 300 and 750 A.D. constitutes a water-shed. After the collapse of 79
the Satavahanas, Ikshvakus rose to power in the Krishna-Guntur region. They were supplanted by the pallavas. In northern Maharashtra and Vidharba the Satavahanas were succeeded by the Vakatakas. They in turn, were followed by the Chalukyas of Badami. After two centuries they were overthrown by their feudatories, the Rashtrakutas in 757 A.D. During the period review, the region south of the Vindhyas witnessed the march of Brahmanism. In early stages, extensive Buddhist monuments came into existence. A little later Jainism came to prevail in Karnataka. And the peninsula, as a whole saw the emergence of a stone temple for Shiva and Vishnu in Tamilnadu under the Pallavas, and in Karnataka under the chalukyas of Badami. In a way, south India ceased to be the land of megaliths inearly 4th century A.D. Along with religion, the language of the rulers and the literate class witnessed a transformation. From about 400 A.D. Sanskrit became the official language of the peninsula. The history of the pallavas illustrate three characteristics the L.C.Ms. of Indian history till the 17th century: wars with neighbouring States, controversial neature of historical material, and royal patronage of literature and arts.