Maharashtra State BoardHSC Arts 11th
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Gupta Empire

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notes

Gupta Empire:

  • The history of Gupta empire indicates the process of transformation of a small state into a mighty empire.
  • Srigupta was the founder of Gupta dynasty. His title ‘Maharaj’ indicates that he was a feudatory. His son Ghatotkach also uses the same title which means during his period also the Gupta kings were feudatories.
  • Chandragupta I is given the credit of expanding the Gupta rule and transforming it into an empire. The title added to his name, titled ‘Maharajadhiraj’, gives an idea of the increasing status of the Gupta kings. He married Kumaradevi who belonged to the Lichchhavi clan. This matrimonial alliance proved to be politically beneficial for the Gupta dynasty.
  • His portrait with Kumaradevi is seen on a coin issued by him. His rule was spread over in the regions of Magadha, Saket (Ayodhya) and Prayag.
  • King Samudragupta was the most brilliant, valiant and benevolent ruler of this dynasty. Samudragupta’s ambition was to rule entire India as an unified empire. His title ‘Sarvarajochchheta’ on his coins, which means, ‘the annihilator of all kings’ proves this.
  • Samudragupta first conquered neighboring kingdoms. After the conquest in the North, he carried out an expedition in the South to conquer the Southern kingdoms. During that period, the rule of Vakatakas was strong in the southern region. Samudragupta could include the southern part up to the region of Kanchi under his dominance, except the Vakatakas.
  • After this great conquest (Digvijay), Samudragupta performed the Ashwamedha sacrifice and proclaimed himself as Chakravarti king. Shakas, Kushanas, and kings in Sri Lanka accepted the suzerainty of the Guptas.
  • The image of Samudragupta along with a lyre (Veena) on his coins indicates that he was a patron of art.
  • Chandragupta II defeated Shakas and ascended the throne. He took up the title ‘Vikramaditya’. He established his rule in the western regions of Malwa, Gujarat, and Kathewar.
  • Later Chandragupta crossed Hindukush and brought the north-western provinces under his control. In this manner he established a sovereign state encompassing the entire north India.
  • He gave his daughter, Prabhavati, in marriage to the Vakataka king Rudrasena II and created congenial relations with the Vakatakas in the south.
  • During the period of Kumargupta, son of Chandragupta II, the Huna invasions in India began. Kumaragupta withheld the attacks of Hunas. After Kumaragupta, the succeeding kings proved to be incapable of protecting their kingdom. Finally, their kingdom was disintegrated into many small kingdoms.

State administration and social life:

  • In the Gupta Empire, the king was directed in his administration by a community and group consisting of a chief minister and a Senapati. There were various names of Empire "Rajya", Rashtra", "Desha", "Mandala", "Prithvi" and "Avani".

  • The Empire was divided into provinces called as  Bhukti, Bhoga  and Pradesh. Provinces further divided into "Vishayas" and came under the control of persons called "Vishaya Patis"."Vishaya" further divided into "Nagaras" and "Nagares" were divided into villages. "Vithi” was a part of “Vishaya". A group or collection of villages was called "Pethaka" and "Santaka". Smaller units of a village were "Agrahara" and "Patta".
  • A Sandivigraha was the minister for foreign affairs. They were mentioned in the Gupta inscriptions. Every province was subdivided. These subdivisions were called ‘Vishaya’. There was an independent administrator appointed on these Vishayas. They were known as ‘Vishayapati’. ‘Kumaramatya’ were the provincial officers and ‘Ayuktak’ were the officials who looked after the affairs of the districts. Gupta administration was decentralized. Many decisions were taken at the local level.
  • Beautiful and realistic portrayal of various aspects of the king is characteristic of Gupta coins. ‘Nigam’, ‘Shreni’, and ‘Gana’ like Organisations were established by traders and industrialists.
  • The concept of punishment was not very common. Lodging a fine was a common punishment for a minor offense. The roads were kept safe for travelers. No theft cases were there at that time. Fahiyan also notified that people were generally prosperous. There were very few crimes in the dynasty of Gupta mainly in Chandragupta time.
  • One of the best creations in Indian literature of this period is Kalidasa’s ‘Shakuntalam’. The human figure was the central theme of the sculptures in the Gupta period. Human sculptures and images of deities were created during this period.

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  • The detailed Prashasti (eulogy) of Samudragupta is inscribed on the Ashokan pillar at Allahabad. This prashasti is a written source giving information of his political career. This inscription is known as ‘Prayaga Prashasti’. It is paradoxical right below Ashokan’s edict declaring the importance of ‘Dhammavijay’ is inscribed the detailed account of Samudragupta’s ‘Digvijaya’.
  • Chandragupta II gave patronage to many scholars, just like his father, and had a deep interest in knowledge and art. It is said that there were ‘Navratnas’ (nine gems) in his court. They were Dhanvantari (physician), Kshapanak (astrologer), Amarsinha (lexicographer), Sanku (architect), Vatal Bhatt (magician), Ghatkarpura (architect/author), Kalidasa (great poet), Varahamihira (astronomer), and Vararuchi (grammarian).
  • The textile industry flourished during the Gupta period. A variety of textiles were produced on large scale. These varieties include Kshaum (linen), Chitrapatta (printed silk), Dukul (silk), Pulakbandh (coloured cotton), Pushpapatta (floral designs), Amshuka (muslin). These textiles had great demand in the internal and distant markets.
  • The iron pillar at Delhi stands as a witness for the remarkable progress in making alloys and casting of metals. Since many centuries the iron pillar stands without rusting. From this, we understand that during this period the science of metallurgy was very advanced.
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