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Gupta Period

Gupta Period

Source in the Gupta Period Literature

  • Gupta emperors patronized Sanskrit as the court language which was spoken by the higher classes while the lower classes and women spoke Prakrit.
  • Gupta period represents a bright phase in the history of classical literature and developed an ornate style which was different from the, old simple Sanskrit.
  • From this period onwards, we find greater emphasis on verse than on prose.
  • Literature in gupta period:
    • Secular literature
    • Religious literature
    • Scientific literature

Secular Literature

  • Kalidas: He was the court poet of Chandragupta Vikramaditya II He was a great poet and dramatist. Considered as Shakespeare of the East. His works include,
    • Abhijanasakuntalam considered to be one of the 100 best literary works in the world. Love story of King Dushyanta and Shakuntala whose son Bharatha became a famous ruler. William Jones translated this book into English and it filled the romantic imagination of Europe.
    • Malvikagnimitram — Pushyamitra Sunga’s son Agnimitra was viceroy of Vidisha. Mentions the defeat of a yavana ruler by Vasumitra, the son of Agnimitra on the banks of a river Sind (Kalisind).
    • Raghuvamsa — speaks of the allround victories of Rama, and may indirectly refer to some gupta conquests.
    • Kumarasambhav — deals with the courtship of Shiva and Parvati and the birth of their son skanda.
    • Meghadutam — lyrical poem containing the message from the love — lorn yaksha to his wife pining across the northern mountains in Alaka.
    • Ritusamhara — describes the six seasons in relation to Shringara.
  • Sudraka: Wrote the Mrichchakatika (the little clay cart) the plot of which centres around the love of a poor brahmana Charudatta for the wealthy, beautiful and cultured courtesan vasantasena.
  • Visakhadatta: Wrote Mudrarakshasa which deals with the strategies of Kautilya and mentions. Chandragupta Maurya as being of lowly origin. Visakhadatta also wrote Devichandraguptam which is the story of Chandragupta Il’s accession to the throne after killing Basana (the saka king), Ramagupta (Chandragupta ll’s brother) and his subsequent marriage to Dhruvadevi.
    • Bhasa: Thirteen plays written by Bhasa belong to this period, most famous of which is Svapnavasavadattam.
    • Magha: Wrote Sisupalvadh and Bhattikavya
    • Kamandaka: Wrote Nitisara belonging to Chandragupta l’s period, is the gupta equivalent of Kautiluya’s arthasastra.
    • Vajjika: Wrote Kaumudimahotsava. It talks about accession of Chandragupta Ito the throne.
    • Amarsimha: Wrote Amarkosha which is a dictionary in Sanskrit
    • Vatsyayana: Wrote Kamasutra which is the first systematic enunciation of the art of love.
    • Law Texts: Such as Brihaspati smriti and Narada smriti were written which influenced Gupta emperors in the administration of justice.  Gupta Period

    Religious Literature

    • Hindu Works: Ramayana —
      • Balakanda and Uttarakanda were added to it.
      • Mahabharata — Anusasana Parva, Vana Parva and Santiparva added to it.
      • Puranas such as Markandeya Purana, Brahmanda Purana, Vishnu Purana, Bhagvata Purana and Matsya Purana were written down.
    • Buddhist Works:
      • Accounts of Fahien, the Chinese traveler in times of Chandragupta II.
      • Tilsya Pannati of Yati Vrishaba contains information about Buddhism in gupta age.
      • Aryamanjusri moolkapa, though compiled later contains references to the guptas.
    • Jain Works:
      • Jinasena Suri’s Harivamsapurana though belongs to later period contains references to Guptas.

    Scientific Literature

    Consisted of the works of Aryabhatta and Varahamihira.

    • Aryabhatta: In the book ‘Suryasiddhanta’, Aryabhatta examines and explains the true cause of the solar and lunar eclipses. His calculation of the size of the earth is very near to the modern estimation. He was the first Indian astronomer to discover and declare that the earth rotates round its axis. He was also the author of Aryabhattiyam, which deals with arithmetic’s, geometry, algebra and probably trigonometry.
    • Varahamihira: His book ‘Brihatsamhita’ is an encyclopedia of astronomy, botany, physical geography and natural history. His other works are Pancha Siddhantika, Brihat Jataka etc.  Gupta Period

    Inscriptions [Gupta Period]

    • Total of 42 inscriptions are known from the Gupta Empire. Out of them 27 are engraved on stone.
    • History of Samudragupta is known from his Prayag inscription found on the pillar of Ashoka. It’s in Sanskrit and in 33 lines. It was authored by Harisena and it highlights the military conquests of Samudragupta.
    • Eran (Airana) inscription of Samudragupta also praises him. It mentions a district called Airikina. It talks about a city Bhognagar on the banks of river Vetravati.
    • History of Chandragupta Vikramaditya can be known from Iron pillar inscription in Sanskrit at Mehrauli which gives a good account of a ruler “Chandra” as having conquered area from Bengal to the Indus. It mentions of him as a Vaishnavaite.
      • Most number of Gupta inscriptions were issued by Kumaragupta who is known for his Mandasor stone inscription authored by Vatsabhatta.
      • The achievements of Skandagupta are known from Bhitari and Junagarh inscriptions both of which mention Skandagupta’s victory over the invading Hunas.
      • Damodarpur copper plate inscription in Bengal of Kumaragupta mentions a Vishaya (district) called Damodarpur. It mentions that the head of a Visaya called Vishayapati is assisted by Shresti (banker), Sarthavaha (trader) and Prathamakulika (avtisan) and Prathamakayastha (scribe).
      • Bhanugpta’s inscription at Eran (Airana) dated 510 AD gives the first inscriptional evidence of Sati. It mentions that Goparaja, the general of Bhanugupta died in war and his widow committed sati.

      Coins  [Gupta Period]

      • The Guptas issued the largest number of gold coins in the ancient period.
      • Chandragupta I first issued gold coins known as Kumaradevi type of gold coins bearing image of Queen Kumaradevi indicating joint kingship. He also issued coins of Aswametha type.
      • Samudragupta issued gold and copper coins. He issued gold coins of the lion­slayer-type, archer-type, horse-rider type and Veena-player type.
      • Chandragupta II was the first Gupta emperor to issue silver coins.
      • Kumaragupta issued coins known for their purity.  Gupta Period

      Characteristic Pottery Types in the Ancient Period

      Harappan age Black and Red ware; black on Red ware
      Early Vedic Period Ochre Coloured pottery (OCP)
      Later Vedic Period Pointed Grey Ware (PGW)
      Pre-Mauryan Age Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW)
      Mauryan Age Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW)
      Post-Mauryan age Red ware
      Gupta age Red ware


      Epics  [Gupta Period]

      • Mahabharata: It is the longest single poem in the world’s literature.
        • The Mahabharata is attributed to Sage Vyasa.
        • Aryabhatta gives 3102 BC as the date of Mahabharata war.
        • Some historians say the war took place in 15th Century BC.
        • Many historians say the war took place in 900 BC.
        • Originally, the book consisted of 8800 verses and was called Jayasamhita. These were raised to 24,000 verses and were called Bharata.
        • The final compilation brought the verses to 1,00,000 and came to be known as Satasahasri Samhita or the Mahabharata. It reflects the state of affairs from 10th century BC to 4th century AD.
        • The main narratives which relates to the Kaurava — Pandava conflict may belong to later Vedic times, the descriptive portion might be used for post-vedic times, and the didactic portion generally for post-Maurya and Gupta times.
      • Ramayana: Ramayana is known as Adikavya.

      Ramayana of Valmiki originally consisted of 6000 verses which were raised to 12,000 verses and finally to 24,000. The composition of Ramayana started in the 5th century BC. The didactic portions were added later. The Ramayana passed through as many as five stages and the fifth stage seems to be as late as the 12th century AD. As a  whole the text seems to have been composed later than the Mahabharata. Gupta Period


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