Ancient India – Gupta and Post-Gupta

Guptas
  • Information about their history through inscriptions and coins.
  • Changragupta was followed by Samudragupta.
  • Samudragupta, Gupta ruler (1700 years ago, ie AD 300). Harisena was his court poet.
  • Chandragupta, his father, was the first ruler of the Gupta dynasty to adopt the grand title of maharaj- adhiraja, a title that Samudragupta also used.
  • “Prashasti” = inscription ‘in praise of’. Prashasti about Samudragupta was inscribed on the Asokan piller at Allahabad (Prayag).
  • Four different kinds of rulers in different parts of India/Nepal/Srilanka either surrendered to him or made alliances. (Eg: Aryavartha, Dakshinapatha, gana sanghas etc).
  • Main centers of Guptas: Prayag (Allahabad, UP), Ujjain (Avanti, MP) and Pataliputra (Patna, Bihar).
  • Samudragupta’s son = Chandragupta II. Kalidasa and Aryabhata adorned his court. He overcame the last Sakas.
Harshavardhana &  Harshacharita
  • Information about their history through biographies.
  • He belonged to Pushyabhuti Dynasty when Gupta dynasty was fading.
  • His court poet, Banabhatta, wrote his biography, the Harshacharita, in Sanskrit.
  • Xuan Zang, spent a lot of time at Harsha’s court and left a detailed account of what he saw.
  • Harsha took over the kingdom of Kanauj, and then led an army against the ruler of Bengal.
  • Although he was successful in the east, and conquered both Magadha and Bengal, he was not as successful elsewhere.
  • He tried to cross the Narmada to march into the Deccan, but was stopped by a ruler belonging to the Chalukya dynasty, Pulakeshin II.
The Pallavas, Chalukyas and Pulakeshin
  • The Pallavas and Chalukyas were the most important ruling dynasties in south India during this period.
  • The kingdom of the Pallavas around their capital, Kanchipuram, to the Kaveri delta, while that of the Chalukyas [Aihole, the capital ] was centred around the Raichur Doab, between the rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra.
  • The Pallavas and Chalukyas frequently raided one another’s lands which were properous ones.
  • The best-known Chalukya ruler was Pulakeshin II. We know about him from a prashasti, composed by his court poet Ravikirti.
  • Ultimately, both the Pallavas and the Chalukyas gave way to new rulers belonging to the Rashtrakuta and Chola dynasties.
  • Land revenue remained important for these rulers, and the village remained the basic unit of administration
  • There were military leaders who provided the king with troops whenever he needed them. These men were known as samantas.
  • The inscriptions of the Pallavas mention a number of local assemblies. These included the sabha, which was an assembly of brahmin land owners.
  • And the nagaram was an organisation of merchants.
  • The Chinese pilgrim Fa Xian noticed the plight of those who were treated as untouchables by the high and mighty.

Buildings, Paintings and Books

  • Iron pillar – during the time of Chandra – Gupta.
  • Stupas (mound) – Relic casket may contain bodily remains of the Buddha or his followers or the things they used. Pradakshina patha was laid around the stupa. (Eg: Sanchi, Amaravathi)
  • Cave temples.
  • Rock cut temples.
  • Hindu temples: Garbhagriha = place where the image of the chief diety was placed. Shikara = tower made on the top of garbhagriha to mark this out as a sacred place. Mandapa = hall where people could assemble.
  • Examples of early temples : Bhitargaon, UP (AD 500) – made of baked brick and stone, Mahabalipuram – monolithic temples, Aihole Durga temple (AD 600).
  • PS: Association of ivory worked paid for one the beautiful gateways at Sanchi.
  • Jain monastery in Orissa.
  • Paintings – Ajanata caves – Buddhist monks.
  • Books – Silappadikaram (by Ilango Adikal, AD 200) and Manimekalai (by Sattanar, AD 600), Meghaduta (by Kalidasa).
  • Puranas – were meant to be heard by every body. Believed to be compiled by Vyasa.
  • Jataka and Panchatantra stories