Chapter 10: GUPTA EMPIRE


The Gupta's occupied the Magadha city and started their Empire. The coins issued give some information about their rituals and titles. The works of the rulers are mentioned in the Iron pillars erected by the rulers. 

Chronology of Gupta kings

Chandragupta – I:

The Gupta era started in 320 AD. Chandragupta was famous for extensive conquests.


He was the greatest of the Gupta emperors. He had complete control over North India from Taxila to Bengal. The policy regarding South India was different. He defeated the kings but handed them back their Empires. He only wanted them to acknowledge his suzerainty. He issued gold and silver coins depicting his conquests.

He is known as Indian Napoleon.

He was tolerant of other religions. He promoted music, poets and Sanskrit literature. He was an ardent follower of Vaishnavism.

Chandragupta – II:

The military genius of his father was inherited by him. He undertook military campaigns against the southern satraps in Maharashtra. The defeat of the Sakas brought the Arabian Sea as part of the kingdom. External trade with the Roman Empire also increased. This increased wealth of the Empire.

Fa - Hien the Chinese pilgrim visited during his reign. He wrote about the religious, social and economic conditions of the Gupta.

Successors of Chandragupta and their achievements:

  1. Kumargupta: Founded Nalanda University. It was a Mahayana university.
  2. Skandagupta: fought and defeated the Huns.

The successors of Gupta’s couldn’t save the Empire from Huns.

Because of the high level of cultural progress the Gupta period is known as the golden age.

Features of Gupta Age:

1.    Hereditary monarchy with king as head. King is assisted by a council.

2.    Kingdom divided into provinces. Provinces into city and districts with their own administrative machinery.

3.    Fa Hien's account claimed that Gupta administration was mild. Negligible crime was seen. Punishments were not severe. Civil liberties were present. Administration was lenient than the Mauryan’s.

4.    Women status was poor. They were thoroughly subjugated to men. Caste system was also rigid. The lower castes were oppressed. Brahmins were favoured by kings.

5.    Brahmanism and its form Shaivism and Vaishnavism flourished in this time. Most of the kings were Vaishnavaites. They performed sacrifices and gave donations. Buddhism and Jainism declined in the Gangetic valley.

6.    The arts, science and culture flourished during this period and hence it’s called a golden age. This was due to culmination of various intellectual activities.

Art and Architecture:

1.Temple building styles like the Dravidian and the Nagara evolved during this period. However most of the work was destroyed by the Hun invasions.

2.No influence of Gandhar style but little of Greek style on sculptures.

3.The craftsmen became experts in art of crafting metal statues and pillars. The statue of Buddha and the Delhi iron pillar are good examples.

4.Coinage also saw great progress. Gold, silver and copper coins of different varieties were issued.

5.Sanskrit literature flourished and new script Nagari evolved from Brahmi script. Best works of Sanskrit were done in this period.

6.The example of literary works done in this period are Kalidasa – Shakuntala, Panchatantra stories, final touches to Purana, Epics Ramayana and Mahabharata.

7.Brilliant activity was achieved in the fields of science, mathematics, astronomy, medicine. Aryabhatta and Varahamihir wrote books on astronomy. Vagbhata wrote on medicine.


Nalanda University:

It was a residential University where education, lodging and boarding were free. Although it was a Mahayana university, it gave education about all religious doctrines.

In addition it had other subjects like science, astronomy, medicine. More than lectures discussions played an important role. It was an institution of advanced learning and research. It had a great library and classrooms. Discipline was strict.

It was popular from the fact that it attracted scholars all over Asia.

Taxila University:

      1.      Located at junction of Central Asia and South Asia.

2.      Not considered a university a modern sense as teachers living there didn’t have official membership of colleges.

3.      No purpose built lecture halls and Residential quarters.