Gupta Empire

The Gupta Empire was an ancient Indian empire existing from the mid-to-late 3rd century CE to 543 CE[3]. At its zenith, from approximately 319 to 543 CE, it covered much of the Indian subcontinent.[4] This period is called the Golden Age of India by some historians.[5][note 1] The ruling dynasty of the empire was founded by the king Sri Gupta; the most notable rulers of the dynasty were Chandragupta I, Samudragupta, and Chandragupta II alias Vikramaditya.[note 2] The 5th-century CE Sanskrit poet Kalidasa credits the Guptas with having conquered about twenty-one kingdoms, both in and outside India, including the kingdoms of Parasikas, the Hunas, the Kambojas, tribes located in the west and east Oxus valleys, the Kinnaras, Kiratas, and others.[8]

The high points of this period are the great cultural developments which took place primarily during the reigns of Samudragupta I, Chandragupta II and Kumaragupta I[9]. Many of the literary sources, such as Mahabharata and Ramayana, were canonised during this period.[10] The Gupta period produced scholars such as Kalidasa,[11] Aryabhata, Varahamihira, and Vatsyayana who made great advancements in many academic fields [12][13][14]. Science and political administration reached new heights during the Gupta era [15]. The period gave rise to achievements in architecture, sculpture, and painting that "set standards of form and taste [that] determined the whole subsequent course of art, not only in India but far beyond her borders".[16] Strong trade ties also made the region an important cultural centre and established the region as a base that would influence nearby kingdoms and regions in Burma, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia.[17] The Puranas, earlier long poems on a variety of subjects, are also thought to have been committed to written texts around this period.[18]

The empire eventually died out because of many factors such as substantial loss of territory and imperial authority caused by their own erstwhile feudatories, as well as the invasion by the Huna peoples (Kidarites and Alchon Huns) from Central Asia.[19][20] After the collapse of the Gupta Empire in the 6th century, India was again ruled by numerous regional kingdoms.

Gupta Empire

3rd century CE–543 CE
Approximate extent of the Gupta territories (purple) in 375 CE.
Approximate extent of the Gupta territories (purple) in 375 CE.
Approximate extent of the Gupta territories (purple) in 450 CE.
Approximate extent of the Gupta territories (purple) in 450 CE.
Common languagesSanskrit (literary and academic); Prakrit (vernacular)
Historical eraAncient India
• Established
3rd century CE
• Disestablished
543 CE
400 est.[1]3,500,000 km2 (1,400,000 sq mi)
440 est.[2]1,700,000 km2 (660,000 sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Mahameghavahana dynasty
Kanva dynasty
Kushan Empire
Bharshiva dynasty
Nagvanshi dynasty
Western Satraps
Later Guptas
Vardhana dynasty
Mathara dynasty
Varman dynasty


Many theories debating the homeland of the early Guptas were put forth by scholars and initially it was assumed to be uncertain.[21] According to one theory, they originated in the present-day eastern Uttar Pradesh, where most of the inscriptions and coins of the early Gupta kings have been discovered.[22][23] The proponents of this theory argue that according to the Puranas, the territory of the early Gupta kings included Prayaga, Saketa, and other areas in the Ganges basin.[24][25] Another prominent theory locates the Gupta homeland in the present-day Bengal region, based on the account of the 7th century Chinese Buddhist monk Yijing. According to Yijing, king Che-li-ki-to (identified with the dynasty's founder Shri Gupta) built a temple for Chinese pilgrims near Mi-li-kia-si-kia-po-no (apparently a transcription of Mriga-shikha-vana). Yijing states that this temple was located more than 40 yojanas east of Nalanda, which would mean it was situated somewhere in the modern Bengal region.[26] Another proposal is that the early Gupta kingdom extended from Prayaga in the west to northern Bengal in the east.[27]. Latest research confirms that the Gupta Empire originated in the Kannauj district of U.P. The earliest gold coins (struck by Chandragupta I) of the King and Queen on Couch Type are only found in this district.[28]

The Gupta records do not mention the dynasty's varna (social class).[29] Some historians, such as A.S. Altekar, have theorized that they were of Vaishya origin, as some ancient Indian texts prescribe the name "Gupta" for the members of the Vaishya varna.[30][31] Critics of this theory point out that the suffix Gupta features in the names of several non-Vaishyas before as well as during the Gupta period,[32] and the dynastic name "Gupta" may have simply derived from the name of the family's first king Gupta.[33] Some scholars, such as S.R. Goyal, theorize that the Guptas were Brahmanas, because they had matrimonial relations with Brahmanas, but others reject this evidence as inconclusive.[34] Based on the Pune and Riddhapur inscriptions of the Gupta princess Prabhavati-gupta, some scholars believe that the name of her paternal gotra (clan) was "Dharana", but an alternative reading of these inscriptions suggests that Dharana was the gotra of her mother Kuberanaga.[35]. Dr. Chhabra also pointed to the presence of the crescent standard on these early Gupta coins as an indication that the Gupta kings may have been Chandravamśa Kshatriya [36] — who traced their origins from the moon or Soma or Chandra. The Gupta royal inscriptions do not list any caste affiliations for the Gupta kings, however on the coins of the Archer-Quiver Type [37], we can see the king with the yajñopavītam, the sacred thread across his chest as it flows from over the left shoulder. This Upanayana thread ceremony was mostly performed within the Brahmin and the Kshatriya castes and is considered a rite of passage for the start of the education process for the young student at the feet of his guru [38] This sacred thread can be seen draped across the left shoulder of the King Chandragupta I in the coin below. It is important to note here that thisyajñopavītam thread is not seen on any coins struck after Chandragupta I[39].


Early rulers

Queen Kumaradevi and King Chandragupta I on a coin
Queen Kumaradevi and King Chandragupta I, depicted on a gold coin

Gupta (fl. late 3rd century CE) is the earliest known king of the dynasty: different historians variously date the beginning of his reign from mid-to-late 3rd century CE.[40][41] "Che-li-ki-to", the name of a king mentioned by the 7th century Chinese Buddhist monk Yijing, is believed to be a transcription of "Shri-Gupta" (IAST: Śrigupta), "Shri" being an honorific prefix.[42] According to Yijing, this king built a temple for Chinese Buddhist pilgrims near "Mi-li-kia-si-kia-po-no" (believed to be a transcription of Mṛgaśikhāvana).[43]

In the Allahabad Pillar inscription, Gupta and his successor Ghatotkacha are described as Maharaja ("great king"), while the next king Chandragupta I is called a Maharajadhiraja ("king of great kings"). In the later period, the title Maharaja was used by feudatory rulers, which has led to suggestions that Gupta and Ghatotkacha were vassals (possibly of Kushan Empire).[44] However, there are several instances of paramount sovereigns using the title Maharaja, in both pre-Gupta and post-Gupta periods, so this cannot be said with certainty. That said, there is no doubt that Gupta and Ghatotkacha held a lower status and were less powerful than Chandragupta I.[45]

Chandragupta I married the Lichchhavi princess Kumaradevi, which may have helped him extend his political power and dominions, enabling him to adopt the imperial title Maharajadhiraja.[46] According to the dynasty's official records, he was succeeded by his son Samudragupta. However, the discovery of the coins issued by a Gupta ruler named Kacha have led to some debate on this topic: according to one theory, Kacha was another name for Samudragupta; another possibility is that Kacha was a rival claimant to the throne.[47]


Coin of Samudragupta, with Garuda pillar. British Museum.

Samudragupta succeeded his father around 335 or 350 CE, and ruled until c. 375 CE.[48] The Allahabad Pillar inscription, composed by his courtier Harishena, credits him with extensive conquests.[49] The inscription asserts that Samudragupta uprooted 8 kings of Aryavarta, the northern region, including the Nagas.[50] It further claims that he subjugated all the kings of the forest region, which was most probably located in central India.[51] It also credits him with defeating 12 rulers of Dakshinapatha, the southern region: the exact identification of several of these kings is debated among modern scholars,[52] but it is clear that these kings ruled areas located on the eastern coast of India.[53] The inscription suggests that Samudragupta advanced as far as the Pallava kingdom in the south, and defeated Vishnugopa, the Pallava regent of Kanchi.[54] During this southern campaign, Samudragupta most probably passed through the forest tract of central India, reached the eastern coast in present-day Odisha, and then marched south along the coast of Bay of Bengal.[55]

The Allahabad Pillar inscription mentions that rulers of several frontier kingdoms and tribal oligarchies paid Samudragupta tributes, obeyed his orders, and performed obeisance before him.[56][57] The frontier kingdoms included Samatata, Davaka, Kamarupa, Nepala, and Karttripura.[58] The tribal oligarchies included Malavas, Arjunayanas, Yaudheyas, Madrakas, and Abhiras, among others.[57]

Finally, the inscription mentions that several foreign kings tried to please Samudragupta by personal attendance; offered him their daughters in marriage (or according to another interpretation, gifted him maidens[59]); and sought the use of the Garuda-depicting Gupta seal for administering their own territories.[60] This is an exaggeration: for example, the inscription lists the king of Simhala among these kings. It is known that from Chinese sources that the Simhala king Meghavarna sent rich presents to the Gupta king requesting his permission to build a Buddhist monastery at Bodh Gaya: Samudragupta's pangyerist appears to have described this act of diplomacy as an act of subservience.[61]

Samudragupta appears to have been Vaishnavite, as attested by his Eran inscription,[62][63] and performed several Brahmanical ceremonies.[64] The Gupta records credit him with making generous donations of cows and gold.[62] He performed the Ashvamedha ritual (horse sacrifice), which was used by the ancient Indian kings to prove their imperial sovereignty, and issued gold coins (see Coinage below) to mark this performance.[65]

The Allahabad Pillar inscription presents Samudragupta as a wise king and strict administrator, who was also compassionate enough to help the poor and the helpless.[66] It also alludes to the king's talents as a musician and a poet, and calls him the "king of poets".[67] Such claims are corroborated by Samudragupta's gold coins, which depict him playing a veena.[68]

Samudragupta appears to have directly controlled a large part of the Indo-Gangetic Plain in present-day India, as well as a substantial part of central India.[69] Besides, his empire comprised a number of monarchical and tribal tributary states of northern India, and of the south-eastern coastal region of India.[70][53]


Although, the narrative of the Devichandragupta is not supported by any contemporary epigraphical evidence, the historicity of Rama Gupta is proved by his Durjanpur inscriptions on three Jaina images, where he is mentioned as the Maharajadhiraja. A large number of his copper coins also have been found from the Eran-Vidisha region and classified in five distinct types, which include the Garuda,[71] Garudadhvaja, lion and border legend types. The Brahmi legends on these coins are written in the early Gupta style.[72] In the opinion of art historian Dr. R.A. Agarawala, D. Litt., Rama Gupta may be the eldest son of Samudragupta. He became king because of being the eldest. It is possible that he was dethroned because of being considered unfit to rule, and his younger brother Chandragupta II took over.

Chandragupta II "Vikramaditya"

Met, india (uttar pradesh), gupta period, krishna battling the horse demon keshi, 5th century
Krishna fighting the horse demon Keshi, 5th century

According to the Gupta records, amongst his sons, Samudragupta nominated prince Chandragupta II, born of queen Dattadevi, as his successor. Chandragupta II, Vikramaditya (the Sun of Power), ruled from 375 until 415. He married a Kadamba princess of Kuntala and of Naga lineage (Nāgakulotpannnā), Kuberanaga. His daughter Prabhavatigupta from this Naga queen was married to Rudrasena II, the Vakataka ruler of Deccan.[73] His son Kumaragupta I was married to a Kadamba princess of the Karnataka region. Chandragupta II expanded his realm westwards, defeating the Saka Western Kshatrapas of Malwa, Gujarat and Saurashtra in a campaign lasting until 409. His main opponent Rudrasimha III was defeated by 395, and he crushed the Bengal chiefdoms. This extended his control from coast to coast, established a second capital at Ujjain and was the high point of the empire.

Two Gold coins of Chandragupta II
Gold coins of Chandragupta II.

Despite the creation of the empire through war, the reign is remembered for its very influential style of Hindu art, literature, culture and science, especially during the reign of Chandragupta II. Some excellent works of Hindu art such as the panels at the Dashavatara Temple in Deogarh serve to illustrate the magnificence of Gupta art. Above all it was the synthesis of elements that gave Gupta art its distinctive flavour. During this period, the Guptas were supportive of thriving Buddhist and Jain cultures as well, and for this reason there is also a long history of non-Hindu Gupta period art. In particular, Gupta period Buddhist art was to be influential in most of East and Southeast Asia. Many advances were recorded by the Chinese scholar and traveller Faxian (Fa-hien) in his diary and published afterwards.

The court of Chandragupta was made even more illustrious by the fact that it was graced by the Navaratna (Nine Jewels), a group of nine who excelled in the literary arts. Amongst these men was Kālidāsa, whose works dwarfed the works of many other literary geniuses, not only in his own age but in the years to come. Kalidasa was mainly known for his subtle exploitation of the shringara (romantic) element in his verse.

Chandragupta II's Campaigns against Foreign Tribes

The 4th century Sanskrit poet Kalidasa credits Chandragupta Vikramaditya with conquering about twenty one kingdoms, both in and outside India. After finishing his campaign in East and West India, Vikramaditya (Chandragupta II) proceeded northwards, subjugated the Parasikas, then the Hunas and the Kambojas tribes located in the west and east Oxus valleys respectively. Thereafter, the king proceeded into the Himalaya mountains to reduce the mountain tribes of the Kinnaras, Kiratas, as well as India proper.[8]

The Brihatkathamanjari of the Kashmiri writer Kshemendra states, King Vikramaditya (Chandragupta II) had "unburdened the sacred earth of the Barbarians like the Sakas, Mlecchas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Tusharas, Parasikas, Hunas, and others, by annihilating these sinful Mlecchas completely".[74][75][76]


Faxian (or Fa Hsien etc.), a Chinese Buddhist, was one of the pilgrims who visited India during the reign of the Gupta emperor Chandragupta II. He started his journey from China in 399 and reached India in 405. During his stay in India up to 411, he went on a pilgrimage to Mathura, Kannauj, Kapilavastu, Kushinagar, Vaishali, Pataliputra, Kashi, and Rajagriha, and made careful observations about the empire's conditions. Faxian was pleased with the mildness of administration. The Penal Code was mild and offenses were punished by fines only. From his accounts, the Gupta Empire was a prosperous period. And until the Rome–China trade axis was broken with the fall of the Han dynasty, the Guptas did indeed prosper. His writings form one of the most important sources for the history of this period.

Kumaragupta I

Silver Coin of Kumaragupta I
Silver coin of the Gupta King Kumaragupta I (Coin of his Western territories, design derived from the Western Satraps).
Obv: Bust of king with crescents, with traces of corrupt Greek script.[77][78]
Rev: Garuda standing facing with spread wings. Brahmi legend: Parama-bhagavata rajadhiraja Sri Kumaragupta Mahendraditya.

Chandragupta II was succeeded by his second son Kumaragupta I, born of Mahadevi Dhruvasvamini. Kumaragupta I assumed the title, Mahendraditya.[79] He ruled until 455. Towards the end of his reign a tribe in the Narmada valley, the Pushyamitras, rose in power to threaten the empire. The Kidarites as well probably confronted the Gupta Empire towards the end of the rule of Kumaragupta I, as his son Skandagupta mentions in the Bhitari pillar inscription his efforts at reshaping a country in disarray, through reorganization and military victories over the Pushyamitras and the Hunas.[80]

He was the founder of Nalanda University which on July 15, 2016 was declared as a UNESCO world heritage site.[81]


Skandagupta, son and successor of Kumaragupta I is generally considered to be the last of the great Gupta rulers. He assumed the titles of Vikramaditya and Kramaditya.[82] He defeated the Pushyamitra threat, but then was faced with invading Kidarites (sometimes described as the Hephthalites or "White Huns", known in India as the Sweta Huna), from the northwest.

He repelled a Huna attack around 455 CE, but the expense of the wars drained the empire's resources and contributed to its decline. The Bhitari Pillar inscription of Skandagupta, the successor of Chandragupta, recalls the near-annihilation of the Gupta Empire following the attacks of the Kidarites.[83] The Kidarites seem to have retained the western part of the Gupta Empire.[83]

Skandagupta died in 467 and was succeeded by his agnate brother Purugupta.[84]

Decline of the empire

Mihirakula portrait
The Alchon Huns under Toramana and his son Mihirakula (here depicted) gravely weakened the Gupta Empire.

Following Skandagupta's death, the empire was clearly in decline.[85] He was followed by Purugupta (467–473), Kumaragupta II (473–476), Budhagupta (476–495), Narasimhagupta (495—530), Kumaragupta III (530—540), Vishnugupta (540—550), two lesser known kings namely, Vainyagupta and Bhanugupta.

In the 480's the Alchon Huns under Toramana and Mihirakula broke through the Gupta defenses in the northwest, and much of the empire in the northwest was overrun by the Huns by 500. The empire disintegrated under the attacks of Toramana and his successor Mihirakula. It appears from inscriptions that the Guptas, although their power was much diminished, continued to resist the Huns. The Hun invader Toramana was defeated by Bhanugupta in 510.[86][87] The Huns were defeated and driven out of India in 528 by king Yashodharman from Malwa, and possibly Gupta emperor Narasimhagupta.[88]

South Asia historical AD550 EN
The much-weakened Late Guptas, circa 550 CE.

These invasions, although only spanning a few decades, had long term effects on India, and in a sense brought an end to Classical Indian civilization.[89] Soon after the invasions, the Gupta Empire, already weakened by these invasions and the rise of local rulers such as Yashodharman, ended as well.[90] Following the invasions, northern India was left in disarray, with numerous smaller Indian powers emerging after the crumbling of the Guptas.[91] The Huna invasions are said to have seriously damaged India's trade with Europe and Central Asia.[89] In particular, Indo-Roman trade relations, which the Gupta Empire had greatly benefited from. The Guptas had been exporting numerous luxury products such as silk, leather goods, fur, iron products, ivory, pearl, and pepper from centres such as Nasik, Paithan, Pataliputra, and Benares. The Huna invasion probably disrupted these trade relations and the tax revenues that came with them.[92]

Furthermore, Indian urban culture was left in decline, and Buddhism, gravely weakened by the destruction of monasteries and the killing of monks by the hand of the vehemently anti-Buddhist Shaivist Mihirakula, started to collapse.[89] Great centres of learning were destroyed, such as the city of Taxila, bringing cultural regression.[89] During their rule of 60 years, the Alchons are said to have altered the hierarchy of ruling families and the Indian caste system. For example, the Hunas are often said to have become the precursors of the Rajputs.[89]

The succession of the 6th-century Guptas is not entirely clear, but the tail end recognized ruler of the dynasty's main line was king Vishnugupta, reigning from 540 to 550. In addition to the Hun invasion, the factors, which contribute to the decline of the empire include competition from the Vakatakas and the rise of Yashodharman in Malwa.[93]

The last known inscription by a Gupta emperor is from the reign of Vishnugupta (the Damodarpur copper-plate inscription),[94] in which he makes a land grant in the area of Kotivarsha (Bangarh in West Bengal) in 542/543 CE.[95] This follows the occupation of most of northern and central India by the Aulikara ruler Yashodharman circa 532 CE.[95]

Military organization

Vishnu sculpture
Sculpture of Vishnu (red sandstone), 5th century CE.

In contrast to the Mauryan Empire, the Gupta's introduced several military innovations to Indian warfare via their contact with steppe nomads and Hellenes. Chief amongst these was the use of heavy cavalry archers and heavy sword cavalry. The heavy cavalry formed the core of the Gupta army and were supported by the traditional Indian army elements of elephants and light infantry.[96]

The utilization of horse archers in the Gupta period is evidenced on the coinage of Chandragupta II, Kumaragupta I and Prakasaditya (postulated to be Purugupta [97]) that depicts the emperors as horse-archers.[98][99]

An 8 gm gold coin featuring Chandragupta II astride a caparisoned horse with a bow in his left hand[100]

Unfortunately there is a paucity of contemporary sources detailing the tactical operations of the Imperial Gupta Army. The best extant information comes from the Sanskrit mahakavya (epic poem) Raghuvaṃśa written by the Classical Sanskrit writer and dramatist Kalidasa. Many modern scholars put forward the view that Kalidasa lived from the reign of Chandragupta II to the reign of Skandagupta[101][102][103][104] and that the campaigns of Raghu -- his protagonist in the Raghuvaṃśa -- reflect those of Chandragupta II.[105] In Canto IV of the Raghuvamsa, Kalidasa relates how the king's forces clash against the powerful, cavalry-centric, forces of the Persians and later the Yavanas (probably Huns) in the North-West. Here he makes special mention of the use horse-archers in the kings army and that the horses needed much rest after the hotly contested battles. [106]


Buddha in Sarnath Museum (Dhammajak Mutra)
Meditating Buddha from the Gupta era, 5th century CE.

The Guptas were traditionally a Hindu dynasty.[107] They were orthodox Hindus, but did not force their beliefs on the rest of the population, as Buddhism and Jainism also were encouraged.[108] Sanchi remained an important centre of Buddhism.[108] Kumaragupta I (c. 414 – c. 455 CE) is said to have founded Nalanda.[108]

Some later rulers however seem to have especially favoured Buddhism. Narasimhagupta Baladitya (c. 495–?), according to contemporary writer Paramartha, was brought up under the influence of the Mahayanist philosopher, Vasubandhu.[107] He built a sangharama at Nalanda and also a 300 ft (91 m) high vihara with a Buddha statue within which, according to Xuanzang, resembled the "great Vihara built under the Bodhi tree". According to the Manjushrimulakalpa (c. 800 CE), king Narasimhsagupta became a Buddhist monk, and left the world through meditation (Dhyana).[107] The Chinese monk Xuanzang also noted that Narasimhagupta Baladitya's son, Vajra, who commissioned a sangharama as well, "possessed a heart firm in faith".[109]:45[110]:330

Gupta administration

A study of the epigraphical records of the Gupta empire shows that there was a hierarchy of administrative divisions from top to bottom. The empire was called by various names such as Rajya, Rashtra, Desha, Mandala, Prithvi and Avani. It was divided into 26 provinces, which were styled as Bhukti, Pradesha and Bhoga. Provinces were also divided into Vishayas and put under the control of the Vishayapatis. A Vishayapati administered the Vishaya with the help of the Adhikarana (council of representatives), which comprised four representatives: Nagarasreshesthi, Sarthavaha, Prathamakulike and Prathama Kayastha. A part of the Vishaya was called Vithi.[111] There were also trade links of Gupta business with the Roman empire.


Radha-Krishna chess
Later image of Krishna and Radha playing chaturanga on an 8 × 8 Ashtāpada

Scholars of this period include Varahamihira and Aryabhata, who is believed to be the first to come up with the concept of zero, postulated the theory that the Earth moves round the Sun, and studied solar and lunar eclipses. Kalidasa, who was a great playwright, who wrote plays such as Shakuntala, and marked the highest point of Sanskrit literature is also said to have belonged to this period. The Sushruta Samhita, which is a Sanskrit redaction text on all of the major concepts of ayurvedic medicine with innovative chapters on surgery, dates to the Gupta period.

Chess is said to have developed in this period,[112] where its early form in the 6th century was known as caturaṅga, which translates as "four divisions [of the military]" – infantry, cavalry, elephantry, and chariotry – represented by the pieces that would evolve into the modern pawn, knight, bishop, and rook, respectively. Doctors also invented several medical instruments, and even performed operations. The Indian numerals which were the first positional base 10 numeral systems in the world originated from Gupta India. The ancient Gupta text Kama Sutra by the Indian scholar Vatsyayana is widely considered to be the standard work on human sexual behavior in Sanskrit literature.

Aryabhata, a noted mathematician-astronomer of the Gupta period proposed that the earth is round and rotates about its own axis. He also discovered that the Moon and planets shine by reflected sunlight. Instead of the prevailing cosmogony in which eclipses were caused by pseudo-planetary nodes Rahu and Ketu, he explained eclipses in terms of shadows cast by and falling on Earth.[113]

Art and architecture

Sanchi temple 17

A tetrastyle prostyle Gupta period temple at Sanchi besides the Apsidal hall with Maurya foundation, an example of Buddhist architecture. 5th century CE.


The current structure of the Mahabodhi Temple dates to the Gupta era, 5th century CE. Marking the location where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.


Dashavatara Temple is a Vishnu Hindu temple build during the Gupta period.

The Gupta period is generally regarded as a classic peak of North Indian art for all the major religious groups. Although painting was evidently widespread, the surviving works are almost all religious sculpture. The period saw the emergence of the iconic carved stone deity in Hindu art, as well as the Buddha figure and Jain tirthankara figures, the latter often on a very large scale. The two great centres of sculpture were Mathura and Gandhara, the latter the centre of Greco-Buddhist art. Both exported sculpture to other parts of northern India. Unlike the preceding Kushan Empire there was no artistic depiction of the monarchs, even in the very fine Guptan coinage,[114] with the exception of some coins of the Western Satraps, or influenced by them.

The most famous remaining monuments in a broadly Gupta style, the caves at Ajanta, Elephanta, and Ellora (respectively Buddhist, Hindu, and mixed including Jain) were in fact produced under later dynasties, but primarily reflect the monumentality and balance of Guptan style. Ajanta contains by far the most significant survivals of painting from this and the surrounding periods, showing a mature form which had probably had a long development, mainly in painting palaces.[115] The Hindu Udayagiri Caves actually record connections with the dynasty and its ministers,[116] and the Dashavatara Temple at Deogarh is a major temple, one of the earliest to survive, with important sculpture.[117]

Vishnu Hood2 Deogarh

Vishnu reclining on the serpent Shesha (Ananta), Dashavatara Temple 5th century

Buddha from Sarnath

Buddha from Sarnath, 5–6th century CE

Elephanta tourists

The Colossal trimurti at the Elephanta Caves

Ellora cave16 001

Rock-cut temples at Ellora

Ajanta Padmapani

Painting of Padmapani Cave 1 at Ajanta


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  15. ^ Keay, John (2000). India: A history. Atlantic Monthly Press. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-87113-800-2. The great era of all that is deemed classical in Indian literature, art and science was now dawning. It was this crescendo of creativity and scholarship, as much as ... political achievements of the Guptas, which would make their age so golden.
  16. ^ J. C. Harle 1994, p. 87.
  17. ^ Trade | The Story of India – Photo Gallery Archived 28 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine. PBS. Retrieved on 2011-11-21.
  18. ^ J.C. Harle 1994, p. 87.
  19. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, pp. 264–69.
  20. ^ Grousset, Rene (1970). The Empire of the Steppes. Rutgers University Press. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-8135-1304-1.
  21. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, p. 79.
  22. ^ Dilip Kumar Ganguly 1987, p. 14.
  23. ^ Tej Ram Sharma 1989, p. 39.
  24. ^ Dilip Kumar Ganguly 1987, p. 2.
  25. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, p. 96.
  26. ^ Dilip Kumar Ganguly 1987, pp. 7–11.
  27. ^ Dilip Kumar Ganguly 1987, p. 12.
  28. ^ S. Kumar, Treasures of the Gupta Empire, 2016, p.111
  29. ^ Tej Ram Sharma 1989, p. 44.
  30. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, p. 82.
  31. ^ Tej Ram Sharma 1989, p. 42.
  32. ^ R.C. Majumdar 1981, p. 4.
  33. ^ Tej Ram Sharma 1989, p. 40.
  34. ^ Tej Ram Sharma 1989, pp. 43–44.
  35. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, p. 83.
  36. ^ Chhabra 1981: xxii
  37. ^ S. Kumar, Treasures of the Gupta Empire, 2016, p.161
  38. ^ Manu 2: 44
  39. ^ S. Kumar, Treasures of the Gupta Empire, 2016, p.40
  40. ^ Tej Ram Sharma 1989, pp. 49–55.
  41. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, p. 86.
  42. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, pp. 84–85.
  43. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, pp. 79–81.
  44. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, p. 85.
  45. ^ R.C. Majumdar 1981, pp. 6–7.
  46. ^ R.C. Majumdar 1981, p. 10.
  47. ^ Tej Ram Sharma 1989, p. 71.
  48. ^ Tej Ram Sharma 1989, pp. 51–52.
  49. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, pp. 106–07.
  50. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, p. 114.
  51. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, p. 117.
  52. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, p. 107.
  53. ^ a b Ashvini Agrawal 1989, p. 112.
  54. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, p. 110.
  55. ^ Tej Ram Sharma 1989, pp. 80–81.
  56. ^ Tej Ram Sharma 1989, p. 84.
  57. ^ a b Upinder Singh 2017, p. 343.
  58. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, pp. 112–18.
  59. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, p. 125.
  60. ^ Shankar Goyal 2001, p. 168.
  61. ^ Tej Ram Sharma 1989, p. 90.
  62. ^ a b Tej Ram Sharma 1989, p. 68.
  63. ^ R.C. Majumdar 1981, p. 32.
  64. ^ Tej Ram Sharma 1989, p. 91.
  65. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, pp. 125–26.
  66. ^ Tej Ram Sharma 1989, pp. 91, 94.
  67. ^ R.C. Majumdar 1981, p. 31.
  68. ^ Tej Ram Sharma 1989, p. 94.
  69. ^ R.C. Majumdar 1981, pp. 23, 27.
  70. ^ R.C. Majumdar 1981, p. 22.
  71. ^ Ashvini Agrawal 1989, pp. 153–59.
  72. ^ Bajpai, K.D. (2004). Indian Numismatic Studies. New Delhi: Abhinav Publications. pp. 120–21. ISBN 978-81-7017-035-8.
  73. ^ H.C. Raychaudhuri 1923, p. 489.
  74. ^ ata shrivikramadityo helya nirjitakhilah Mlechchana Kamboja. Yavanan neechan Hunan Sabarbran Tushara. Parsikaanshcha tayakatacharan vishrankhalan hatya bhrubhangamatreyanah bhuvo bharamavarayate (Brahata Katha, 10/1/285-86, Kshmendra).
  75. ^ Kathasritsagara 18.1.76–78
  76. ^ Cf:"In the story contained in Kathasarit-sagara, king Vikarmaditya is said to have destroyed all the barbarous tribes such as the Kambojas, Yavanas, Hunas, Tokharas and the, National Council of Teachers of English Committee on Recreational Reading – Sanskrit language.
  77. ^ Prasanna Rao Bandela (2003). Coin splendour: a journey into the past. Abhinav Publications. pp. 112–. ISBN 978-81-7017-427-1. Retrieved 21 November 2011.
  78. ^ "Evidence of the conquest of Saurastra during the reign of Chandragupta II is to be seen in his rare silver coins which are more directly imitated from those of the Western Satraps... they retain some traces of the old inscriptions in Greek characters, while on the reverse, they substitute the Gupta type (a peacock) for the chaitya with crescent and star." in Rapson "A catalogue of Indian coins in the British Museum. The Andhras etc...", p. cli
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  80. ^ History of Civilizations of Central Asia, Ahmad Hasan Dani, B.A. Litvinsky, UNESCO pp. 119–
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  85. ^ Sachchidananda Bhattacharya, Gupta dynasty, A dictionary of Indian history, (George Braziller, Inc., 1967), 393.
  86. ^ Ancient Indian History and Civilization by Sailendra Nath Sen p. 220
  87. ^ Encyclopaedia of Indian Events & Dates by S B. Bhattacherje p. A15
  88. ^ Columbia Encyclopedia
  89. ^ a b c d e The First Spring: The Golden Age of India by Abraham Eraly pp. 48–
  90. ^ Ancient Indian History and Civilization by Sailendra Nath Sen p. 221
  91. ^ A Comprehensive History Of Ancient India p. 174
  92. ^ Longman History & Civics ICSE 9 by Singh p. 81
  93. ^ Singh, Upinder (2008). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. New Delhi: Pearson Education. p. 480. ISBN 978-81-317-1677-9.
  94. ^ Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum Vol.3 (inscriptions Of The Early Gupta Kings) p. 362
  95. ^ a b Indian Esoteric Buddhism: Social History of the Tantric Movement by Ronald M. Davidson p. 31
  96. ^ Roy, Kaushik (2015). Warfare in Pre-British India, 1500 BCE to 1740 CE. Routledge. p. 56. ISBN 978-1-315-74270-0.
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  116. ^ J.C. Harle 1994, pp. 92–97.
  117. ^ J.C. Harle 1994, pp. 113–14.



  1. ^ Although this characterization has been disputed by D. N. Jha.[6]
  2. ^ The title Vikramaditya was recycled by many Kings [S.Kumar TOGE 2016].[7]

External links


Budhagupta (r. c. 476 – 495 CE) was a Gupta emperor and the successor of Kumaragupta II. He was the son of Purugupta and was succeeded by Narasimhagupta. Budhagupta had close ties with the rulers of Kannauj and together they sought to run the Hunas out of the fertile plains of Northern India.

Chandragupta I

Chandragupta I (r. c. 319-335 or 319-350 CE) was a king of the Gupta dynasty, who ruled in northern India. His title Maharajadhiraja ("king of great kings") suggests that he was the first emperor of the dynasty. It is not certain how he turned his small ancestral kingdom into an empire, although a widely-accepted theory among modern historians is that his marriage to the Lichchhavi princess Kumaradevi helped him extend his political power. Their son Samudragupta further expanded the Gupta empire.

Chandragupta II

Chandragupta II (r. c. 380 – c. 415 CE), also known by his title Vikramaditya, was one of the most powerful emperors of the Gupta Empire in northern India.

Chandragupta continued the expansionist policy of his father Samudragupta: historical evidence suggests that he defeated the Western Kshatrapas, and extended the Gupta empire from the Indus River in the west to the Bengal region in the east, and from the Himalayan foothills in the north to the Narmada River in the south. His daughter Prabhavatigupta was a queen of the southern Vakataka kingdom, and he may have had influence in the Vakataka territory during her regency.

The Gupta empire reached its zenith during the rule of Chandragupta. Chinese pilgrim Faxian, who visited India during his reign, suggests that he ruled over a peaceful and prosperous kingdom. The legendary figure of Vikramaditya is probably based on Chandragupta II (among other kings), and the noted Sanskrit poet Kalidasa may have been his court poet.


Dandabhukti was an ancient and medieval region/ territory spread across what are now Bankura, Hooghly, Paschim Medinipur and Purba Medinipur districts in the Indian state of West Bengal.

Ancient Rarh region was divided into several smaller regions – Kankagrambhukti, Bardhamanbhukti and Dandabhukti, as part of the Gupta Empire. Danda in Oriya means path. There was an ancient path from Rarh (or possibly from Magadha) to Kalinga. The territory may have acquired its name from the path. Dandabhukti was broadly the territory between the Dwarakeswar and Subarnarekha rivers. In the 10th century Dandabhukti was part of Bardhamanbhukti. Later, some parts of Dandabhukti were included in the territory of Utkal kings.Dandabhukti was a town which was administrative headquarters of the territory of same name. Dantan in Paschim Medinipur district is derived from the name of ancient Dandabhukti.


The dinar is the principal currency unit in several countries and was used historically in several more.

The modern dinar's historical antecedents are the gold dinar, the main coin of the medieval Islamic empires, first issued in AH 77 (696–697 AD) by Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan. The word is derived from the silver denarius coin of ancient Rome, first minted about 211 BC.

The English word "dinar" is the transliteration of the Arabic دينار (dīnār), which was borrowed via the Syriac dīnarā from the Greek δηνάριον (dēnárion), itself from the Latin dēnārius.A gold coin known as the dīnāra was also introduced to India by the Kushan Empire in the 1st century AD, and adopted by the Gupta Empire and its successors up to the 6th century. The modern gold dinar is a projected bullion gold coin, so far not issued as official currency by any state.

Ghatotkacha (king)

Ghatotkacha (IAST: Ghaṭotkaca, r. c. late 3rd century - early 4th century) was a pre-imperial Gupta king of northern India. He was a son of the dynasty's founder Gupta, and the father of the dynasty's first emperor Chandragupta I.

Gupta script

The Gupta script (sometimes referred to as Gupta Brahmi Script or Late Brahmi Script) was used for writing Sanskrit and is associated with the Gupta Empire of India which was a period of material prosperity and great religious and scientific developments. The Gupta script was descended from Brahmi and gave rise to the Nāgarī, Sharada and Siddham scripts. These scripts in turn gave rise to many of the most important scripts of India, including Devanagari (the most common script used for writing Sanskrit since the 19th century), the Gurmukhi script for Punjabi Language, the Bengali script, and the Tibetan script.

Huna people

Hunas or Huna was the name given by the ancient Indians to a group of Central Asian tribes who, via the Khyber Pass, entered India at the end of the 5th or early 6th century. Huna Kingdom occupied areas as far as Eran and Kausambi, greatly weakening the Gupta Empire. The Hunas were ultimately defeated by the Indian Gupta Empire and the Indian king Yasodharman.The Hunas are thought to have included the Xionite and/or Hephthalite, the Kidarites, the Alchon Huns (also known as the Alxon, Alakhana, Walxon etc.) and the Nezak Huns. Such names, along with that of the Harahunas (also known as the Halahunas or Harahuras) mentioned in Hindu texts, have sometimes been used for the Hunas in general; while these groups appear to have been a component of the Hunas, such names were not necessarily synonymous. The relationship, if any, of the Hunas to the Huns, a Central Asian people who invaded Europe during the same period, is also unclear.

In its farthest geographical extent in India, the territories controlled by the Hunas covered the region up to Malwa in central India. Their repeated invasions and war losses were the main reason for the decline of the Gupta Empire.

Kumaragupta I

Kumaragupta I (r. c. 415-455 CE) was an emperor of the Gupta Empire of present-day India and Bangladesh. A son of the Gupta emperor Chandragupta II and queen Dhruvadevi, he seems to have maintained control of his inherited territory, which extended from Gujarat in the west to Bengal region in the west.

Kumaragupta performed an Ashvamedha sacrifice, which was usually performed to prove imperial sovereignty, although no concrete information is available about his military achievements. Based on the epigraphic and numismatic evidence, some modern historians have theorized that he may have subdued the Aulikaras of central India and the Traikutakas of western India.

The Bhitari pillar inscription states that his successor Skandagupta restored the fallen fortunes of the Gupta family, which has led to suggestions that during his last years, Kumaragupta suffered reverses, possibly against the Pushyamitras or the Hunas. However, this cannot be said with certainty, and the situation described in the Bhitari inscription may have been the result of events that happened after his death.

Kumaragupta II

Kumaragupta II Kramaditya was an emperor of the Gupta Empire. An image of Gautama Buddha at Sarnath notes that he succeeded Purugupta who was most likely his father. He was succeeded by Budhagupta.

According to a Nalanda seal of Vishnugupta, Vishnugupta was son of Kumaragupta (II), and grandson of Purugupta.


Magadha was an ancient Indian kingdom in southern Bihar, and was counted as one of the sixteen Mahajanapadas (Sanskrit: "Great Countries") of ancient India. Magadha played an important role in the development of Jainism and Buddhism, and two of India's greatest empires, the Maurya Empire and Gupta Empire, originated in Magadha.

The existence of Magadha is recorded in Vedic texts much earlier in time than 600 BCE. The earliest reference to the Magadha people occurs in the Atharvaveda, where they are found listed along with the Angas, Gandharis and Mujavats. The core of the kingdom was the area of Bihar south of the Ganges; its first capital was Rajagriha (modern day Rajgir), then Pataliputra (modern Patna). Rajagriha was initially known as 'Girivrijja' and later came to be known as so during the reign of Ajatashatru. Magadha expanded to include most of Bihar and Bengal with the conquest of Vajji confederation and Anga, respectively. The kingdom of Magadha eventually came to encompass Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, eastern Uttar Pradesh, and the areas that are today the nations of Bangladesh and Nepal.The ancient kingdom of Magadha is heavily mentioned in Jain and Buddhist texts. It is also mentioned in the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas. The Mauryan Empire and Gupta Empire, both of which originated in Magadha, saw advancements in ancient India's science, mathematics, astronomy, religion, and philosophy and were considered the Golden Age of India. The Magadha kingdom included republican communities such as the community of Rajakumara. Villages had their own assemblies under their local chiefs called Gramakas. Their administrations were divided into executive, judicial, and military functions.


Narasimhagupta Baladitya was an emperor of the Gupta Empire of North India. He was son of Purugupta and probably the successor of Budhagupta.

Outline of ancient India

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to ancient India:

Ancient India is the Indian Subcontinent from prehistoric times to the start of Medieval India, which is typically dated (when the term is still used) to the end of the Gupta Empire. Ancient India was composed of the modern-day countries of Afghanistan (some portions), Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, India, Nepal and Pakistan.


Prabhavatigupta (fl. 405), was queen and regent of the Vakataka dynasty. She was the queen consort of Rudrasena II, and ruled as regent during the minority of her sons, Divakarasena, Damodarasena, and Pravarasena, from 385 until 405.

Her father was Chandragupta II of the Gupta Empire and her mother was Kuberanaga. She married Rudrasena II of the Vakataka. After his death in 385, she ruled as regent for her young sons, Divakarasena, Damodarasena, and Pravarasena, for twenty years. In this, she was supported by her father and the Vakatakas were practically part of the Gupta empire. This period is often referred to as the Vakataka-Gupta age.

Rang Mahal, Sri Ganganagar

Rang Mahal is a village and an ancient Kushan era archaeological site on Suratgarh-Hanumangarh road in Suratgarh tehsil of Sri Ganganagar district in the Indian state of Rajasthan. It can be reached from Hanumangarh, Pilibangan, Suratgarh. Suratgarh is the nearest major railway station to Rang mahal village.


Samudragupta (r. c. 335/350-375 CE) was a ruler of the Gupta Empire of present-day India. As a son of the Gupta emperor Chandragupta I and the Licchavi princess Kumaradevi, he greatly expanded his dynasty's political power.

The Allahabad Pillar inscription, a prashasti (eulogy) composed by his courtier Harishena, credits him with extensive military conquests. It suggests that he defeated several kings of northern India, and annexed their territories to his empire. He also marched along the south-eastern coast of India, advancing as far as the Pallava kingdom. In addition, he subjugated several frontier kingdoms and tribal oligarchies. His empire extended from Ravi River in the west to the Brahmaputra River in the east, and from the Himalayan foothills in the north to central India in the south-west; several rulers along the south-eastern coast were his tributaries.

Samudragupta performed the Ashvamedha sacrifice to prove his imperial sovereignty, and according to his coins, remained undefeated. His gold coins and inscriptions suggest that he was an accomplished poet, and also played music. His expansionist policy was continued by his son Chandragupta II.


Skandagupta (died 467) was a Gupta Emperor of northern India. He is generally considered the last of the great Gupta Emperors.

Vishnugupta (Gupta Empire)

Vishnugupta Candraditya (Sanskrit: विष्णुगुप्त) was one of the lesser known kings of the Gupta Dynasty. He is generally considered to be the last recognized king of the Gupta Empire. His reign lasted 10 years, from 540 to 550 CE. From the fragment of his clay sealing discovered at Nalanda during the excavations of 1927-28, it is revealed that he was the son of Kumaragupta III and the grandson of Narasimhagupta.The last known inscription by a Gupta emperor is from the reign of Vishnugupta (the Damodarpur copper-plate inscription), in which he makes a land grant in the area of Kotivarsha (Bangarh in West Bengal) in 542/543 CE. This follows the occupation of most of northern and central India by the Aulikara ruler Yashodharman circa 532 CE.According to a Nalanda seal, Vishnugupta was son of Kumaragupta, and grandson of Purugupta.


Yaudheya or Yaudheya Gana (Yaudheya Republic) was an ancient militant confederation. The word Yaudheya is a derivative of the word yuddha or from yodha meaning warriors. They principally were kshatriya renown for their skills in warfare, as inscribed in the Junagadh rock inscription of Rudradaman. The Yaudheyas emerged in the 5th century BCE. They not only survived the Maurya Empire and Shunga Empire, but also the Kshatraps and Kushan Empire. The Yaudheya Republic flourished up to the middle to the 4th century when it was conquered by Samudragupta and incorporated into the Gupta Empire.

Timeline and
cultural period
Northwestern India
(Punjab-Sapta Sindhu)
Indo-Gangetic Plain Central India Southern India
Upper Gangetic Plain
(Ganga-Yamuna doab)
Middle Gangetic Plain Lower Gangetic Plain
Culture Late Vedic Period Late Vedic Period
(Srauta culture)[a]
Painted Grey Ware culture
Late Vedic Period
(Shramanic culture)[b]
Northern Black Polished Ware
 6th century BC Gandhara Kuru-Panchala Magadha Adivasi (tribes)
Culture Persian-Greek influences "Second Urbanisation"
Rise of Shramana movements
Jainism - Buddhism - Ājīvika - Yoga
 5th century BC (Persian conquests) Shaishunaga dynasty Adivasi (tribes)
 4th century BC (Greek conquests) Nanda empire
Culture Spread of Buddhism Pre-history Sangam period
(300 BC – 200 AD)
 3rd century BC Maurya Empire Early Cholas
Early Pandyan Kingdom
Satavahana dynasty
46 other small kingdoms in Ancient Thamizhagam
Culture Preclassical Hinduism[c] - "Hindu Synthesis"[d] (ca. 200 BC - 300 AD)[e][f]
Epics - Puranas - Ramayana - Mahabharata - Bhagavad Gita - Brahma Sutras - Smarta Tradition
Mahayana Buddhism
Sangam period
(300 BC – 200 AD)
 2nd century BC Indo-Greek Kingdom Shunga Empire
Maha-Meghavahana Dynasty
Early Cholas
Early Pandyan Kingdom
Satavahana dynasty
46 other small kingdoms in Ancient Thamizhagam
 1st century BC
 1st century AD


Kuninda Kingdom
 2nd century Kushan Empire
 3rd century Kushano-Sasanian Kingdom Kushan Empire Western Satraps Kamarupa kingdom Kalabhra dynasty
Pandyan Kingdom(Under Kalabhras)
Culture "Golden Age of Hinduism"(ca. AD 320-650)[g]
Co-existence of Hinduism and Buddhism
 4th century Kidarites Gupta Empire
Varman dynasty
Kalabhra dynasty
Pandyan Kingdom(Under Kalabhras)
Kadamba Dynasty
Western Ganga Dynasty
 5th century Hephthalite Empire Alchon Huns Kalabhra dynasty
Pandyan Kingdom(Under Kalabhras)
 6th century Nezak Huns
Kabul Shahi
Maitraka Adivasi (tribes) Badami Chalukyas
Kalabhra dynasty
Pandyan Kingdom(Under Kalabhras)
Culture Late-Classical Hinduism (ca. AD 650-1100)[h]
Advaita Vedanta - Tantra
Decline of Buddhism in India
 7th century Indo-Sassanids Vakataka dynasty
Empire of Harsha
Mlechchha dynasty Adivasi (tribes) Pandyan Kingdom(Under Kalabhras)
Pandyan Kingdom(Revival)
 8th century Kabul Shahi Pala Empire Pandyan Kingdom
 9th century Gurjara-Pratihara Rashtrakuta dynasty
Pandyan Kingdom
Medieval Cholas
Pandyan Kingdom(Under Cholas)
Chera Perumals of Makkotai
10th century Ghaznavids Pala dynasty
Kamboja-Pala dynasty
Kalyani Chalukyas
Medieval Cholas
Pandyan Kingdom(Under Cholas)
Chera Perumals of Makkotai
References and sources for table


  1. ^ Samuel
  2. ^ Samuel
  3. ^ Michaels (2004) p.39
  4. ^ Hiltebeitel (2002)
  5. ^ Michaels (2004) p.39
  6. ^ Hiltebeitel (2002)
  7. ^ Micheals (2004) p.40
  8. ^ Michaels (2004) p.41



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