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Gupta empire map.pngInformative story: Golden Age Of India

 

Guptas oversaw a period of great cultural & artistic excellence and remarkable achievements in many science & technologies

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“When the last Mauryan king was assassinated in 184 BC,” Rosh continued, “North East India once again fragmented into smaller republics and unfederated monarchical states.”

“The Deccan kingdoms in the south and west remained powerful, but the seeds of cultural change sown in the northeast by Chanakya continued to bear fruit.”

“Northeast India remained volatile, and culturally the most active, with Buddhism spreading and Hinduism metamorphosing through Upanishadic movements.”

“But it was the military exploits of the Guptas, which began roughly 500 years after the Maurya period, which united much of North-east India under one rule again.”

“Chandragupt I (320-335 AD), like Chandragupta Maurya earlier, first conquered Magadh, and set up his capital at Patliputra (Patna), where the Mauryan capital had once stood. He revived many of Asoka's principles of government and consolidated his kingdom over almost all of north east India.”

“For the next 40 years, his son, Samudragupt, and for next 40 years his grandson, Chandragupta II, extended the Gupta rule over the whole of the north and west Deccan.”

“Unlike the Mauryas, the Gupta kings allowed the vanquished kings to remain as vassal kings. They did not consolidate every kingdom into a single administrative unit. This proved to be the model emulated later by the Mughals, and subsequently by the British, in successfully ruling India.”

“The age of the Guptas is called the Golden Age of India, not just because of the prosperity of its subjects (which the contemporary Chinese traveler and Buddhist monk Fa-Hein commented upon), but also due to the remarkable achievements in this time in science, technology, art, engineering, literature, logic, mathematics, astronomy, dialectic, religion, and philosophy - which crystallized the elements of what we generally call the Hindu culture today."

“The political unity of India created by the Gupta emperors also initiated an artistic unity which transcended regional and religious boundaries. The Gupta era proved to be the golden age for Buddhist art too, as can be seen from the painted murals and carved sculptures at Ajanta caves.”

“The Ajanta wall-paintings depict not only the various lives of Buddha but also the daily life in India at the time. The rock temple at Elephanta (near Bombay) contains a powerful, 18- foot statue of the three-headed Shiva, one of the principal Hindu gods. Each head represents one of Shiva's roles: that of the creator, preserver, and destroyer. The 1,600 years old Iron Pillar located at Mehrauli, Delhi is still standing without any rust.”

“The Panchatantra (meaning Five Treatises), an ancient Indian work on political philosophy, which is a collection of interrelated animal fables in Sanskrit verse and prose, arranged within a frame story, was likely created in the Gupta age.”

“Although the fables are probably much more ancient, the original Sanskrit work (now lost), is said to have been created sometime between 100 BC and 500 AD. It was translated into Pahlavi language by the Persian royal physician Burzoe in the 6th century."

“Thanks to the carbon dating of the Bashkali manuscript, an ancient Indian mathematical manuscript written on more than 70 leaves of birch bark, and found in a field in 1881 by a farmer in Bakhshali, located near modern Peshawar, Pakistan, we now know that a symbol for zero had already been developed in India by the 3rd-4th century.”

“Early Hindu numerals only had nine symbols until then. The use of 0, first as a symbol to represent nothing, and then as a placeholder in a set of 10 symbols - 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 - to represent larger numbers, paved the way for the decimal number system, which the world uses today.”

"These digits came to be known as Hindu-Arabic numerals, when they were later introduced to the West through the writings of Middle Eastern mathematicians like al-Khwarizmi and al-Kindi, about the 12th century. This positional numbering system represented a quantum leap over the previous methods of counting, like the abacus, and helped develop calculus and algebra."

“The famous Sanskrit dramas Mrichchh Katika (meaning The Little Clay Cart, by Shudrak. It was peopled not by nobility, but by gamblers, courtesans, thieves, and so on - albeit with noble inner virtues) and Mudra Rakshas (meaning, The Seal Of Rakshas - a historical play by Vishakhadutt on the ascent of the king Chandragupta Maurya) were written during Gupta reign."

"It is also popularly believed that Kalidas existed in the Gupta period. The earliest paleographical evidence of Kalidas is found in a Sanskrit inscription dated c. 473 CE, at Mandsaur's Sun temple in Malwa (Madhya Pradesh), in some verses that appear to imitate Meghadoot (Parv 66) and Ritusamhaar (V, 2-3); although Kalidasa is not named.”

Poetry in the Gupta empire leaned towards a few genres: religious and meditative poetry, lyric poetry, narrative histories (the most popular of the secular literature), and drama. Kalidas excelled at lyric poetry (Meghaduta), but he is best known for his dramas (Abhigyan Shakuntalam, Kumar Sambhav etc.).”

“Celebrated mathematician-astronomer Aryabhatt (or Aryabhata I, 476–550 AD), created Āryabhaṭīya when he was just 23 years old, and the Arya-Siddhant around this time. He not only calculated the correct value of pi as 22/7, and the length of the solar year as 365.358 days but also postulated that the Earth was a sphere, rotating on its own axis and revolving around the Sun. He also revealed the exact cause of eclipses.”

Varah Mihir, whose Panch-Siddhantika (also meaning Five Treatises) gives us information about the five earlier Indian mathematical astronomical texts which are now lost, also flourished during the rule of the Guptas. His encyclopedic Brihat-Samhita covers wide-ranging subjects of human interest, like astronomy, planetary movements, eclipses, rainfall, clouds, architecture, the growth of crops, manufacture of perfume, matrimony, domestic relations, and gemstone evaluation etc."

"The law books of Brihaspati, Narad and many sections of the Puranas were also written in this glorious period. But all good times end. The Gupta Dynasty eventually fell to the marauding Huns, who were migrating in waves from the north of China.”

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