CHAPTER-24 : Rise and Growth of the Gupta Empire

Ancient History of India
Short Notes or Revision Notes 

Rise of the Gupta Empire

Following the Kushans:

  • The Gupta Empire emerged from the decline of the Kushan Empire around 230 AD.
  • Guptas may have been Vaishyas (based on title recommendations in Dharmashastras).

Early Gupta Kingdom:

  • Established in UP and Bihar by the end of the 3rd century AD.
  • UP held more importance due to a concentration of early Gupta coins and inscriptions.
  • Controlled key areas like Anuganga, Prayag, Saketa, and Magadha.

Filling the Power Vacuum:

  • Murundas (possible Kushan relatives) briefly ruled central India (230-250 AD).
  • The Gupta dynasty rose to power around 275 AD.

Rise of the Gupta Empire: Chandragupta I and Samudragupta

Chandragupta I (319-334 AD):

  • First significant Gupta ruler.
  • Strengthened his position by marrying a Lichchhavi princess (Nepal’s royal family).
  • Established the Gupta era in 319-20 AD, marking his ascension.

Samudragupta (335-380 AD):

  • Expanded the Gupta Empire considerably.
  • Known for his military conquests (unlike Ashoka’s pacifism).
  • Details of conquests recorded by court poet Harishena in an inscription at Allahabad.
  • Conquered territories divided into five groups:
    • Group 1: Princes of Ganga-Yamuna Doab (annexed).
    • Group 2: Himalayan states, Nepal, Assam, Bengal, and some Punjabi republics (brought under control).
    • Group 3: Forest kingdoms of the Vindhya region (brought under control).
    • Group 4: 12 rulers of eastern Deccan and South India (conquered and liberated, some as far as Kanchi in Tamil Nadu).
    • Group 5: Shakas and Kushans (removed from power, some in Afghanistan).

Chandragupta II (380-412 AD): The Peak of the Gupta Empire

  • Expansion through Marriage and Conquest:
    • Married daughter Prabhavati to a Vakataka prince, gaining influence in central India.
    • Conquered Mathura (from Kushans), western Malwa, and Gujarat (from Shaka Kshatrapas).
    • Gained control of the western sea coast, boosting trade.
    • Ujjain possibly became a second capital.
  • Vikramaditya Title and Era:
    • Adopted the title “Vikramaditya” (originally used by an Ujjain ruler who defeated Shakas).
    • Vikrama samvat era likely originated from this earlier victory (58-57 BC).
  • Cultural Flourishing:
    • Court at Ujjain attracted scholars like Kalidasa and Amarasimha.
    • Chinese pilgrim Fa-hsien visited India during his reign.

Decline of the Gupta Empire

  • Hun Invasions (5th Century AD):
    • Hunas, skilled horsemen, invaded from Central Asia.
    • Skandagupta initially repelled them, but his successors struggled.
    • By 485 AD, Huns occupied eastern Malwa, central India, Punjab, and Rajasthan.
  • Rise of Yashodharman (532 AD):
    • Overthrew Huna power but challenged Gupta authority.
    • Established a short-lived Malwa kingdom, weakening the Guptas.
  • Loss of Territory (after 467 AD):
    • Bihar and UP lost to Maukharis (Kanauj).
    • Gujarat and western Malwa lost to Valabhi rulers.
    • Loss of western trade revenue crippled the Gupta economy.
  • Rise of New Powers:
    • Princes of Thanesar (Haryana) emerged as new players in North India.
  • End of Gupta Empire (around 550 AD):
    • Bihar and UP likely the last Gupta territories.

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