26 Dec 2022
GS Paper 1
Indian Heritage & Culture
Question 1. Age of Guptas depicted as the golden age in Ancient Indian History. Discuss. Also, highlight the reasons that were responsible for the decline of Gupta Empire. (250 words)
Question 2. Outline the Harsha’s contribution to Buddhism. Describe the social and economic conditions during the reign of Harsha. (150 words)
- Introduce the emergence of Gupta era.
- Discuss that the Age of Guptas depicted as the golden age in Ancient Indian History. Also mention the factors responsible for decline of Gupta empire.
- Conclude suitably
- On ruins of the Kushan and Satavahana empires, Guptas founded their empire. It kept north India politically united for more than a century from A.D. 335 to 455.
- Their centre of power was at Prayag. The Guptas were the feudatories of the Kushans in Uttar Pradesh and seem to have succeeded them without any wide time-lag.
Gupta Age was a Golden Age:
- Gupta kings adopted pompous titles to signify their rule over lesser kings in their empire and maintained large standing army.
- The judicial system was far more developed under the Guptas than in earlier times. Several law books were compiled in this period. For the first time civil and criminal laws were clearly demarcated. Theft and adultery came under criminal law.
- The guilds of artisans, merchants and others were governed by their own laws. These guilds flourished exceedingly well in Gupta.
- The Guptas organized a system of provincial and local administration like divisions (bhuktis), bhuktis were divided into districts (vishayas), vishayas were divided into vithis, which again were divided into villages.
Trends in Trade and Agrarian Economy:
- Guptas issued the largest number of gold coins, which were called dinaras in their inscriptions.
- Compared to the earlier period we notice a decline in long-distance trade. Till A.D. 550 India carried on some trade with the Eastern Roman empire, to which it exported silk.
- Land grants to the brahmanas on a large scale suggest that the brahmana supremacy continued in Gupta times.
- The position of Shudras improved in this period. They now permitted to listen to the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas. They could also worship a new god called Krishna.
- The fact that women of the lower varnas were free to earn their livelihood.
- Buddhism no longer received royal patronage in the Gupta period.
- Bhagavatism centred around the worship of Vishnu or Bhagavat and originated in post-Maurya times.
- The Gupta kings followed a policy of tolerance towards the different religious sects.
- The Gupta period is called the Golden Age of ancient India.
- Both Samudragupta and Chandragupta II were patrons of art and literature. Samudragupta is represented on his coins playing the lute (vina), and Chandragupta II is credited with maintaining in his court nine luminaries or great scholars.
- In the Gupta period we find an over two metres high, bronze images of the Buddha of Sultanganj near Bhagalpur.
- In the Gupta period beautiful images of the Buddha were fashioned at Sarnath and Mathura.
- The Gupta period is remarkable for the production of secular literature.
- To this period belong thirteen plays written by Bhasa. Mrichchhakatika or the Little Clay Cart written by Shudraka, which deals with the love affair of a poor brahmana with the beautiful daughter of a courtesan.
- Kalidasa wrote Abhijnanashakuntalam - about the love story of King Dushyanta and Shakuntala.
- The Gupta period also saw the development of Sanskrit grammar based on Panini and Patanjali.
- Overall, the Gupta period was a bright phase in the history of classical literature.
Science and Technology:
- In the field of mathematics, work called Aryabhatiya written by Aryabhata, who belonged to Pataliputra.
- In the case of iron objects, the best example is the iron pillar found at Mehrauli in Delhi. Manufactured in the fourth century A.D., the pillar has not gathered any rust.
Age was not a golden age:
- Kingship was hereditary, but lack of rule of succession had created uncertainties and war of succession and villagers were also subjected to forced labour called vishti.
- The castes proliferated into numerous sub-castes as a result of two factors. A large number of foreigners had been assimilated into the Indian society, and each group of foreigners was considered a kind of caste.
- Chinese pilgrim Fa-Hien informs us that the chandalas lived outside the village and dealt in meat and flesh.
- Women of higher orders did not have access to independent sources of livelihood in pre-Gupta and Gupta times. In a patriarchal setup they began to treat women as items of property. The first example of the immolation of widow after the death of her husband appears in Gupta times in A.D. 510.
- Several towns in north India declined during this period. The Gupta period was poor in architecture.
- In ancient India art was mostly inspired by religion. Survivals of non- religious art from ancient India are few.
- During this period, we also notice an increase in the production of religious literature. Most works of the period had a strong religious bias.
Reasons for Fall of the Empire:
- Skandagupta’s successors proved to be weak and could not cope with the Huna invaders. They could move quickly and being excellent archers.
- Malwa prince successfully challenged the authority of the Guptas and set up pillars of victory commemorating his conquest of almost the whole of northern India,
- The Gupta empire was further undermined by the rise of the feudatories. The governors of Gupta’s in north Bengal and their feudatories become independent.
- The rulers of Valabhi established their authority in Gujarat and western Malwa.
- The loss of western India deprived the Guptas of the rich revenues from trade and commerce and crippled them economically.
- In north India the princes of Thanesar, Harshavardhana, established their power in Haryana and then gradually moved on to Kanauj.
- Their income may have further been affected by the decline of foreign trade. The migration of a guild of silk-weavers and their adoption of non-productive professions shows that there was not much demand for cloth produced by them.
Decline of Guptas and emergence of feudatories’ rule continued in north India till the invasion of Turks and Afghans and establishment of Delhi Sultanate, which provided some stability in the region which was further enforced by the Mughals.
- Introduce the reign of Harsha.
- Discuss the Harsha’s contribution to Buddhism and describe the social and economic conditions during the reign of Harsha.
- Conclude suitably
- Due to decline of Gupta empire, north and western India passed under the control of dynasties ruling at Thanesar in Haryana and extended its authority over all the other feudatories.
- The ruler who brought it about was Harshavardhana (A.D. 606- 647). Harsha made Kanauj the seat of his power from where he extended his authority in all directions.
Social and economic conditions during the reign of Harsha:
- Harsha governed his empire on the same lines as the Guptas did, except that his administration had become more feudal and decentralised.
- Harsha could possess a larger army only if he could mobilise the support of all his feudatories at the time of war because every feudatory contributed his quota of footmen and horses, and thus made the imperial army vast in numbers.
- Land grants continued to be made to priests for special services rendered to the state.
- The Chinese pilgrim Huan Tsang informs us that the revenues of Harsha were divided into four parts- expenditure of the king, for scholars, for the endowment of officials and public servants, and for religious purposes.
- He also tells us that ministers and high officers of the state were endowed with land. The feudal practice of rewarding and paying of officers with grants of land seem to have begun under Harsha because he does not have too many coins.
- In the empire, law and order was not well maintained. Robbery was considered to be a second treason for which the right hand of the robber was amputated.
- Harsha is remembered not only for his patronage and learning but also for the authorship of three dramas the Priyadarshika, the Ratnavali and the Nagananda.
- Banabhatta attributes great poetical skill to him and some later authors consider him to be a literary monarch.
- Trade declined, money became scarce, and officers and soldiers began to be paid through land grants, the city lost its importance and power shifted to military camps (skandhavaras).
- Hsuan Tsang's Account
- The Chinese account shows that Pataliputra was in a state of decline; so was Vaishali. On the other hand, Prayag and Kanaauj in the doab had become important.
- The brahmanas and kshatriyas are reported to have led a simple life, but the nobles and priests led a luxurious life. This indicates differentiation in the ranks of each one of the two higher varnas.
- The majority in each one of them may have taken to agriculture. Hsuan Tsang calls the shudras agriculturists. He takes notice of untouchables such as scavengers, executioners, etc. They lived outside the villages, and took garlic and onion.
Harsha’s contribution to Buddhism: Buddhism and Nalanda
- Under Chinese pilgrim Hsuan Tsang’s influence Harsha became a great supporter of Buddhism and made generous endowments in its favour.
- Nalanda thus had a huge monastic establishment in the time of Harshavardhana.
- Harsha followed a tolerant religious policy. A Shaiva in his early years, he gradually became a great patron of Buddhism.
- As a devout Buddhist he convened a grand assembly at Kanaauj to widely publicize the and the assembly, which was attended by a doctrine of Mahayana.
- He constructed a huge tower in the middle of which a golden statue of the Buddha was placed; this statue was as tall as the king himself.
- After Kanaauj, at Prayag, he held a great assembly, which was attended by all the tributary princes, ministers, nobles, etc.
- At the end Harsha made huge charities, and he gave away everything except his personal clothing.
Emergence of Harsha accelerated the system of feudal lordship which was started from the later phase of Guptas. After Harsha the similar socio-economic system was flourished under the tripartite of Pala, Pratihara and Rashtrakuta, which leads to the further decline of the development of strong central power, science and technology. These internal weakness leads to the invasion of India under Turks and Afghans.