Gupta


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Gupta

(go͝op`tə), Indian dynasty, A.D. c.320–c.550, whose empire at its height encompassed much of N India. Ancient Indian culture reached a high point during this period. Gupta paintings adorned the caves of AjantaAjanta
, village, Maharashtra state, W central India, in the Ajanta Hills. The famous Ajanta caves, discovered in 1819, contain remarkable examples of Buddhist art. The caves, carved out of the side of a steep ravine, consist of chapels and monasteries dating from c.200 B.C.
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, its sculpture embellished the temples of ElloraEllora
, village, E central Maharashtra state, India. Extending more than 1 mi (1.6 km) on a hill are 34 rock and cave temples (5th–13th cent.), most of them Hindu but some Buddhist and Jain.
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, and its metaphysical speculations flowered in philosophy and in the study of mathematics.

The dynasty was founded by Chandragupta I (reigned c.320–c.330), who married a princess of the Licchavi tribe and acquired the kingdom of MagadhaMagadha
, ancient Indian kingdom, situated within the area of the modern states of Bihar and Jharkhand. Its capital was Pataliputra (now Patna). The kingdom rose to prominence in the mid-7th cent. B.C. and rapidly extended its frontiers, especially under the rule of Bimbisara (c.
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. He expanded his domains to include all of Bihar and Jharkhand and some of Bengal. His brilliant son, Samudragupta (reigned c.330–c.380), conquered almost all of N India and much of the Deccan.

The third and greatest of the Guptas, Chandragupta II (reigned c.380–c.414), further expanded the kingdom to include Ujjain. His reign, vividly described in the writings of Fa Hsien, a Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, was marked by prosperity throughout the land. Embassies were sent to many foreign courts, among them Rome, and a single code of law was promulgated for India. In this period also, the splendid Iron Pillar was erected (c.400) near what is now New Delhi, and KalidasaKalidasa
, fl. 5th cent.?, Indian dramatist and poet. He is regarded as the greatest figure in classical Sanskrit literature. Except that he was retained by the Gupta court, no facts concerning his life are known.
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 wrote his dramas.

Chandragupta II's successors were Kumaragupta (reigned c.414–455) and Skandagupta (reigned 455–c.467). The latter repelled the invasions of the White HunsWhite Huns
or Hephthalites
, people of obscure origins, possibly of Tibetan or Turkish stock. They were called Ephthalites by the Greeks, and Hunas by the Indians. There is no definite evidence that they are related to the Huns.
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, but after his death they overran much of N India. The dynasty lingered on in Bengal until c.550.

Bibliography

See J. F. Fleet, Inscriptions of the Early Gupta Kings and Their Successors (2d ed. 1963); S. K. Maity, The Imperial Guptas and their Times.

Gupta

 

a dynasty that ruled northern India in the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries. The Gupta rulers originated from among the petty princes of Magadha. Under Chandragupta I, who ruled from 320 to circa 340 and who adopted the title of emperor, the formation of the Gupta state began.

The rulers Samudragupta and Chandragupta II Vikra-maditya (who ruled from circa 380 until 414) brought all of northern India under their rule except for Kashmir, the western Punjab, and Rajputana. Samudragupta also carried out a campaign into the Deccan and southern India. Skandagupta, in the fifth century, had to carry on a difficult struggle against the tribes of Pushyamitra in western India and against the Ephthalites, or White Huns, on the northwestern frontiers of the state. Under Buddhagupta the state began to fall apart. Gujarat and Malwa seceded from it, and in the early sixth century the Ephthalite Huns conquered the western part of the state. Circa 528 the Gupta ruler Baladitya, in alliance with the central Indian ruler Yasodharman of Mandasor, defeated the Ephthalites, destroying their power in India except for the northwestern part. However, the Gupta rulers had been so weakened by the wars with the Ephthalites and apparently by a serious internal crisis of the state that they were unable to prevent its further irreversible decline. The Gupta state ceased to exist in the late sixth century. The Gupta era is noted as a golden age in literature, the arts, and the economy.

REFERENCES

Mookerji, Radhakumud. The Gupta Empire. Bombay, 1948.
The History and Culture of the Indian People, 2nd ed., vol. 3. London, 1954.
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