Age of Gupta's

(320 AD-550)

  • Some 500 years after the collapse of the Mauryan Empire, a new dynasty called the Guptas arose in Magadha and established its control over the greater part of India.
  • This period is also referred as the ‘classical age’ or ‘Golden Age’ of ancient India.


The Gupta Dynasty 



320-335 AD



335-375 AD



375-380 AD

Chandragupta Vikranmaditya


380-413 AD

Kumargupta Mahendraditya


415-455 AD



455-467 AD



  • He was the first Gupta ruler to assume the title of Maharajadhiraja.
  • He strengthened his kingdom by matrimonial alliance with the powerful family of Lichchavis who were the rulers of Mithila.  
  • His marriage to Lichchavi princess Kumaradevi brought an enormous power, resources and prestige.  
  • He took advantage of the situation and occupied the whole of fertile Gangetic valley.



  • He gave himself the titles King of Kings and World Monarch
  • Historian Vincent Smith described him as the "Indian Napoleon". 
  • He performed Ashwamedha yajna (horse sacrifice) to underline the importance of his conquest. 
  • The stone replica of the sacrificial horse, then prepared, is in the Lucknow Museum. 
  • The Samudragupta Prashasti inscribed on the Ashokan Pillar, now in Akbar’s Fort at Allahabad, is an authentic record of his exploits and his sway over most of the continent.
  • Samudragupta was not only a talented military leader but also a great patron of art and literature. 
  • The important scholars present in his court were Harishena, Vasubandhu and Asanga. 
  • He was a poet and musician himself. He was a firm believer in Hinduism and is known to have worshipped Lord Vishnu. 
  • He was considerate of other religions and allowed Sri Lanka's Buddhist king Sirimeghvanna to build a monastery at Bodh Gaya. 
  • That monastery was called by Xuanzang as the Mahabodhi Sangharama. He provided a gold railing around the Bodhi Tree.
  • Samudragupta was perhaps the greatest king of Gupta Dynasty.
  • His name appear in Javanese text Tantrikamandaka and Chinese ambassador was sent  to his court by king Meghavarma of Sri Lanka, who had asked his permission to build a Buddhist monastery at Bodh Gaya for the monks travelling from Sri Lanka.
  • The most detailed and authentic record of his reign is preserved in the Allahabad pillar inscription, composed by his court poet Harisena.
  • Allahabad pillar inscriptions mentions the title Dharma Pracha Bandhu for him, that he was the upholder of Brahamanical religion.



  • According to the Gupta records, amongst his many sons, Samudragupta nominated Prince Chandra Gupta II, born of queen Dattadevi, as his successor.
  • Chandra Gupta II, Vikramaditya (the Sun of Power), ruled from 380 until 413. 
  • Chandra Gupta II also married to a Kadamba princess of Kuntala region and a princess of Naga lineage, Kuberanaga. 
  • His daughter Prabhavatigupta from this Naga queen was married to Rudrasena II, the Vakataka ruler of Deccan. 
  • His son Kumaragupta I was married to Kadamba princess of karnatka region. 
  • Emperor Chandra Gupta II expanded his realm westwards, defeating the Saka Western Kshatrapas of Malwa, Gujarat and Saurashtra in a campaign lasting until 409, but with his main opponent Rudrasimha III defeated by 395, and crushing the Bengal (Vanga) chiefdoms. 
  • This extended his control from coast-to-coast, estabilshed a second capital at Ujjain and was the high point of the empire.
  • The court of Chandragupta was made even more illustrious by the fact that the Navaratna (Nine Jewels), a group of nine who excelled in the literary arts, graced it. 
  • Amongst these men was the immortal Kalidasa whose works dwarfed the works of many other literary geniuses, not only in his own age but also in the ages to come. 
  • Kalidasa was particularly known for his fine exploitation of the shringara (romantic) element in his verse.
  • 4th century AD Sanskrit poet Kalidasa credits Chandragupta Vikramaditya with having conquered about twenty-one kingdoms, both in and outside India. 
  • After finishing his campaign in the East and West India, Vikramaditya (Chandra Gupta II) proceeded northwards, subjugated the Parasikas (Persians), then the Hunas and the Kambojas tribes located in the west and east Oxus valleys respectively.



  • Adopted the title of Mahendraditya  
  • Founded the monastry of Nalanda, which developed into a great centre for learing. Harshagupta, Damodargupta, Mahasenaguta.
  • Budhagupta was the last emperor of Guptas who preserved unity, when he passed away, Huns safely entered into Sialkot region and Eastern Malwa.





  • 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.  
  • He defeated the Pushyamitra threat, but then was faced with invading Hephthalites or "White Huns", known in India as the Huna, from the northwest.  
  • He repulsed a Huna attack c. 455, but the expense of the wars drained the empire's resources and contributed to its decline.  
  • Skandagupta died in 467 and was succeeded by his agnate brother Purugupta. 



1. Architecture

  • By evolving the Nagara and Dravida styles, the Gupta art ushers in the history of Indian architecture a formative and creative age with unlimited scope for future development and elaboration. Rock-cut Caves:
  • The rock-cut caves continue the old forms largely, but possess striking novelty by bringing about extensive changes in the ornamentation of the façade and in the designs of the pillars in the interior.
  • The most notable groups of rock-cut caves are found at Ajanta and Ellora (Maharashtra) and Bagh (M.P.). The Udayagiri caves (Orissa) are also of this type.
  • Structural Temples:  The following five groups may be distinguished among the structural temples:
    1. Flat-roofed square temple;
    2. Flat-roofed square temple with a second storey (vimana) above;
    3. Square temple with a curvilinear tower (sikhara) above; (iv)        Rectangular temple; and (v)                 Circular temple.
  • The second group of temples shows many of the characteristic features of the Dravida style. The importance of third group lies in the innovation of a ‘sikhara’ that caps the sanctum sanctorium, the main feature of the Nagara style.


  • Stupas: Stupas were also built in large numbers, but the best are found at Sarnath (U.P.), Ratnagiri (Orissa) and Mirpur Khan Sind).


2. Sculpture

Stone Sculpture:

    1. A good specimen is the well-known erect Buddha from Sarnath.
    2. Of the Brahmanical images perhaps the most immediately impressive is the Great Boar (Varaha) at the entrance of a cave at Udayagiri.

Metal Statues:  

      • The art of casting statues on a large-scale by the cire process was practiced by Guptan craftsmen with conspicuous success.
      • A copper image of the Buddha is about eighteen feet high situated at Nalanda in Bihar.              At Sultanganj, the image of Buddha is of seven-and-half feet.

3. Painting

      • The art of painting seems to have been more in general practice and popular demand in the Gupta period than the art of stone sculpture.
      • Remains of paintings of this period are found at Ajanta, Bagh, Badami and other places.
      • From the point of technique, the surface of these paintings was perhaps done in a very simple way. In fact, the mural paintings of Ajanta are not true frescoes, for a fresco is painted while the plaster is still damp and the murals of Ajanta were made after it had set.
      • However, the art  of Ajanta and Bagh shows the ‘Madhyadesa School’ of painting at its best.



4. Terracottas and Pottery

      • Clay figurines were used both for religious and secular purposes. We have figurines of Vishnu, Kartikeya, Surya, Durga, Kubera, Nagas, etc.
      • Gupta pottery remains found at Ahichchhatra, Rajgarh, Hastinapur and Bashar afford an outstanding proof of the excellence of pottery. The most distinctive class of pottery of this period is the ‘red ware’.



      • It was during the Gupta rule that the village headmen became more important than before. In towns, organised professional bodies (Guilds) were given considereable share in the share in the administration of artisans, merchants and scribes conducted the affairs of the town.
      • The kumaramatyas were the most important officers of the Gupta period who were in charge of several portfolios. It was from then the Mantris, Senapate, Mahadandanayaka and Sandhi Vigrahika (minister of war and peace) were generally chosen.



      • Under the patronage of Gupta ruler, Vaishanavism became very popular.
      • Their unions activated the Gods with the respective consorts. Thus Laxmi got her association with Vishnu (Skandagupta time) and Parvati got her association with Shiva (Kumargupta’s time).
      • This was the period of evolution of Vajrayanism and Buddhist tantric cults.




      • Harsha belonged to Pushyabhuti dynasty, which ruled from Thaneswar.  
      • Pushyabhutis were the feudatories of the Gupta’s but had assumed independence after the Huna invasion.
      • His reign is comparatively well documented, thanks to his court poet Bana, who was the author of works such as ‘Harsacharitra’ (an account of Harsha’s rise to power), ‘Kadambri’ and ‘Paravatiparinay’.
      • Harsha’s drems such as ’Retnavli’, ‘Nagannanda’ and Pryadarsika’ give us information about the political condition of those days.
      • Harshs’s ambition of extending his power to the Deccan and Sothern India were stopped by Pulakesin ll, the Chlukya king of Vatapi in Northern Mysore.


PALLAVAS (560-903 AD)

      • There is controversy regarding the origion of Pallavas. Possibly the Pallavas were a local tribe, who established their authority in the Tondainadu or the land of creepere.  
      • They were orthodox Brhamanical Hindus and their capital was at Kanchi.
      • Both Chalukyas and Pallavas tried to establish their supremacy over land between Krishna and Tungabhadra.
      • Pallav king Narsimhavarman (630-668 AD) occupied Chalukan capital a Vatapi in about 642 AD and assumed the title Vatapikonda.



      • The founder of Chola Dynasty was Vijayala, who was at first a feudatory of the Pallavas. He captured Tanjore in 850 AD.
      • The great Chola rulers were Rajaraja (985-1014 AD) and his son Rajendra I (1014-1044 AD).
      • Rajendra l assumed the title of Gangaikondachola and built a city called Gangaikondacholapuram.


CHALUKYAS (543-757 AD)

      • They established their capital act Vatapi (Badami) in district of Bijapur in Karnataka.
      • Pulakesin ll was able to check Harasha’s design to conquer Deccan.
      • Aihole inscription is a eulogy written by his court poet Ravi kiriti.
      • The Chinese Pilgrim Hiuen Tsang visited the kingdom.
      • Pallava ruler Narimhavaraman l invaded the Chalukya kingdom, killed Pulakesh ll and captured Badami.



      • Rose to political importance in ninth and tenth centuries AD.
      • It is thought that they were of foreign origin that came as conquerors and settled in W.India.
      • Of all the Rajput clans, four clans-
      1. Pratihara or Pariharas of S.Rajasthan.
      2. Chauhans of E. Rajasthan.
      3. Chalukyas or Solankis of Kathiarwar.
      4. Parmaras or Pawars of Malwa.
      • Claimed descent from a mythical figure that arose out of a sacrificial fire pit near Mt.

Abu. So they were called Agnikula or fire family.

    • Two main clans of Rajput are :-
    1. Suryavansha (Sun family)
    2. Chandra Vansha (Moon family)