Achievements of the Gupta. The Next Great Indian Empire. Something to think about…. When is a civilization more successful? In times of war or in times of peace?. The Indian Subcontinent. Surrounded by water on 3 sides Bordered in north by Himalaya Mountains & Hindu Kush
The Next Great Indian Empire
When is a civilization more successful? In times of war or in times of peace?
What were the greatest achievements of the Gupta?
Which achievements impacted future societies?
Which achievements are isolated to the Gupta?
How would the world look without the Guptan contributions?
The Gupta emperors set up an efficient system of administration both at the center and in the provinces. The central government consisted of the king and a council of ministers which included civil and military officers such as the commander in chief of the army, the generals in command of elephantry, cavalry and infantry. The Gupta Empire was divided into a number of provinces known as the Desas and were led by governors. The province was divided into bhuktis which were further subdivided into districts called Vishyas. The lowest unit of administration was the village called Grama. It seems that the Gupta rulers did not interfere with the autonomy of the village community. Town administration was carried out by a Pusapala who generally belong to the class of high officers called Kumaramatyas. The Shrenis or guilds of traders and artisans also participated in the management of urban administration.
The Guptas built many colleges and universities throughout the empire. Some universities were Hindu, and some were Buddhist. The schools were open primarily to males, but teachers’ daughters were allowed to attend. Hindu universities provided the upper classes with religious training. Students attended classes in religion, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, and Sanskrit. They could also attend classes of the arts. The most famous school was at Nalanda. It had 8 colleges and 3 libraries. It also had a monastery and a hospital. Students of medicine learned the practices of the day and were trained to question patients about their physical problems. They learns how to make cures from roots , leaves, and minerals. They also used animal claws to stitch up wounds and were especially skilled at surgery.
Gupta writers created a variety of literary works. They wrote poetry, fables, folktales, and plays on political subjects. Scholars also wrote about Hindu law and religion. Some of the greatest Sanskrit literature came from this time, describing Hindu legends. The sacred stories had been orally passed down for generations. The Mahabharata (Great Work) was a great poem composed over hundreds of years to relate the Hindu values on good versus evil. Many of the writings from the Gupta empire went beyond their borders to be told in other lands, including the story of Aladdin and his magic lamp.
The Gupta Empire is famous for its beautiful paintings. For noble families, painting was an important part of life and no home was complete without a painting board or easel. Popular subjects included the gods with scenes to tell the religious stories. Nobles hired artists to capture the images of their families onto long scrolls. In addition to private paintings, murals were painted to cover the walls of the 30 caves that was an ancient Buddhist monastery. Paints made from minerals and class created bold colors for definition. Buddha’s life and times were depicted on the walls as well as images of kings, queens, musicians, dancers, animals, and hunters.
In the Gupta Empire, a great area of achievement in the arts was sculpture. Using stone, wood, bronze, and terra-cotta clay, the Gupta created pieces to portray the Hindu gods, Buddha, and many other figures. Sculptures were free-standing or were carved into walls of caves or temples. Human form was always displayed gracefully with beautiful detail in appearance and expression.
Metalwork was one of the most detailed and skillful achievements of the Gupta. Since Gupta kings controlled large mines of gold, copper, and iron, they had the materials to create coins and other metal products. Most of these items would be engraved to honor the kings or the gods for blessings in art, politics, and war. Metalworking skills were also used to create great pillars which are still standing today without rust or extreme wear.
With the advances in mathematics made by earlier Indian peoples, the Gupta went further to create a number system using zero. Their works allowed for understanding of decimals and fractions, and set the stage for more complete math systems developed in the Arab world. In addition to using mathematics as a counting system, Aryabhata combined math with astronomy to calculate the number of days in a year and the size of the Earth. Lastly, the Guptas used math to develop a more complex building style with symmetry and design.
To encourage trade throughout the Empire, the Gupta rules had built an entire system of roads. Engineers worked to clear land, fill in holes and remedy imperfections, and then smoothed the land to create a level path. The hand-packed dirt roads were designed for safety and comfort. Alongside the roads were canals or ditches into which monsoon rains could drain to prevent flooding the roads. Signs along the roadways informed travelers on their whereabouts and provided directions with marked distances. Rest houses allowed travelers a stopping point where they could sleep, restock food and water, and relax from their trip. These roads greatly benefited trade in the empire allowing goods to be transported quickly to other regions, including connecting the Empire to China and the Mediterranean regions.