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 • Various river valleys offering fertile soil • Indus • Brahmaputra • Ganges • Deccan Plateau limits farming potential in central area • Ghats mountain chains form V along coasts • Thar Desert creates barrier in northwest
Earliest Settlements • Ancient Peoples settled along rivers in northwestern region above the Thar Desert • Rivers were used for travel, trade, and farming • Walled settlements formed as early as 2500 BC • Mohenjodaro in Indus River Valley and Harappan in Sarasvati • Citadel and city living area • Streets lined with houses • Developed storage facilities for trade • Systems of weights and measurements • Great public baths with drains • Statues, beads, seals, toys, games represent developed culture • Believed to be destroyed by massive flooding
A Regional Religion: Hinduism • Shaped Indian life since before recorded history • Caste System • Brahmins – priests and religious scholars • Kshatriyas – rulers and warriors • Vaishyas – herders and merchants • Shudras - servants • Untouchables – held jobs considered dirty or lowly • Dharma – law, obligation, duty • Ramayana – story of Rama who lives life of dharma • Vedas – collections of works written in Sanskrit • Brahman – supreme power that exists in many forms • Karma – good or evil that comes back around to you in next life • Samsara – cycle of birth, death, rebirth
A New Belief: Buddhism • Based on the teachings of Buddha (Awakened One) • Comes about by Prince Siddhartha’s Path to Enlightenment • Ascetic life – giving up worldly pleasures • Giving alms – charity to the poor • Finding Nirvana – ideal state of peace through truth • Eightfold Path: Right…Understanding, purpose, speech, action, living, effort, mindfulness, concentration • Four Noble Truths • Suffering is present in all things, and nothing lasts forever • Suffering is caused by cravings (desires and wants) • The way to end suffering is to end all cravings • The way to give up cravings is to live according to Eightfold Path
Vedic and Epic Ages • Most of preclassical Indian history comes from oral history from the Aryans. • Later this history is written in SANSKRIT; first literary language of the new culture. • Veda- “knowledge” hence Vedic Age • Rig Veda first epic consisting of 1028 hymns dedicated to the Aryan gods written by the priests • 1500-500 BCE • Epic Age- later part of Vedic 1000-500 BCE • Mahabharata, India’s greatest epic poem • Ramayana, dealing with mythical and real battles • Upanishads, epic poems with mystical religious flavor
After the Vedic and Epic Ages… • 600-500 BCE- 16 major regional states exist in Northern India, and warfare between them is not uncommon • Magahda, regional state, establishes dominance over a considerable area • 327 BCE, Alexander the Great, conquers Greece, Middle East, and Northern India
In response…. • Young Soldier- Chandragupta seizes power along the Ganges River. • Becomes first of Mauryan dynasty of Indian Rulers. • This is the first dynasty to unite much of India • Rise of Buddhism under Mauryas • Chandragupta passes rule to his son, who later passes it to his son, Ashoka.
First Unification: Mauryan Empire • Founded by King Ashoka of Maurya family • Based rule on Buddhist principals • Unified region • Established rule through passing edicts • Encouraged all people to follow Buddhist path
Ashoka • Chandragupta’s grandson • 269-232 BCE • Gained control of all but Southern tip of India through intense fighting • Described as Bloodthirsty yet compassionate…. Thoughts? • Ultimately converts to Buddhism and spreads throughout India • Dharma- law of moral consequences
Post Ashoka • Buddhism lives on, his political legacy/empire does not • Empire begins to fall apart • Enter the Kushans- invaders from northwest • Greatest King- Kanishka
Era of War • Fall of Mauryan led to India breaking into different kingdoms • Kingdoms fought for land and power • Chandrgupta conquered and united the kingdoms in 320 AD through warfare and marriage • Set up a central government • Established provinces with independence • Encouraged growth in arts and science
Kushans Fall- Enter Gupta • New line of Kings after Kushans • Establish large Empire- 320 C.E.
Golden Age of India: Gupta • Line of rulers from 320 B.C.E. to 550 C.E. • Time of prosperity and achievement • Achievements allowed due to times of peace • Significant contributions in Literature • Palm-Leaf Books to record Gupta history and beliefs
Class Activity Directions • Visit the 8 centers on Gupta Achievements • Record the significant information onto a “palm leaf” • Illustrate the significant meaning on the palm • Complete the center activity tasks to experience the Gupta ways of life • Attach your palm-leaf booklet in order of significant contributions
What were the achievements of the Gupta? • Territorial gain – • Universities – • Literature – • Painting – • Sculpture – • Metalwork – • Mathematics – • Roads – 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?
Political Structure and Territorial Growth 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.
Universities 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.
Literature 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.
Painting 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.
Sculpture 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 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.
Mathematics 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.
Roads 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.