The Gupta Empire ruled the country from AD 320 to AD 540. It was not as large as the Mauryan Empire, but it politically united the North Indian territories for more than a hundred years. The period of the Gupta Empire is known as the ‘Classical Age’ or the ‘Golden Age’ of Indian history. Dharmashastras, Puranas, Smritis, religious texts, and travel accounts of Fa-hien, I-tsing, and Hiuen Tsang form important literary sources of the Gupta Empire.
Literary Sources of the Gupta Empire
The Main Literary Sources of the Gupta Empire are
Accounts of Fa-hien
- Fa-hien was a Chinese pilgrim who visited India during the reign of Chandragupta II on a religious mission.
- During his stay in India, he went on pilgrimages to Mathura, Kannauj, Kapilavastu, Kushinagar, Vaishali, Patliputra, Kashi and Rajagriha.
- According to Fa-hien, Magadha was a prosperous country with large towns and wealthy people. Although people were wealthy, they led simple lives and observed the Buddhist rules of conduct.
- Fa-hien writes that Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Buddhism and Jainism peacefully coexisted in society. According to him, the penal code was mild and offences were ordinarily punished by mild fines only.
Accounts of Hiuen Tsang
- Hiuen Tsang was a Chinese Buddhist who visited India in AD 630 during the reign of king Harsha.
- According to Hiuen Tsang, king Harsha personally supervised every department of administration and introduced several measures for the welfare of the people.
- Land revenue was the main source of income and taxes were moderate.
- Hiuen Tsang says that the caste system was very rigid. Apart from four main castes, several subcastes also existed. The people followed simple habits and led a pure and chaste life.
- Women were free to move in society, and there was no purdah system. Child marriage was very common.
- Kalidasa is regarded as the greatest poet. He lived during the Gupta Period. His four poetic works are Ritusamhara, Raghuvamsa, Meghaduta and Kumarasambhava. His works have been translated into major languages of the world.
- Kalidasa’s works contain traces of political history and provide us with reliable information about government, society and religion.
Also, Read The Age of the Guptas