Empires in India
- [Instructor] In previous videos, we talk about the emergence of the Maurya Empire, around 322 BCE, shortly after the invasion of Alexander the Great, as the first truly great Indian empire that unifies most of the Indian subcontinent. That empire eventually falls, and the next significant empire to emerge, especially if we talk about influence on India and the world, is the Gupta Empire, which emerges over 500 years later. Let's zoom in on our timeline to get a deeper appreciation of the Gupta Empire. It's believed that its start was with Sri Gupta, he started the Gupta Dynasty around 240, and it's disputed where they emerged, it might have been in that region or in that region. There's different accounts of where the Gupta Dynasty initially emerged, but even in the early 300's, they really had a control of a few small kingdoms. It wasn't until the reign of Chandragupta I that it becomes a significant dynasty. We need to be careful. Don't confuse this Chandragupta, the First, with Chandragupta Maurya, who founded the Maurya Dynasty over 600 years before the time we're talking about. Chandragupta I, it's interesting because he is really able to gain power, not initially through conquest, but through a marriage. He has a marriage with the princess Kumaradevi, and as a dowry, he's given control over much of this region of northeast India. This region of Magadha or Magadha, I am always having trouble pronouncing that, so my apologies, including the famous city of Pataliputra, which even at the time of the Maurya Empire and before the Maurya Empire, this was a famous seat of power. But once he's in control of this region, then he and his successors are able to have increased conquests over India. You see in this light blue color what his son Samudragupta was able to do, and then one of Samudragupta's sons, Chandragupta II, is able to conquer even more. But what makes the Gupta Empire distinctive isn't just that they were able to unify much, or conquer much, of India again. What really makes them distinctive is because of that unification, and especially the wealth that began to flow into the capitol, they were able to be sponsors of significant culture, and science, and the arts. That's why historians view the Gupta Empire as the golden age of India. Just to get an appreciation for this, the Gupta Empire was during the time of Kalidasa, and he is considered to be the greatest writer ever in the Sanskrit language. He is the William Shakespeare of Sanskrit. Beyond literature and writing, you have significant contributions to science, most notably, Aryabhata. He's known for a very accurate approximation of pi, but even more important, a recognition that was an approximation, and that he potentially recognized the irrationality of pi, one of the first to do so. The word sin, the trig function, is derived from Aryabhata's word for that function, so he established some of the early ideas of trigonometry. He did work in summation, he did significant astronomical work, recognizing the rotation of the Earth versus the rotation of the heavens. He had an early concept of gravity. Even some of these notions of the place value system, and zero, and decimal notation, many of our modern notions of it are traced back to Aryabhata. In other videos on the Islamic golden age, when we talk about folks like al-Khwarizmi, a lot of his work was based on what he learned from Aryabhata. Beyond the sciences, and once again, this is just a sample of all that happened during this period, you have the significant Hindu epics, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, the Periyas, get written down and formalized. You can say they were canonized. The game of chess, or the early version of the game of chess, was invented, called chaturanga, and they had horsemen, which were the knights, they had infantry, which were the pawns, they had elephants, which eventually turned into bishops, but as it migrated into Persia, the Muslim world, and then into Europe, it became our modern game of chess. Famously, there is this iron pillar, that is now in New Delhi, that is traced back to the time of the Gupta Empire, and is believed to the reign of Chandragupta II. What's amazing about this, this is a pillar that's over 20 feet high, made out of raw iron, and over 1500, 1600 years, it hasn't corroded. It has inscriptions on it that help historians point to the Gupta Empire. This is some of the coinage of the Gupta Empire. So the big takeaway here is, this was India's golden age, the classical period of India. A lot of modern Hinduism and Indian culture can be traced back to this time period. But it isn't just its influence on India. In other videos, we talk about the Islamic golden age, and much of that golden age, which emerges two, three, 400 years after the time, after the Gupta Empire falls, much of that work in based on the discoveries and the work that is collected during the time of the Guptas, and then that becomes a bridge, eventually, to the European Renaissance. Now, like all empires, the Gupta Empire does eventually fall, in the mid-sixth century, it's believed around 540, 550, and one of the main causes, there is invasions from people called the Hunas, who historians believe are either the Huns, or a group that are closely related to the Huns. It's considered to be one of the causes of the eventual decline of the Gupta Dynasty.