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Gupta Dynasty

India experienced a golden age during the Gupta Dynasty; find out why and how!

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  • leafers ultimate style avatar for user Justin
    How did the iron pillar not rust?
    (13 votes)
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  • piceratops sapling style avatar for user sara valencia
    What present day countries were part of the Gupta dynasty? Was India the only one?
    (5 votes)
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  • starky ultimate style avatar for user adhvik.v23
    shoudn't shakespeare be the kalidasa of English and not kalidasa being the shakespeare of sanskrit cause kalidasa was born first
    (4 votes)
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  • leaf green style avatar for user manasanichaitanya
    If the Gupta empire was so overpowered then how did hunas cause a decline?
    (3 votes)
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    • male robot hal style avatar for user chinmaybho4151
      After the reign of Chandragupta II, the Guptas had to face an invasion of Hunas in the second half of the 400s. Emperor Skandagupta (grandson of Chandragupta II) put up an effective defense against the Hunas. However, Skandagupta's successors were weak and incapable of stopping the Hunas. The Hunas were excellent horse archers and may have even had metal stirrups.

      By 485, the Hunas had occupied eastern Malwa, Punjab, and Rajasthan. However, Yashodharman of Malwa was able to overthrow Huna rule in his region. Yashodharman belonged to the feudal Second Aulikara dynasty, and he grew in power at the expense of the Guptas.

      There was a rise in the power of feudal polities in the Indian subcontinent as well. In Bengal, various governors and feudatories tended to declare themselves independent of Gupta rule. Eventually, the later Guptas of Magadha set up their center of power in Bihar. Next to them, the Maukhari dyanasty came to power in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, and by 550, they had become fully independent of the Guptas. By the beginning of the 500s, independent rulers were issuing their own coins in Madhya Pradesh. The rulers of Valabhi became independent and ruled over Gujarat and western Malwa. The lost of the western coast deprived the Guptas of revenue from coastal trade. The rulers of Thanesar also became independent and ruled over Haryana and later Kannauj.

      The Guptas were unable to maintain a large professional army because they started giving religious land grants, in which they were unable to collect taxes. The lost of the coastal areas also denied the Guptas revenue from foreign trade. In the 5th century, the Guptas tried to keep up the minting of gold coins by reducing the amount of gold in them, but this did not work. After Skandagupta, the Guptas weakly lingered on but the former imperial glory was gone.
      (3 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user GCupcake79
    how about mughal empire?
    (3 votes)
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  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user aadya
    At , you mentioned that elephants eventually became bishops. I thought that elephants became rooks and camels became bishops?
    (0 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Brian da Silva
      That's a very interesting question, Sal is right that the Bishop was the elephant, but it's indeed very confusing because in Hindi today (if I'm not mistaken) they call the rook "elephant" and the bishop "camel" but apparently these weren't the most widespread names. In the book "A history of Chess", from H. J. R. Murray, he writes:

      In some Indian descriptions the Chariot is replaced by a Boat ; in others the Elephant and Chariot have changed places ; in the modern Indian games the Chariot is often replaced by an Elephant, and the original Elephant by a Camel. The argument from this piece [placement] is therefore less decisive than that from the invariable position and move of the Horse.

      Another interesting thing is that the Bishop is still called elephant (слон) in Russian, and in Spanish it's called "alfil" which was the Persian for "the elephant" (some other languages also have similar names, all based on the Persian).

      Chess history is a lot of fun :)
      (9 votes)
  • boggle blue style avatar for user x.asper (bio)
    Hey there, I have a question.
    At Sal shows an iron pillar. There is an answer on how it did not rust (because of galvanization), but did the Empire even have that technology at that time? It doesn't make sense to me.
    Please help me on this one!
    (3 votes)
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  • male robot donald style avatar for user yaswin.sivakumar
    Why didn't the Gupta empire conquer the whole of India?
    (2 votes)
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  • marcimus pink style avatar for user phoebe.jeske
    What does 'al' mean when it proceeds a name?
    (2 votes)
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  • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user Mathangi Sureshkumar
    When was the Pandian Dynasty? Does Kumari kandam really exist? i also heard of people saying that the language "tamil" has been there before Sanscrit.
    (2 votes)
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    • male robot hal style avatar for user chinmaybho4151
      The Pandya dynasty existed from the very beginning of Tamil history, with the first records dating to the 3rd Century BCE. The Pandya dynasty ended in the 14th century. No, the Kumari Kandam is a pure myth. It is a purely fiction lost continent, and it is as real as Atlantis. No, Sanskrit is about 1,000 years older than Tamil. The oldest Tamil inscriptions on pottery and in caves only date to the 3rd century BCE, with linguists stating Tamil diverged from Malayalam in the 6th century BCE. Whereas the earliest Sanskrit text dates to about 1500 BCE.
      (1 vote)

Video transcript

- [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.