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Ancient History / Guptan Era

Sources of Gupta Period

    Various sources of Gupta Empire available today are literary sources, numismatic or archaeological sources and epigraphical sources. According to these sources, Gupta dynasty was founded in 300 AD by Sri Gupta and it ended in 550 AD.

    Literary Sources of Gupta Empire

    Various literary sources of Gupta empire are available. They are

    • Kamandaka wrote a book named Nitisara, which gives information on Gupta administration.

    • Vajjika wrote a book named Kaumudi Mahotsava, which gives information about coronation of Chandragupta I.

    • Vishakhadatta wrote 2 dramas named Devichandraguptam (about Dhruva Devi and Chandragupta II) and Mudrarakshasa.

    • Bhasa wrote Svapnavasavadattam, meaning The Dream of Vasavadatta.

    • Sudraka wrote Mrcchakatika, a drama about a Brahmin named Charudatta who was in love with a prostitute named Vasantasena.

    • Somadeva wrote Kathasaritsagara, which talks about spread of Indian culture to the Southeast Asian countries.

    • Puranas give the genealogical records.

    • Fa-hien came to India when Chandragupta II was the king. He gave lot of information about Gupta period. He gave explanation about the life of untouchables.

    Archaeological Sources of Gupta Empire

    • In this cateogry, only numismatic sources are available. Gupta gold coins were called Dinars.

    • On the coins of Chandragupta I, we can find Kumar Devi, the queen of Chandragupta I.

    • On one of the coins of Samudragupta, we can find him performing Ashvamedha Yaga and having the title Asvamedha Parakrama. Other Samudragupta coins show the emperor playing the Veena and on the top, it is written "Kaviraja" (even though he has not written any book).

    • On the coins of Kumaragupta, we find him performing Asvamedha Yaga and having a title "Asvamedha Mahindra".

    • Chandragupta II is the first king to mint silver coins (Rupaya). On the coins, we can find the title "Simha Chandra". He is also known by the names Simha Vikrama, Narendra Chandra and Narendra Simha.

    Epigraphical Sources of Gupta Empire

    Regarding Epigraphical sources, inscriptions are available from four kings of Gupta Empire. They are

    • Samudragupta's inscriptions

      • They are four in number, two are Prashastis and two are land charters. The Prashastis are located at Allahabad and Eran, MP.

      • Of the two land charters, one is Nalanda Copper Plate inscription. It is talking about an Agrahara (village) given to a Brahmin (entire revenue of the village will go to the Brahmin).

      • The other land grant is Gaya Copper Plate inscription It talks about a village donated to a Buddhist Vihara, which was built by Meghavarna, a king of Sri Lanka. Gupta kings are Vaishnavites. But they contributed to Buddhism also.
    • Chandragupta II's inscription

      It is also known as Mehrauli (in front of Qutub Minar, Delhi) Iron pillar inscription (Prashasti) having a height of 23 feet and weight of 16 tons. It talks about the victories of Chandragupta II. (No rust is found on the iron pillar till now)

    • Skandagupta's inscriptions

      They are two in number

      • One is Bhitari pillar inscription, Uttar Pradesh. In this inscription, a reference was made to Huns (nomadic tribes) invading India. Two Huns who invaded India are Toramana and Mihirakula. Gupta Empire was destroyed by Huns.

      • The other is the Junagadh rock inscription which contains inscriptions of Ashoka, Rudradaman I as well as Skandagupta. It talks about the lake Sudarshan which was repaired by Skandagupta.
    • Bhanugupta's inscription

      It is a stone pillar inscription found at Eran. From all the available sources of Gupta Empire, it is the first inscription that talks about the custom of Sati.