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Ancient History / Guptan Era

Sources of Gupta Period

Various sources of Gupta Empire available today are literary sources, epigraphical sources and numismatic or archaeological 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.

Epigraphical Sources of Gupta Empire

Regarding Epigraphical sources, Gupta 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 Samudragupta 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 charter 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 inscription (Prashasti). It is written on an Iron pillar having a height of 23 feet and weight of 16 tons (located in front of Qutub Minar, Delhi). It talks about the victories of Chandragupta II. (No rust is found on the Mehrauli iron pillar till now)

  • Skandagupta's inscriptions

    They are two in number

    • One is Bhitari inscription, Uttar Pradesh. It is a pillar inscription. 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 Junagarh inscription, which contains inscriptions of Ashoka, Skandagupta as well as Rudradaman I. It is a rock inscription. 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.

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.


  1. Fa-hien visited India during the reign of which of the following Gupta rulers?

    1. Samudragupta

    2. Chandragupta I

    3. Skandagupta

    4. Chandragupta II


    Ans: D

  2. Which of the following sources of Gupta empire talks about the custom of Sati?

    1. Eran pillar inscription of Bhanugupta

    2. Mehrauli iron pillar inscription of Chandragupta II

    3. Gaya copper plate inscription of Samudragupta

    4. Bhitari pillar inscription of Skandagupta


    Ans: A