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The Gupta Dynasty
Transcript of The Gupta Dynasty
The Golden Age of Ancient India
In the Gupta Dynasty, social structure was defined by caste, family, and village.
Castes, or classes, are a Hindu concept and the most distinctive characteristic of the Gupta and other Indian dynasties. One's caste was ultimately determined by karma, the Hindu belief that a person's conduct in life affected the quality of their next life. Individuals were bound to their caste, and were required to marry, interact, and find jobs according to it. Upper classes were well respected, but had the strictest rules to follow. This didn't make life easy in lower castes, however; the lowest-ranked outcastes, referred to as untouchables, were treated incredibly poorly. They were forced into jobs deemed "impure", such as grave digging and street cleaning, were thought to spread pollution by upper castes, and were forced to live apart from other castes with wooden clappers to warn of their approach.
A joint family, or household consisting of parents, grandparents, children, aunts, uncles. and cousins, was idealized by people of the Gupta Dynasty. It was only achieved by the wealthy, however, because the low life expectancy of poor families prevented them from having multiple generations alive at the same time. Families were tied together closely, as love and cooperation were valued.
Like most early civilizations, patriarchy was a characteristic of the Gupta Dynasty. In the typical Gupta household, the father was the head. However, he had to consult the family regarding important decisions and the property belonged the whole family. Women, especially as time progressed, got the short end of the stick. Young girls, as young as eight or nine, were forced into arranged marriages with men in their twenties according to family castes and interests. Women were then bound to the home and their role, according to society, was to marry, be devoted to their husband, and bear children.
Decline of Empire
Villages were usually surrounded by farms and fields. They were home to people of a variety of castes and were self-sufficient, seldom trading with other villages. The head of the village was a council consisting of older, well-respected citizens. They organized public projects and insured that villagers paid taxes. In Gupta society, charity was valued much more than the previous Maurya, so village life was generally peaceful.
Starting around 450 CE, the Huns from Central Asia invaded Gupta territory again and again. Though multiple Gupta leaders devoted themselves to defending the Gupta dynasty, the Huns were ruthless and persistent. In 500 CE, the Huns began taking over Gupta cities like Punjah and Kashmir, raping, burning, and massacring to wipe out all human life there. By 720, the Gupta dynasty had disappeared and the only remnants of Indian civilization was the scattered kingdoms of northern India.
The Gupta dynasty arose in the year 320, in present-day India. It was originally started by a wealthy family, but the first recognized ruler was Chandra Gupta I. The dynasty expanded to by nearly the size of today's India, and life was generally peaceful; people of the Gupta dynasty were very appreciative of charity and artistry. They made many advances in art, science, and mathematics.
The Gupta Dynasty was ruled by several powerful families that made alliances with the highest Gupta ruler, Chandra Gupta. These families were responsible for monitoring their region's government, administration, and laws.
The Gupta military primarily consisted of archers and infantry. Their weaponry included metal and bamboo longbows, javelins, broadswords, axes, steel bows, and the Khanda, a double-edged sword and the symbol of Sikhism. The Gupta army was capable of using catapults, siege crafts, and other machines, and the cavalry used elephants.
Conflicts with Other Civilizations
The Huns from central Asia invaded the Gupta Dynasty and, though they failed the first time, weakened the dynasty. As well as the Huns, other nomadic peoples invaded the Gupta Empire in order to obtain resources.
Most trade practiced by people of the Gupta dynasty was local and occurred by the Ganges River and roads built by Ashoka, the ruler of the previous Maurya dynasty. Long-distance trade was achieved two ways, though the Hindu-Kush mountains, or on the Silk Road. Commonly traded goods included cotton, aromatics, black pepper, pearls, and gems.
The Gupta empire grew out of the Magadha kingdom and the Ganges Plain. The capital was Pataliputra, and other large cities included Kashmir and Punjah. Most of the empire, however, consisted of villages.
The most popular religion in the Gupta dynasty was Hinduism, for which the caste system was based upon. Monarchs were Hindu and revived ancient Vedic practices to bring an aura of sanctity.
Before the fifth and sixth centuries, however, Brahmin cults were in abundance in India. Brahmin preists offered ritual sacrifices in hopes that the gods would reward them with large harvests and herds. After these practices were rejected, the other religions practiced in the Gupta dynasty were Buddhism, Jainism, and Atheism.
A stature of the first Gupta ruler, Chandra Gupta I.
Magadha, the origin of the Gupta empire.
Shiva, a Hindu god