Kings of the Gupta Era

Chandragupta Coin
Samudragupta Coin
Chandragupta II Coin

(Coins: (1))

  • Ruled in Magadha and then ruled over the entire Ganges basin.
  • He increased his power and territory by marrying, about 308, Princess Kumaradevi of the Licchavi tribe, which then controlled north Bihar and perhaps Nepal. (2)

  • This great warrior had a benevolent heart. He showed great nobility towards all those kings who were defeated. (3)
  • Samudragupta started to rule the kingdom and did not rest until he conquered almost the whole of India. His reigning period may be described as a vast military campaign. (3)

    Chandragupta II
  • Chandra Gupta was a devout Hindu, but tolerated Buddhist and Jain religions. (4)
  • Inheriting a large empire he extended his control to Gujarat (north of Bombay) and Malwa (central India). To strengthen his southern flank he made marriage arrangements for his daughters with southern dynasties. (4)

    Kumaragupta I
  • The vast Imperium Kumaragupta I inherited from his father was kept intact by him for a period of forty years. (5)
  • The king also granted lands and loan to the poor and made offerings to the Brahmanas. Such a just and benevolent king Kumaragupta expired in 455 A.D., which marked the beginning of the decline of the Gupta Empire. (5)

  • Main article: Skandagupta
  • Skandagupta, son and successor of Kumaragupta I is generally considered to be the last of the great rulers. He assumed the titles of Vikramaditya and Kramaditya. He defeated the Pushyamitra threat, but then was faced with invading Hephthalites or "White Huns", known in India as the Huna, from the northwest. He repulsed a Huna attack c. 455, But the expense of the wars drained the empire's resources and contributed to its decline. Skandagupta died in 467 and was succeeded by his agnate brother Purugupta.(6)


ManichaeismMani's teachings

Mani taught a strict dualism of spirit and matter. He held that good and evil are in essence and in origin separate and opposed, and that they became mixed in this world through the act of the evil principle (Matter or Darkness). Salvation lies in the release of goodness (Spirit or Light) from Matter, and its return to its original state of separation. This teaching Mani set out in an elaborate mythology, harmonized deliberately from different elements. (7)

mani.jpgAccording to his own account, Mani received, while still a boy, a revelation from a spirit whom he called the Twin, who taught him the diving truths of his religion. This was probably in 228, early in the reign of the Persian Ardashir, who had overthrown the Parthians. During the last years of Ardashir's reign, some twelve years later, the Twin appeared again to Mani and summoned him to preach the truth he had learnt to mankind. Mani first expounded these to his own father and the elders of his family; and thereafter set out by sea on a missionary journey to India, that is, to Turan and Makran (modern Baluchistan and Sind). Here he met with success in that he converted the king of Turan and the number of his subjects. Probably in 242, the year of the accession of Ardashir's son, Shapur I, Mani returned by sea to Pars, and travelled through it on foot, preaching but meeting with hostility. From Pars he reached Mesene, the little kingdom at the mouth of the Tigris, and thence returned home to Babylonia. He travelled through Babylonia, preaching, and back to Pars, and into Media, arousing much opposition; but at some point he suceeded in converting to his faith Peroz, bother of Shapur, who, according to Ibn an-Nadim, procured him audience with the king. According to the Manichaean Kephalaia, Shapur summoned Mani thrice from Ctesiphon, and on the third occasion accepted him as a member of his own court and gave him leave to preach his religion without hindrance throughout his realms. (7)


external image Buddha18.jpg&t=1

Mahabodhi Temple
Mahabodhi Temple

The exact place where the Buddha sat when he was enlightened was called Vajrasana meaning 'Diamond Throne'. It was believed that when the universe is finally destroyed, this would be the last place to disappear and that it would be the first place to form when the universe began to re-evolve again. The Vajrasana was also sometimes called The Victory Throne of all Buddhas (Sabbabuddhanam Jayapallankam) or the Navel of the Earth (Pathavinabhi). In later centuries the name Vajrasana came to be used for the exact location of the Buddha's enlightenment, for the temple built over it (Vajrasana Gandhakuti) and for the general location.(8)

Bodh Gaya
The most widely used and also the most enduring of Bodh Gaya's names was Mahabodhi meaning 'great enlightenment'. Originally a term for the Buddha's experience, it later came to be used as the name for the place where that experience had occurred. Cunningham mentioned that this name was still in vogue in the 19th century. The Buddha's experience at Uruvela not only resulted in the location changing its name to Bodh Gaya; it has also meant that this otherwise obscure village has been the focus of attention for millions of pilgrims for over two millennia. It became very early, and remains even today, the most important place of Buddhist pilgrimage. (8)


And the Gupta Empire
In early Indian civilization the caste system was the basis of societal organization for approximately two millennia. This societal system was found conveniently by Hindus, those who followed the religion of Hinduism, as a logical reflection of their idea of karma, the idea that all good and bad done in a person’s life will determine where in society he or she will be born in the next life. Karma was a constantly active force in the determination of how Hindus conducted themselves. However, it is only a small part of a complex religion specially chosen by Gupta and later Indian civilizations, as well as modern-day India.

Left to Right: Vishnu, Brahma, Shiva
About the time of the Gupta, differences in some Hindu practices and worship processes began to change. Hinduism saw lesser gods become more widely worshiped and revered as great. Two of these lesser gods who rose in importance were the gods Vishnu and Shiva. Vishnu is known in Hinduism as the preserver of the universe. He achieves this preservation through fighting evil forces, like as demons and dragons. Vishnu rose to a higher position in Hinduism by first fighting evil with the major Vedic god Indra. These tales are told in the holy Vedic texts called the Puranas (9). Shiva is known in Hinduism as the god of truth, goodness, beauty, creation, wisdom, dance, and the arts (11). While Shiva is associated with creation, he is also associated with destruction and the cleanser of impurities. Shiva was not always viewed this way in Hinduism. He originally was viewed as a fertility god and was much less important than Vishnu in Vedic religion. In their rise, Vishnu and Shiva became part of what is known in Hinduism as the Trimurti, or triad of Hindu gods, along with Brahma, the ultimate creator god of Hinduism (9). Although Brahma is still accredited for the creation of the world and the other gods, Brahma is no longer widely worshiped and is considered equal to both Vishnu and Shiva (10).

The Goddess Parvati

Since the time of the rise of lesser god to importance and focus, it is popular in Hinduism to dedicate temple worship to one deity of choice. Most popularly chosen, was the goddess Parvati, who has many forms. Because Hindu gods have so many forms and individual incarnations, it is popular, just as with temple worship, to choose a common deity in one of his many forms and worship that god as the Supreme Lord.

The Indus valley and early Indian civilization put emphasis on animal and nature in their worship practices. Living creatures were especially revered as sacred. This belief led to one of the most important ideas of Hinduism: ahimsa, or “non injury (12).” Ahimsa is entails more than the idea of non injury in the physical sense but also in the emotional and internal sense. To simply dwell on hurting a living being, wish harm on a living being, or feel jealousy towards a person would violate the Hindu idea of cow.jpgahimsa. To fully embrace ahimsa a person must dedicate himself to a life of love (12). Ahimsa is most seen in the holiness of the cow in Hindu religion. (Today, a family cannot even move into a house for the first time unless the house is blessed by a cow.)
Arjuna kneeling in reverence to the god Krishna
As Hinduism further developed, a new belief known as bhakti emerged among the Indus peoples. This belief can be seen in an ancient Hindu text, the Bhagavad Gita (200 C.E.), that describes Krishna’s, one of Vishnu’s many form’s, instruction to his friend and warrior Arjuna about how to reach true salvation. This path involved total and complete faith in Krishna. Bhakti puts more importance on love and devotion as a part of the path to salvation as opposed to knowledge. Bhakti was first rejected by Brahmans, Hindu caste of priests, because it ignored many Vedic principles. However, as the popularity of bhakti began to spread, the Brahman slowly began to embrace the idea, and eventually accepted it with confidence (13).

Text Box: Arjuna kneeling in reverence to the god Krishna
Text Box: Arjuna kneeling in reverence to the god Krishna

As Hinduism developed and took root in early India, the Puranas became equally important to devotional Hindus as they once were in the Vedic religion. Hindus also felt there was a sacredness of specific places, just as certain texts and animals were sacred, because it is believed that the Supreme Lord is everywhere.
Hinduism today is considered one of the five major religions of the world. It is the only religion of those five that is polytheistic, and it is centered mostly in India where it originated.

Works Cited