Art and Culture
The Gupta period witnessed a tremendous progress in the field of art, science and literature and on account of this it has been called “a golden age”. A few scholars even call this period a period of renaissance.
But it should be remembered that there was no dark period before the Gupta rule. Therefore the cultural progress witnessed during the Gupta period may be called the culmination of Indian intellectual activities.
Art and Architecture
In the history of Indian art and architecture, the Gupta period occupies an important place. Both the Nagara and Dravidian styles of art evolved during this period. But most of the architecture of this period had been lost due to foreign invasions like that of Huns. Yet, the remaining temples, sculptures and cave paintings provide an idea about the grandeur of the Gupta art.
The temple at Deogarh near Jhansi and the sculptures in the temple at Garhwas near Allahabad remain important specimen of the Gupta art. There was no influence of Gandhara style. But the beautiful statue of standing Buddha at Mathura reveals a little Greek style. The Buddha statue unearthed at Saranath was unique piece of Gupta art.
The Bhitari monolithic pillar of Skandagupta is also remarkable. Metallurgy had also made a wonderful progress during the Gupta period. The craftsmen were efficient in the art of casting metal statues and pillars. The gigantic copper statue of Buddha, originally found at Sultanganj now kept at Birmingham museum, was about seven and a half feet height and nearly a ton weight. The Delhi Iron pillar of the Gupta period is still free from rust though completely exposed to sun and rain for so many centuries.
The paintings of the Gupta period are seen at Bagh caves near Gwalior. The mural paintings of Ajantha mostly illustrate the life of the Buddha as depicted in the Jataka stories. The paintings at Sigiriya in Sri Lanka were highly influenced by the Ajantha style.
The Gupta coinage was also remarkable. Samudragupta issued eight types of gold coins. The legends on them throw much light on the achievements of that marvelous king. The figures inscribed on them are illustrative of the skill and greatness of Gupta numismatic art. Chandragupta II and his successors had also issued gold, silver and copper coins of different varieties.
The Sanskrit language became prominent during the Gupta period. Nagari script had evolved from the Brahmi script. Numerous works in classical Sanskrit came to be written in the forms of epic, lyrics, drama and prose. The best of the Sanskrit literature belonged to the Gupta age.
Himself a great poet, Samudragupta patronized a number of scholars including Harisena. The court of Chandragupta II was adorned by the celebrated Navratnas. Kalidasa remain the foremost among them. His master-piece was the Sanskrit drama Shakuntala. It is considered one among the ‘hundred best books of the world’. He wrote two other plays – the Malavikagnimitra and Vikramorvasiya. His two well-known epics are Raghuvamsa and Kumarasambhava. Ritusamhara and Meghaduta are his two lyrics.
Visakadatta was another celebrated author of this period. He was the author of two Sanskrit dramas, Mudrarakshasa and Devichandraguptam. Sudraka was a renowned poet of this age and his book Mrichchakatika is rich in humour and pathos. Bharavi’s Kritarjuniya is the story of the conflict between Arjuna and Siva. Dandin was the author of Kavyadarsa and Dasakumaracharita. Another important work of this period was Vasavadatta written by Subhandhu. The Panchatantra stories were composed by Vishnusarma during the Gupta period. The Buddhist author Amarasimha compiled a lexicon called Amarakosa.
The Puranas in their present form were composed during this period. There are eighteen Puranas. The most important among them are the Bhagavatha, Vishnu, Vayu and Matsya Puranas. The Mahabharatha and the Ramayana were given final touches and written in the present form during this period.
The Gupta period witnessed a brilliant activity in the sphere of mathematics, astronomy, astrology and medicine. Aryabhatta was a great mathematician and astronomer. He wrote the book Aryabhatiya in 499 A.D. It deals with mathematics and astronomy. It explains scientifically the occurrence of solar and lunar eclipses.
Aryabhatta was the first to declare that the earth was spherical in shape and that it rotates on its own axis. However, these views were rejected by later astronomers like Varahamihira and Brahmagupta. Varahamihira composed Pancha Siddhantika, the five astronomical systems. He was also a great authority on astrology. His work Brihadsamhita is a great work in Sanskrit literature. It deals with a variety of subjects like astronomy, astrology, geography, architecture, weather, animals, marriage and omens. His Brihadjataka is considered to be a standard work on astrology.
In the field of medicine, Vagbhata lived during this period. He was the last of the great medical trio of ancient India. The other two scholars Charaka and Susruta lived before the Gupta age. Vagbhata was the author Ashtangasamgraha (Summary of the eight branches of medicine).