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Gupta Empire

The reign of the Gupta Dynasty was known as India's Golden Age. By about 350 AD, the Kushan Empire was torn apart by strife and internal rivalry. The conditions were just right for the emergence of the king of Magadha, Chandragupta I. Having overthrown the Mlechchhas and invaded foreign tribes, Chandragupta I set out to unite regions of northern India, thus established one of the greatest empires in Asia. In 335 AD, Chandragupta I was succeeded by his son Samudragupta. Samudragupta took his father's dying instructions - to become the king of the world - to heart. He swept across the Gangetic Plain, and annexed Bengal, Malva, Assam, and Ujjaini. Samudragupta went as far as invading the Pallava kingdom of the south.

Chandragupta II, Samudragupta's son, became king in about 380 AD. He conquered all of northern and northwestern India and expanded his empire.

Administration of the Guptas
The Gupta kings encouraged trade and prompted the people to pursue wealth. The upper and middle strata of society grew richer and the poor did not live in abject poverty. Work was always to be found. The skilled artists and artisans enjoyed wealth and respect. Crops were abundant and animal husbandry was important. Rice, wheat, corn, milk, curd, butter, cheese, fruits, vegetables, and wine were part of the everyday fare consumed by the people.

An important aspect of the Gupta administration was the excellent public services provided by the monarchs. Hospitals were free. Public roads, inns, granaries, and other utilities were constructed by the rulers for the people. The state was divided into several administrative units for the convenience of the administrators.

The Golden Age of India
The Gupta Era in India was one of the most remarkable in terms of intellectual advancement. Literature and art flourished. Kalidasa, the greatest Sanskrit poet of India, wrote his epic plays and poems during the Gupta period. Abhijnaana Shakuntalam and Kumarasambhavam are considered some of the most remarkable works in Sanskrit literature.

Major discoveries and inventions were made and scientists and scholars such as Aryabhata, Vishnu Sharma, Vatsyayana, and Varahamihira found the patronage of the kings. Aryabhata, the great mathematician and scientist is believed to have introduced the idea of zero (0) to mathematical systems. Vatsyayana, the celebrated scholar, wrote the Kamasutra, and Vishnu Sharma authored Panchatantra, a renowned collection of fables for children Varahamihira's treatises on astronomy and advanced mathematics were masterpieces of the ancient world.

The Gupta kings were excellent diplomats. Trade and cultural relations with Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Burma, and China flourished. The numismatics of the Gupta era outshone those of any previous period. The university at Nalanda was established, and the paintings and frescoes at Ajanta were commissioned by the Gupta kings.

Fall of the Gupta Empire
Chandragupta II was succeeded by Kumaragupta, an able ruler who held off invasions and administered the empire well. His son, Skandagupta ascended the throne in 455 AD. Skandagupta spent most of his reign combating Hephthalite invasions. By 500 AD, most of the northern regions were taken over by the Hephthalites. Other vassal lords asserted their independence, and thus the best of Indian empires fell into decay.