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The Classical Age, The Gupta Dynasty

Magadha kingdom, Gupta dynasty, Ganges River valley, Narmada River, Mauryan Empire

The Kushana dynasty collapsed in the 3rd century, leaving the Ganges River valley in the hands of several small kingdoms. In about ad 320, Chandragupta I, the ruler of the Magadha kingdom, united the many peoples of the valley and founded the Gupta dynasty. For about the next century his son Samudragupta and grandson Chandragupta II brought much of India under unified control for the first time since the Mauryan Empire, controlling the lands from the eastern hills of Afghanistan to Assam, north of the Narmada River. Samudragupta conducted a successful military expedition as far south as the city of Kanchipuram, but probably did not directly rule in those regions. The Guptas directly ruled a core area that included the east central Gangetic Plain, located in present-day Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. In addition, they conquered other areas, reinstating the kings who were then obliged to pay tribute and attend the imperial court. Both Chandragupta I and Chandragupta II made strategic marriages that extended the empire, the latter with the successors to the Andhra dynasty in central India. A policy of religious tolerance and patronage of all religions also helped consolidate their rule.

The time of the Gupta Empire has been called the golden age of Indian civilization because of the periodís great flowering of literature, art, and science. In literature, the dramas and poems of Kalidasa, who wrote the romantic drama Sakuntala, are especially well known. The Puranas, a collection of myths and philosophical dialogues, was begun around ad 400. These remain today the basic source for the tales of the gods who are now central to Hinduism: Vishnu, Shiva, and the goddess Shakti. During this era Indiaís level of science and technology was probably higher than that of Europe. The use of the zero and the decimal system of numerals, later transmitted to Europe by the Arabs, was a major contribution to modern mathematics.

Article key phrases:

Magadha kingdom, Gupta dynasty, Ganges River valley, Narmada River, Mauryan Empire, Gupta Empire, modern mathematics, Puranas, imperial court, Guptas, central India, core area, Shiva, Vishnu, Bihar, Hinduism, dramas, Assam, Arabs, collection of myths, gods, patronage, peoples, ruler, religions, tales, lands, successors, major contribution, tribute, kings, regions, century, zero, hands, ad, Europe, art, addition, time, areas, technology, use


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