1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gupta

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GUPTA, an empire and dynasty of northern India, which lasted from about A.D. 320 to 480. The dynasty was founded by Chandragupta I, who must not be confounded with his famous predecessor Chandragupta Maurya. He gave his name to the Gupta era, which continued in use for several centuries, dating from the 26th of February, A.D. 320. Chandragupta was succeeded by Samudragupta (c. A.D. 326-375), one of the greatest of Indian kings, who conquered nearly the whole of India, and whose alliances extended from the Oxus to Ceylon; but his name was at one time entirely lost to history, and has only been recovered of recent years from coins and inscriptions. His empire rivalled that of Asoka, extending from the Hugli on the east to the Jumna and Chambal on the west, and from the foot of the Himalayas on the north to the Nerbudda on the south. His son Chandragupta II. (c. A.D. 375-413) was also known as Vikra-Maditya (q.v.) , and seems to have been the original of the mythical Hindu king of that name. About 388 he conquered the Saka satrap of Surashtra (Kathiawar) and penetrated to the Arabian Sea. His administration is described in the work of Fa-hien, the earliest Chinese pilgrim, who visited India in A.D. 405-411. Pataliputra was the capital of the dynasty, but Ajodhya seems to have been sometimes used by both Samudragupta and Chandragupta II. as the headquarters of government. The Gupta dynasty appears to have fostered a revival of Brahmanism at the expense of Buddhism, and to have given an impulse to art and literature. The golden age of the empire lasted from A.D. 330 to 455, beginning to decline after the latter date. When Skandagupta came to the throne in 455, India was threatened with an irruption of the White Huns, on whom he inflicted a severe defeat, thus saving his kingdom for a time; but about 470 the White Huns (see Ephthalites) returned to the attack, and the empire was gradually destroyed by their repeated inroads. When Skandagupta died about 480, the Gupta empire came to an end, but the dynasty continued to rule in the eastern provinces for several generations. The last known prince of the imperial line of Guptas was Kamaragupta II. (c. 535), after whom it passed “by an obscure transition” into a dynasty of eleven Gupta princes, known as “the later Guptas of Magadha,” who seem for the most part to have been merely local rulers of Magadha. One of them, however, Adityasena, after the death of the paramount sovereign in 648, asserted his independence. The last known Gupta king was Jivitagupta II., who reigned early in the 8th century. About the middle of the century Magadha passed under the sway of the Pal kings of Bengal.

See J. F. Fleet, Gupta Inscriptions (1888); and Vincent A. Smith, The Early History of India (2nd ed., Oxford, 1908), pp. 264-295.