Teaching History Empires, Social, and Cultural Exchange Empires Social and Cultural Exchange

Empires Social and Cultural Exchange

Category : Teaching


Empires, Social, and Cultural Exchange



  • Understand the emergence of Magadha as empire
  • Explore the Mauryan Empire with reference to its kings and administration
  • Know the Ashoka Empire and Ashoka's dhamma
  • Be aware of the Gupta empire and economic prosperity in this empire
  • Know the social and cultural changes took place from 600 BCE to 600 CE



The time period of 600 BC-600 AD, almost 1000 years, was a crucial era in the Indian history. In this time period, many changes happened that gave shape to every aspect of the Indian society. These changes not only happened in political aspect but also in social and religious aspects. In these 1000 years, many changes happened in the subcontinent. In 600 BC, we saw the emergence of Mahajanapcidas. While most of the Mahajanapadas were ruled by kings/rajas, some of the Mahajanapadas ruled in a different way. To understand the emergence of empires in Indian subcontinent, let us analyse the emergence of Magadha.



We all know that there are 16 Mahajanapada emerged in the 6th century BC. During the time period of the 6th century to the 4th century BC, Magadha emerged as a powerful state in the Indian subcontinent. Historians defined the emergence of Magadha for different reasons; for example, the region was productive, easy accessibility of iron ores, and use of elephants in the army. Ganga and his tributaries were helpful in cheap communication and transportation. However, knowing about Magadha is an interesting exploration. The emergence of Magadha is contemporary to the emergence of Buddhism and Jainism. The contemporary Buddhist and Jain texts provide us useful information about Magadha's ruling kings such as Bimbisara, Ajatasatru, and Mahapadma Nanda. These rulers had played important role in the emergence of Magadha.

Magadha was located in between the Ganga and their tributaries. Some part of the present-day bihar is also included in Magadha. Rajagriha/Rajgir was the capital of Magadha. Rajagriha/Rajgir ns the house of the king. Rajagriha was located in hills and in the 4th century BCE. The capital Shifted from Rajagriha to Pataliputra, which is known as Patna in the present time. The Magadha Empire was ruled by many dynasties but some of them played the most significant role in the emergence of Magadha. Let us try to understand their contribution.



Around 542 BCE, Magadha came under the leadership of Bimbisara (542 BCE-493 BCE). Bimbisara belonged to the Haryanka dynasty. He was the first king who strengthened his position by a marriage alliance with their neighbouring states; that is, he first married the daughter of the king of Kosala and sister of Prasenajit; second, he married lichchhavi Princess Chellana from Vaishali, and third, he married the daughter of the chief of Madra clan, Punjab. These marriages to different princely families gave enormous diplomatic support to Magadha. These alliances helped Magadha to expand northward and westward.

Bimbisara was killed by his son Ajatasatru and he became the king of Magadha. Ajatasatru ruled around 492 BCE to 444 BC for almost 50 years. Ajatasatru is known for his aggressive policies of expansion such as he conquered the republic of Vaishali and fought a war against Licchavi-ruled Vajji. Ajatasatru was contemporary of Mahavir and Buddha. Ajatasatru was succeeded by Udayin. Udayin region is important because he transferred his capital from Rajgir to Pataliputra. Later, Pataliputra became the centre of the Magadha kingdom. After Udayin, the Haryanka dynasty rule was over and it was succeeded by Shishunaga. The Shishunagas dynasty ruled almost 100 years. The greatest achievement of this dynasty was the destruction of the power of Avanti and his capital Ujjain. This dynasty was ended by Avanti. Shishunagas dynasty was succeeded by the Nandas. The dynasty of Nandas proved themselves as the strongest dynasty of Magadha. Nandas ruled the larger part of Indian subcontinent. Under the reign of Mahapadma Nanda, they conquered the Kalinga. Mahapadma Nanda claimed Ekarat, which means the sole sovereign. The Nandas were the first non-Kshatriya rulers in the Indian history. The last Nanda ruler was defeated by Chandragupta Maurya who found the Mauryan Empire.



The Mauryan Empire was found by Chandragupta Maurya in 321 BCE. The Mauryan Empire was based on the growth of Magadha. The expansion to Mauryan Empire under Chandragupta Maurya was extended in northwest as Afghanistan and Baluchistan and in the regime of his grandson Ashoka, who conquered Kalinga (costal area of Orissa, India).


How We Know About Mauryan Empire

In 1830, James Prinsep, an officer of the East India Company was deciphered the earliest inscriptions, which used two scripts Brahmi and Kharosthi on coins. He found that most of these inscriptions and coins mentioned a king that they referred as 'Piyadassi'. Piyadassi means 'pleas. ant to behold.' Some of inscriptions were referred to the king Ashoka. According to the contemporary Buddhist writings, Ashoka was referred as the most famous king. This helped Indian and European scholars to investigate the early Indian political history in a new direction. Scholar used these inscriptions and texts to reconstruct the lineage of major dynasties ruled in Indian subcontinent. The historians used a variety of sources such as archaeological finds, contemporary Buddhist, Jain, and Puranic text, writings of Megasthenes, which is known as Indica, and Kautilya  or Chanakya's Arthashastra to reconstruct the history of the Maun/an Empire. Mauryan kino Ashoka's inscription on rocks and pillars are the most valuable sources to understand the regime of king Ashoka. Probably, Ashoka was the king in the Indian history who inscribed his messages for public on the polished pillars as well as on the surfaces of the natural rocks.


Mauryan Kings

King Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Mauryan Empire. He ruled around 324 BCE- 300 BCE. The early life and ancestry of Chandragupta was not much known. There are some contradictions about the early life and ancestry of Chandragupta; for example, Buddhist texts, Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa, described Chandragupta as Kshatriya of Mauriya's branch of Sakyas who lived in Pipphalivana (eastern Utter Pradesh). In Vishakhadatta's play Mudrarakshasa, he used terms Vrishala and Kulhina for Chandragupta. These terms mean that a person is of humble origin. A Greek writer Justin also says same thing about Chandragupta. Therefore, there is no clarity about early life of the Mauryan king Chandragupta.

There are different stories about the Chandragupta's conquests and empire building process. However, the reality is that the details of Chandragupta' conquests and empire building process are not available to us to describe them. According to the Greek and Jain sources, Chandragupta took advantage of the death of Alexander's sudden death in 323 BCE in Babylon. The sudden death of Alexander became a cause of disturbance in northwestern India. Chandragupta with the help Kautilya raised a large army and launched campaigns against the Greek Kshatrapas. Sandrocottus of the Greek writers identified as Chandragupta Maurya. Greek Kshatrapa Seleucus sent his ambassador to the court of the Chandragupta Maurya. His name was Megasthenes who had written Indica, which is not available. Chandragupta Maurya ruled from 324 BCE to 300 BCE.

Chandragupta Maurya was succeeded by Bindusara. There is little knowledge about this Mauryan king among historians. Some of the texts mentioned about him; for example, Tibetan historian Taranath and Jain scholar Hemachandra says that Chanakya was continued as a minister of Bindusara. In Divyavadana, it was mentioned that Bindusara appointed his eldest son Sumana/Susima as his representative at Taxila and Ashoka at Ujjain. This text also mentions about one incident where a revolt broke out in Taxila and Susima was not able to control it; then, Ashoka was sent to restore peace. The conquest of south India under Mauryas was not cleared. Some scholars gave credit to Bindusara but most of the scholars believed that it was done by Chandragupta Maurya. Bindusara continued his father's policy of friendly relationship with Hellenic Kshatrapas. entioned that Dionysius was appointed as an ambassador in Bindusara court. Dionysius was the ambassador of the Greek Kshatrapa Ptolemy Philadelphus of Egypt. Bindusara died in 273 BCE and he ruled from 300 BCE to 273 BCE. There was mystery about his successor.


In 273 BCE, after the death of Bindusara, Ashoka became the king of Mauryan Empire. We do know about the earliest life of king Ashoka but there are some sources claiming that he killed the 99 brothers for the kingship. However, there is some contradiction; this is because in his edicts, shows his affection about his brothers, sisters, and other relatives. Probably, Ashoka was the


Figure 4.1 Principal cities and inscriptions of the Mauryan Empire


first king in the Indian history that excavated his records on rocks. His inscriptions were most valuable source to reconstruct the ancient Indian history; especially they reconstructed the history of Mauryan dynasty. The Ashokan inscriptions are found all over Indian subcontinents especially in

India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. There are two types of inscription found: one on rock, which is called Rock Edicts and another on pillars, which is called Pillar Edicts. These inscriptions were discovered almost at 47 different sites. The Minor Rock Edict was found at one place of Madhya Pradesh and three places in Karnataka, in which they mention the name of Ashoka. All other inscriptions referred king as Devanampiyci, which means beloved of the God and Piyadassi. Most of these inscriptions found in ancient highway routes and these were written in four different scripts; for example, inscriptions found in Afghanistan are written in Greek and Aramaic script is used, while those found in Pakistan are written in Prakrit language and Kharosthi script is used. In all other areas, these inscriptions are in Prakrit language and written in Brahmi script.


Kalinga War and Ashoka's Dhamma

Kalinga was the ancient name of coastal Orissa. Kalinga was independent neighbouring state of the Mauryan Empire. We do not know why Ashoka fought a war against them. However, some evidences show that Ashoka fought a war to conquer Kalinga. This war involved high-level violence and massacre. After this war, Ashoka was very horrified and he decided not to fight wars anymore. Ashoka was the only king in the known history who returned back the areas he won in war. After the war of Kalinga, there was a major change in Ashoka ruling policies. These changes are known as dhamma. Ashoka's dhamma was not a religious practice. His dhamma did not involve worshiping of a God or other religious rituals. It was totally based on the moral aspect of everyday life. In his inscriptions, Ashoka defined him as father and his people as his children. It is his duty to teach them these moral lessons for their better life. The Ashoka faced many problems in his regime, such as religious and ideological conflicts of different groups, animals were sacrificed at mass level, servants and slaves were ill-treated, and quarrels in families and amongst neighbours. According to Ashoka's inscriptions, the head of the state should bear the responsibility to solve the problem. Therefore, he appointed officers who are known as dhamma mahamatta. Dhamma mahamatta went to every part of Mauryan Empire and taught dhamma to people. Ashoka inscribed his messages on rocks and pillars and sent the officials to read his messages for those could not read it. Ashoka sent mission to other lands such as Egypt, Syria, Greece, and Sri Lanka. He built roads, rest houses, and dug wells on highways. He arranged medical facilities for human beings as well as for animals. Ashoka ruled from 273 BCE to 232 BCE. After Ashoka, the Mauryan empire sustained almost 100 years.


Administration of the Mauryan Empire

Some sources such as Buddhist, Jain, and Greek writings, Arthashastra gave some important information about Mauryan administration. The whole empire divided into five major political center the capital Pataliputra and the four provincial centres of Suvarnagiri, Tosali, Ujjain, and taxila. All these provincial divisions were mentioned in Ashokan inscriptions. One important question is that at could this vast empire have had a uniformed administrative system?

If we analyse the expansion of the empire, it was too diverse and vast. The geographical conditions of the empve were different; for example, hilly terrain of Afghanistan and the coastal area of Orissa. Historians assume that the strongest administrative control was around the capital area and the provincial centres. The provincial centres were chosen carefully; for example, both Ujjainand Taxila were situated on the long distance trade routes. Suvarnagiri, which literally means Golden Mountain, was probably the gold mines of Karnataka. The transportation system in both the land and river was vital for the existence of the empire. The arrangements of transportation were good, and hence, the journey from centre to provinces could have taken weeks and not months. The army was important for the stable state. Megasthenes mentions about a committee with six subcommittees, which was coordinating the military activities in empire. Table 4.1 will explain the working of subcommittees.


Table 4.1 Working of the army's subcommittees




First committee

Navy related arrangements

Second committee

Transport and provisions related work

Third committee

Foot soldiers related arrangements

Fourth committee

Hours related arrangements

Fifth committee

Chariots related arrangements

Sixth committee

Elephants related arrangements


Source: NCERT textbook. Class XII, Themes of Indian History (Ancient)-l,

Theme-ll: Kings, Farmers and Towns-Early States and Economies

(C. 600 BCE 600 CE), pp. 34


Army Committee of the Mauryan Empire: Their Subcommittees and Responsibilities

With the strong military base, king Ashoka also tried to hold his empire by propagating dhamma. The principles of dhamma were simple and virtually universally applicable. The special officers were appointed for dhamma, which was known as dhamma mahamatta.



The new kingdoms emerged in the Deccan and further south. These new kingdoms included the Cholas, Cheras, and Pandyas in Tamilnadu. The Sangam texts contain poems describing the chiefs. The Cholas occupied the Kaveri River delta and their adjoining regions. The regions of Kanchi were also part of Chola kingdom, which is known as Cholamandalam. The Chola kingdom was situated towards the north-east of the Pandya kingdom. The Chola kings had some remarkable victories in that region; for example, in the 2nd century BCE, the Chola king Elara conquered Sri Lanka and ruled it over almost 50 years. The most distinguished Chola king was Karikala. Karikala defeated Chera and Pandya kings in the great Battle of Venni, near Tanjore. Karikala had a powerful navy and he conquered Sri Lanka. He built 160 km of long irrigation channel and all these lead to the growth of agriculture, craft, trade, and commerce. He was a great patron of literature and promoted education. After Karikala, the successors of Karikala were weak and family members fought with each other for the power. The Cholas declined and after the defeat by the Pallavas, the Cholas were reduced in small number.



Figure 4.2 Important cities and kingdoms



The Pandya kingdom was located at modern district Tirunelveli, Madurai, and Ramnad. Madurai was the capital of the Pandya kingdom. The Sangam literature gives valuable information about some of the Pandya kings. Nedunjeliyan was known as the greatest Pandya king. He defeated the combined force of Cheras, Cholas, and five others in the Battle of Madurai. He ruled around 210 CE. Under the Pandya kings, the capital Madurai and port city Korkai became the great centres of trade and commerce in the south Indian region. The Pandya kingdom had trade relations with the Roman Empire. They send embassies to the Trojan and the Roman emperor Augustus court.



The Cheras was also known as Keralaputras. They were situated in the west and north of the Pandya kingdom. Like the Pandyas and Cholas, Cheras had the same importance in the south Indian history. The Chera ruler Nedum Cheralathan conquered the Kadambas. He fought a battle with the father of Chola king Karikala and both the kings were killed in the battle. According to Chera tradition, Senguttuvan was the greatest king of the Chera dynasty. One of the interesting facts is that some of the kings of all these three kingdoms claimed that they had victories expansion to the Himalayas like the Chera king Nedum Cheralathan called himself Imayavarcimban. Imayavaramban means that he had the Himalaya mountains as the north boundary of his king- dom. However, there was no evidence to support to this argument. These three kingdoms constantly fought with each other and regularly fought with Sri Lanka.




Satavahanas of Deccan

After the fall of the Mauryan Empire, a powerful kingdom was established by the Satavahanas. Satavahanas was also known as Andhra. The Aitareya Brahmana mentions Andhra as ancient people. The Greek writer Pliny mentions about Andhras in his writings. He mentioned that Andhra were powerful people who had possessed large numbers of villages and towns. They had strong army that has 100,000 infantries, 2000 horses, and 1000 elephants. During the Mauryan age, they were part of the empire but when the Mauryan Empire became weak, they declared themselves free. Simuka was the founder of this dynasty. He ruled from 235 BCE to 213 BCE. Simuka was succeeded by his brother Krishna. Satakarni was the third king of this dynasty. In Nanaghat inscription, it had description of his achievements; for example, he conquered western Malwa, vidarbha, and Narmada Valley, which known as Anup. He performed two Ashvamedha Yagnas in his regime. He had known as the lord of Dakshinapatha. Satavahanas made substantial donations for renovation and decoration of Sanchi Stupas and monasteries.

Gautamiputra Satakarni was the next important king of Satavahanas. He ruled almost 56 years. He conquered Malwa from the Sungas. After Satakarni-II, Satavahana Empire expansion set back. Nahapana had conquered some parts of Satavahana's territory. A large number of Nahapana's coins were found in the Nasik area. During the regime of Gautamiputra Satakarni, Satavahana became powerful again. His achievements are recorded in Nasik inscriptions of Gautami Balashn This inscription was excavated after his death. In this inscription, he was described as destroyer of Sakas, Yavanas, and Pahlavas. He threw Nahapana from his territory and used his silver coins with his seal. He re-conquered the northern Maharashtra, Saurashtra, Konkan, and Malwa from Sakas.

Gautamiputra was succeeded by Vasisthiputra Sri Pulmavi in 130 CE. Pulmavi ruled about 24 years and most of his coins and inscriptions have been found in Andhra Pradesh; this means that under his regime, Andhra had become a part of the Satavahana Empire. He married the daughter of Saka king Rudradaman. However, Rudradaman defeated the next Satavahana king twice. He took Aparanta and Anupa from Satavahanas. Yajna Sri Satakarni was the last great Satavahana ruler. He ruled from 165 CE to 195 CE. His inscriptions were found in Maharashtra Andhra Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh. The distribution of his coins pointed out that he extended his kingdom from Bay of Bengal in the east to Arabian sea in the west. The depiction of ship with a fish and conch on his coins indicates maritime trade and activities during his regime. The suecessors of Yajna were weak and not capable to govern such a large empire. When Abhiras seized Maharashtra and Ikshvakus and Pallavas appropriated the eastern provinces, the Satavahana Empire was collapsed and ruled over small territory.



Yavanas invasions started in the reign of Pushyamitra Sung. Pushyamitra Sung contemporaii Patanjali mentioned this invasion. Kalidasa's Malavikagnimitram mentioned about Vasumitra's conflict with Yavanas. The Yavana word maybe used for Ionian Greeks but later it was used for Greek nationality. The Yavanas were the first to establish foreign supremacy on Indian soil, and then, they were succeeded by several central Asian tribes. These tribes invaded India and established their political authority. Let us discuss here about some of these tribes:



The Indo-Greek rulers were known as Yavanas. The Greek Emperor Alexander was invaded in the western part of Indian subcontinent. After the sudden death of Alexander in Babylon, his empire comes under the rule of his Generals. The Bactria and the adjoining areas of Iran were known a Parthia. Around 250 BCE, Diodotus, the governor of Bactria, was revolted against the Greek am proclaimed himself independent from Greeks. Some notable Indo-Greek kings are Euthydemu Demetrius, Eucratides, and Menander.

Menander was the most famous king among the other Indo-Greek rulers. Menander ruled from 165 BCE to 146 BCE for almost 25 years. His capital was Sakala (modern Sialkot, Pakistani The Greek writings tell us that he was a great ruler and his territory extended from Afghanistan to present-day Uttar Pradesh (India) in the east and Gujarat in the south. He was converted into Buddhism by the Buddhist monk Nagasena. Nagasena and Menander's debate on philosophy an; Questions of Milinda.                                                                               ,

Indo-Greek rulers are the first ones in the history of India whose coins carried the names and portraits of kings.  They were the first rulers who issued gold coins. The coins of Indo-Greek were well-known for the depiction of artistic and the realistic portraits.


Parthians (Pahlavas)                                                   

The Parthians were Iranian people. They are also known as Pahlavas. We have little information about them and they are based on their coins and inscriptions. The earliest king of this dynasty was Vonones. Vonones captured the power of Sistan and Arachosia. He adopted the title of 'great kinq of king.' Spalirises was the successor of Vonones. King Gondophernes was the greatest ruler of the Parthian dynasty. He ruled from 19 CE to 45 CE. He became the master of both Sakas-Pahlavas area in the eastern Iran and western India. After Gondophernes, the Pahlavas rule ended in India and Kushans took it over.



The Sakas destroyed the northwestern Indian Indo-Greek rule. The Sakas were also known as Scythians. Sakas were nomadic tribes of central Asia. Around 165 CE, they turned out of their homeland by Yueh-chi and forced them towards India. Yueh-chi was later known as Kushans. The Sakas invaded Bactria and Parthia and then they entered in India. The Sakas entered India in five branches and they settled in various parts of northwestern and northern India. One Branch of Sakas settled in Afghanistan, second in Punjab, third in Mathura, fourth in Maharashtra and Saurashtra, and fifth in central India. The Sakas ruled from 1st century BCE to 4th century CE in different parts of the Indian subcontinent. The most prominent Saka ruler in western India was Nahapana. Various inscriptions of Nahapana were found in Maharashtra and he was mentioned in records of the Satavahana rulers. The Saka ruler Rudradaman was the most illustrious ruler of the central Indian Saka branch. He was ruled from 130 CE to 150 CE. The Junagarh inscription provide us important information about Rudradaman and his rule was extended over the area of Sindh, Saurashtra, Gujarat, north Konkan, Malwa, and some parts of Rajasthan. He repaired the Sudarshan lake dam, which is built by the provincial governor of Chandragupta Maurya in Kathiawad. Ujjain was the capital of Rudradaman and became a centre of education and culture. Many scholars believe that the Saka era was found by the Saka rulers. This dynasty rule was ended

with the defeat by the Gupta king Chandragupta II around 390 CE.



Around 165 CE in central Asia, Yueh-Chi came in conflict with a neighbouring tribe Hiung-nu. Hiung-nu defeat Yueh-Chi and forced them to move out of their land. Because of the Great Wall of China, they did not enter into the Chinese territory and they moved to the west side. In the west, they met with the Sakas. The Sakas ruled in Bactria and they forced to Yueh-Chi to leave their land. They came to India and settled down in the land of Sakas. They adopted agriculture as a profession. In India, they are known as Kushans. According to Chinese sources, the Kujula Kadphises was the first great king of Yueh-Chi. Kujula Kadphises was also known as Kadphises I. Kadphises I united all the five groups of Yueh-Chi and established his authority over Afghanistan. He called himself Dharma-thida and Sacha Dharma-thida means steadfast in true faith.

Kadphises I was succeeded by his Werna Kadphises, who is also known as Kadphises-11. Kadphises expanded his territory up to Punjab or maybe the Ganga-Yamuna Doab. He issued gold and copper coins that referred him as a great king and devotee of Lord Shiva. Kadphises II was succeeded by Kanishka. Kanishka was the greatest king in all Kushan kings. Kanishka ruled from 78CE to 101 CE. Some of the historians view that Kanishka was the founder o^Saka era. In his regime, the Kushans Empire was extended from Khotan in northwest to Banaras in the east, Kashmir in the north to Saurashtra and Malwa in the south. His coins were found in all of these areas. Purushapura, the modern Peshawar, was the capital of Kanishka. He was the follower of Buddhism and the fourth Buddhist council was held in his regime. Asvaghosa, Parsva, Vasumitra, Charaka, and Nagarjuna were some notable scholars of his court. In his regime, Mathura and Taxila became the great centres of art and culture. After Kanishka, Vasishka, Huvishka, Vasudeva, and others ruled. These names are purely Indian names that show Kushans were completely assimilated with the Indian culture. After Vasishka rule, the Kushans power declined. Kushans continue ruling in small territory up to 4th century.


Gupta Empire and Economic Prosperity

After the Mauryan Empire, many kings tried to establish a large empire but most of them could not succeed to establish a stable and powerful empire. Around 320 CE in north India, an empire emerged in leadership of Chandragupta I, and in a brief time, they expanded themselves on large scale. Soon, he established himself and his sovereign empire. They ended the provincial ruler's era that emerged after the fall of the Mauryan Empire. The Gupta period was known as 'Golden Age' in the Indian history. The Gupta Empire was established by Sri Gupta. However, the journey of the empire started in the era Chandragupta I regime. Chandragupta I was the son of Ghatotkacha. The marriage alliances for king Chandragupta I was important for establishing his power. He married with Lichchhavi princess Kumaradevi. Lichchhavi gave them iron and mines in dowry. Lichchhavis was the most powerful state at that time, and there are some evidences that show their importance; for example, Chandragupta's coins had portrait of Chandragupta I and Kumaradevi and Lichchhavi written on them. Another example is the Allahabad inscription, where the Gupta king Samudragupta proudly called himself Lichchhavis-duhita, which means the son of Lichchhavi's daughter. Chandragupta I had the title Mabarajadhiraja. He issued gold coins. Chandragupta I was succeeded by his son Samudragupta in 340 CE. According to Allahabad inscription, he was the greatest king and conqueror in contemporary kings. He was chosen because of his qualities. The Allahabad inscription was composed on Ashokan pillar by his official Harisena. In this inscription, he mentions Samudragupta's great military achievements like he defeated 9 kings of Aryavarta. Another significant military achievement was his south Indian military campaign, where he defeated 12 kings and princes of south Indian kingdoms. After defeating these kings, Samudragupta did not kept them under his control directly; rather he gave back these territories to their kings and princes and developed alliances with them. After these military exercises, he performed Ashvamedha Yagna. In Ashvamedha Yagna, he issued gold and sacrificed the horse. In Allahabad inscription, some contemporary political powers also mentioned, such as Saka, Kushans, Murundas, and Simhalas (Sri Lanka). According to some Chinese sources, he had good relationship with other countries; for example, Sri Lankan king Meghavarna had sent an embassy asking his permission to build a monastery in Bodh Gaya. Samudragupta had multitalented personality. He was good warrior and wrote poems; therefore, he was known as kaviraja. Some of his coins had portrait in which he is playing veena. In 380 CE, king Samudragupta died and his son Chandragupta II became the king.

Chandragupta II was the most famous and powerful king of the Gupta dynasty. In his regime, Gupta Empire reached at its highest glory. In his most famous victory, he defeated the Saka. After this great victory, Chandragupta adopted the title of Vikramaditya. He issued silver coins on this victory. Delhi's iron pillar and inscriptions are good sources of information about his area. His empire extended in east Bengal to northwest frontier in the west. In south, he established matrimonial relations with Vakatakas. His daughter Prabhavatigupta was married with Vakataka king Rudra sen II. This matrimonial relationship helps to control the southern areas. The regime of Chandragupta II was well-known for its high-standard arts, literatures, and cultural progresses. Kalidasa was in his court. Chinese scholar Fa-Hien travelled India in 405 CE and he stayed in up to 411 CE. His travel records are helpful to understanding the social and cultural aspects of Chandragupta II regime. King Chandragupta II died in 413CE. Kumargupta I became the king of the Gupta Empire. He was the son of Chandragupta II. Kumargupta ruled almost 40 years. He performed Ashvamedha but we do not know about his military achievements. He issued coins that indicate he performed Ashvamedha. Since he had ruled for 40 years, we can understand that he had administrative capability to govern large empire and maintain it successfully. In the last years of his regime, he faced some challenges of Pushyamitra. Kumargupta was succeeded by Skandagupta in 455 CE.

Skandagupta was the last Gupta king who tried to maintain his empire. His regime was full of wars. He defeated the Hunas; however, at the end of his regime, attacks of the Hunas were more frequent and they created biggest challenges for Gupta king. Skandagupta repaired the Chandragupta Maurya's Sudharshan lake dam.

Skandagupta died in 467 CE. After his death, the Gupta Empire gradually declined. It sustained almost 100 years after Skandagupta death. In 512 CE, the Hunas attacked on north India in the leadership of Toramana and he captured a larger part of the Gupta Empire in the north India. After Toramana, his son Mihirakula ruled. Mihirakula invaded Magadha and defeated by Gupta king Baladitya. According to other inscriptions, like Malwa, mention that Mihirakula was defeated.


After Gupta Empire

After the decline of the Gupta Empire, the regional kingdoms came into power such as Gauda in Bengal and Valabhi. In 606 CE, Harshavardhana became the king. He was one of the earliest kings whose history was well-documented. His biography Hcirshacharita was written by his courier poet Banabhatta. Another reliable source was the writings of the Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang. Hiuen Tsang wrote in detail about his regime. He extended his boundaries on whole of the north India. He wrote Nagananda, Ratnavali, and Priyadarshika. He was an efficient administrator and he was doing great charities for his people. Further, he had built rest houses and hospitals. He donated land grants to Buddhists, Jains, and Brahmanas. In every 5 years, he celebrated religious festivals in Prayaga, where he performed dana. In 647 CE, Harshavardhana died. With the death of Harshavardhana, the era of empires was ended.



The time period from 600 BCE to 600 CE was the time period of social and cultural changes. In 600 CE to the 1st century was the time period of emergence of different type of ideologies in the India subcontinent. Around 6th century BCE, Buddhism and Jainism emerged against the Brahmanical rituals. Buddhism and Jainism began social changes in the Indian society. Most of the people were against these rituals and they were attracted to Buddhism, Jainism, and other non Brahmanical ideologies. Around 3rd century BCE, the one of the major change happened. The tradition developed and most of the texts came in the form of writings. The great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata were available in the written format. These epics were good source for understanding how social division developed. However, these sources are less reliable because they are edited time to time. Therefore, it is not possible to identify the actual time period of these epics. The new form of Indian philosophy was emerged in this era and they were known as Upanishad. Another type of texts written in this duration were Arthashastra, Jainism, and Buddhism texts.

Arthashastra was helpful to understand the Mauryan time's social and economic situation. Buddhist and Jain religious texts are good source to understand social and economic situation of the people. The smaritigranth was the important texts of ancient India. These smaritigranth provide us important aspect of social rule and regulation, which they want to promote in the society. From 2nd century BCE to 2nd century CE, many different types of literatures were written, such as Kamasutra, Natya Shastra, and Mudrarakshasa. Travellers' records are also important source of understanding social and cultural changes. These records present the contemporary situation.

The monuments are also helpful to understand the social and cultural changes. Let us try to understand it with the example of Sanchi stupa. Sanchi stupa was built around 3rd century BCE. It was a huge structure. This structure gives us the idea of social life and their religious rituals; for example, these stupa give us the idea of Buddha's life. In Sanchi stupa, their outer boundary is full of miniatures and these miniatures belong to different parts of society. In the era of Kushans, Taxila and Mathura became the great centres of art and culture. The sculptures of the era present the social and cultural changes of that period. They depict the way of religious and social life. Around 4th century CE, temples emerged. These temples tell us the journey of social and cultural changes of that era. We all know that during 1000 years, many tribes came to India and they mingled in the Indian society. We all know about chaturvarna system; however, in this period, caste system expanded themselves from fourth categories. Women's role in society was well-defined in this era and rules Became rigid. New types of rituals were accepted by the society.


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Empires Social and Cultural Exchange

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