Development of Literature and Major Authors in the Gupta period

Development of Literature and Major Authors in the Gupta period

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The Gupta period is widely regarded as the golden age of Sanskrit literature. It is often compared to important periods in other cultures, such as the Periclean period in Greece or the Elizabethan and Stuart periods in British history. Some of the best poets were born in this era, and are divided into two categories based on the availability of information about their works.

Development of literature and major authors in the Gupta period

Development of literature in the Gupta period

Harishen:

Harishena, the son of Mahadayanayak Dhruvabhuti, held important positions during the reign of Samudragupta. Although there is no information about his works, we get information about Harisena’s style from the inscription “Prayag Stambh”. The verses found in the pillar inscription show similarity to the style of Kalidasa. Harishena’s entire work presents a unique example of the “champu” (prose-mixed) style.

Shava(Virasen):

Shava, who served as Sandhivigrahika (Amatya) during the time of Chandragupta Vikramaditya, is known mainly through an inscription on the wall of the Udayagiri cave. This inscription shows that Shava was well-versed in grammar, justice, and politics and lived in Pataliputra.

Vatsabhatti:

Information about Vatsabhatti’s poetic style is found in the article “Pillars of Mandsaur” by Malav Samvat. The text consists of 44 verses, of which the first three verses are devoted to the praise of the Sun.

‘Vasula:

During the reign of Yashodharman, Vasula composed “Mandsaur Prashasti”. There are nine stanzas in this extraordinary piece of poetry.

Describe the main sources of knowing the history of ancient India

Major poets with known works

Kalidas:

One of the most celebrated poets of Sanskrit literature, Kalidasa contributed significant literary works, including “Ritusamhara,” “Meghdoot,”Kumarasambhava,” and the epic “Raghuvamsa.” His play “Abhigyan Shakuntalam” is considered his masterpiece. In addition, he composed plays such as “Malavikagnimitram” and “Vikramorvashiyam”.

Bharavi:

Bharavi’s epic “Kiratarjuniyam” is based on the Vana Parva of the Mahabharata. It has 18 cantos.

Bhatti:

Bhatti’s work, “Bhatikavya”, also known as “Ravanavadh“, is a poem based on a story from the Ramayana. It has 22 cantos and 1624 verses.

Gupta Drama and Playwright

A significant contribution was also seen in the field of drama during the Gupta period. Many notable plays and playwrights emerged during this time.

Kalidasa: “Malavikagnimitram”: The play revolves around the love story of Kalidasa’s characters, Agnimitra and Malavika.
“Vikramorvashiyam”: Based on the love story of Emperor Pururava and Urvashi Apsara.

Visakhadatta: “Mudrarakshasam”: This historical play tells the story of Chandragupta Maurya’s accession to the throne of Magadha.
“Devichandraguptam”: describes the marriage of Dhruva-Swamini by Chandragupta after the defeat of Shakraj.

Shudraka: “Mrichchakatikam“: The play revolves around the hero Charudatta, the heroine Vasantasena and many other characters such as the king, brahmin, gambler, merchant, courtesan, thief, and rascal.

Bhasa: “Swapnavasavadattam”: This play tells the love story of Maharaja Udayana and Vasavadatta.
“Pratigya Yogandharayanakam”: This play features Maharaja Udayana, describing Vasavadatta’s escape from Ujjayini with the help of Yogandharayana.

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Matrgupt: Commentator of Natya-Shastra

Matrgupt is mentioned in Kalhana’s Rajatarangini. It is believed that Matrigupta wrote a commentary on Bharata’s Natya-Shastra.

Bhatrbhenth (भर्तृभेण्ठ)

Who also Known as ‘Hastipak, composed the poem ‘Hayagrivvadha.’

Vishnu Sharma: Author of Panchatantra

Vishnu Sharma is renowned for composing the Panchatantra, a collection of animal fables. Around 250 different versions of the Panchatantra have emerged in approximately 50 languages worldwide. Considered the second most popular book globally after the Bible, the Panchatantra gained significant popularity. Translations of this book into Greek, Latin, Spanish, German, and English were completed by the end of the 16th century.

The Panchatantra is divided into five parts:

  • ‘Mitrabhed,’
  • ‘Mitralabh,’
  • ‘Sandhi-Vigrah,’
  • ‘Labdha-Pranash,’ and
  • ‘Aparikshakaritv.’

Religious Texts in the Gupta Period

Puranas: The Puranas, containing historical traditions, were predominantly composed during the Gupta period. The final compilation of the Puranas also took place in this era. The two great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata were completed during the Gupta period as well. The Ramayana portrays the ideal form of institutions such as family, while the Mahabharata depicts the triumph of good over evil. The Bhagavad Gita, a part of the Mahabharata, emphasizes the importance of performing one’s duty without seeking rewards.

Smritis: Various Smritis were written during the Gupta period, including those by Yajnavalkya, Narad, Katyayan, and Brihaspati. The ‘Yagyavalkya Smriti’ is considered particularly significant, discussing ethics, behavior, and atonement. Buddhist scholar ‘Buddha Ghosh’ wrote a commentary called ‘Visuddhibhagya’ on Tripitakas, a prominent Hinayana Buddhist text. Jain philosopher Acharya ‘Siddhasen’ authored the book ‘Nayavatam’ on the philosophy of justice.

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Technical Texts in the Gupta Period

Grammar and Language:

Chandragomin: Composed Chandra Grammar (Vyakarana).
Amar Singh: Authored Amarkosh, a certified corpus of Sanskrit.

Political Science:

Kamandaka: Influenced by Kautilya’s Arthashastra, wrote Nitisara.

Sexuality and Relationships:

Vatsyayana: Known for writing the Kamasutra.

Advancements in Science

During the Gupta period, significant developments took place in astronomy, mathematics, and medicine.

Varahamihira: Renowned Astronomer

Varahamihira, a famous astronomer, authored books like Vrihatsamhita and Panchasiddhantika. Vrihatsamhita covers various subjects, including astronomy, botany, natural history, and physical geography.

Aryabhata: Prominent Mathematician and Astronomer

Aryabhata, known for composing the book ‘Aryabhatiya,’ made significant contributions to mathematics. He developed the decimal system and proposed the heliocentric theory, stating that the Earth revolves around the sun while rotating on its axis. Aryabhata’s work shed light on solar and lunar eclipses. He also wrote Surya Siddhanta.

Bhaskara I: Commentator and Mathematician

Bhaskara I wrote a commentary on Aryabhata’s theories and authored important books such as ‘Mahabhaskarya,’ ‘Laghubhaskarya,‘ and ‘Bhashya.’

Brahmagupta: Astronomer and Mathematician

Brahmagupta composed ‘Brahma-siddhanta’ and explained that objects fall to the Earth due to their gravitational attraction, predating Newton’s theory.

Aryabhata, Varahamihira, and Brahmagupta are considered the world’s first astronomers and mathematicians.

The Gupta period witnessed remarkable advancements in various fields, contributing to the rich cultural and scientific heritage of ancient India.

Medical Treatise in the Gupta Period

During the Gupta period, significant advancements were made in the field of medicine, with notable treatises and physicians emerging.

Ayurveda Treatises:

Vagbhatta: Composed the renowned Ayurvedic treatise ‘Ashtang Hridaya,’ which remains a significant contribution to Ayurveda.
Unknown Author: Another Ayurvedic treatise, ‘Navintakam,’ was also composed during the Gupta era.

Prominent Physician:

Dhanvantari: Known as the court’s renowned Ayurvedacharya and physician during Chandragupta Vikramaditya’s reign.

Surgical Knowledge:

Gupt doctors possessed knowledge of surgery, showcasing their expertise in the medical field.

Atomic Theory:

The Gupta period also saw the propounding of the atomic theory, reflecting advancements in scientific thought.
The Gupta Age as the Golden Age

The Gupta period is often referred to as the Golden Age, the Classical Age, and the Periclean Age. Several characteristics contribute to its designation as the “Golden Age”:

The Flourishing of Literature, Science, and Art:

The Gupta era witnessed remarkable progress in literature, science, and artistic endeavors.

Propagation of Indian Culture: The period was marked by the dissemination and promotion of Indian cultural values and traditions.

Religious Tolerance and Economic Prosperity: The Gupta rulers fostered an environment of religious tolerance and economic growth.

Efficient Governance and Great Emperors: The Gupta Empire boasted a well-structured governance system and the rise of exceptional emperors.

Political Unity: The period was characterized by political unity and stability, leading to overall social and economic development.

Contrasting Views:

However, some scholars, such as R.S. Sharma, D.D. Kaushambi, and Dr. Romila Thapar, challenge the notion of the Gupta period as a “Golden Age.” They argue that it witnessed the progress of feudalism, the decline of cities, diminishing trade and commerce, and economic decline.

Conclusion:

The Gupta period, known for its remarkable achievements in various fields, including medicine, is widely regarded as a significant era in Indian history. While debates exist regarding its characterization as a “Golden Age,” its contributions to literature, science, art, governance, and cultural propagation cannot be denied.

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