Gupta Empire | History, Founder | Indian history [short notes for UPSC]


  • Kushans and satvahanas came into existence after the downfall of maurya empire in the north and deccan india respectively
  • Decline of the kushanas in around 230 ad and
  • Murundas (kinsmen of kushanas) around 275 ad
  • Paved the way to establish gupta dynasty by its early rulers


  • Gupta empire sucessfully ruled over a century (335 ad- 455 ad)
  • Founder of gupta dynasty was ‘sri gupta’ (240 ad-280 ad)
  • In the end of 3rd century ad the gupta dynasty was emerged at koushambi near prayag
  • ‘sri gupta’ assumed the title ‘maharaja’
  • His son ghatotkacha also assumed the same title ‘maharaja’
  • Guptas belongs to ‘vaishyas’ community

Expansion of empire

  • Gupta dynasty spread over maximum parts of-
  • Northern India
  • Some parts of central India
  • Eastern Deccan areas

Golden age

  • Gupta period is considered as ‘golden age’ in ancient India because-
  • Rich arts
  • Literature
  • Developed science and technology

Guptas queens assumed the titles of

  • Parambhattarika
  • Parambhattarikaragyi
  • Mahadevi


  • Highest officials were known as ‘kumaramatya’
  • Chief city officer was known as ‘purpala’
  • ‘kayasthayas’ were the officer who maintains records of income and expenditure
  • Salaries were paid in the form of land grants


  • Land revenue was fixed between ¼ to ⅙
  • Maximum gold coins were issued by guptas they are known as ‘dinar’
  • Cotton textile (weaving) was important work during the Gupta empire


  • Horshes were imported from bactria
  • Ujjain was the center of all trade routes of the Gupta period
  • The first evidence of sati pratha found in eran inscription of 510 ad of madhya pradesh.


  • Guptas were follower of vaishnava religion
  • Worship of trinity statue of lord brahma, vishnu and mashesha was started in gupta period
  • Present form of Puranas was composed during the Gupta period

Caves & temples

  • Ajanta caves of present Maharashtra were of the Gupta period
  • These caves belongs to the mahayana branch of buddhism
  • The art of making temples was started during the Gupta period
  • ‘panchtantra’ was composed by vishnu sharma during gupta period.


Great mathematician of Gupta period


  • Aryabhattium
  • Surya Siddhanta
  • Surya Siddhanta mentioned first that earth moved around the sun.

Skandagupta’s successors

  • Purugupta,
  • Kumaragupta-ii
  • Buddhagupta
  • Narasimhagupta
  • Kumaragupta-iii 
  • Vishnugupta

These rulers could not successfully defend their empire from hun’s invasion and gupta empire could not survive.

Main causes of decline of Gupta empire

  • Revolts led by their feudatories-
  • Raising the power of their feudatories
  • Revolts led by their feudatories in their provinces were weaken the gupta empire
  • Yashodharman led revolt after defeating mihirkula in 532 ad against gupta empire

Lost their territories

Yashodharman conquered the major part of central India but his rule was short-lived

Provinces of gupta empire became independent one by one-

  • Bengal
  • Bihar
  • Madhya pradesh
  • Gujrat
  • Valabhi
  • Malwa

Economic decline

  • The guptas lost much of the major trading centers and sea ports of western India by the end of 5th century ad
  • It ruins the economic conditions of gupta empire
  • It is not possible to be politically strong without economic stability
  • Declining of gupta empire after skandagupta reign (467 ad), we can not found any coins and inscriptions of that period

Emergence of new kingdoms

The fall of Gupta empire paved the way to rise the other kingdoms in following areas-

  • Maukharies of kannuj
  • Pushyabhutis of thanesar
  • Maitrakas of valabhi
  • Chalukyas of Deccan
  • Pallavas of northern tamilnadu

Provinces of gupta empire

AvantiWestern malwa
EranEastern malwa
Tir bhuktiNorthern bihar
VardhmanNorthern bengal
MagadhaWestern area
PunduvardhanNorthern bengal

Famous temples of gupta period

Shiva templeBhumra, nagaud madhya pradesh
Vishnu templeTigwa, jabalpur madhya pradesh
Parvati templeNachna, kuthar madhya pradesh
Shiv templeKhoh, nagaud madhya pradesh
Dasavtar templeDevgarh, jhansi uttar pradesh
Bhitar gaon and laxman templeBhitargaon, kanpur uttar pradesh

Famous compositions and their author of gupta period

KalidasaMalvikagnimitram, vikramorvarshiyam, meghduta, abhigyan shakuntalam, ritusanhara, mahakavya, kumarasambhava
VishakaduttaDevichandraguptam, mudrarakshach
Vishnu sharmaPanchtantra
AryabhattaAryabhitiyam, surya siddhant
VarahamihiraBrihatsanhita, panch siddhantika
BrahmaguptaBrahm siddhant
VaghbhattaAstang hridaya (medical)
DhanvantariSalyachikitsa ( medical surgery)

Rulers of the Gupta dynasty

Chandragupta-I (319 ad-335 ad)-

Actual founder of Gupta dynasty

Son of ghatotkacha

Started the ‘gupta samvat’ or calender in 319-320 ad

Married with lichchhavi princess kumaradevi

Became a monk after handed over his throne to samudragupta

He was an imperialist and invader


Assumed the title of ‘maharajadhiraja’

While his father and grand father only assumed the title of ‘maharaja’ only


His empire extended upto present day uttar pradesh bihar and bengal

His capital was patliputra

He was sucessful to extend his small state into a big kingdom


He issued coins with the joint names of himself and his wife (queen)

Samudragupta (335 ad- 375 ad)-

Son and successor of Chandragupta-i

Got the throne in 335 ad

Good poet and assumed the title of ‘kaviraja’

Good knowledge of music and playing music instrument specially veena (lyre)

Issued coins on which he was engraved with playing veena (harp)

Patron of Sanskrit literature and poetry


He also called as ‘napolean of india’ by v. A. Smith an irish historian

He assumed the title of ‘maharajadhiraja’


The eran inscription of madhya pradesh mentions about his military campaigns


Direct control over-

  • Northern India
  • Part of eastern Deccan
  • Indirectly controlled-
  • North eastern areas
  • Southern areas
  • South east Asia  

He got tributes / gifts from these areas.


His court poet

Composed prayag prashasti

Prayag prashasti

Engraved on the same ashokan pillar of prayag

Written in sanskrit

Prayag prashasti mentioned the following– 

Samudragupta conducted ‘ashwamedha sacrifice’ after conquering the kingdoms

Samudragupta as the ruler of the earth and representative of god

It also mentions his war and victories

Samudragupta issued 6 types of gold coins

  • Garuda
  • Vyaghrahanta
  • Dhanurdhar
  • Parshu
  • Ashwamegha
  • Vindharan
  • Srilankan ruler meghvarman requested samudragupta to permit to build a buddhist temple in bodhgaya.

Chandragupta-II (376 ad – 415 ad)-

Successor of samudragupta

Made ujjain his 2nd capital of his empire

Chinese traveller faxian visited india during his reign

Marriage alliance

Married a naga princess ‘kuberanaga’

His daughter ‘prabhavatigupta’ was married with vakataka ruler ‘rudrasen-ii

Prabhavatigupta ruled the vakataka kingdom with the help of his father after the death of rudrasen-II


Takes the advantage of indirect control over vakataka kingdom of central india and conquered gujrat and western malwa areas

Gujrat and western malwa were ruled by sakas for 4 centuries before it was conquered by him

Udaigiri inscriptions mentions about his ‘digvijaya’ victory over the whole world


On the memory of victory over sakas he issued special silver coins

Issued gold silver and copper coins during his reign


Assumed the title of ‘vikramaditya’

Also known by ‘devgupta’ and ‘devraja’

  • His royal court at ujjain consists of 9 great scholars also known as ‘navratnas’.


  • Varahamihira- was a great astronomer. Pancha siddhantika was his great work
  • Kalidasa- was a great poet
  • Dhanvantri- he is called the father of ayurveda
  • Amarasimha- a sanskrit scholar
  • Ghatakarapara- was an architect
  • Shanku- was an architect
  • Kahapanaka- was an astrologer
  • Vetala bhatta- was a magician
  • Vararuchi- scholar of prakrit grammer

Kumaragupta-i (415 ad- 455 ad)

Son of chandragupta-ii

Performed the ‘ashwamegha sacrifice’


Assumed the title of ‘mahendraditya’ and ‘shakraditya’

Xuanzang called kumaragupta-i ‘shakraditya’

He founded the famous ‘university at nalanda’


623 coins was found in earthen pot at bayana

‘ashwamegha mahendra’ is written on the gold coins issued by kumaragupta-i

Inscriptions of kumaragupta




Damodar (copper plate)

Invasions and revolts-

Kumaragupta-i faced hun’s invasion of on gupta empire during the last time of reign

Hun’s invasion was successfully defended by prince skandagupta

The revolts of pushyamitras occurred during the end time of his reign

There was a political instability due to hun’s invasion at the end of kumaragupta-i reign

Skandagupta (455 ad- 467 ad)-

Successor of kumaragupta-i

Hun’s invaded gupta empire just after skandagupta accession

Junagarh inscription mentioned

Hun’s as ‘mleccha’ (barbarian or non vedic).

On his order ‘sudarshan lake’ at girnar mountain was repaired by chakrapalita (governor parnadatta’s son)

  • On his order vishnu temple was constructed at the bank of sudarshan lake by chakrapalita


Assumed the title ‘vikramaditya’

Coins issued by skandagupta mentioned his title as ‘kramaditya’

Assumed the titles of- devrai, sakrapam and sriparishiptvriksha


Hun’s was famous for their military power that is cavalary archery and bravery

These factors help them to conquer iran and india

Tormana (493 ad- 515 ad)-

The famous huns leader tormana conquered-

The major part of western india,





Large part of central india in the 2nd half of the 5th century. 

Mihirakula (515 ad- 540 ad)-

Successor and son of tormana

A cruel ruler as mentioned in kalhan’s ‘rajatarangini’

Defeated and dethroned-

Mihirakula was defeated and dethroned in 532 ad jointly by-

Yashodharman (feudal of gupta’s) of malwa


Narasimhagupta baladitya (gupta emperor)

  • This defeat crushed the huns power in india.