Post Gupta Period: Ancient History
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Ancient and Medieval History

Post Gupta Period: Ancient History

The integration of the Gupta empire began at the end of the 5th century A.D.

This article is all about the facts regarding the Post Gupta Period. It is a very important part of history in the UPSC exam.

UPSC IAS 2021: Complete Course Prelims+Mains+Interview 

Post Gupta Period: Ancient History

Post Gupta Period (550 AD-647 AD)

  • The Pushyabhuti or Vardhana dynasty was founded at Thanesar (Kurukshetra district) by Pushyabhuti probably towards the beginning of the 6th century.
  • Pushyabhuti were the feudatories of the Guptas but has assumed independence after the Hun invasions.
  • The first important ruler of the dynasty was Prabhakara Vardhana (580-605 AD).
  • Prabhakara Vardhana was succeeded by his eldest son Rajyavardhana (605-606 AD)
  • Rajyavardhana was killed by Shashanka in 606 AD.

Harshavardhan

  • After the killing of Rajyavardhana, his younger brother, Harshavardhana also known as Siladitya, ascended the Pushyabhuti throne in 606 AD and from this year started the Harsha era.
  • He belonged to the Pushyabhuti dynasty.
  • Harsha took revenge and defeated Shashank.
  • Harsha made Kannauj his capital which made him the most powerful king of North India.
  • Harshavardhana defeated Dhruvasana II, the maitraka ruler of Vallabhi.
  • The course of Harsha’s conquests suffered a serious setback on his expedition towards the Deccan.
  • Pulakeshin II of the Chalukya dynasty of Vatapi inflicted a decisive defeat on him at the bank of Narmada. It was the only defeat of Harsha’s victorious life.
  • The Chalukya records describe Harsha as the lord of the whole of the Northern country.
  • The area under his control covered many parts of northern India, Eastern Rajasthan and the Ganges valley as far as Assam. His empire included territories of distant feudal kings too.
  • Harsha maintained diplomatic relations with China. In 641 AD, he sent an envoy to Tai-Tsung, the Tang emperor of China.
  • Three Chinese missions subsequently visited his court.
  • Hiuen-Tsang, the celebrated Chinese pilgrim, visited India during Harsha’s Reign.
  • He spent about eight years in the dominions of Harsha.
  • Hiuen- Tsang mentions the two most celebrated events of Harsha’s reign the assemblies at Kannauj and at Prayaga.
  • Kannauj Assembly (643 AD): was held in honour of Hiuen -Tsang and to popularise the Mahayana sect of Buddhism.
  • Prayaga Assembly (643-644 AD): Harshavardhana used to celebrate religious festivals at the end of every five years, at the confluence of the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the Saraswati.
  • Harsha died in 647 AD. Harsha does not appear to have any heir to his throne which was usurped after his death by his minister named Arunasva.
  • Harshavardhana was not only a patron of learning but was himself an accomplished author.
  • Harsha himself wrote three dramas: Priyadarshika, Nagananda and Ratnavali.
  • The main source of Harsha is ‘Harshacharita’ his biography written by Banabhatta. It’s the first biography of an Indian king. 
  • Banabhatta also wrote ‘Kadambari’ a Sanskrit play. Banabhatta was a friend, courtier and biographer of Harsha.
  • The four most notable works of Banabhatta  Include Kadambari, Harshacharita, Chhandak Ashtaka and Parvathi Parinaya.
  • According to Hiuen Tsang, Harsha divided his income into 4 equal parts:
  • Army and administration
  • Royal expenditure
  • Religious grants
  • Poor and destitute
  • He conducted an all religion conference at Kannauj which was presided by Hiuen Tsang.
  • A festival called ‘Maha Moksha Parishad’ held every 5 years at Prayag (Allahabad) in which Shiva, Ganesha and Buddha were worshipped. 
  • Harshavardhan was a follower of Shiva and Buddha. He was a Shaivite and later converted to Buddhism by Hiuen Tsang.
  • He is regarded as the last great king of Ancient Indian History.

Administration

  • He governed his Empire on the same lines as the Gupta’s did.
  • His administration had become more feudal and decentralized.
  • It is believed that the facts about cavalry and military were exaggerated.
  • Harsha could possess a larger army only if he could mobilize the support of all his feudatories at the time of war.
  • Land grants continued to be made to priests.
  • It seems that the practice of rewarding and paying officers with grants of land seems to have begun under Harsha. And this was the reason for the lesser availability of Harsha coins.

Hiuen Tsang

  • He came through the land route and returned from the same route (unlike Fa Hien).
  • He came to study at Nalanda, where he studied ‘Yogashastra’ and also taught for 9 years. He wrote in detail about Nalanda.
  • There was an entrance test for Nalanda.
  • 10,000 monks lived there, including teachers and students. 
  • 200 villages were assigned for the maintenance of Nalanda.
  • This institution attracted a large number of scholars from South East Asia.
  • He also describes the ruined city of Patliputra which was burnt before his arrival. Hence the importance of Kannauj politically increased.
  • Hiuen Tsang also met Pulakesin II at Badami and Narasimha Varman of the Pallava dynasty at Kanchi, Tamil Nadu.
  • He wrote about Indian society and people. 
  • He praised the moral character of the general public but complained against regular robbery. 
  • He also wrote about various sects of Buddhism (18) which suggests that Buddhism was still flourishing in India.
  • He wrote his account under the name ‘Shi – Yu – Qui’ (The World of the West).

According to Hiuen Tsang the revenues of Harsha was divided into 4 parts :

  • 1st for King
  • 2nd for scholars
  • 3rd for the endowment of officials and public servants
  • 4th for religious purposes.
  • Law and order were not well maintained.
  • Severe punishments were there for crime but it seems that under the influence of Buddhism the severity of punishment was mitigated, and criminals were imprisoned for life.

Vakatakas

  • Vakatakas had succeeded the Satavahanas in Northern Maharashtra and Vidarbha.
  • Vakatakas were Brahmanas.
  • Being Brahmana they granted lands to Brahmana and performed numerous Vedic sacrifices.
  • Chandragupta II made a marriage alliance with Vakatakas and then indirectly controlled the Vakataka kingdom and conquered Malwa.

Chalukyas

  • Vakatakas were followed by Chalukyas of Badami.
  • They ruled for two centuries until overthrown by its feudatories, the Rashtrakutas.
  • They claimed their descent either from Brahman or Marin or Moon and even ruled at Ayodhya. But all this was not true and was done to earn respect.
  • They seem to have been a local Kanarese people, who were improvised into the ruling Varna under Brahmanical influence.
  • They set up their kingdom in the 6th century AD.
  • Capital: Vatapi (modern Badami, Bijapur district, Karnataka)
  • Branched into several ruling houses but the main branch at Vatapi only.
  • The most important ruler of this dynasty was Pulakesin II. The Aihole inscription issued by him gives the details of his reign.

Administration and Social Order

  • The Chalukya administration was highly centralized unlike that of the Pallavas and the Cholas.
  • Village autonomy was absent under the Chalukyas.
  • The Chalukyas had great maritime power. Pulakesin II had 100 ships in his navy. 
  • They also had a small standing army.
  • The Badami Chalukyas were Brahmanical Hindus but they gave respect to other religions.
  • Importance was given to Vedic rites and rituals.
  • Hiuen Tsang mentioned the decline of Buddhism in western Deccan.
  • But Jainism was steadily on the path of progress in this region.
  • Ravikirti, the court poet of Pulakesin II who composed the Aihole inscription was a Jain.

Pallavas of Kanchi

  • The Pallavas were the 1st well-known dynasty in the history of South India after the fall of the Satavahanas.
  • Their origin is shrouded in mystery.
  • According to some scholars they came from the north and were of Brahmanical origin.
  • But most of the scholars think that the Pallavas were the original settlers of South India.
  • A distinct feature of the Pallava dynasty was a perennial war with the Chalukyas in the earlier part and with the Rashtrakutas in the latter part of the rule of the Pallava Empire.
  • The earliest Pallava king referred to in a north Indian record was Vishnu Gopa of Kanchi who was captured and then liberated by Samudragupta. 
  • The history of the dynasty became more definite from the reign of Simhavishnu who came to the throne in the second half of the sixth century.
  • The architecture of Chalukya and Pallavas is already covered in detail in Art and Culture PPT part -4 (South Indian Art)

Mahendravarman I

  • Son and successor of King Simhavishnu.
  • He was the 1st great and powerful king of the Pallava dynasty.
  • He was a versatile genius.
  • He was famous for his many public works,
  • But he was defeated by the Chalukya king Pulakesin II who wrested Vengi from him.
  • It started the long-drawn Pallava-Chalukya hostilities.

Narasimhavarman I

  • Succeeded his father Mahendravarman.
  • Most successful and distinguished king of this dynasty.
  • He avenged the defeat of his father and won back Vengi.
  • Defeated Chalukya king Pulakesin II and occupied his capital Vatapi.
  • In this struggle, Pulakesin was killed. After this, Narasimhavarman assumed the title of “Victor of Batapi”.
  • Narasimhavarman was a great patron of art and architecture.
  • He laid the foundation of a new city Mahamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) and which he adorned with beautiful rock-cut Rathas or ‘Seven Pagodas’.

Paramesvarvarman I

  • Next important king of the dynasty.
  • During his reign, the old enmity between the Pallavas and the Chalukyas was revived.
  • Both sides claimed victories for themselves.
  • From the evidence received it may be reasonably presumed that neither of the antagonists was able to have a decided advantage over the other.
  • Paramesvarvarman I was a devotee of Shiva and built a number of fine Shiva temples in his realm.

Nandivarman II (730-800)

  • Last important king of the Pallava dynasty.
  • During his reign, there was a renewal of Pallava Chalukya struggle for supremacy.
  • Though initially hardly pressed, he was finally able to recover the lost ground.
  • He also resisted the invasion of a league of southern states.
  • Possibly he suffered a setback at the hands of Rashtrakuta monarch Dantidurga.
  • But during his lifetime the Pallava power remained almost intact.

Aparajita

  • Last ruler of the Pallava dynasty.
  • He was defeated by the Cholas and his territory was annexed by them.
  • Thus the Pallava dynasty came to an end.

Administration

  • The land tax- primary source of revenue
  • The state was divided into Kottams
  • Well-trained army
  • Devadhana-land grants to temples (free from tax)
  • Brahmadeya- land grants to Brahmans (free from tax)

Social Order

  • The rigid caste system, The Brahmins occupied a high place in the society.
  • The Pallava period also witnessed the rise of Saivism and Vaishnavism and also the decline of Buddhism and Jainism.

Rural Expansion

  • 3 types of villages in south India - Ur, Sabha and Nagaram.
  • Ur - the usual type of village inhabited by peasant castes, who perhaps held their land in common.
  • It was the responsibility of the village headman to collect and pay taxes on their behalf.
  • Mainly found in southern Tamil Nadu.
  • Sabha type of village: It consisted of Brahmadeya villages or those granted to the Brahmanas and of Agrahara villages.
  • The Brahmana owners enjoyed individual rights in the land but carried on their activities collectively.
  • Nagaram type of village: It consisted of the villages settled and dominated by combinations of traders and merchants.
  • This happened possibly because trade declined and merchants moved to villages.

Social Structure

  • A society dominated by princes and priests.
  • The princes claimed the status of Brahmins or Kshatriyas but many of them were local tribal chiefs
  • They were promoted to the second Varna through benefactions made to the priests.
  • Priests: Brahmins, Buddhist and Jain monks.
  • They gained influence because of land grants.
  • Peasants: they were divided into many peasant sub-castes.
  • Most were called Shudras in the Brahmanical system

Dynasty

Founder

The Chalukyas of Vatapi

Jayasimha

The Ganges of Talakad

Konakanivarma

The Guptas of Magadha

Shri Gupta

The Kadambas of Varanasi

Mayurasharman

The Kingdom of Gaud

Shashanka

The kingdom of Thaneswar

Pushyabhuti

 

Dynasty

Founder

The Maitrakas of Valabhi

Bhattarka

The Maukharis of Kannauj

Yajnavarman

The Pallavas of kanchi

Simahavarman

The Pandyas of Madurai

Kodungon

The Vakatakas

Vidhyashakti

 

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