Gupta Empire Contributions and Innovations
The following have been some of the important contributions by the Gupta Empire-
One of the crucial achievements in science was the development made in metallurgy and it is evident from the construction of the Iron Pillar. The pillar is an illustration of the skills of the Gupta people. Another important progress was the discovery of modern system of numbers. This invention had laid the base for modern day science. The chief exponents of the development in science and related fields were Aryabhatta and Varahamihira. Scientific development also included development in mathematics, astronomy and medicine.
One of the important developments was the decimal system notation. The place-value system achieved its final stage during this time. During the Gupta period, there was no symbol for denoting ‘zero’. Aryabhatta in place-value system used the powers of ten with null co-efficients to indicate ‘zero’. The Gupta’s used alphabetical letters to represent numbers. It is believed that pi (p) was considered irrational during the Gupta rule.
By using the technique propounded by Aryabhatta, the precise five significant figures in calculating the diameter of a surface was achieved. The principle of irrationality of pi was proved in Europe much later in 1761. This shows the level of development during the Gupta period.
Another important concept developed during this time was Trigonometry. In Ganitapada the area of a triangle has been described. Concepts like ‘sine’ were also known to the Gupta’s. New techniques also evolved during this period to solve problems based on Diophantine equations or Aryabhatta algorithm, algebra and geometry.
One of the important developments was Aryabhatta’s theory that the earth is round in shape and not flat. The theory of gravity was promulgated by the astronomers of the Gupta period. The astronomical system of Aryabhatta was known as the ‘audAyaka system’. Aryabhatta also proved that the earth revolves around its own axis every day. He was of the opinion that the motion of stars was a result of the motion caused by the rotation of the earth.
This theory of Aryabhatta contradicts the previously believed notion that it is the sky that rotates and not the stars. He believed that the Earth’s orbit is elliptical and not circular. He scientifically elucidated the reasons for the occurrence of the solar and lunar eclipse. Aryabhatta stated that the lunar eclipse occurs when the moon enters into the shadow of the Earth. He even calculated the sidereal rotation. Aryabhatta calculated that it takes around 365 days for the earth to complete one revolution around the sun.
During the Gupta period there was usage of mercury and iron in medicine. The use of these materials indicates the fact that the people belonging to the Gupta era had the knowledge of chemistry and they even practiced it. Doctors during that time were aware of operations and also knew how to conduct one when required.
The literature during the Gupta dynasty rule was at its pinnacle. The primary themes of literature were poetry and romantic comedies. The literature work of the Gupta period related to human behavior more than the religious ideas. Sanskrit literature was very popular and was sponsored by many Gupta empire rulers. Chandragupta II had Navaratna or collection of nine poets in his court. The supreme poet among these nine was Kalidasa.
The Prakrit literature was also very popular during the Gupta rule. One of the best illustrations of Prakrit literature was the Paumacariyam. It was in the Gupta period that the Vedic Puranas achieved their final form. The Markandeya purana was popular during the Gupta era as it was believed that goddess Durga was worshiped during this period.
Education played an important role in the Gupta period. Primary education could be procured by the people. Formal and higher education was procured by staying in agraharas or monasteries. Women were allowed to obtain education. There were many educational institutions set- up and cities like Pataliputra, Ayodhya and Nasik were significant educational centers. Nalanda and Takshila were two popular universities during this period.
Nalanda University was established by Kumaragupta I in the 5th century. The university was an important learning center and was one of the first universities which provided hostels for the students. The Takshila University was one of the first few centers in the world which offered higher education. The university was however established before the Gupta Empire came into existence, somewhere around 700 BC. The standard of education of both the universities was so high that it attracted students from foreign countries like China and Persia.
4) Administrative System-
The Empire was classified into separate administrative divisions like Rajya, Rashtra, Desha, Mandala, etc. Thus importance was given to decentralization of power. The administrative division helped the rulers to systematically control their territories. The provinces were divided into numerous districts or Vishayas and a Vishayapati was appointed to control it. They were assisted in this work by his council of representatives.
During the Gupta dynasty period, the charge of managing the welfare of the villages was upon the rural bodies which comprised of the headman of the village and the elders. The trading cities were organized by the guild merchants. The Empire carried out trade activities with countries like China, Ceylon, several European countries and the East Indian islands.
5) Judicial System-
The Gupta Empire had a separate judicial system. At the lowest level of the judicial system was the village assembly or trade guild. These were the councils appointed to settle the disputes between the parties that appear before them.
The King presided over the highest court of appeal. In discharging his duty, the King was assisted by judges, ministers, priests, etc. The decision or the judgement of the court was based on the legal texts, the social customs prevailing during those times, or upon the decision of the King. It is believed that the punishments awarded to the guilty persons were mild.
Chandragupta II continued to issue gold coin types introduced by Samudragupta. These were Sceptre type, Archer type and the Tiger type. Chandragupta introduced some new types of coins like the Horseman type and the Lion- slayer type. He issued silver coins and was the first of the Gupta rulers to do so. Chandragupta even issued lead and rare copper coins. Kumaragupta continued to issue the coins issued by Chandragupta II like the Horseman type and the Lion slayer type. Kumaragupta I introduced new coins that had images of Lord Kartikeya.
The coinage issued by Skandagupta was debased. He however, issued different types of gold coins and silver coins. Skandagupta during his reign issued four types of gold coins. These were the Archer type, the King and Queen type, Chhatra type and the Horseman type. The silver coins issued by him were also of four types namely, Garuda type, Bull type, Altar type and the Madhyadesha type. Skandagupta changed the old dinar standard of coinage and introduced a new suvarna standard.