Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Guptas Come to Power

The Guptas Come to Power
Only 50 years after Ashoka's death, the Maurya Empire broke up into quarreling city-states. About 500 years passed before another great empire, the Gupta Empire, united India once again.

In A.D. 320 Chandragupta I became ruler of a small kingdom in the Ganges Valley. Chandragupta I soon controlled much of the valley. His son Samudra (suh»MUH»druh) Gupta and grandson Chandragupta II enlarged the empire, but it never grew as large as the Maurya Empire had been. Gupta rule ended centuries of fighting between the many city-states throughout India. For 200 years India enjoyed peace and economic growth.

Much of what we know about Gupta society comes from the writings of Faxian (FAH.SHYUHN), a Chinese Buddhist monk who went to India about A.D. 400. Faxian stayed in India for 10 years, collecting Buddhist writings to take back to China. Faxian also wrote about his travels. His writings are collected in the book Fo Kuo Chi, known in English as the Record of Buddhist Kingdoms.

The people, he observed, "are very well off." They had such freedom that "if they desire to go, they go; if they like to stop, they stop." Faxian marveled at the well-kept roads and the beautiful temples, monuments, and palaces. He also wrote of the free hospitals to which people went for treatment.

India during the Gupta Empire, Faxian concluded, seemed to be a safe and happy place.

Faxian also traveled to what is now Sri Lanka to learn more about Buddhism. He returned to China and translated the important Buddhist texts he collected. His journey to India strengthened Buddhism in China and may have helped improve India-China relations.

What was life like during Gupta times?

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