The Gupta dynasty ruled from around 240 to 550 AD. The origins of the Gupta Dynasty are shrouded in obscurity. The Chinese traveler Hieun-Tsang provides the first evidence of the Gupta kingdom in Magadha. He came to India in 672 AD and heard of ‘Maharaja Sri-Gupta’ who built a temple for Chinese pilgrims near Mrigasikhavana. Ghatotkacha, had a son named Chandra Gupta I. In a breakthrough deal, Chandra Gupta I was married to a woman from Lichchhavi—the main power in Magadha.
Samudragupta succeeded Chandra Gupta I in A.D. 335, and ruled for about 45 years, till his death in A.D. 380. He attacked the kingdoms of Shichchhatra, Padmavati, Malwas, the Yaudheyas, the Arjunayanas, the Maduras and the Abhiras, and merged them in his kingdom. By his death in 380, he had incorporated over twenty kingdoms into his realm, his rule extended from the Himalayas to the river Narmada and from the Brahmaputra to the Yamuna. He gave himself the titles King of Kings and World Monarch. He is considered the Napoleon of India. Chandra Gupta I performed Ashwamedha Yajna to underline the importance of his conquest.
Chandra Gupta II ruled from 380 till 413. Only marginally less successful than his father, Chandra Gupta II expanded his realm westwards, defeating the Saka Western Kshatrapas of Malwa, Gujarat and Saurashtra in a campaign lasting until 409. Chandragupta II was succeeded by his son Kumaragupta I. Known as the Mahendraditya, he ruled until 455. Towards the end of his reign a tribe in the Narmada valley, the Pushyamitras, rose in power to threaten the empire.
Skandagupta is generally considered the last of the great rulers. He defeated the Pushyamitra threat, but then was faced with invading Hephthalites or Huna, from the northwest. He repulsed a Huna attack c. 477. Skandagupta died in 487 and was succeeded by his son Narasimhagupta Baladitya.
The Gupta Empire was one of the largest political and military empires in ancient India. The Gupta age is referred to as the Classical age of India by most historians. The time of the Gupta Empire was an “Indian Golden Age” in Indian science, technology, engineering, art, dialectic, literature, logic, mathematics, astronomy, religion and philosophy.
The Gupta Empire had their capital at Pataliputra. The difference between Gupta Empire’s and Mauryan Empire’s administration was that the in the Mauryan administration power was centralised but in the Gupta administration power was more decentralised. The empire was divided into provinces and the provinces were further divided into districts. Villages were the smallest units. The kingdom covered Gujarat, North-East India, south-eastern Pakistan, Orissa, northern Madhya Pradesh and eastern India with capital at Patliputra, modern Patna. All forms of worship were carried out in Sanskrit.
Rapid strides were made in astronomy during this period. Aryabhatta and Varahamihira were two great astronomers and mathematicians. Aryabhatta stated that the earth moved round the sun and rotated on its own axis. Aryabhatta, who is believed to be the first to come up with the concept of zero, postulated the theory that the Earth moves round the Sun, and studied solar and lunar eclipses. Aryabhatta’s most famous work was Aryabhatiya. Varahamihira’s most important contributions are the encyclopedic Brihat-Samhita and Pancha-Siddhantika. Metallurgy also made rapid strides. The proof can be seen in the the Iron Pillar of Vaishali and near Mehrauli on the outskirts of Delhi which was brought from Bihar.
This period is also very rich in Sanskrit literature. The material sources of this age were Kalidasa’s works. Raghuvamsa, Malavikagnimitram, Meghadūta, Abhijñānaśākuntala and Kumārasambhava, Mrichchakatika by Shudraka, Panchatantra by Vishnu Sharma, Kama Sutra (the principles of pleasure) and 13 plays by Bhasa were also written in this period.
In medicine, the Guptas were notable for their establishment and patronage of free hospitals. Although progress in physiology and biology was hindered by religious injunctions against contact with dead bodies, which discouraged dissection and anatomy, Indian physicians excelled in pharmacopoeia, cesarean section, bone setting, and skin grafting. Indeed Hindu medical advances were soon adopted in the Arab and Western worlds. Ayurveda was the main medical system.
The Pala Empire was a Buddhist dynasty that ruled from the north-eastern region of the Indian subcontinent. The name Pala means protector and was used as an ending to the names of all Pala monarchs. The Palas were followers of the Mahayana and Tantric schools of Buddhism. Gopala was the first ruler from the dynasty. He came to power in 750 in Gaur by a democratic election. This event is recognized as one of the first democratic elections in South Asia since the time of the Mahā Janapadas. He reigned from 750-770 and consolidated his position by extending his control over all of Bengal as well as parts of Bihar. The Buddhist dynasty lasted for four centuries (750-1120 AD).
The empire reached its peak under Dharmapala and Devapala. Dharmapala extended the empire into the northern parts of the Indian Subcontinent. This triggered once again the power struggle for the control of the subcontinent. Devapala, successor of Dharmapala, expanded the empire to cover much of South Asia and beyond. His empire stretched from Assam and Utkala in the east, Kamboja (modern day Afghanistan) in the north-west and Deccan in the south. According to Pala copperplate inscription Devapala exterminated the Utkalas, conquered the Pragjyotisha (Assam), shattered the pride of the Huna, and humbled the lords of Pratiharas, Gurjara and the Dravidas.
The Palas created many temples and works of art as well as supported the Universities of Nalanda and Vikramashila. Both Nalanda University and Vikramshila University reached their peak under the Palas. The universities received an influx of students from many parts of the world. The Pala Empire eventually disintegrated in the 12th century under the attack of the Sena dynasty. Pala Empire was the last empire of middle kingdoms whoes capital was Patliputra (modern Patna).
Source : Wikipedia