Gupta Rule: The Classical Age referred to the period when much of the Indian subcontinent was reunited under the Gupta Empire. This period lasted from 320 to 550 CE. This period has been called the Golden Age of India. It was marked by extensive achievements in science, technology, engineering, art, dialectic, literature, logic, mathematics, astronomy, religion, and philosophy which crystallized the elements of what is generally known as Hindu culture.

Ancient India Gupta Rule Empire

The decimal numeral system, including the concept of zero, was invented in India during this period. The peace and prosperity created under the leadership of Guptas enabled the pursuit of scientific and artistic endeavors in India.

The landmarks of this cultural creativity are magnificent architecture, sculpture, and painting. The Gupta period scholars such as Kalidasa, Aryabhata, Varahamihira, Vishnu Sharma, and Vatsyayana made great advancements in many academic fields.

Empires of Ancient India Gupta Rule Vijayanagar Empire

Science and political administration reached new heights during the Gupta era. Strong trade ties also made the region an important cultural center and established it as a base that would influence nearby kingdoms and regions in Burma, Sri Lanka, the Malay Archipelago, and Indochina.

The Gupta dynasty successfully resisted the northwestern kingdoms until the arrival of the Hunas. The Hunas established themselves in Afghanistan by the first half of the 5th century, with their capital at Bamiyan. However, much of the Deccan and southern India were largely unaffected by these events in the north.

Fall of the Vijayanagar Empire

The “Classical Age” in India began with the Gupta Empire and the resurgence of the north during Harsha’s conquests around the 7th century CE. This consequently ended with the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire in the south in the 13th century. This fall was mainly due to pressure from the invaders to the north.

This period produced some of India’s finest art. These were considered the epitome of classical development. The development of the main spiritual and philosophical systems continued to be in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. King Harsha of Kannauj succeeded in reuniting northern India during his reign in the 7th century, after the collapse of the Gupta dynasty. His kingdom, however, collapsed after his death.

Empires of Ancient India Gupta Rule Vijayanagar Empire

From the 7th to the 9th century, three dynasties contested for control of northern India: the Gurjara Pratiharas of Malwa, the Palas of Bengal, and the Rashtrakutas of the Deccan. The Sena dynasty would later assume control of the Pala Empire. The Gurjara Pratiharas fragmented into various states. These were the first of the Rajput states, a series of kingdoms which managed to survive in some form for almost a millennium, until Indian independence from the British.

The first recorded Rajput kingdoms emerged in Rajasthan in the 6th century. Small Rajput dynasties later ruled much of northern India. One Gurjar Rajput of the Chauhan clan, Prithvi Raj Chauhan, was known for bloody conflicts against the advancing Islamic sultanates. The Shahi dynasty ruled portions of eastern Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, and Kashmir from the mid-7th century to the early 11th century.

Vijayanagar Empire History

The Chalukya dynasty ruled parts of southern and central India from Badami in Karnataka between 550 and 750, and then again from Kalyani between 970 and 1190.

The Pallavas of Kanchipuram were their contemporaries further to the south. With the decline of the Chalukya Empire, their feudatories, the Hoysalas of Halebidu, Kakatiyas of Warangal, Seuna Yadavas of Devagiri, and a southern branch of the Kalachuri, divided the vast Chalukya Empire amongst themselves around the middle of 12th century.

Empires of Ancient India Gupta Rule Vijayanagar Empire
Vijayanagara Empire

The Chola Empire at its peak covered much of the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Rajaraja Chola I conquered all of peninsular south India and parts of Sri Lanka. Rajendra Chola I’s navies went even further, occupying coasts from Burma. This includes the present day Myanmar to Vietnam, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Lakshadweep islands, Sumatra, and the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia and the Pegu islands.

Later during the middle period, the Pandyan Empire emerged in Tamil Nadu, as well as the Chera Empire in Kerala. By 1343, all these dynasties had ceased to exist, giving rise to the Vijayanagar empire.

Vijayanagar Empire Art and Architecture

The ports of south India were engaged in the Indian Ocean trade. The trading goods chiefly involved spices, with the Roman Empire to the west and Southeast Asia to the east. Literature in local vernaculars and spectacular architecture flourished until about the beginning of the 14th century. This was when southern expeditions of the sultan of Delhi took their toll on these kingdoms.

Empires of Ancient India Gupta Rule Vijayanagar Empire
Evidence of Vijaynagar Pomp

The Hindu Vijayanagar dynasty came into conflict with the Islamic Bahmani Sultanate. The lashing of the two systems caused a mingling of the indigenous and foreign cultures that left lasting cultural influences on each other. The Vijaynagar Empire eventually declined due to pressure from the first Delhi sultanates that had managed to establish themselves in the north around the city of Delhi by that time.