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Hindu Dharma in Gupta Period – Vatsal Tyagi

Hindu Dharma in Gupta Period - Vatsal Tyagi

The Gupta Period is regarded as the Golden Age of India, surpassing any Islamic Rule. It was a prosperous period, both culturally and economically. Hindus were content, living in peace and tranquility, with little to no sectarian fights.
Infact, the Gupta Kings themselves are the perfect example of Sectarian Unity. The Kings were devotees of Both Vishnu and Shiva. There are ample evidences to prove so, that both Vishnu and Shiva were worshipped at full glory by different Imperial Guptas.
First let’s look at evidence for Guptas being Devotees of Vishnu.

The Imperial Guptas are generally known as “Paramabhagavatas”.
The great seal of Kumaragupta which was discovered at Bitäri contains also the significant term Paramabhagavata. By the term Paramabhāgavata one can understand that one is a devotee of Lord Visnu
In a comparatively recent work “Bhagavatbhajanotsava Paddhati”
which is full of Dhyana Slokas there is a popular stanza which refers to Prahlada, Parāśara, Nárada, Pundarika, Vyasa, Rukmangada, Suka and Saunaka as Parama Bhagavatas.
Another evidence is the figure of Sri Laksmi largely used in the Gupta coins. The Gupta monarchs who had amassed wealth by different ways hankered after more riches to be spent on worthy causes.
Lakshmi Ji is considered as the Goddess presiding over immeasurable wealth and they made it a point to worship her and honour her by striking coins with Her image

Next is the Eran Inscription of BuddhaGupta (476 – 495CE). It is a Vaishnava inscription as described by Dr. Fleet
It describes that the inscription marks the raising of a Vishnudhavaj in honour of Janardana (Vishnu) by the Maharaja Matrivishnu and his younger brother Dhanyavishnu.
The inscription refers itself to the reign of Budhagupta, It is dated, (A.D. 484-85),
on the twelfth lunar day of the bright fortnight of the month Ashadba (June-July), and on Suraguruvåra or Thursday.
Verse 1-
“Victorious is the lord, the four-armed (Vishnu)-whose couch is the broad waters of the four oceans; who is the cause of the continuance, the production, and the destruction, &c., of the universe; (and) whose ensign is Garuda!”
Verse 8/9-
“(By him) and by his younger brother Dhanyavishnu, who is obedient to him, (and) has been accepted with favour by him,-this flag-staff of the divine Janardana, the troubler of the demons, has been erected, for the purpose of increasing the religious merit of (their) parents.”

“Let prosperity attend all the subjects, headed by the cows and the Brahmans !”

Now we come to Evidences of Gupta rulers being devotees of Shiva-The Shiva temple at Bhumra in Nagod, (2) Pärvati temple at Nachna-Kuṭhāra in Ajaigarh, (3) A temple of Shiva at Khoh in Nagaudh. A study of these monuments reveals that the Gupta monarchs were worshippers of Siva in His different manifestations.
They were not only devotees of this god but were equally devoted to the consort of Shiva, Pärvati and Karttikeya, the son of Siva and also of the Sapta mātṛkas all connected with Siva worship.
They were not only devotees of this god but were equally devoted to the consort of Shiva, Pärvati and Karttikeya, the son of Siva and also of the Sapta mātṛkas all connected with Siva worship.
These monuments devoted to the various gods and goddesses of the Saiva sect are enough to demonstrate the fact fully that they were worshippers both in Vișnu and Siva temples as Smarthas
Secondly, there is the evidence of coins minted during this period. It is a fact of utmost importance that the Gupta emperors issued coins of different denominations, some in gold, some in silver and some in base metal.
The coins contain figures of Garuda, Laksmi, Nandi and so on. If we examine the silver coins of Skandagupta, we would find that they are valuable not only for determining the limits of his empire, but also his religion. There are three different types on the obverse.
They are Garuda, Nandi and Altar.
It is the strongest proof that Skandgupta respected and worshipped both Vishnu and Shiva

We now come upon a very important evidence, which is furnished by the inscriptions of this period. There is, first the significant epithet Kṛtäntaparasah
which occurs in almost all the inscriptions of the Imperial Guptas. It means the “destroyer of Yama” and this destroyer of Yama was none else than Siva. Therefore the inscriptions compare the Gupta monarchs generally with god Siva.
In this respect they do not show any sectarian bias. Next is the Mathura Pillar inscription of Candragupta II. The object of this inscription is to record that Uditācārya installed two images known as Kapileshavara and Upamiteshvara, which were Shiva Lingas.
Again, there is the undated Udayagiri Cave inscription of Candragupta II. Dr. Fleet who has edited the Gupta inscriptions has remarked that it is a Saiva inscription. There is no doubt that the inscription belongs to the time of Candragupta Vikramaditya.
The purpose of this inscription is to record the consecration of the Cave temple to Sambhu(Siva). The excavation of this temple was at Udayagiri which was done by a minister of Candragupta, Säba. He must have sought the permission and assent of the king to excavate a temple.
We now come upon another inscription belonging to the year 156 of the Gupta era, which is known as the Khoh copper-plate inscription of the Maharaja Hastin. The village of Khoh is in the Baghalkhand division in Central India.
It must not be mistaken that Maharaja Hastin who is known as Parivräjaka Maharaja Hastin is one of the Gupta kings though his kingdom which was independent was subordinate to the Gupta empire.
The inscription opens with the verse ‘Namo Mahadevaya.’ which at once shows the prevalence of Shiva worship in Gupta times.

From all these evidences+ inscriptions of some minor Gupta Kings, it can be surely said that Guptas followed revered both gods with equal respect.
It was common that one Gupta King was a Vishnu devotee and his son a devotee of Shiva. Which indicates that there were rare sectarian fights in that period. The aim of this post is to spread unity between all, equally worship Shiva and Vishnu, and hurl no abuses at any sect.
Sources-
1) Gupta Polity by V. R. Ramachandra Dikshitar
2) Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum