Socio-Religion of Gupta Period

  • Pre-Gupta period in India witnessed a series of foreign invasions. Indian society gave way to those foreigners who had become permanent residents here.
  • Caste system became rigid during Gupta period.
  • Brahmanas represented the Gupta kings as possessing the attributes of gods, and the Gupta princes became great supporters of the Brahmanical order.
  • Brahmanas accumulated wealth on account of numerous land grants and claimed many privileges, which are listed in the law-book of Narada.
  • Practice of untouchability had slowly begun.
  • Fa-Hien mentions that Chandalas were segregated from society. Their miserable condition was elaborated by the Chinese traveller.
  • Position of women had also become miserable during the Gupta period.
  • Polygamy was common.
  • Early marriage was advocated.
  • Sati appears during this period (Bhanugupta’s Eran Inscription).
  • Women were denied any right to property except for Stridhana in the form of jewellery and garments.
  • In the sphere of religion, Brahmanism reigned supreme during the Gupta period. It had two branches – Vaishnavism and Shaivism.
  • Gupta rulers gave patronage to Bhagvatism. But they were tolerant of other religions too.
  • Religious literature like the Puranas was composed during this period.
  • Bhagvatism centred on the worship of Vishnu and his incarnations. It put emphasis on bhakti (loving devotion) and ahimsa (non-killing of animals) rather than Vedic rituals and sacrifices.
  • Puranas were written to popularize the virtues of each one of these incarnations.
  • But a few Buddhist scholars like Vasubandhu were patronized by Gupta kings.
  • Great Jain Council was held at Valabhi during this period and the Jain Canon of Swetambras was written.
  • Nalanda developed as a great centre of education for Mahayana Buddhism.
  • Tantrism (Vajrayanism) spread in India in this period.
  • From 5th  century, Brahmanas had started receiving land in the tribal areas of Nepal, Assam, Bengal, Odisha, central India, and Deccan. Therefore, the tribal elements came to be assimilated in the Brahmanical society.
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