History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 1998: Q.4

History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 1998: Q.4

Q4. Highlight the achievements of the Gupta period in the field of literature, science and technology. (60 marks)


The Gupta age has been generally marked as the ‘classical age’ for its art, architecture, and literature. It was a period of great developments in the fields of literature, science and technology.

Achievements in the field of literature

Sanskrit language and literature had reached its peak during this period which had been taking into shape since long time. The lavish royal patronage had encouraged the intellectuals to put in their best and thus achieve an artistic excellence.

(1) Various Puranas like Vishnu Purana, Vayu Purana, Bhagvata Purana, Harivamsha Purana, etc. had been compiled during this time. These were important not only for studying Brahmanical religion but also for the knowledge of genealogy and historical traditions.

(2) This was the period when probably the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata were finally compiled into their present form.

(3) Several law books like those of Manu, Vishnu, Yajnavalkya, Narada Brihaspati, and Katyayana were written during this period.

(4) Kalidasa, one of the navratnas in the court of Chandragupta II, was undoubtedly the most renowned poet and dramatist of the period.

a) He wrote lyrical poems like Meghaduta, Raghuvamsa, Kumarasambhava and short poem like Ritusamhara.
b) His plays Abhijanashakuntalam, Malavikagnimitra and Vikramorvashiya are classics in the field of Sanskrit literature.

(5) The famous Natya-shastra of Bharata was a treatise on dance, drama and poetry. It provided foundation to literary development.

(6) Kamasutra of Vatsyayana, the first systematic illustration of the art of love making shows the beginning of a strong presence of the erotic tradition in literature.

(7) Sudraka’s Mrichchhakatika, Mudrarakshasa and Devichandraguptam of Vishakhadatta, Bharavi’s Kiratarjuniya,  Magha’s Shishupalavadha and Bhattikavya, Bhatti’s Ravanavadha, Panchatantra fables written by a sage Vishnusharman are some of the other achievements of the period.

(8) In the field of grammar, Bhartihari in the 5th century CE wrote a commentary on Patanjali’s Mahavashya and Amarasimha compiled Amarakosha.

(9) This was the time when Prakrit literature too got some patronage outside the court. Several of the Jaina texts were written in Prakrit during this period. The most didactic work of the Jains written in prakrit was the Paumacariyam by Vimalasuri.

Achievements in the field of Science and Technology

It was during the Gupta age that many scientific breakthroughs occurred.

(1) In the field of astronomy, the most important Indian name is of Aryabhata who flourished in the 5th century CE.

a)His work Aryabhatiyam , deals with astronomy and mathematics. b) He suggested that the earth revolved around the Sun and rotated on its axis.
c) He also explained the eclipse and argued that it was the shadow of the earth on the moon which caused eclipse.
d) he was the first person to use the decimal-value system.
e) he is the author of Aryabhata-siddhanta.

(2) The close contemporary of Aryabhata was Varahamihira who included the study of horoscope and astrology in astronomy.

a) His Panchasiddhantika ( Five schools) discusses about the five astronomical systems (siddhanta) of which two- Romakasiddhanta and Paulishasiddhanta shows a close knowledge of Greek astronomy.
b) His another work, Brihatsamhita is encyclopaedic. It covers wide ranging subjects of human interest, including astrology, planetary movements, eclipses, rainfall, clouds, architecture, growth of crops, manufacture of perfume, matrimony, domestic relations, gems, pearls, and rituals.
c) The Laghu and Brihat-jataka are his works on horoscopy and became popular during the Gupta age.

(3) The roots of Indian mathematics are generally traced to the shulvasutras which are appendices to the shrautasutras. It made suggestions for the construction of Vedic sacrificial altars which could be made only with the help of ruler and compass.

(4) The branch of medical science was represented by two important scholars of this time Charaka and Shushruta.

a) Charak-samhita is divided into 8 sections, each one of it dealt with different diseases, their diagnosis, cure, medicines, and other related philosophical issues.
b) Shushruta-samhita deals with the cure of diseases of various body parts through different kinds of surgery. Shushruta lays down all the principles of plastic surgery,i.e., accuracy, precision, economy, and haemostasis in his work. For example- Reconstruction of a nose (rhinoplasty) which has been cut-off has been described.

(5) Veterinary medical science also progressed

(a) Hastyayurveda is a work to cure elephant’ diseases.
(b) Asvasastra by Salihotra is a work on horse science.

(6) In chemical and metallurgy:

(a) Nagarjuna was a chemist and metallurgist. He invented rasa therapy.
(b) Use of mercury and iron in the treatment of diseases is mentioned by Varahmihira.
(b) Mehrauli iron pillar is a strong evidence to indicate highly developed metallurgy.

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