Ancient Bharat
Gupta System of administration

Administration under the Guptas is characterized by the three-tier system in its proper functioning. The three units were - the centre, the provinces and their district units.

The Gupta rulers assumed the high sounding title of Maharajadhiraja, Parmabhataraka and Paramadaivata, as also Sarvabhauma and Samrat. The ?Divine Right Theory of Kingship' was prevalent. The king was the focal point in administration, exercising all executive, military and judicial powers. The laws of and hereditary succession and to a certain extent, the screening the crown prince before proclaiming him as the crown prince was followed.

The Central Government

A team of officers known as Mahadandanayaka,Sandhivigrahika and Kumaramatya assisted the king in administering the state. Sometimes the three offices were rolled into the same person, like the Mhadandanayaka Harisena's father. The Gupta inscription mentions two terms for the ministers namely Sachivs and Mantrins.

The central hierarchy included- Sandhivigrahika - minister in charge of peace and war, Mahabaladhikrita - commander of the force, Uparika - the conveyer of the royal sanction of grants, Maha-partihara - the great chamberlain.

The clubbing of offices in the same person or the transfer from one situation to another was also common. The crown prince had his set of officials to assist him. They were called Kumaramatyas.

The Provincial Government

The Gupta monarchs themselves appointed the provincial heads. There is, no reference to the number of provinces or Bhuktis. The prominent ones mentioned are Tiraka-bhukti and Pundravardhana-bhukti.

Below Bhuktis, the division was the Vishaya or the district. Its head was called Vishayapati. There was always provision for promotion from the lower to the higher post, such as the Uparika being appointed as head of the bhukti.

Among the administrative officials at the provincial headquarters, Adhikaranas were the kumaramatyas or the ministers. Dandapasashikarana - the chief of police, Vinayasthiti sthapaka - minister for law and order, Bhutasvapati - chief censor, who took care of morality, Mahapratihara - the chief chamberlain. Mahadandanayaka - the chief justice or superintendent of police. Feudatory chiefs owing allegiance to the Gupta monarch are also mentioned in several records.

The district Government

This was the last unit in the three-tier system, Vishya, had an equally organized administrative system. The district heads, Vishyapatis were generally appointed by the provincial heads. Reference is also made in the Damodarpur Copper Plate inscription to a non-official advisory body for the head of the district.

The district government included the officers called- Nagareshthin - the leader of the trading convoy, Prathamakulika - the chief alderman and Prathamakayastha - the chief scribe. This board took care of the matters relating to grants of land and other such matters. The minor officers in the district were- Saulkaika- the superintendent of tolls and customs, Agraharika - in charge of religious establishments, Dhruvardharanika - the superintendent of the collection of the royal share in agricultural produce, Bhandgaradhikrita - the office in charge of the stones and the agricultural produce, Bhandagaradhikrita - the office in charge of the stones and the treasury, Utkhetayuta - the collector of taxes and talavitaka-the village accountant.

Village Administration

Some information is also available regarding the administration of a

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subdivision known as Vithi. Below the Vishya was the village. It was the lowest unit under Gramika-the headman. He received the king's dues and settled village disputes. Nyayakarnika adjudicated the village boundary disputes and the Dhruvadhikarnika collect dues, such as from the market.

The State head made proper arrangement for the realization of revenues and taxes in cash and kind. The Gupta administration on the whole was well organized. It ensured material and moral progress of the people, as reported by Fa-hien. It laid stress on the ethical and moral side with corrective and milder punishments. The Gupta kings never comprised with the security of the people or the smooth trade and communication channels in the country.


The Gupta period is noted for the ceremonial worship of images of Vaishnavite and Shaivite divinities. Temples of magnificent proportions were set up during this period. Buddhism and Jainism were encouraged equally with Brahmanical religion.

Buddhism with its two main school - Hinayana and Mahayana - and their offshoots thrived in this period. The main concentration of both the schools was ?documentation of their philosophical doctrines'. The Chinese pilgrim Fa-hien refers to monasteries of the Hinayana cult. The goddess Tara - the personification of Knowledge (pradnya) appears along with Buddha at some places. Manjusrhi, the god of the wisdom is sometimes associated with Lakshmi or Sarasvati or both.

Buddhism was popular in Kashmir, Afghanistanand the Punjab. Mathura, Bodh Gaya, sarnath, Praharpur, Ajanta, Nalanda and Kanchi were the places of Buddhist faith. The Buddhist monasteries received great donations from tolerant Gupta kings.
Buddhism underwent transformation from a simple moral code to the most complex system of Mahayanism. This led to developments of Vajrayana. It came closer to Hinduism with the introduction of Bhaktism.

The Buddhists also accepted the concept of the Hindu Trinity - Brahma-Vishnu and Siva-. They confirmed Buddha as an incarnation of Shiva. Thus, the spirit of toleration and religious understanding, were the religious highlights of the period.

The Brahmanical religion was equally practiced by the people. Several names of lord Vishnu are noticed in the Gupta inscriptions. These include names such as Ananta-swamin, Chakrapani, Govinda, Narayana, etc. In this period, Emusha or Boar was looked upon as an incarnation of Narayana- Vishnu. Vasudeva- Krishna and his mother Devaki are as well noticed in a Gupta inscription of Skandagupta from Bhitari. Lakshmi or Shri is associated with Vishnu as his wife. In a number of inscriptions Vishnu is mentioned only as Bhagavat.

Besides Vaishnavism, Shaivism also flourished during the Gupta period. Kumargupta seems to have favoured the Skandha cult of Shaivism. Several Shivalings as well as coins having a picture of peacock have been found of his rule. Along with Shiva, Surya and Shakti were equally worshiped. Inscriptions of this particular age record endowments for a certain Sun temple. The Shiva-Shakti cult provided the base for Gansesa and Karttikeya worship.

The worship of Krishna and Baladeva in the Tamil country about the time of the Guptas is evident from the literature of this region. The south became a stronghold of the Bhagavata religion.

Like Buddhism, Jainism too had taken firm root throughout India by the third century. The division of the Jains into Shwetambaras and Digambaras had taken place much earlier. In the Gupta period, several inscriptions record dedication of Jain images.

As in any other field, the Gupta period achieved glory in the field of religion too. The Gupta rulers were known for their liberal religious policy. The remarkable sprit of tolerance and harmony among the followers of the three faiths was a remarkable feature of the Gupta Age.


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