MMW 12 Lecture Notes - Lecture 12: Hindu Kush, Theravada, Mahayana

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MMW 12 Lecture 12 The Gupta Empire
South Asia: The Indian Subcontinent
Isolated by Himalayas, Hindu Kush, other mountains
Deccan Plateau divides Sanskrit/Hindi speaking north and Tamil south
o North and south have other divisions
North Mahayana Buddhism, south Theravada Buddhism
Numerous independent kingdoms share some common culture features
Kiber Pass
o Controlling that pass controls trade
o One of few ways into India
Gupta Empire
Based in Ganges River Valley
Tamil-speaking south independent
o Like Kushans
o Disunity the norm
Cultural achievements:
o Aryabhatta proposed earth rotates on its axis
o Kalidasa writes finest works on Indian literature
o Arabic number zero, system of place notation invented
o Mahabharata and Ramayana take final forms
Indian epics
Tributary states
Nomadic Huns invaded, caused to collapse
Third Gupta ruler, first to use title ‘king of kings’
Adopts same name as founder of Mauryan Empire
o Similar to Persian practice of recalling glory of old empire in order to strengthen
authority of new empire
Expands by conquest and marriage
o Similar to Xiongnu in China marrying and conquering in order to gain territory
Empire reaches height under grandson Changradupta II
Gupta Religion
First specialized temples built to Hindu gods
o Temples just for religious purposes, just for Hindu gods
Rulers sponsored cult of Vishnu, believed Vishnu sponsored them
o Credit Vishnu with putting them in power
o A lot of temples to him
Artwork similar to Ardashir crushing the evil Zoroastrian god
o Also saw themselves as representing him
Less problematic attitude toward pleasure
o Sensual representations of deities
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