• Uttar Pradesh is not only a geographical unit, but also a confluence of cultures, a unique symbol of Ganga-Jamuni civilization. Therefore, it is a centre of a specific life style, mannerism, thinking, traditions, historical past, tolerance, healthy and positive competetiveness, ideology and a place to fight for human rights. Here, the first war of independence was fought by the common people, farmers, labourers and it gained its name “Uttar Pradesh” after independence.
  • Hindu, Muslims and Christians all jointly celebrate the festivals of Holi, Dipawali, Christmas and Eid. This cultural weaving can also be seen in the field of architecture. Panch Mahal of Sikri, Attala Masjid of Jaunpur, Akbar’s tomb at Sikandra have the glimpses of Buddhist architecture.
  • The history of Uttar Pradesh is very much associated with the broad history of India. It dates back to 4000 years. Formerly the area of Uttar Pradesh was occupied by Aryans or the Dasas and their main occupation was agriculture. The Aryans through conquests occupied the adjoining areas. The state was the heart of Mahabharata war.
  • They laid the foundations of its civilization in the region. It was during the days of the Aryans inhabitation in the region that epics of Mahabharata, Ramayana, Brahmanas and Puranas were composed.
  • It was sometime around the middle of the 1st millennium BC that Uttar Pradesh saw the advent of Lord Buddha and the spread of Buddhism. Around the time Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon at Dhamek Stupa in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh was under the Magadh rule.
    • The Chaukhandi Stupa here marks the spot where Lord Buddha met his disciples. Besides Kuru, Panchalas, Vatsas, and Videhas etc. formed the early region of the state. These regions were known as Madhyadesa. During Ashok’s role, several public welfare works were taken up.
  • During the rule of Magadha Empire, Buddhism and Jainism developed into this region. It was a period of administrative and economic advancement.
  • The power was subsequently shifted to the Nanda dynasty and then to the Mauryas. However the city reached its pinnacle of glory during the reign of Harshavardhana.

Ancient History of Uttar Pradesh

  • The history of Uttar Pradesh is as old as human civilisation itself. Situated on the Gangetic plains, this region was known as Madhyadesa or the Middle Country since ancient times. Many important artefacts obtained as a result of recent excavations reveal the antiquity of this region. Human civilisation is broadly divided into two ages on the basis of evolution; namely:
    • The Stone Age
    • The Metal Age
  • On the other hand, we can divide ancient Indian history into three ages:
    • Pre-Historical Period (from the origin ofhumans till 3000 BC)
    • Proto-Historical Period (3000 BC to 600 BC)
    • Historical Period (600 BC and ahead)
  • The Pre-Historical Period generally encompasses the Stone Age. The Proto-Historical Period includes the Indus Valley civilisation and the Vedic Age. The Historical Period begins with the advent of the Mauryan Empire.

Pre-Historical Period

  • Human civilisation began in the Stone Age. This period is divided into three eras – the Palaeolithic Age, the Mesolithic Age and the Neolithic Age.
  • Human beings in the Palaeolithic Age were totally savage by nature and used to live in isolation.They mostly lived along the banks of rivers or dwelt in caves, and gathered food by hunting.
  • Many important locations of this age have been found in Uttar Pradesh, through which we come to know of the early history of India. The Belan Ghati or Belan Valley is a prominent name among Palaeolithic era sites.
    • Belan Valley is among those ancient sites where humans first settled. It is located in the valley of the Belan River, which originates in Sonbhadra and flows through the valley. The remains of all the three ages of the Palaeolithic Age- namely, the Lower Palaeolithic Age, Middle Palaeolithic Age and Upper Palaeolithic Age-have been found here.
      • The credit for the discovery and excavation of this prehistoric site goes to the former head of Allahabad University Prof. J.R. Sharma. An aesthetic icon of the Mother Goddess made of bone has also been found near the Lohada nullah.
    • No similar statue or icon has been found elsewhere in India. Dwellers in this region initially used weapons or implements made of quartzite rock for hunting, but over time, flake tools made of shiny jasper and chert rocks began being used.
    • Palaeolithic Age remains have also been unearthed in the Singrauli Valley at Sonbhadra and the Chakia region of Varanasi (district Chandauli).
  • The prominent sites of the Middle Palaeolithic Age in Uttar Pradesh are: Sarai Nahar Rai, Mahadaha (presentday Pratapgargh district), Damdama and Chaupani Mando.
    • Many ancient facts have emerged in the excavations carried out by Prof. J.R. Sharma. Evidence has emerged from Sarai Nahar Rai and Mahadaha of settlements wherein people constructed hut dwellings.
    • In Sarai Nahar Rai, remains have been found of floors of hutments, temporary dwellings, burial grounds and pit hearths. Corpses have also been excavated with their heads pointing to the west and feet to the east.
    • In Mahadaha, graves of couples have been found, along with ornaments made of arrowheads. Small implements made of stone have been found at both places.
    • At Sarai Nahar Rai, there is clear evidence of either war or external attack by humans. Half-burnt bones of animals have been discovered from ovens, which reveal the food habits of the residents.
      • A total of 41 burial places and some pit ovens have been found at Damdama. Of these, five are burial places for couples, while in one place of interment, three human corpses have been found placed together. Small implements made of stone along with ornaments made of bone have been found at this site as well. The maximum number of skeletons, 17, has been discovered at an entombment of stones called Lekhahiya near Allahabad.
  • Among the sites of the Neolithic Age in the state, apart from Koldihwa situated on the banks of the Belan River at Prayagraj, Mahgada and Panchoh, the name of Lahuradev in the district of Sant Kabir Nagar is prominent.
    • The most ancient evidences of agriculture, unbaked bricks and dwellings made of straw and hay are found from these antiquated sites. While signs of grain cultivation and harvesting as early as 7000-6000 BC have been found at Koldihwa, Lahuradev has now begun to be accepted as the most ancient site of agriculture in the entire Indian subcontinent. Here, evidence of cultivation of food grains as early as 9000- 8000 BC has been obtained.
      • Prior to this, the claim for the most ancient evidence for agriculture on the Indian subcontinent was made regarding Mehargarh, which lies in the Balochistan province of present-day Pakistan. Here, evidence of wheat and cotton cultivation done in 7000 BC was found.

Proto-Historical Period

  • Human beings first began the use of metals in this period. Copper was the first metal to be used, followed by bronze, and later, iron. Along with copper, stone implements were used. This came to be known as the Chalcolithic culture, with its period being determined between 3000 and 500 BC.
    • A major part of this culture is believed to be the Harappan (Indus Valley) Civilisation, although many of its significant elements existed before its existence and after its demise as well.
      • In Uttar Pradesh, archaeological sites of this period have been found at Meerut and Saharanpur.
  • The method of mixing tin with copper to make bronze evolved in the age of the Copper-Stone Age Culture, which first gave birth to the Copper-Bronze Age Culture, and later the Bronze Age Civilisation. It is the age that represents the Harappan Civilisation.
    • This was the first urban civilisation in South Asia, whose period has been carbon dated to lie between 3500 and 1300 BC. The mature phase of this civilisation is believed to be between 2600 and 1900 BC. More than 1,400 settlements of this civilisation have been identified so far.
    • Its easternmost site is the town Alamgirpur, situated on the banks of the Hindon River, a tributary of the Yamuna flowing through the district of Meerut in Uttar Pradesh.
      • This archaeological site was discovered by Yagyadutt Sharma in 1958. It is also known as Parasaram Ka Khera.
      • Rosary beads, rolling pins for making rotis and many parts of utensils have been found at this site.
      • On clay utensils, apart of images of peacocks, squirrels, etc., some kind of script has been found, which suggests that the residents of this ancient site were aware of the art of writing.
    • Apart from Alamgirpur, Harappan age sites have been found at Hulas (Saharanpur), Badagaon (Bagpat), Manpura (Bulandshahr), Kairana (Shamli ) and Mandigaon (Muzaffamagar) in Uttar Pradesh.

Historical Period

  • With the beginning of the use of iron, this period saw rapid progress. It was in this era that the Vedic Period began, which is known as the Aryan Civilisation.
  • From the point of view of study, the Vedic Period is divided into two- the Rig Vedic Period or Early Vedic Period (1500-1000 BC) and the Later Vedic Period (1000-600 BC).
  • We know about this period primarily due to the Vedas and thus the period is termed the Vedic Age. The founders of the age were the Aryans, who inhabited the region between the upper Gangetic Plateau and present-day Afghanistan and Punjab. Being a region watered by seven rivers, it was also called the Sapta Saindhava. These rivers were the Indus, Saraswati, Shatudri (Sutlej), Parushni (Ravi), Vipasha (Beas),Asikni (Chenab) and the Vitasta (Jhelum).
    • After acquiring knowledge of iron in the Later Vedic Period, the Aryans expanded from Punjab up to the Ganga-Yamuna Doab, the Himalayas, Vindhyachal (the Vinahya mountain ranges) and its adjoining regions. This vast region is called ‘Madhya Desha’ in Vedic literature.
  • The kingdoms of Kuru, Panchal and Kashi (Varanasi) in present-day Uttar Pradesh fell in this domain.
    • The kingdom of the Kurus straddled an area from Meerut to Delhi and Haryana. Its capital was Asandivat, known better as Hastinapura. We find mention of the renowned monarch of this kingdom Uddhalak Aaruni in the Chaandogya Upanishad.
  • The Panchala kingdom was spread between Kanpur to Varanasi on the Gangetic plain. Present-day Badayun, Bareilly and Farrukhabad were included in it. Panchala’s capital was Kampilya (a town in the precincts of present-day Farrukhabad).
    • According to Puranic belief, the entire Mahabharata was recited here in an assembly of 60,000 sages. Pravahana Jaawaali, renowned for his wisdom, became the ruler of this kingdom in the Later Vedic Period.
  • The kingdom of Kashi was situated in present-day Varanasi region. Ajatashatru was the ruler of Kashi in the Later Vedic Period.

Mahajanapada Period

  • The polity and rule of the Mahajanapadas was established over all of Aryavarta after the Vedic Period. Mention of the Mahajanapadas is found in the Buddhist work Anguttar Nikaaya and the Jain work Bhagawati Sutra.
  • Of the 16 Mahajanapadas, 8 were situated in present-day Uttar Pradesh. These Mahajanapadas were Kosala (present-day Ayodhya, Shravasti, Basti and Lucknow regions), Kashi, Kuru, Panchal, Shurasena (present-day Mathura region), Vatsa (the modem region of Prayagraj), Malla (modern Kushinagar area) and Chedi (modem Bundelkhand region).
  • The Kosala janapada was almost as large as modern Awadh. Its capital was Shrawasti, situated on the banks of the Rapti River (its ancient name was Irawati). Its ruler Mahakosaladeva conquered Kashi and incorporated it into hiskingdom. He married of his daughter Mahakosaladevi to Bimbisara, the emperor of Magadha, in which the kingdom of Kashi was given away as dowry.
  • Mahakosaladeva’s successor was Prasenjit, who was a contemporary of the Buddha. After Bimbisara’s assassination, Prasenjit attacked Magadha and tried to snatch Kashi from Bimbisara’s successor Ajatashatru. Prasenjit, later on, married off his daughter Vajira to Ajatashatru and once again gifted Kashi as dowry to Magadha.
  • The janapada of Kashi was situated in the precincts of present-day Varanasi. In ancient times, it was renowned for learning, prosperity, architecture and trade. During the period of Brahmadutta’s reign, Kashi fought many wars with its neighbour Kosala, with Kosala finally prevailing.
  • The Kuru janapada was situated in present-day Meerut (Hastinapura) and Delhi regions. Its capital was Indraprastha. Compared to the Later Vedic Period, itsglory had much declined in the period that followed, but theJataka storiesof Buddhism mention Kuru Dharma many times.
  • The Panchala janapada occupied the region east of the Ganga-Yamuna Doab and was situated in present-day Rohilkhand area. North Panchala’s capital was Ahicchatra (present-day Bareillyregion), while Kampilya was the capital of south Panchala (present-day Badayunand Farrukhabad).
  • The Vatsa janapada was situated to the southwest of Kashi (present-day Prayagraj). Itscapital was Kaushambi.


  • In the sixth century BC, present-day Uttar Pradesh contained seven republics. They were Shakya, Koliya, Moriya, Mallas of Kushinagar, Mallas of Pawa, Maggaand Kalam. The polity in these republics was not subservient to any monarch but was organised on democratic lines.
  • Representatives chosen by the people would conduct the affairs of the state. The ruler was not a despot but ruled like a servant of the people. Most of these republics were situated in the foothills of the Himalayas.
  • According to works of Buddhist literature (mainly the Jatakas), the ruler of these republics would be
    chosen directly by the people. On account of being elected unanimously, he was known as Mahasammata.
    The organisation elected by the people was called a Parishad and the structure that housed it was known as a Sansthagar.
  • The assembly of prominent members of this Parishad was referred to as Ashtakulakas. Its members would be the chieftains of prominent clans. All decisions of the administrations would be adopted by consensus in theassembly. Ifa consensuscould not be reached,the issue was put to a vote.

Mahajanapadas in Uttar Pradesh


Republic States of U. P. in Ancient India

Republic StatesCurrent Location
• ShakyaofKapilavastu
• Koliya of Ramgram
• Moriyaofpippalivana
• Mall of Kushinagar
• Malla of Pava
• Maggas of Samasumaragiri
• KalamofKesput
Gorakhpur Region
Kushinagar Region
Ganga-Yamuna Basin

Buddhism and Uttar Pradesh

  • The eight mahajanapadas of Uttar Pradesh hold an important place in the spread of Buddhism and Jainism. The Buddha was a prince of the Shakya republic (which fell within the Kosala janapada). Shuddhodhan, the head of the Shakyas, was the father of Gautama Buddha. The Shakyas were a branch of the Ikshvakus of Kosala.
  • Prasenjit, the reigning monarch of Kosala, had entered into a matrimonial alliance with the Shakya Dynasty, and his son Vidudhabha born of that liaison was his successor.
  • The Buddha delivered most of his discourses in Shravasti, the capital of Kosala. He spent four months of the year in Shravasti. Here, Buddha met and reformed Angulimala, a dreaded dacoit, and made him his disciple.
  • It was again in this city that a merchant by the name of Anathapindak (Sudata) purchased a forest called Jetavana with gold coins and gifted the place to the Buddha. Vishakha, the daughter of another merchant of Shravasti, gifted a vihara (Buddhist place of worship and congregation) called Pubbaram to the Buddha.
  • Excavations have revealed that the city of Shravasti was shaped like a crescent. The Kosala ruler Prasenjit
    was an ardent devotee of the Buddha. Prasenjit donated two viharas named Rajakaram and Mallikaram to the Buddhist Sangha in Shravasti.
  • The capital of the republic of Vatsawas Kaushambi. Udayan, the ruler of this republic, was another fervent devotee of the Buddha, donating a vihara by the name of Ghoshitaram to the latter. The Buddha delivered his first sermon at the mrigadava or deer forest at Sarnath (Rishipattan), which is known as the Dharmachakra Pravartan or Turning of the Wheel. The Buddha delivered his first sermon to five Brahmin boys, whose names were Kundinya, Wapya, Bhadrik, Ashwajit and Mahanama.
  • The Malla republic is located in the districts of presentday Kushinagar and Deoria. The region included nine clans (domains) of the Mallas. The republic had two capitals- Kusinara or Kushinagar (Anurudhwa near the modem suburb of Kasaya) and the other Pawa (presentday Sathiyanwa-Fazilnagar).
  • The mahaparinirvana of the Buddha (his passing from the world ) took place in 483 BC on the day of Vaishakh Poornima at the age of 80 at Kusinara on the banks of the Hiranyavati River (present-day Gandak river).
  • After his nirvana,eight stupas were constructed on the Buddha’s ashes, of which four are located in Uttar Pradesh.

Jainism and Uttar Pradesh

  • The founder of the Jain sect (its first tirthankara) Rishabhdev was born in the Solar Dynasty or Suryavansha of Ayodhya. According to Jain literature, Rishabhdev’s eldest son Bharat became a great emperor and it is through him that our country is also called Bharatavarsha.
  • There have been a total of 24 tirthankaras in the Jain religion. No clear description is found from the 2nd to the 22nd tirthankaras.
  • The 23rd tirthankara Parshvanath (Purushadaneeyam) was the son of King Ashwasena of the Naga Dynasty of Kashi.
    • Parshvanath established four important vows of the Jain religion, which are ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth), asteya (nostealing) and aparigraha (deattachment).
    • The adherents of Parshvanath arec alled nirgranthas (i.e. not adhering toa book).
  • Although the place of birth and functioning of the last, and most prominent, tirthankara of the Jain religion Mahavira Swami is Magadha, the numberof his followers was quite large in Uttar Pradesh.
    • Mahavira included brahmacharya (chastity) among the five great vows of Jainism.
    • Mathura, Kashi, Kaushambi, Hastinapura, Shravasti, Ayodhya, Deogarh, Mahoba, Kakandi and Raunahi (ancient Ratnagiri) have been the prominent centres of Jainism in Uttar Pradesh.

Buddhist Sites in Uttar Pradesh

  • Kapilavastu: This site was located in present-day Siddharthnagar. Shuddhodhana, the father the Buddha, was the ruler of this domain.
  • Sarnath: Itsancient name was Rishipattan.The Buddha delivered his first ever sermon at this place, which is called the Dharmachakra Pravartana or Turning of the Wheel. It was here the Buddha also established his Buddhist Sangha.
  • Kushinagar: This is the place of the parinirvana (quitting the mortal world ) of the Buddha. It was the capital of the Malla republic (present-day Kushinagar and Deoria).
  • Shravasti: Situated on the banks of the Rapti River, it was the capital of the Kosala kingdom. The Buddha delivered most of his sermons in this city.
  • Ramgram: The present-day Ramgarh Tal in Gorakhpur is believed to be ancient Ramgram and was the capital of the Koliya republic.Yashodhara,the wife of Gautama Buddha, was a princess of this republic.
  • Devdah: This was the maternal native place of the Buddha.The town ofThuthibari, situated in the district of Maharajganj on the border with Nepal, is believed to be the site of this ancient Buddhist place.
  • Pawa: This site is situated in the region of present-day Fazilnagar-Sathiyawan area in present-day Kushinagar. It was here that the Buddha fell ill after eating at Chandrakumar’s dwelling, after which he attained mahaparinirvanaat Kushinagar.

Bhagwat/Vaishnava and Shaiva Sects

  • Like Jainism and Buddhism, Uttar Pradesh has been an important region for the Bhagwat, Vaishnava, Shaiva and Shakta sects of Hinduism as well. The Greek ambassador Megasthenes writes in his book Indica that the residents of the banks of the Jobaros (the Yamuna), who were the Shaursenois (clan or community), worshipped Heracles (Vasudeva Krishna) in Shurasena (modern Mathura).
  • Similarly, the Inner Edicts of Gupta Dynasty Emper or Skandagupta, found in Ghazipur, mention the donation of villages for the worship of Vasudeva Krishna (Shaarangil ).
  • It was in the Gupta period that India’s first temple with the pyramid-shaped cupola was constructed, which is known in the form of the renowned Dashavatar Temple at Deogarh (district Lalitpur).
    • A highly aesthetic image of Vishnu reclining on the divine serpent Shesha is situated in this temple.
  • Kashi, Ayodhya, Mathura, Prayagraj, etc., are the prominent centres of Vaishnavism in Uttar Pradesh. Kashi and Mathura in Uttar Pradesh are also the chief centres of Shaivism or the worshippers of Shiva.
    • According to Megasthenes, the residents of Shurasena (Mathura) worshipped Dionysus (Shiva).
  • Apart from this, the foundation of the Natha or Goraksha sect of Shaivism was laid in Gorakhpur in the state. Gorakhpur even today is known throughout the world for its distinctness in the discipline of Hatha yoga.

Age of the Mauryas

  • The father of Chandragupta Maurya (321-297 BC), the founder of the Maurya Dynasty, had established a small kingdom called Moriya near Ramgram (present-day district of Gorakhpur) under the Koliya republic.
  • The Moriya kingdom’s capital Pippalivana stood at the very district is located.
  • With the guidance and help of Chanakya (also known as Vishnugupta and Kautilya), Chandragupta defeated, and overthrew Ghananada and became the emperor of Magadha.
  • His empire included Kosala, Kashi and all of today’s Uttar Pradesh. Copper plate inscriptions of Chandragupta Maurya have been found in the southern part of Gorakhpur at a place called Sohagaura (Kaudiram).
    • Its language is Prakrit and Brahmi is its script. The inscription contains mention of theconstruction ofthree storehouses of food grains for the populace during a famine.
  • After Chandragupta, Bindusara and then Asoka became the rulers of the Mauryan Empire. After his conquest of Kalinga, Asoka followed a policy of Dhamma Vijaya (victory of faith) in place of imperial expansion.
    • During this phase of his reign, he constructed more than 40 edicts and pillar inscriptions to propagate his message to the people.
    • Five inscriptions or carvings of Asoka have been found in Uttar Pradesh, which are as follows:
      • the Major Pillar Edicts in Prayagraj and Meerut,
      • Minor Pillar Edicts of Sarnath and Kaushambi and
      • Minor Pillar Edict of Ahmra (district Mirzapur).
    • The language of all these edicts is Prakrit while their script is Brahmi.
    • Asoka’s pillars are made of red sandstone brought from the mountains of Mathura and Chunar.
  • Asoka’s pillar edict in Meerut was later uprooted from there by Sultan Firozshah Tughlaqand taken to Delhi. The Lion Capital of the Sarnath Pillar Edict has been adopted as India’s National Emblem.
    • Asoka’s edicts and inscriptions were discovered by T. Panthler in 1750 AD, while James Prinsep first successfully deciphered them in 1837.
  • The Mauryan emper or Asoka built many stupas in Uttar Pradesh. Prominent among them are the
    Dhamek and Chaukhandi stupas found in Sarnath. Brick and pebble stones have been used in ample measure in the construction of both.
  • According to the works of Buddhist literature, Emperor Asoka had built 84,000 stupas.

Ashoka’s Edicts in Uttar Pradesh

Ahraura (Mirzapur)Minor Rock Edict
MeerutMajor Pillar Edict
PrayagMajor Pillar Edict
SarnathMajor Pillar Edict
KaushambiMajor Pillar Edict

Post Mauryan Age

  • Pushyamitra Sunga assassinated Brihadratha, the last ruler of the Maurya Dynasty, and became the emperor of the Sunga Empire in 186 BC. Important information regarding this first ruler of the Sunga is found from his Ayodhya Inscription. This inscription states that Pushyamitra Sunga performed two Ashwamedhayajnas.
  • The officiating priest of these Ashwamedha yajnas was Patanjali, who composed the Mahabhashya, the signature work of Sanskrit grammar. Mention of Pushyamitra Sunga’s Ashwamedhayajna is found in Kalidasa’s play Malavikagnimitram.The romance between Malavika and Agnimitra (Pushyamitra’sson and successor) isdescribed in this play.
  • During Pushyamitra’s reign, the Greek ruler Demetrius along with his commander-in-chief Menander (Milind) invaded India, but was defeated and forced to return. Demetrius and Menander after him established their capital at Sakai (present-day Sialkot) in India’s northwestern region and began ruling from there. These kings are ones who attained renown as Indo-Greek kings who for the first time issued standard gold coins (in which Menander or Milind is called Soter) in India.
  • After the Sunga reign, the Kanva Dynasty was established in 73 BC. The four rulers of the Kanva Dynasty ruled for a total of 45 years. It was during this time in 71 BC that the first Sakas invasion of India took place. Fourteen years after this incident, King Vikramaditya of Malwa (Ujjain) defeated and threw out the Sakas from India and founded the Vikrama Samvat or the Vikram Era.
  • The Sakas invaded India for a second time in 78 AD and were victorious. To commemorate their victory, they established the Saka Samvat or Saka Era in 78 AD. The Sakas established their rule in Mathura, Ujjain and Maharashtra.
  • Following this, the Kushana ruler Kanishka who ruled from Purushpur (present-day Peshawar) made Mathura in Uttar Pradesh his second capital. He appointed Kharapallan in Mathura and Vanaspara in Varanasi as his satraps.
  • Kanishka issued the purest gold coins in India. It was Kanishka who convened the Fourth Buddhist Council in Kundalvana in Kashmir headed by Vasumitra under whose tutelage Ashwaghosha presided over the Council.
    • It was in this Council that the Buddhist faith saw its division into the Hinayana and Mahayana sects. Apart from the Buddha, Kanishka’s coins are engraved with the images of Greek, Persian and Vedic deities as well.
  • The art of statue making under the two prominent styles of Mathura and Gandhara began in India during this time. The first ever statue of Buddha was sculpted during Kanishka’s reign.

Age of the Guptas

  • The actual founder of the Gupta Dynasty, Chandragupta I (319-334 AD), established his kingdom in the region between Prayag and Ayodhya. He is also regarded as the founder of the Gupta Samvat (319AD) or the Gupta Era. Coins of the denomination ‘King and Queen’ have been found in this era.
  • Chandragupta-I’s son Samudragupta conquered all of Aryavarta, south of India and the Atavika (forest) kingdoms, to establish a huge empire.
  • The description of these conquests of Samudragupta is found in his Prayag Prashasti or Prayag Inscription, which is a pillar inscription. The British historian Vincent Smith termed Samudragupta as the ‘Napoleon of India’.
  • Samudragupta’s worthy son Chandragupta II (375-415 AD) ended Saka rule in India and assumed the title Vikramaditya. The description of his victorious conquests is found on the Mehrauli Iron Pillar located in Delhi. Due to his ardent faith in the Bhagwat (Vaishnava) sect of Hinduism, Chandragupta II assumed the title of Param Bhagwat.
  • Due to the stupendous advances made in literature, science,astrology, astronomy, mathematics and art during his reign, scholars term his period as the Golden Age of India. The legendary poet Kalidas was among Chandragupta’s Navaratnas or Nine Jewels.
  • It was during his reign the Chinese traveller Fa-Hien or Faxian visited India and wrote his travel account Foguoji.
  • The Bhitari Pillar Inscription of the last effective ruler of the Gupta Dynasty, Skandagupta, is located in the Saidpur tehsil of Ghazipur district in Uttar Pradesh. The inscription mentions the first Hun invasion of India and their defeat by Emperor Skandagupta. The leader of this band of Hun invaders was Khushnawaj.
  • Temples with pyramid-like cupolas began being built in a major way during the Gupta Age. The Dashavatar Temple in Deogarh in Lalitpur is a fine example of this. The Bhitargaon Temple in Kanpur, built entirely with bricks, too belongs to this era.

Pushyabhuti Dynasty

  • Harshavardhana of the Pushyabhuti Dynasty became the most powerful ruler of northern India in the seventh century.
    • He was originally a ruler of Thaneshwar (which falls in present-day Ambala region of Haryana), but after his brother-in-law, the Maukhari king Grahvarman, was killed by Malwa ruler Devagupta, and Harshavardhana’s sister Rajyashree fled her deceased husband ’s home and kingdom, Harshavardhana assumed power in Kannauj and also shifted his capital from Thaneshwar to Kannauj.
  • After Harshavardhana ensconced himself at Kannauj, the city became the political centre of northern India. Apart from being an adherent of dharma, Harashavardhana was also a lover of literature and art.
  • His court poet Bana Bhatta composed the Harshacharitam, in which one finds detailed knowledge about the political events,administration and society of that age.
  • The domain of Emperor Harsha’s empire extended from Kashmir to Assam and the river Nannada in the south. The Aihole Inscription of Chalukyan emperor Pulakeshin-II speaks of Harsha as being the ‘Sakalottarapatheshwara’ or the lord of all of northern India.
  • Chinese scholar Hiuen Tsang or Xuanzang visited India between the years 629 and 645AD, during the period of Harshavardhana’s reign, and studied the Buddhist religion and philosophy of the time. He recorded his visit to and travels in India in his book Si-Yu-Ki (Great Tang Records on the Western Regions). Hiuen Tsang used the term Tn-Tu’(Hien-Tou) for India in his book.
  • Harshavardhana used to organise the Maha Moksha Parishad at Prayag on every fifth year of his reign, in which the worship of Shiva and Surya (the Sun deity) apart from that of Buddha used to be held.
  • According to Hiuen Tsang, Mathura was renowned for its scholarship and moral conduct. Kannauj was a
    prosperouscity,also called ‘Mahodayashree’. Thaneshwar was known for its esoteric practices and remedies.

Tripartite Struggle

  • After Harshavardhana’s death, Yashovarman captured power in Kannauj at the beginning of the eighth century. Soon thereafter, there broke out a tripartite struggle between three powerful kingdoms – the Gurjara-Pratiharas, the Palas and the Rashtrakutas – for acquiring ascendancy over Kannauj.
  • This tussle continued till the first half of the tenth century. The prominent kings who took part in this tripartite struggle were
    • Dharmapala, Devapala, Vigrahapala and Narayanapala of the Pala Dynasty;
    • Vatsaraja, Nagabhatta-II, Ramabhadra, Mihirabhoja and Mahendrapala of the Gurjara-Pratihara Dynasty; and
    • Dhruva, Govind-III, Amoghavarsha-I and Krishna-II of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty.
  • Finally, it was the Gurjara-Pratiharas who prevailed after a struggle that lasted nearly 200 years. Mihirabhoja or Bhoja-I (836-889 AD) turned out to be the greatest ruler of the Gurjara-Pratihara Dynasty.
    • He made Kannauj his capital and patronised art, literature and dharma. The term Adi Varaha is inscribed on his inscriptions and coins. He was a benefactor of the Vaishnava sect.
    • During Mihirbhoja’s reign, the Arab traveller Suleiman spoke highly of the Gurjara-Pratihara ruler’s military might,calling him the ‘greatest foe of Islam’.

Gahadavala and Chandela Dynasties

  • After the end of the Gurjara-Pratihara Dynasty in 1080AD, Chandradeva founded the Gahadavala Dynasty at Kannauj.
  • Govindchandra (1114-1154 AD) was the most powerful ruler of this dynasty.
    • He extended his empire beyond the boundaries of Uttar Pradesh up to Magadha (Bihar) and Malwa (Madhya Pradesh). As the crown prince of his kingdom, he defeated Mahmud-II, the ruler of Ghazni.
    • Due to his protection of Kashi (Varanasi) from the Turks, its then queen Kumaradevi in her Samath inscription called him an ‘avatar of Hari (Vishnu)’. The Gahadavala rulers have also been called Kashi Naresh (rulers of Kashi).
  • The last ruler of the Gahadavala Dynasty was Jaichandra (1170-1193 AD), also known as Jaichand. Prithviraj Chauhan, the ruler of Delhi and Ajmer, was Jaichandra’s contemporary.
    • The renowned philosopher and Sanskrit poet Shri Harsha lived in the court of Jaichandra and composed the work Naishadhacharita, in which the love story between Nala and Damayanti is presented in poetic form.
  • The Turk invader Mohammad Ghori defeated Jaichandra in the Battle of Chandawar (Etawah) in 1193AD and killed him.

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Akansha Singh

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