Gupta Empire Religions – Bhagavatas Vaishnavas Buddhism

Gupta Religion - featured

Gupta empire religion is of two parts, namely the bhakti and vedic elements, they were blended successfully by the Guptas with their advisors to establish a workable ideology of the empire and kingship.In later ages mimamsa and Vedanta gained over the others.

Gupta Empire Religion

Gupta Religion - Lord Vishnu1

Followers Of Vishnu In Gupta Empire

  • It is generally held that the Gupta kings were the followers of Vishnu. Many reasons are given in support of this view.
  • The Gupta kings called themselves Parama Bhagavatas. This term shows that they were the followers of Vishnu.
  • The figure of Lakshmi is found on many coins of the Guptas and she is supposed to be the consort of Vishnu.
  • The figures of Garuda are also found on the seals of the Gupta period and Garuda is the vehicle or Vahana of Vishnu.
  • However, the above view is not accepted by the Dr.Dikshitar in “The Gupta Polity.” he points out that although the term Parama Bhagavatas is today used for a devotee of Lord Vishnu, such was not the case in the Gupta Period.
  • According to him the term Bhagwan does not refer to any one particular deity.
  • It is a general term referring to the greatness of the Lord who is  said to permeate the universe with all his attributes.
  • About 2 or 3 centuries before the Guptas, the author of Tirukkural referred to Aadi Bhagavan as the first of all the world. It cannot be said that he referred to Lord Vishnu.
  • In Bhagavad Yuvajanotsava Paddhati, there is a popular stanza which refers to Prahlada, Parasara – Narada.
  • Pundarika, Vyasa, Rukmangada, Suka and Saunaka as Param Bhagwat As. This clearly shows that the term did not refer to particular devotion to Vishnu.
  • The term ‘Param’ simply means that the Gupta Kings were very much devoted to the great God.
  • There is no particular reference to Lord Vishnu  as such.

Lakshmi As Consort In Gupta Empire

Gupta Religion -lakshmi on coins

  • According to Dr. Dikshitar, the explanation that Lakshmi is the consort of Lord Vishnu is not satisfactory although the same is not wrong.
  • Lakshmi has to be taken as embodying the wealth and riches of the land.
  • The images of Lakshmi in the Gupta Coins  represent the Rajyasri or the wealth of the Kingdom of the ancient Hindu Monarchs.
  • There was a feeling that the prosperity of a country depended upon finance and no wonder the Guptas rulers invoked the blessings of the Goddess of wealth.
  • That explains why the images of Lakshmi are so widely found on the Gupta coins.
  • The conception of Lakshmi as the consort of Vishnu was there but that was not magnified. Only the goodness of riches was glorified.
  • As regards the mention of Vishnu Dhvaja or flagstaff of Vishnu in an inscription  of Buddhagupta, too much importance cannot be given to this fact alone.
  • In all Hindu temples, has a Dhvaja or flagstaff is a necessary paraphernalia. As every Hindu temple has a flagstaff, a temple of Buddhagupta can also have a flagstaff of Vishnu.
  • Indeed, the worship of god became the individual’s concern but regulating social behaviour of the individual still remained the concern of the Brahmin. They began treating the manmade traditions of the past as sacred laws. By the rigid rules of exclusion, the Orthodoxy attempted to conserve its power.
  • The real fact is that the Gupta kings built huge buildings for different Gods were accepted in popular religious tradition.
  • Hindu thinkers evolved the concept of cyclical theory of time. The cycle was called a kalpa. The kalpa itself is divided into fourteen periods.
  • While Hinduism was the religion clearly favored by the rulers of the empire, Buddhism still prospered; Buddhist scholars and pilgrims from entire Asia came to India – to visit and study the heartland of this influential religion was actually a product of Gupta society.
  • Centred around six systems of thought, these debates, which came to be known as the 6 systems of the Hindu philosophy – Nyaya or the analysis that is based on logic.
  • Vaisheshika or brood characteristics according to which the universe is composed of atoms as different from the soul sankhya or enumeration acknowledging dualism between soul and matter or athemes.
  • Yoga or application relying on control over the body to get knowledge of the ideal law of Vedas as against the pose-Vedic thought, and Vedanta to disprove the theories of non-Vedas.

Devotees of Vishnu or Vaishnavas In Gupta Empire

  • The Gupta kings being a group dedicated devotees of Vishnu or Vaishnavas was one of the facts the and the involvement of this religion in their ideology though hasn’t got much attention from the scholars. It is from the coins, inscriptions and literature of the Gupta religion age, that the fact can be laid down.
  • The bhakti devotional movement was centered on Lord Vishnu and they were the active participants in it.
  • In Gupta times, the tremendous increase in the number of people who follow Vaishnavism was due to their patronage to a large extent.
  • The Guptas, as traditional Hindu monarchs, were strong supporters of vedic religious rituals and beliefs.
  • It is quite fascinating to know that the 2 parts of Gupta religion, namely the bhakti as well as the vedic elements, were blended successfully by the Guptas with their advisors to establish a workable ideology of the empire and kingship.In later ages mimamsa and Vedanta gained over the others.

Gupta Religion - lord vishnu2

  • However, the Dynasties and Empires which succeeded the Gupta Empire, in spite, of being Hindus took negligible or extremely little efforts to contribute to the rapid spread of Hinduism during the tenure of their rule.
  • It is wrong to say that Buddhism died a natural death in the Gupta period. We have definite evidence to show that the images of Buddhist were installed here and there in the Gupta religion period and the old Viharas continued to prosper.
  • The testimony of monuments and epigraphs show that Buddhism continued to flourish in the time of the Guptas as they did not interface with the faith or its tenets.
  • Bodhgaya, Sanchi, Mathura and Sarnath continued to be the centres of Buddhism.
  • The Gupta kings also gave toleration to Jainism. However, we have only 2 or 3 inscriptions of the Gupta period in which mention is made of Jain images installed by the pious individuals.


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