According inscriptions, the Gupta kings assumed titles like Paramabhattaraka, Maharajadhiraja, Parameswara, Samrat and Chakravartin. The king was assisted in his administration by a council consisting of a chief minister, a Senapati or commander-in-chief of the army and other important officials. A high official called Sandivigraha was mentioned in the Gupta inscriptions, most probably minister for foreign affairs.
The king maintained a close contact with the provincial administration through a class of officials called Kumaramatyas and Ayuktas. Provinces in the Gupta Empire were known as Bhuktis and provincial governors as Uparikas. They were mostly chosen from among the princes. Bhuktis were subdivided into Vishyas or districts. They were governed by Vishyapatis. Nagara Sreshtis were the officers looking after the city administration. The villages in the district were under the control of Gramikas.
Fahien's account on the Gupta administration provides useful information. He characterises the Gupta administration as mild and benevolent. There were no restrictions on people's movements and they enjoyed a large degree of personal freedom. There was no state interference in the individual's life. Punishments were not severe. Imposing a fine was a common punishment. There was no spy system. The administration was so efficient that the roads were kept safe for travelers, and there was no fear of thieves. He mentioned that people were generally prosperous and the crimes were negligible. Fahien had also appreciated the efficiency of the Gupta administration as he was able to travel without any fear throughout the Gangetic valley. On the whole the administration was more liberal than that of the Mauryas.
The pre-Gupta period in India witnessed a series of foreign invasions. Indian society had given way to those foreigners who had become permanent residents here. But during the Gupta period, the caste system became rigid. The Brahmins occupied the top ladder of the society. They were given enormous gifts by the rulers as well as other wealthy people. The practice of untouchability had slowly begun during this period. Fahien mentions that Chandalas were segregated from the society. Their miserable condition was elaborated by the Chinese traveler.
The position of women had also become miserable during the Gupta period. They were prohibited from studying the religious texts like the Puranas. The subjection of women to men was thoroughly regularized. But it was insisted that they should be protected and generously treated by men. The practice of Swyamvara was given up and the Manusmriti suggested the early marriage for girls.
In the sphere of religion, Brahmanism reigned supreme during the Gupta period. It had two branches - Vaishnavism and Saivism. Most of the Gupta kings were Vaishnavaites. They performed Aswamedha sacrifices. The worship of images and celebration of religious festivals with elaborate rituals made these two religions popular. Religious literature like the Puranas was composed during this period. The progress of Brahmanism led to the neglect of Buddhism and Jainism. Fahien refers to the decline of Buddhism in the Gangetic valley. But a few Buddhist scholars like Vasubandhu were patronized by Gupta kings. In western and southern India Jainism flourished. The great Jain Council was held at Valabhi during this period and the Jain Canon of the Swetambras was written.
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