Economy in Gupta Period

  • India had developed an advanced system of agriculture, industry, and trade long before the rise of the imperial Guptas.
  • The economic stability and prosperity facilitates all-round cultural progress made during this period.
  • The agriculture system was well developed and scientific methods were used to increase agricultural production.
  • The Amarakosha and Brihat Samhita contain special chapters on the study of plants and gardens, forest, crops, manure, etc.
  • Various branches of industry had developed because of the abundance of raw materials and the skill and enterprise of the artisans and the craftsmen.
  • The literary works also describe a large variety of clothing such as cotton, silk, wool, and linen.
  • Hiuen-Tsang described the classification of Indian clothing materials under the heads as – silk, cotton, linen, wool, and goat hair.
  • Amarakosha mentions various terms used for the finer and coarser varieties of cloth as well as for unbleached and bleached silk.
  • Ajanta wall paintings also exposed different techniques of weaving.
  • The major centres of textiles production were Banaras, Mathura, Dashapura, and Kamarupa.
  • The Mandsor inscription gives details about the guilds of silk weaver and corporate activities of the period.
  • Ivory work flourished. A seal found in the excavation at Bhita reveals about the guilds of ivory workers.
  • The leather industry also flourished. Leather boots and shoes were shown in the contempary sculptures and paintings.
  • The art of the jewelery was in the advanced condition. The Brihat Samhitadescribes twenty-two jewels. Jewels were used at this period for a large variety of purposes.
  • Ratna pariksha mentioned the science of testing gems. Technical sciences were utilised for the manufacture of metals.
  • Vatsyayana mentions about Ruparatnapariksha, Dhatuveda, and Maniragakarajnanam i.e. testing of precious stones, the smelting of metals, and the technology of jewels accordingly.
  • Hiuen-Tsang also mentioned that brass, gold, and silver were produced in abundance.
  • The Mehrauli iron pillar (of Gupta period) is the best example of metal workmanships. The seals, gold, and silver coins of this period also reflect the advance stage of the metal industry.
  • The ship building industry was also well developed in Gupta period that facilitated trade and communication activities.
  • Smritis described in detail the laws of partnership, contract, right and duties of the individual members of the guild, and structure of guild that corroborated by contemporary literature and inscriptions.
  • The seals and inscriptions mention about the legends Sreshthi-kulika-nigama and Sreshthisarthavaha- kulika-nigama. These permanent endowments reveal the function of the guilds in the capacity of banks as well as confirm their stable position in terms of business stability.
  • Public works were undertaken and executed by the state as well as by the guilds.
  • The repairs of Sudarshana lake dam and the connected irrigation canal in the province of Saurashtra were carried out by provincial governor Parnadatta and his son Chakrapalita during the rule of Skandagupta.

Trade and commerce

  • Trade was carried on both through the land as well as the coastal routes.
  • India had trade relations with both the eastern and the western countries.
  • India maintained regular maritime relation with Sri Lanka, Persia, Arabia, Byzantine Empire, Africa, and even further west.
  • India also developed commercial relations with China, Burma, and South East Asia.
  • The important trade items were silk, spices of various kind, textiles, metals, ivory, sea produce, etc.
  • Some important sea ports of the Gupta period were −
    • Tamralipti,
    • Arikamedu,
    • Kaveripattnam,
    • Barbaricum,
    • Muziris,
    • Pratishthana,
    • Sopara, and
    • Brighukachchha.
  • All these ports (enumerated above) were well connected through inland routes from all parts of India.
  • According to Fa-Hien, people of the ‘Middle Kingdom’ were prosperous and happy in the beginning of the 5th century and he also mentioned the similar account of prosperity and peace in India.
  • People were maintaining a high standard of living and luxury of the town life.
  • The land grants were given to Brahmans, temples, viharas, mathas to run the educational institutions and other social welfare activities.
  • The tradition of land grants for the charitable purposes continued into the medieval period as well. These were known as Madad-i-mash, Suyarghal, etc.