The Gupta Empire was established in 240AD by king Sri Gupta, followed by his son, Ghatotkacha who reigned from 280-319AD. His successor, Chandragupta I reigned from 322 – 335AD, who governed from northeastern to northwestern India from Magadh in the east to Allahabad(Prayag) in the west. His successor, Samudragupta, 335-380 AD, ruled for about 45 years and is known to be the Gupta king to usher in the Golden Age in Hinduism or the Classical Era of Indian Art. His rule spanned from the Himalayas to Narmada and from Brahmaputra to the Yamuna. Samudragupta was a staunch worshipper of Vishnu and followed Hinduism. Though he was a follower of Hinduism he was very supportive of other coexisting religions of the time like Buddhism and Jainism and it is evident in his patronage of art and literature.
One could see that under his patronage individual styles of Buddhist murals were painted as in the walls of Bagh cave temple in Malwa, the Elephanta caves, Maharashtra and these differ from the Ajanta frescoes, as in comparatively they have very little decorative element or anointed beauty in them while adhering to the depictions of Buddhist philosophy and teachings. Some examples are found in the No 4 and No 5 caves at the Bagh rock-cut temples.
(Gupta Period Art – Buddha Head, Samudragupta Coin and Kumaragupta fighting lion images are used only for illustration purpose)
The period saw the emergence of iconic Hindu deities like Vishnu, Kartikeya, Shiva Surya and many other gods and goddesses, carved in stone in temples and in temple architecture. After the Huna invaders destroyed most of the artworks from the Gupta period, the surviving ones seen to this day are the Gupta architecture of the famous Dashavatara Temple at Deogarh in Jhansi district of Uttar Pradesh. The other structures of the period include the Vishnu Temple of Tigawa in Jabalpur, the Shiva Temple of Bhumra in Madhya Pradesh, the Temple of Parvati in the former Ajaigarh state, and the Buddhist shrines of Bodh Gaya and Sanchi.
The Gupta sculpture was at its best in giving shape to the images of the deities and divinities, belonging to all major faith including, Brahminical, Buddhist and Jain faiths. A number of images were cut into shape at several centers for their installation in numerous temples and shrines. On the facades of the temples, such figures were exquisitely displayed. Sculpture making became a major occupation, and the sculptors with their skill played a prominent role in the religious revolution of that period.
Paintings of the Gupta period also occupied a rather important place in the varied forms of art that flourished. However, one important thing, which can be deduced from the paintings of this era, was that the paintings had acquired a secular character during the reign of the Gupta Dynasty. One of the features of this art was that this art was practiced by both namely the rich as well as the poor giving it a universal appeal. Common people used scrolls of linen to paint. The cave paintings at Ajanta, Badami, as well as Bagh, truly represent a clear picture of the Gupta period’s art of painting. Jataka tales, as well as the life of Buddha, were the two most common subjects when it came to painting.
The Gupta Dynasty inspired the art, architecture, literature, and religion in multiple ways and synergised the presence and necessity by interweaving these aspects into a harmonious society. The empire brought about the social acceptance of other religious practices by successfully including them in the mainstream of beliefs irrespective of their own religions. this in itself was a huge effort made in the Golden age.