During 320 CE and 550 CE, there existed a reign so supreme it was referred to as ‘The Golden Age of India’. Credited with conquering 21 kingdoms, the Gupta Dynasty, established by Sri Gupta, covered the northern, central and parts of southern India. The mighty kingdom had impressive systems of governance and military but also encouraged new thought in the areas of science, technology, art, culture and philosophy. It was a time of peace, prosperity and the pursuit of knowledge.
It is Chandragupta II or Vikramaditya under whom the empire flourished. Travelogues written by Buddhist pilgrims like Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Fa-Hien, also known as Faxian, tell the existence of an effective administration and healthcare measures, as observed during his time in India.
Artists in the Gupta age were rewarded monetarily. Fear was replaced with a nod toward experimentation. The caves at Ajanta, Elephanta, Udayagiri and Ellora offer a glimpse into the culture of the era. As a patron of art and literature, Chandragupta’s court was also graced by the ‘Navratna’ or nine jewels including literary great Kalidasa.Sanskrit saw a revival, adopted as a lingua franca and texts like the Abhijñānaśākuntalam, Sushruta Samhita and Kama Sutra were scripted. Scholars such as mathematician Varahamihira developed the concept of zero and astronomer Aryabhatta backed the theory of the earth revolving around the sun.
Despite the prevalent caste system, the Gupta dynasty belonged to the Vaishya (trader/money lender/ farmer) caste and not Kshatriya (warrior) as is commonly thought befitting royalty. But caste differentiation became institutionalized during the Gupta reign. Legal codes established by the Brahmin community were accepted as the law. The affluent spoke Sanskrit while lower castes and women communicated in Prakrit. However, there was great tolerance towards other religions like Buddhism and Jainism by the Gupta emperors.
There is not much enough information available about the tradition of marriage during those days. Many of these information is derived from the paintings and archeological evidences of those days.
Swayamvara, Gandharva and Asura are the three types of vivahas or marriages which existed during the Gupta period.
Swayamvaravivaha was the most popular form of marriage where a bride selected the groom herself from a group of potential suitors. While they may not have known each other before, it is the first such example of a bride choosing her groom.
The Gandharvavivaha or modern day equivalent of love marriage was where a bride and groom chose to marry each other of their own accord. Relatives of the bride played no role in arranging such a marriage.
In Asuravivaha, a bridegroom gave money to the father of the bride. Scholars say this practice was rampant in Assyria, hence the name Asura. Some texts also call Asuravivaha, marriage by abduction.