Bhasa and Shudraka as predecessors of Kalidasa shudraka wrote the famous plays the Mrichchhakatika. Though the play is ascribed to a king Shudraka, the remarks in theprastavana about Shudraka himself show it to be the handiwork of a court-poet.
There seems to be no doubt that the author of the Mrichchhakatika had revised and enlarged Bhasa’s romantic play, Daridra- Charudatta. The Mrichchhakatika is regarded as one of the earliest literary productions of the Gupta period.
Vishakhadatta wrote two plays: Uudrarakshasa and Devi-Chandraguptam. The Abhisarikavanchhitaka, another play of the same author based on the love-stories of Udayana, is known only from citations.
However, as in epic and lyrical poetry, so too in drama, Kalidasa represents the high watermark of India’s creative genius. The Malavikagnimitra, the Vikramorvashiya and the Abhijnanashakuntalam are the three plays penned by Kalidasa.
We have some evidence of ethical and didactic literature produced during this period. The famous Tantrakhyayika, which is essentially of the nature of a storybook, must have been originally composed with a view to imparting to young princes instruction in political science and practical conduct. The Tantrakhyayika, popularly known as the Panchatantra, has indeed had a long and eventful history. The original text of the Tantrakhyayika is of course, not extant, though it is possible to form some idea about it from the five oldest versions of the work which are available.
These are 1 The Tantrakhyayika which is available from Kashmir in an old and a new recension, 2. The text from which a Pehlevi translation was prepared in circa AD 570; 3 a portion out of the Panchatantra which was inserted in the Brihatkatha of Gunadhya, and which is now to be found, in a modified form, in the Brihatkathamanjari of Kshemendra and the Kathasaritasagara of Somadeva; 4. A text, which may very well be called a children’s edition of the Panchatantra and is especially current in South
India; and 5. a Nepalese text in verse. In the introduction of the Tantrakhyayika as well as in all the versions of the Panchatantra, Vishnusharma is mentioned as the author of the work. The date of composition of the Tantrakhyayika is not known, but it had become a very popular work in the 6th century AD – so much so that, at the instance of Khasru Anashirwan (AD 531 -79), it was translated into Pehlevi.
Mention may also be made in this connection of the three Shatakas of Bhartrihari – the Shringarashataka, the Nitishataka and the Vairagyashataka. It has been held that Bhartrihari, the author of the Shatakatrayi, was the same as Bhartihari, the author of Vakyapadiya which is divided into three books, and is therefore, also known as the Trikandi. Bhartrihari is also reputed to have written a commentary on the Mahabhashya of Patanjali. His literary activity is placed just after the end of the Gupta period.
Among the grammatical works produced in the age of the Guptas, the earliest, perhaps, is the Katantra of Sarvavarman. Another authority, Vararuchi, is reputed to have been the author of the Vartika on Panini’s sutras, of the Prakritaprakasha, which is a work on Prakrit Grammar, of the Vararuchisamgraha and the Lingavisheshavidhi etc.
According to a popular literary tradition Vararuchi was one of the nine jewels which adorned the court of Vikramaditya. Chandragomin wrote his Chandravyakarana in the last decades of the sixth century AD. He is also said to have written Chandravritti which is a commentary on his own Vyakaranasutras.
To about the fifth century AD belongs also the Kashika-vritti of Jayaditya and Vamana. The Lingamtshasana of Harshadeva, which is a grammatical-cum- lexicographical work, is also generally ascribed to the middle of the seventh century AD the most famous lexicographical work in Sanskrit is the Namalinganushasana of Amarasimha – better known as the Amarakosha. Amarasimha was one of the nine jewels of Vikramaditya’s court.
In ancient India, mathematics and astronomy originated and developed primarily as auxiliaries of the Vedic rituals. Varahamihira wrote in the middle of the 6th century AD. He wrote Panchasiddhantika. Aryabhata was the first writer to deal with mathematics more or less as an independent science.
According to his own testimony, Aryabhata wrote his work, the Aryabhatiya, in Kusumpura (Pataliputra) in the year 3600 of the Kaliyuga, when he himself was 23 years old. This means that he was borne in AD 476 and wrote in AD 499. The Aryabhatiya is divided into four parts, out of which the last three are sometimes erroneously regarded as forming an independent work under the name Aryashataka.
The first part is called the Dashagitikasutra. He had invented an alphabetic system of notation. The second part of the Aryabhatiya is called the Ganita-pada, the third part Kalakriya and the last is called the Golapada. As regards geometry, Aryabhata considers among other topics, an area of a triangle, the theorem on similarity of triangles, the area of a circle and the theorem relating to rectangles contained by the segments of chords of a circle.
The value of 3 given by him is correct to four places of decimals (3.1416). In algebra and arithmetic, he has given the rule of three, which is a definite improvement over the Bakshali rule, and a rule for solving examples concerning interest.
He has also enunciated the method of inversion and has stated a formula giving the sum of an arithmetical progression and its middle term, a formula for the solution of simple indeterminate equations, a formula giving the value of the number of terms when the sum of the series, the first term and the common difference are given, and a formula for the sum of the squares and the cubes of natural numbers.
As in mathematics, so too in astronomy, Aryabhata was an outstanding scholar of the Gupta age. Through his work he has presented in a compact form the astronomical system which had already been developed in the Siddhantas. His most original contribution, however, is his definite assertion that the earth rotates round its axis.
It is interesting to note that two of his immed successors, Varahamihira and Brahmagup stoutly opposed this assertion. Aryabatta was first to utilize sine functions in astronomy, discovered an accurate formula to measure decrease or increase in the duration of consecutive days.
He enunciated his own epic theory to explain the variations in plane motions; he stated accurately the angular dia of the earth’s shadow at the moon’s orbit, and a method of finding the duration of an eclipse; he made a more correct calculation than befo the length of a year.
The astronomical works produced in the called scientific period provide evidence of acquaintance of their writers with Greek astron Varahamihira wrote Panchasiddhantika in AD Varahamihira is also said to have been one of nine jewels in the court of Vikramaditya. The Siddhantas, considered the most authoritaf works on astronomy, are: Paitamahasiddha Vashishthasiddhanta, Paulishasiddhan Romakasiddhanta and Suryasiddhanta.
The four siddhantas belong to the early Gupta peri The name of the Paulishsiddhanta (AD 380) w remind one of Paulus Alexandrin Romakasiddhanta clearly betrays western influe both in name and contents. This may have been possible on account of the active contact betw the Roman Empire and the Gupta Empire. Suryasiddhanta (AD 400) is the most import’ and complete astronomical work of the peri Alberuni mentions Lata as its author. According its opening stanzas, however, Surya revealed f Siddhanta to Asura Maya in the city of Roma
In the field of astrology also we are mil indebted to Varahamihira. He has, in h’ encyclopaedic work, preserved considerab amount of ancient knowledge on the subject. Hi Brihatsamhita, besides being the most import textbook on natural astrology, is a veritabl compendium of ancient Indian learning sciences.
Among Varahamihira’s other astrologi works may be mentioned the Brihadvivahapat and the Svalpavivahapatala which principally deal with the favourable muhurtas for marriage; the Yogayatra, which describes the auspicious portents for the expeditions of kings; and the Brihajjataka and Laghujataka which concern themselves with the time of man’s birth and its influence on his future. Varahamihira’s son, Prithuyashas, too was an ardent student of astrology, and wrote, in about AD 600, a work called Horashatpanchashika.
The earliest datable Indian work on medicine belongs to the early Gupta period. In 1890, Lt. H. Bower discovered in a Buddhist stupa in Kashgar, agroup of ancient texts (Bower manuscripts), three out of seven from among which deal with medicine. On palaeographical grounds they belong to the second half of the fourth century AD.
The author’s names are not to be found. One of the three medical tracts deals with the study of garlic, digestion and eye-diseases and their cures. Another tract contains formulas for the preparation of fourteen kinds of specifics for external and internal application.
The most important tract, however, is the one called the Navanitaka? In 16 sections, it deals, among other things, with different kinds of powders, decoctions, oils and elixirs, while a considerable portion of the tract is devoted to children’s diseases. The Navanitaka mentions several earlier authorities like Agnivesha. Bheda, Harita, Jatukarna, Ksharapani and Parashara – all of them being pupils of Punarvasu Atreya. The only familiar name referred to is that of Sushruta.
Another science which must have developed along with medicine is chemistry. Unfortunately, no work on chemistry belonging to the Gupta period has come down to us. Nagarjuna, the great Mahayanist, is reputed to have distinguished himself also in chemistry. As a matter of fact, he is believed to have been the real father of scientific chemistry.
Besides medicine, chemistry must have substantially helped the development of metallurgy. The Mehrauli Iron Pillar remains a living monument to the progress in metallurgy achieved in the age of the Guptas. The Pillar which is 23 feet and 8 inches in height and 16.4 inches in diameter at the base and 12.5 inches in diameter at the top is made of pure malleable iron of 7.66 specific gravity. A reference must be made, in this connection, also to the colossal copper statue of the Buddha, found at Sultanganj near Bhagalpur, which is about 7 ½ feet in height and nearly one ton in weight.