Exploring Ancient Indian Life: 320 CE – 500 CE

The Gupta Empire lasted from 320 CE to about 500 CE, which thrived around the same time as the Roman Empire. The Gupta period took over the northern part of India, where local military squads were implemented to keep inhabitants safe from bandits and raids. An interesting practice evolved, as each military installation was comprised of an elephant, one chariot, three cavalrymen with armor, and five soldiers who stayed on foot. When war broke out, these individual squads would come together to create a larger royal army.


During the Gupta period, the people were pleased, which is why this time in ancient India was referred to as the “Golden Age.” Inhabitants enjoyed religious freedom and were given free services, such as medical attention , even surgery. At this time, criminals never faced the death penalty, but instead, were made to pay fines for their transgressions. In order to promote better artists, writers, and professors, cash rewards were promised. This ended in an increase of great works.


Although the Gupta Empire erected numerous universities, very few of the commoners had received an education. It was not uncommon to see people hailing from other parts of the world to come and receive their studies at the higher education institutes in Gupta. Older children who attended school were sent away and actually lived there. The life at these schools (called ashram) was difficult and they learned very quickly on how to do for themselves. No servants catered to their needs and even royalty were expected to wash their own clothing, cook their own meals, and follow the same studies as the rest of the children. At this time, children studied a wide-range of subjects, including math, science, engineering, music, religion, literature, and art.


Gupta homes were scattered about the villages and towns, which mostly consisted of one-room huts. Bamboo or wood was used to create these residences, which were topped off with thatched roofs. The palaces at this time were not fashioned of marble or other dazzling materials, but were also constructed of wood. Larger homes would showcase many different room and even access to a balcony.


Art during this time was mostly made of iron and copper, where craftsmen created beautiful statues. It is amazing that over the years , little rust accumulated on these very pieces.


When people during the Gupta Empire settled down for a meal, they skipped the breakfast meal and consumed both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes later in the day, which depended upon various religious beliefs. At this time, one could have followed Buddhism, Jainism, or Hinduism. Main meals consisted of vegetables, cereals, fruits, and breads that were washed down with milk.


When it came time to unwind, ancient Indians enjoyed many of the same sports that people enjoy today. During their time, polo, chess, and playing cards were all favorite pastimes. Sporting events included fencing, wrestling, as well as martial arts. If one was of royal birth, they would engage in hunting.