Previous Page [Digital South Asia Library] Next Page

Schwartzberg Atlas, v. , p. 184.

Switch to image view

ten Buddhist canons in the countries to the west of Madhya- Deśa.

Of all the ancient travelers to India, the greatest by far was Hsüan-tsang. He was, in fact, one of the most remarkable trav- elers of all time. Leaving Ch'ang-an for India in September 629, he followed the northern land route, passing through many regions of Central Asia before crossing the Oxus at Tami (Termez) and reaching Kāpiśa late in 630. During the next fourteen years, Hsüan-tsang traversed virtually the entire length and breadth of South Asia from Tukhāra in the north- west to Dravi&dtod;a in the south and from Kāmarūpa in the north- east to Kaccheśvara or, even farther west, modern Baluchistan. His accounts of routes traversed, places visited, and peoples encountered, and of the manifold subjects he dealt with, com- prise a veritable gazetteer of South Asia as of the first half of the 7th century.

Despite the fullness of his descriptions, the reconstruction of his itineraries is not free from controversy. Our own version differs from those of such notable scholars as Cunningham, Smith, and Hermann in several sectors. While it is not feasible to specify the differences in detail, comparisons of the several reconstructions in northwest, western, and central India, and even in the Ganga Plain will indicate the difficulties of plotting even Hsüan-tsang's main route, let alone those associated with local sojourns, which we have omitted. We have, however, in- cluded the evidence of his aforementioned biography, the Life, and portrayed his route from Parvata (Jammu) back to Nālandā; thence to Kāmarūpa; his journey from Kāmarūpa to Kaja&ndot;gala on Emperor Har&stod;a's summons in 642; his route from Kaja&ndot;gala to Kānyakubja and thence to Prayāga in the company of his royal patron, Har&stod;a; and finally, his departure for China from Prayāga via northwestern India and the Tarim Basin. We have indicated by a dashed line uncertain portions of his itinerary, as well as his questionable travels from Vārā- &ntod;asī to Nepāla, from Kañcīpuram to Malakū&ttod;a, and from Kac- cheśvara to Strīśvara in Lankara. The depiction of Hsüan- tsang's travels is both aided and complicated by the evidence of the Life, which supplements Hsüan-tsang's own description. The account in the latter of the journey through western India, especially in Sind, is confused, and it is not easy to reconcile various views on that portion of his travels.

Among other deficiencies in Hsüan-tsang's account are his obvious exaggerations of the size of the various countries through which he passed and also of India itself and his fre- quent failure to note the point of departure from a particular country or the direction and distance from one place to the next along his route. Hence his route, like those of other Chi- nese pilgrims on our map, is at best an approximation.

Despite certain limitations of Hsüan-tsang's accounts stem- ming from his foreign perspective and Buddhist mission, his narrative maintained a fairly objective approach, and he was methodical in his observations, providing reliable data on vir- tually every aspect of physical and cultural geography and en- riching our knowledge of Indian history and Buddhism in a unique way. His Si-yu-ki contains a long chapter providing general information on India, dealing with such topics as the names, shapes, and sizes of the countries he traversed; Indian measures of space and time; cities and houses and their plans; dress and personal characteristics of the people; written and spoken languages and such related matters as manner of speech and education; Buddhism and its condition; castes; the army; social and legal matters; acts of salutation and reverence; sick- ness and death; revenue and taxation; and general products of India. In the description of each region, its capitals and other cities, Hsüan-tsang provides specific and detailed information about the territorial extent (generally difficult to reconcile with the data of modern maps), natural characteristics, climate, ethnology, agriculture, mineral products, industry, customs, other cultural features, religious establishments (often giving statistics related to temples and monasteries), history, and so forth. He takes particular pains in describing the historical and other monuments of the countries he visited or learned of sec- ondhand. Not surprisingly, Hsüan-tsang's narrative has fruit- fully guided archaeological explorations in modern times.

I-ching (673–95) came to India by sea, having spent sev- eral years at Śrīvijaya, an important center of Buddhism and Indian culture in Sumatra. He both landed at and departed from the port of Tāmralipti, and in India he visited Nālandā. Uruvelā, and its sacred environs, Vaiśālī, Kuśīnagara, Kapila- vastu, Śrāvastī, Vārāna&stod;ī, and &Rtod;sipatana. He studied Buddhism and Sanskrit at Nālandā for ten years (675–85) and copied Buddhist texts, carrying with him as many as 400 Sanskrit manuscripts. His writings on India provide meager informa- tion on its geography and history but make a great contribution to the history of Buddhism and Sanskrit literature and include biographies of sixty Buddhist monks who visited the country. These monks, though associated with China, included several who were natives of Korea, Tukhāra, and Samarkand. Like Fa-hsien's, I-ching's accounts authenticate regular maritime commerce between India and countries of Southeast Asia. But we note in passing that, in addition to the well-developed mari- time and Central Asian routes, both Chinese and Indian mis- sions also utilized routes through Nepal and Tibet and through Kāmarūpa (Assam) and Burma.

The chart entitled the "Organization of the Guptan Empire" is reconstructed primarily on the basis of inscriptions of the period. Although it bears an apparent resemblance to the Mau- ryan political organization, comparison between the two re- veals significant differences. The Gupta emperor occupied the center of the political structure. His status had become divine and his imperial titles, ("Parameśvara," "Mahārājadhirāja," "Paramabha&ttod;&ttod;āraka"—"Supreme Lord," "Supreme King of Great Kings," "Most Worshipful One," among others) pro- claimed his paramount sovereignty, though admitting at the same time the presence of other kings, not only those outside the empire, but also tributary and feudatory rulers within it. Like the Mauryans, the Gupta monarchs exercised executive, judicial, and legislative power but yielded more than their Mauryan counterparts to the constraints of religiosocial tradi- tion and took greater cognizance of powerful regional and lo- cal sentiments, especially on the frontiers of the empire where certain of the feudatory rulers were only nominally subordi- nate.

Our information on the central administration and imperial bureaucracy manning various central departments is meager. The emperor was assisted in discharging his functions by mem- bers of his family, especially the crown prince, and by a chief minister and a council of ministers. Among the central depart- ments we know about the general administration, justice (the king as the highest court was often represented by a chief judge [prā&dtod;vivāka]), military establishment, royal chamberlain, rec- ord and registry, and external affairs. The department of ex- ternal affairs, or peace and war, was in charge of a minister, styled sāndhi-vigrahika, or in later inscriptions mahā-sāndhi- vigrahika, for which office there was no close Mauryan ana- logue. To this department fell the difficult task of regulating dealings with feudatories and tributaries and nominally sub- ordinate states. The bureaucracy at the central, provincial, and district levels was known by the term kumārāmatya and con- stituted a cadre of high state functionaries directly connected with the emperor, although owing their appointment to gov- ernors in provinces and districts.

That portion of the empire which was directly controlled was divided into a number of provinces known as deśa or bhukti, whose governors were appointed by the emperor, some- times from among the royal princes. The administration of cities, at least of the provincial and district capitals, was dis- tinct from that of the rural areas. An important feature of urban administration, attested in Bengal and possibly obtain- ing in similar form in other areas, consisted in its working to- gether with unofficial municipal councils, presided over by a chief banker and including also a chief trader, chief artisan, and chief scribe as well as other members representing local economic and professional interests. As the chart shows, we have more information about the administration at the provin- cial level than we have of the central administration, which may imply that the viability of the imperial structure depended largely on the efficient and loyal functioning of the provincial governments, whose principal tasks were collecting revenue and maintaining law and order.

Apart from the provinces, there were a number of feudatory rulers, dependent on the emperor for their authority but en- joying greater autonomy than the governors. Some, especially along the frontiers, for example, Kāmarūpa and Nepāla, con- ducted their relations within the empire as tributary states.

The imperial provinces were divided into districts (vi&stod;ayas), whose heads, or vi&stod;ayapatis, at times belonged to the cadre of the kumārāmatyas, receiving from the emperor honorific titles such as mahārāja. The district heads worked closely with the district councils representing local interest groups and thus reconciling imperial interests with those of the leading landed and commercial classes of the area. In addition to supervising the work of various departments, the district officer main- tained a strong contingent of troops for enforcing the law and maintaining order. He enjoyed considerable autonomy and lo- cal initiative, and in times when imperial power was weak he could become a local king, thereby contributing to the inher- ently fissiparous character of the realm.

Evidence from Bengal (not necessarily fully applicable to other areas) indicates that the subdistrict officers (āyuktakas) also worked with councils of representatives of local landed and commercial groups and wielded significant power and ini- tiative. Below the subdistrict levels, administrative units were governed by local officers and prominent elders of the com- munities enjoying considerable freedom for the advancement of local interests while paying taxes to imperial agents.

The village was the lowest unit of administration. Its head- man (grāmika) was probably a hereditary officeholder, whose tenure was subject to the approval of the government. Officers in charge of revenue and records and registry were probably also hereditary. They worked in close cooperation with the council of village elders and together exercised substantial in- dependent authority.

The devolution of authority that characterized the Guptan political organization at various levels of administration was a concession to the strength of local commercial and landed in- terest groups rather than evidence of an inclination toward democratic principles of governance. Administrative offices tended to become hereditary, and officials below the level of the district officer probably received payment in kind rather than cash. The state did not collect large revenues, nor did it mint copper coins on a large scale to pay minor officers. Fur- ther, available evidence suggests that private groups assumed many responsibilities such as the provision of hospitals, lodg- ing, and certain travel facilities that under the Mauryan Em- pire had been discharged or supervised by state officials. The king, however, came to be regarded as the owner of the land and entitled to one-sixth of the produce as his due, despite repetition of the ancient theory that he received revenue be- cause of his function of providing protection. In the directly held territories, the king alone could alienate land rights; oth- ers giving land grants to religious beneficiaries did so only with his sanction.

The complex nature of the state placed an enormous re- sponsibility on the personality of the emperor, whose power, prowess, and continuing successes against his enemies became the cornerstone of the imperial system. The Guptan political organization was much less centralized than the Mauryan. While the latter tried to impose central control at almost all levels of administration and regulated economic and religio- social institutions, the former established its authority in many regions by conceding autonomy and by collaborating with orga- nized commercial, professional, and landed interests. Whereas the Mauryan Empire suffered on account of its top-heavy ad- ministrative structure, that of the Guptas was undermined by the excessive autonomy of the provinces and districts and the added complications created by the incorporation of numerous feudatories and tributaries.

Sources (in addition to those in the General Bibliography)

Primary Sources

Fa-hsien (a–d); Hsüan-tsang (1 and 2); Hwui Li; I-ching.

Gazetteers (see General References)

N. L. Dey (1971); Imperial Gazetteer (1907–9); C. M. Mac- Gregor (1871, 1873); H. T. Sorley (1968 or 1969).

Other Works

A. S. Altekar (1926), (1965); P. C. Bagchi (1951), (1955); P. V. Bapat (1956); J. Barthélemy-Saint-Hilaire (1914); V. V. Bartol'd (1958); L. Boulnois (1966); E. Bretschneider (1887); E. Chavannes (1942); H. Cousens (1929); A. Cunningham (1924); J. Fergusson (1873); A. C. A. Foucher and E. Bazin- Foucher (1947); A. Hermann (1966, listed under Atlases); J. Hutchinson and J. P. Vogel (1933); India (Republic), Ar- chaeological Survey (1964); H. T. Lambrick (1964); B. C. Law (1967b); B. D. Mirchandani (1964/65), (1967); D. Mi- tra (1971); R. K. Mookerji (1957), (1969); H. G. Raverty (1892); B. A. Saletore (1960); Surendra Nath Sen (1956); V. A. Smith (1904, 1905); M. A. Stein (1899), (1903), (1904), (1907), (1921), (1928b), (1930), (1933); P. Wheat- ley (1961); H. Yule (1873); H. Yule, ed. and trans. (1913–16).

N. B. Many additional works cited as sources for plates III.D.1 and 2 are also of some relevance for this map.

III.D.5. Monuments of South Asia, 4th–7th Centuries A.D.

Whereas religious art and architecture during the Ku&stod;ā&ntod;a period had been confined to relatively few centers, monuments of the fourth century and later are distributed over a wide area of the subcontinent. Endowments for Buddhist monuments continued during this period, especially in Kashmir; in the Deccan, where rock-cut sanctuaries like the one at Ajanta that is illustrated were excavated in large numbers; and in Eastern India, where several monasteries such as Nalanda were estab- lished and others such as Sarnath were enhanced by the en- largement of a stūpa and the addition of many images like the seated Buddha that has been illustrated. At the same time, many more Hindu monuments were made during this period than in earlier times. The artists continued to work in a tech- nique influenced by the Buddhist rock-cut sanctuaries, as seen for example at Mamallapuram and Udayagiri; but they also began to build freestanding temples of stone, like the ones illustrated from Badami and Bhubaneswar, which were often magnificently embellished with sculptures like the Anantaśāyī Vi&stod;&ntod;u on the Deogarh Temple. The technique of bronze-cast- ing, known in earlier times, was now highly developed so that life-size sculptures such as the Sultanganj Buddha could be created.

Photo Credits

(a), (b), (c), and (e)—courtesy of Archaeological Sur- vey of India; (d) and (f)—photos by Frederick M. Asher; (g)—photo by John and Susan Huntington; (h)—photo by Gary M. Tartakov.

Previous Page To Table of Contents Next Page

Back to Schwartzberg Atlas | Back to the DSAL Page

Warning: include(/Volumes/data/www/dsal/updateinfo.php) [function.include]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /Library/WebServer/Documents/dsal/reference/schwartzberg/footer on line 27

Warning: include() [function.include]: Failed opening '/Volumes/data/www/dsal/updateinfo.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:') in /Library/WebServer/Documents/dsal/reference/schwartzberg/footer on line 27