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HISTORICAL FACTS: The Guptas, Harun al-Rashid

The Guptas:

The Guptas were a family of rulers who reigned in northern India from AD 320 to c.500. This was one of India’s golden ages, when literature, sculpture and other arts were at their peak

The Guptas were originally a family of rich landowners, who took over control of the small kingdom of Magadha in the Ganges valley.

Chandragupta l came to the throne in AD 320. He extended his lands by marrying the right women.

Chandragupta’s son, Samudragupta, and his grandson, Chandragupta ll, gained control gained control over much of northern India by military conquests.

The Hindu and Buddhist religions both began to develop and flourish during the Gupta period

Beautiful temples and religious sculptures were created across northern India.

About AD 450, Kalidasa, India’s greatest poet and dramatist wrote his famous play Sakuntala, filled with romance and adventure.

Music and dance developed their highest classical form.

Hindu mathematicians developed the decimal system (counting in tens) that we still use today

The Guptas’ power collapsed by about AD 500, under repeated attacks by Hun people from the north.


Harun al-Rashid:

Harun al-Rashid (AD 766-809) was the most famous of all the caliphs.

In Harun’s time, Baghdad became the most glamorous city in the world, famed for its luxury as well as its poetry, music and learning.

Harun was famous far wide. He sent ambassadors to the Chinese emperor and an elephant to Charlemagne.

Zubaydah, Harun’s wife, would only drink from silver and gold cups studded with gems.

A great patron of the arts, Harun gave lavish gifts to poets and musicians. Yet he he also enjoyed watching dogs fight – and often had people executed.

Stories tell how Harun would wander in moonlight with his friend Abu Nuwas, the brilliant poet, as well as Masrur the executioner.

Harun has become famous because he features in the famous collection of 200-odd tales of The Thousand and One Nights, or The Arabian nights.

The Arabian Nights includes such famous characters as Aladdin and his genie, Ali Baba and Sinbad the Sailor.

The tale begin with king Shahriyar of Samarkand feeling distraught by his wife’s unfaithfulness. He vows to marry a new girl each night and behead her in the morning.

The lovely princess Scheherazade insists on marring the king, then at night tells him a tale so entertaining that he lets her live another day to finish it. One story leads to another for 1001 nights, by which time the king has fallen completely in love with her.

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