Emperor Samudragupta himself was a great connoisseur and a lover of arts. He was also an expert musician and an accomplished veena player. Playing the veena was his favourite pastime. Samudragupta provided wholehearted support in developing the arts of music, instrumental music and dance. He enriched these arts by establishing ‘Vatsyayāna Mandiram’ at various places. A lady Bhadrādevi and an Ācharya named Pushpamitra Sāyan were entrusted with the responsibility of managing this department. Pushpamitra Sāyan maintained strict discipline for preserving the sanctity of these temples of art. As a result, these art forms, as well as the performing artistes attained a level of respect that was hitherto unseen in society.
As seen earlier, these artistes (or courtesans) were also employed by the intelligence agencies. Besides, several Granthas (authoritative texts) were composed after studying each form of art, purely from a scientific point of view.
Educational institutions of all disciplines were involved in the creation of several Granthas. These were written on silk cloth, birch barks or paper-like material sourced from China. No text was considered to be official unless it had been approved by the ‘Kundalācharya’ Sabhā. As a result, those who wrote false and hollow Granthas merely to flaunt their undeserved greatness got sidelined. This pre-empted the possibility of any wrong knowledge and wrong principles being spread in society. Had this rule and approval system continued, the three social ills viz., Rotibandi (prohibition of inter-caste dining), Betibandi (prohibition of inter-caste marriages) and Samudrabandi (prohibition of seafaring), which caused Bhārat to be shackled under foreign rule and occupation, would not have found any place in society.
During the reign of Samudragupta, the Chief Kundalācharya of a Garuda Temple named Yagyavarma had devised different warfare strategies and designed machines that could be used as weapons in warfare. These weapons were based on the principles laid down by Kautilya in his work Ayudhāgār. Some of these are:
1. Āsangotim - This was a machine made of iron and kept in the corner of a battlement (बुरुज). The main instrument was mounted on four legs while its main part was covered with leather in such a way that the enemy would not be able to detect anything from afar. A wheel was placed between the four legs of this machine. A handle was attached to the wheel, which was rotated with the help of a horse. With this, the machine could rain heavy stones up to a distance of about 200 meters.
2. Devadand - This machine was similar to a cannon. Only the mouth of its barrel (measuring one handspan) was placed inside a cavity in the fort’s rampart. From here, explosives were fired at the enemy army.
3. Tālavrunta - The machine produced and directed poisonous gases (similar to today’s tear gas) at the enemy army. The poisonous gases hindered the breathing of the enemy soldiers and incapacitated them.
4. Jamadagneya Sharayantra - This machine was shaped like a wheel. It could continuously fire a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 54 arrows at the same time.
Likewise, different mechanised weapons like Shataghni, Āvarta Yantra, Panchālikā, Shukrikā, Vishwāsghāti, Daftastra, Bhuj Satika etc., were produced. Many texts on mechanical engineering were authored during this period.
Rājā Bhoja’s war-related treatise ‘Samarāngana Sutradhara’ has a voluminous chapter dedicated to mechanical engineering. In the same book, Bhoja has elaborately described a machine named ‘Mahāvihanga’ or ‘Ākashyāna’. It is a machine to be proud of. Its size was similar to a present-day helicopter, and the shape was identical to an eagle. A very lightweight wood was used to make this machine. It had two wings attached to its body at the centre. The main part (the central portion) of the machine had a total of four sub-parts. The lowest sub-part among them, made of copper and zinc, contained a lit fire. The metallic sub-part above it contained purified mercury. Flame in the lower sub-part heated the mercury and generated proportionate energy. Using this energy, the operator ignited the machine with the help of a key and wheels. The operator cabin was at the mouth of the central section of the machine. With limited wing movement, the Ākāshyāna used to fly at about 60 to 200 feet above ground level and move forward in the air. Generally, a ‘Mahāvihanga’ could stay airborne for one and a half to two and a half ghatika or 36 to 60 minutes (1 ghatika = 24 minutes), depending on the mass of mercury in it.
Knowing all this makes the chest swell with pride. These inventions, which the world used some thousand years later, were already prevalent during the time of Samudragupta and Bhoja. It proves that at least till this era, the distorted image of ancient Bhārat, as a country that rejected the idea of material progress and being totally fettered by superstitions, just did not exist.
India assumed this ill-fated form only in the later period and suffered its punishment for almost a thousand years. Countless smaller states were formed, and their rulers, too, remained self-indulgent in their own pleasures. They had no inclination or desire for the progress of their subjects, culture, overall development or spiritual advancement. Countless smaller parties in today’s Bhārat are the remnants that represent such smaller states that were formed in the post-Gupta period. It is for this very reason, that Bhārat faces difficulties in achieving unity and harmony.
In a democratic system of governance, it is essential to have a competent opposition. But, in today’s times, smaller parties have very limited and narrow goals and tend to adopt different policies at different levels. As a result, it is not possible to have clarity as to which principle they actually stand for and what exactly is it that they oppose.
Samudragupta’s empire did exist, and he was indeed the emperor. However, factors like Kundalācharya Sabhā, Amātyaparishad, Samant Parishad, Vasantotsava Grāmsabhā and Nagar Sabhā ensured that Samudragupta’s empire stayed free of the blemish of imperialism, which led to the establishment of a healthy system of governance; which was the main strength of Samudragupta.
(to be continued....)
Courtesy : Dainik Pratyaksha
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