Another significant task that Emperor Samudragupta accomplished during his reign was building highways connecting two major cities at many places throughout the length and breadth of his empire. There is a mention of a total of twenty-four highways constructed during his reign. The highways were wide enough for three elephants to comfortably walk side by side. Along these highways were planted tall and canopied trees such as Banyan, Peepal, Ashoka, Teak, etc., as per the orders of Emperor Samudragupta. He had also built two types of rest houses in uninhabited areas on these highways, which were named ‘Dharamshālā’ and ‘Vyāpārgriha’. The Dharamshālā provided free accommodation to the common travellers and pilgrims, whereas Vyāpārgriha were exclusively meant for traders. They were built big enough to adequately store large quantities of goods and accommodate the servants of traders. In addition, specific places around the houses were allotted for erecting cowsheds for cattle, stables for horses and shelters for elephants. However, the accommodation here was not free of cost. He was the first Emperor from Bhārat to build highways. The highway constructed by him from Shurpāraka port to Surat was a centre of attraction for foreign traders.
Samudragupta had permitted the natural right to entry into the army to one male member belonging to a family of farm labourers or a farmer who depended solely on farming (with harvest only once a year). As a result, the strength of Emperor Samudragupta’s army was always maintained and the farmers never starved, even in severe drought. In fact, more than thirteen hundred years ago, Samudragupta had already brought into reality Lal Bahadur Shastri’s slogan ‘Jai Jawān Jai Kisān’, in an improvised form by bringing about a combination of farmers and soldiers, which was unique and unprecedented at that time.
In Samudragupta’s court there was an architect by the name of Āchārya Nandighosh. He had a profound knowledge of architecture. Drawing inspiration from Samudragupta, Nandighosh would come up with new experiments. With his ingenuity, he had constructed an underground road in the capital, around thirty-two kilometres long, which stretched beyond the capital's boundary. More importantly, it is said that he made use of porous rocks for facilitating ventilation in this subway. There are references to bridges made of stones built by him at various places, viz. over the Gandaki River in Nepal, the Brahmaputra in the east, Narmada and Godavari in the west and Cauvery in the south. At the age of 24, after completing his studies in architecture in India, he came in contact with some Greek traders, which aroused his interest in learning Greek architecture. He then went to Greece along with these traders and studied Greek architecture for three years. This is precisely why the Greek influence is clearly evident in the infrastructure built during the Gupta reign. Nandighosh had also opened architectural institutions at Mahabalipuram, Gaya, Agra and Kumbhigram (Kumbhakonam).
Literally, hundreds of temples of various avatars of Vishnu were built during Samudragupta’s reign. The inspiration behind all this was Samudragupta’s Bhakti and the Nandighosh’s knowledge.
Samudragupta was probably the first to introduce the concept of the government hospitals in Bhārat. By encouraging the Ayurvedic and Unani medical experts of the times, he erected hospitals on the outside of cities. Various types of surgeries were performed in these hospitals based on the Sushruta Samhita. Kumaraswamy, the tutor of Toradmalla, was the grandson of a chief doctor of one such hospital. Hembhaskar, a doctor hailing from the Iyer community, was the overall in-charge of this entire set-up.
Just as today, exams such as IAS, IPS, etc., are necessary for securing higher positions under the government, Samudragupta had stipulated that every government official of importance should have completed the study of Kautilya’s Arthashashtra and Nitishastra. Moreover, government officials were employed not on the basis of their lineage but purely on their merit. This, in itself, was a great reform in the political system.
When traders and civilians in the north were constantly troubled by some desert gangs of dacoits, Samudragupta deputed his intelligence agent named Bhadrasen to secretly scrutinize and study those gangs. After gathering relevant information about their secrets, the dacoits gangs were successfully driven far away.
It is extremely difficult to come across another king who after doing an in-depth thinking, has nurtured his subjects with paternal affection. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj too had initiated governance on the same lines, but unfortunately, his life span was only fifty years.
(To be continued…..)
Courtesy: Dainik Pratyaksha
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