One of the beautiful cultural streams that gained momentum and strength during Samudragupta’s reign was the Bhaktimārga (path of devotion) that was pioneered by Sage Nārada. Samudragupta himself was extremely pious, a true Shraddhavan and would immerse himself in devotional music. Although he himself was a worshipper of Vishnu, he built temples dedicated to Shiva with the same love and even participated in Shiva poojan. His chief queen Dattadevi belonged to the Vaishnava dynasty of North India; the second chief queen Divādevi was of the Shaiva dynasty of Kashmir, while the third chief queen Rambhādevi was from the staunch Vaishnava sect of South India. Dharmapala was Samudragupta’s chief advisor on all religious matters in the empire and served as the head of Kundalacharyas. Dharmapala had maintained a highly balanced approach while handling the administrative responsibilities for all religious matters and made temples that were beautiful in every aspect, sacred and socially accepted. The Poojan, Upasana and Sankirtan divisions of these religious places were looked after by Rambhādevi. Under the leadership of Rambhādevi, Samudragupta had established ‘Nārada Sabha’, comprising of scholars and devout worshippers. Dharmapala himself was a staunch supporter of the ‘Nāradiya Bhakti Sutras’. Samudragupta too was of the firm belief that that Bhaktimarg (path of devotion) itself was most beneficial and that there was no need for rigid rituals and complex methods of performing Upāsanas. Accordingly, the ‘Nārada Sabha’ deployed its representatives across the length and breadth of the empire and vigourously promoted and propagated ‘Nāradiya Bhakti’ (Bhakti pioneered by Sage Nārada). Queen Rambhādevi, during the period from Kārtik Ekādashi upto Chaitra Pournimā, used to visit various temples to ensure that their management and functioning were in sync with the ethical value systems as well as with Bhakti.
We have seen earlier that Emperor Samudragupta himself used to perform Upāsana regularly. Moreover, every evening, Dharmapāla used to do Sankirtan based on ‘Nāradiya Bhakti Sutra’ at the ‘Varāha-Nārāyan’ temple located in the capital; and on the day of Ekadashi (the eleventh day of the lunar fortnight) he used to perform Anushthāna (a form of spiritual discipline) by chanting only ‘Om Namo Bhagwaté Vāsudevāya’ in complete silence.
Just as Samudragupta’s reign was a golden age for material progress, so also it was a golden age for the progress of Bhaktimaarga. In fact, the entire Bhāratiya society had achieved prosperity only due to the practice of the righteous path of devotion.
When the ruler himself is replete with ethics and Bhakti and exhorts his subjects to follow these two values, it is only then that the golden age dawns. This is the important conclusion that arises from here.
After establishing his empire, Samudragupta also performed the Ashwamédha Yadnya, but instead of sacrificing the horse, he offered it in the service of God at the main temple located in the capital. This, in itself, was a revolution. Moreover, as Samudragupta and Dharmapalā were the inspiration behind the establishment of ‘Nārada Sabhā’ and ‘Kundalācharya Sabhā’, the rigidly orthodox and worthless religious intellectuals could not oppose the decision, not to perform the sacrifice. The writings of ‘Fa-Hien’, a Chinese traveller, who lived in India during the reign of Samudragupta and his son Vikramāditya (Chandragupta II), also give a detailed account of this glorious period in history. He has not only sung praises of of the manner of governance of the empire, the army and the Amātya Parishad but also of the Shraddhāvān community of Bhārat of that time. In his opinion, such an excellent practice of Dharma was something that was never to be forgotten. He himself was a Buddhist and was greatly influenced by Samudragupta’s tolerance towards all religions. After witnessing the facilities and arrangements made by Samudragupta for the Buddha temples in Gaya and many other Buddhist monasteries, he spoke highly of 'Samudragupta', and called him a ‘truly righteous king’.
Citizens of his empire were always encouraged to perform religious practices, festivals and pilgrimages and hence they would travel far and wide with pious feelings. As a result, the Bhāratiya society became more and more united.
Purushasukta and Rāmrakshā were regularly chanted in the temples in which all the people participated as and when time permitted. Besides this, the ‘Narad Sabha’ had initiated the practice of chanting the Shiva Panchākshari Stotra after the chanting of Rāmrakshā, and chanting of Rām-Vijaya Mantra of Rāmrakshā in Shiva temples after chanting of Rudra.
It was during this very period that group of devout on pilgrimages came to be known as, ‘Dindi’ and the tradition of hoisting religious flags on every temple and on houses during festivals was initiated.
Indeed, Samudragupta’s reign was prosperous in all respects as it was Ramrajya in the truest sense.
(To be continued…..)
Courtesy: Dainik Pratyaksha
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