Archaeologist challenges notions about Golden Age empire decline

A great deluge that wreaked havoc on vast swathes of what is now Bihar and Uttar Pradesh around the middle of the sixth century AD may have led to the downfall of the once mighty Gupta Empire, says a new research based on archaeological evidence spanning decades. 

Until now, historians have come to believe that the end of the Gupta Empire, which reigned over what is now called India’s Golden Age from around AD 300 till about AD 550, was caused by socio-economic factors. The decline of the Guptas also severely impacted a flourishing Buddhism, relegating it to the background for several centuries in the country. 

Archaeologist Shanker Sharma has now provided evidence to show that almost every significant archaeological site in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh reveals silt deposits ranging from 0.6 metres to 2.5 metres, suggesting that the area was hit by disastrous floods. Balirajgarh (Madhubani), Kolhua, Raja Vishal Ka Garh and Chechar (Vaishali), Titra (Siwan), Chirand (Saran), Panr (Samastipur), Kumhrar (Patna), Champa (Bhagalpur), Kushinagar and Siddharthnagar (both in Uttar Pradesh) are some of such sites. 


Asked about Sharma’s research, Kishan Chand Nauriyal, a former ASI director who is working as an excavation and conservation specialist with the Bihar Vikas Mission, said: “The hypothesis could be correct or could be a part of more complex situation that led to the decline of the Gupta Empire. It is a technical matter and needs to be scrutinised intensively.

“Such water-borne deposits have been found at many other places in the country; for example archaeologist B.B. Lal found silt deposits during excavations of Hastinapur in Uttar Pradesh in 1950-52,” Nauriyal said. “Several such findings have been reported and it will be difficult task to correlate them. I won’t be able to say much on the issue until I myself visit the places and see them.”