King and His Ministers Although kingship was hereditary, royal power
was limited by the absence of the firm practice of primogeniture. A Gupta
king had to reckon with his ministers, feudatories and above all, the
brahmins, who claimed many privileges in the law-book of Narada and who
were certainly the chief custodians and interpreters of the law embodied in
the Smritis. Although the purohita or the chief priest is not mentioned as a
high functionary in Gupta records, in return for munificent gifts, the grateful
brahmins, who evidently composed Gupta inscriptions, compared the Gupta
kings with different gods, thus maintaining the Satavahana tradition and
projecting it on to north India.
Military Adminstration Despite the glowing account of the all-round
conquests of Samudragupta, we do not have much information about the
military apparatus of the Guptas. Unfortunately, Fahien does not state the
numerical strength of the Gupta army as classical writers do in the case of the
Nandas and Mauryas, and Hiuen Tsang in the case of Harshavardhana. But
evidently, the troops supplied by the feudatories accounted for a good portion
of the Gupta army.
Revenue Administration Taxes mentioned in Gupta inscriptions are not as
many as enumerated by the Arthasastra of Kautilya. But land taxes increase
in number, and those on trade and commerce decrease. The two chief land
taxes typical of the Gupta period are udranga and uparikara, but what
portion of the peasant’s produce they covered is not known. Richer peasants
seem to have paid in cash, preferably in gold, which was known by the name
of hiranya. In central and western India, the rulers imposed forced labour or
visti on the peasants. In addition to this, in the territories held up by the
Vakatakas and others in central India, the peasants had to supply animals,
food-grains, furniture, etc., for the maintenance of royal officers and retainers
on duty in the rural areas.
Judicial Administration The law-codes provide a hierarchy of three courts
from which the final appeal lay to the king. We have no idea of the law they
administered. But the general legal system was the handiwork of brahmanical
lawgivers, who produced a rich collection of legal texts in the Gupta age. In
several directions, the legal system registered a distinct advance. First, the
law of inheritance, because of the introduction of partition of landed property,
received an elaborate treatment     in the law-book of Yajnavalkya. Secondly,