The political scene in India from the decline of the Guptas until the rise of Harsha was bewildering. Large scale displacement of peoples continued for some time. Small kingdoms vied with each other for the heritage of Guptas. Northern India was divided into four kingdoms of later Guptas of Magadha, the Maukharis, the Push-abhutis and the Maitrakas. The Maukharis first held the region of western U.P. around Kanauj. Gradually they ousted the later Guptas and made them move to Malwa. The pushyabhut is ruled to Thaneswar north of Delhi. They had a marriage alliance with the Maukharis. After the death of the last Maukhari king, probably the Maukhari kingdom and that of pusyabhuti were united into one kingdom. Probably the Maitrakas were of Iranian origin and ruled in Gujarat. They developed Vallabhi as their capital which became an important center of learning. On the periphery of these four kingdoms a number of small principalities were continuously fighting with each other. All the kingdoms came into prominence after the Huninvasion since it left a political vacuum in northern India.
Although the political picture was discouraging, there were a few formatives trends in this period. The Gupta imperial tradition seems to have continued. Numerous inscriptions of kings reveal that the kings claimed descent from the Gupta Vakataka dynasties. In the same period even the character of the Hun invaders underwent change. Tormana was no savage but a Hinduised frontier king attacking a decaying empire. He ceased to be a foreigner. His successor, Mihirakula, was undoubtedly one of the known tyrants of history. Let by Baladitya Gupta, the last great monarch of the imperial dynasty, the rulers of north India combined to attack him and overthrow his power in a great battle of 528 A.D. The hun dynasty ended with it.
After this event the kingdoms of the age carried on the traditions of the empire. In and around the Vindhyas the Vakatakas rules with effective authority. In the Gangetic valley the Maukhari kings consolidated their rule. True, the imperial tradition was under eclipse, but the country, as a whole was peaceful and prosperous and it was not subject to anarchical disruption.
The university of Nalanda flourished in the sixth century. Saintly Sthiramati was its head in the middle of the sixth century. Dharmapala, who extended his patronage to the university in the latter half of the century was an eminent scholar. As a matter of fact, Nalanda witnessed its golden period in this period.
It is also to be kept in mind that classical Sanskrit reached its perfection in the sixth century. Bharavi, Kumaradasa and Dandin among the poets and Vishkhadatta among the dramatists lived in the sixth century A.D. Some historians ascribe the development of Indian mathematics and astronomy to the sixth century. Varahamira is said to have died in 587 A.D. Aryabhata was born in 476.
It can equally be said that philosophy, logic and mimamsa matured during this period. Buddhist and Hindu systems of logic witnessed their golden age. It is also noteworthy that vernacular literatures began to grow. Prakrit evolved into a literary language possessing its own grammars. It was this development that enabled Rajasekhara and other to create classical literature of Prakrit in the next century.
Thus the old view that the sixth century was a period of anarchy and the age of Harsha that followed it was the last glow of ancient period, cannot be sustained. On the other hand the sixth century was a germinal period which sowed the seeds of later developments.