Harshavardhana governed Northern India from 606 to 647 CE. In the seventh century AD, one of the most significant Indian kings was Harshavardhana, a member of the Vardhana family. He created a vast kingdom that covered all of India, from the north and northwest to the Narmada River in the south. His main city was Kannauj. His policies and reforms were always kind and intended to enhance the stability and wealth of his people. The information in this piece about Harshavardhana (606 CE to 647 CE) will assist you in getting ready for the section on ancient history on the UPSC Syllabus.
Read about: South Indian Dynasties
Pushyabhuti Dynasty History
Monarch Prabhakaravardhana of Sthaneshwar gave birth to Harshavardhana in 590 AD (Thanesar, Haryana). He belonged to the Vardhana family, also known as the Pushyabhuti dynasty or Harshavardhana Dynasty. He had turned to Mahayana Buddhism despite being a Hindu. His spouse went by the name of Durgavati. He has a daughter and two boys. His boys were killed by his minister, but his daughter wed a Vallabhi king.
Rajyavardhana, the eldest son, took the crown after Prabhakara Vardhana passed away. Rajyashri, a niece of Harsha, was wed to King Grahavarman of Kannauj. Sasanka, the ruler of the Gauda people, killed Grahavarman and imprisoned Rajyashri. Rajyavardhana was compelled to confront Sasanka as a consequence. Sasanka, on the other hand, killed Rajyavardhana. Thus, in 606 AD, Harshavardhana, who was 16 at the time, succeeded Thanesar in the kingdom.
He pledged to save his sibling and exact revenge on his brother’s killer. He partnered with Kamarupa Monarch Bhaskaravarman for this reason. Sasanka is challenged by Harsha and Bhaskaravarman. When Sasanka finally left for Bengal, Harsha also took the throne of Kannauj. The Chinese traveller Xuanzang’s chronicle and the prose biography of the Pushyabhuti kingdom, the Harshacharita, both penned by King Harshavardhana’s court poet Banabhatta, are the two main sources of information. A Chinese Buddhist traveller named Xuanzang praised King Harshavardhana’s deeds in his works.
Read about: Sangam Literature
Harshavardhana Dynasty Reign
Harshavardhana’s hasty trip to Kanyakubja to rescue his sister from the grasp of the sati was one of his first deeds. The Pushyabhutis took control of Kanauj. Harsha was able to conquer a sizable portion of them. He ruled over Central India and Punjab. After Sasanka’s demise, he ruled over Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa.
He also overcame the Vallabhi monarch in Gujarat. By marrying Harsha’s daughter to the Vallabhi ruler Dhruvabhata, the Vallabhi monarch and Harsha came to an understanding. But in 618–619 A.D., Harsha’s plans to conquer the south were foiled. As a consequence, the Narmada River became Harsha’s southern border.
There were two different kinds of regions under Harsha. The first fell under his immediate control, and the second involved feudatories. The feudatories were completely under Harsha’s authority. During Harsha’s rule, the aristocracy was born in India. India was visited by Hiuen Tsang while Harsha was king. King Harsha and his realm are depicted in a beautiful portrait by the artist. He praises him for his kindness and fairness.
The arts received generous backing from Harsha. He had a gift for writing on his own. Among his Sanskrit writings are Nagananda, Priyadarshika, and Ratnavali. His royal poet Banabhatta penned the Harshacharita, which details Harsha’s life and deeds. Harsha gave Nalanda University a kind gift. He had a very good revenue system. The tax money was split between charitable and artistic organisations to the tune of 25%. Harsha was a skilled military administrator and leader. Harsha was India’s final powerful monarch before the Muslim conquests.
Read about: Rashtrakuta Dynasty
Harshavardhana Dynasty Administrations
Although there seems to be a lot of continuity in titles from the Gupta era, Harshavardhana’s government is largely unknown to us. Vanapalas are described by Bana as being woodland keepers. A sarva-palli-pati servant is mentioned (chief of all the villages). Important members of the Harsha government:
- The ‘sreshti’ (Chief Banker or Merchant)
- The‘sarthavaha’ (Leader of Merchant Caravans)
- Prathama kulika (Chief Craftsman)
- Kayasthas(head of the scribes)
Xuanzang claimed that taxes on the populace were minimal and that the monarch got one-sixth of the grain harvest as his share. Inscriptions give descriptions of dues like bhaga, bhoga, kara, and hiranya—terms you may remember from earlier inscriptions. According to Xuanzang, the force consists of elephants, chariots, infantry, and cavalry.
The king’s triumphant army, which contains ships, elephants, and horses, is mentioned in the inscriptions from Madhuban and Banskhera. Over the course of Harsha’s rule, trade and business decreased. The decline of commercial hubs, a drop in coinage, and sluggish merchant guild activity all represent this. There was a sharp drop in the economy compared to the Gupta Empire Period.
Read about: Later Vedic Period
Harshavardhana Dynasty Military
The most well-known military operation led by Harsha was the one against Pulakesin II, the king of Western Chalukya. Both Pulakesin II’s inscriptions and Hiuen Tsang’s chronicles go into great detail about this battle. To extend his rule south of the Narmada, Harsha marched against the Chalukya king. Harsha was vanquished by Pulakesin, who was given the name Paramesvara.
Harsha’s authority had been embraced by Nepal. Harsha seized possession of Kashmir and ordered the ruler to pay tribute. He was also cordial with Bhaskaravarman, the ruler of Assam. The Orissa state of Kalinga was defeated by Harsha most recently in battle. This solidified Harsha’s dominance over all of north India. He also ruled over remote states like Kashmir, Sind, Valabhi, and Kamarupa in addition to the contemporary states of Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Orissa.
Read about: Rig Vedic Period
Harshavardhana Dynasty Society
Four social groups existed in society: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vysya, and Sudra. The most favoured people in society, Brahmins received property grants from the rulers. There weren’t enough jobs for women. Her husband’s employer, Swyamvara, has withdrawn.
Remarrying a widow was prohibited, particularly among the higher classes. Dowrying had become more and more common. Sati was yet another well-known rite. Hiuen Tsang discusses three different burial practices: cremation, river burial, and exposure to the elements in the jungle.
Read about: Sangam Period
Harshavardhana Dynasty Religion
According to inscriptions, the early Pushyabhuti kings worshipped Surya. In Rajyavardhana, Buddhism was a way of life. Harshavardhana seems to have been a Buddhist enthusiast who also worshipped Shiva. In Kannauj, where Xuanzang and other speakers delivered lectures on Mahayana principles, he attracted a sizable crowd. It is said that Shramanas, Brahmanas, and sectarian followers attended this magnificent assembly. There were also a number of subordinate kings, including Assam and Valabhi.
Harshavardhana Empire Art and Learning
Harshavardhana was an accomplished scholar and supporter of the arts. Three plays, a grammar manual, and at least two Sutra writings are all attributed to him. He has written three plays: Nagananda, Priyadarshika, and Ratnavali. Bodhisattva Jimutavahana is the subject of a love tale in The Nagananda, while comedies about love Ratnavali and Priyadarshika are also about love.
The king himself may have penned the inscriptions at Madhuban and Banskhera. The Banskhera inscription features the king’s name and showcases his calligraphic abilities. Bana claimed that the king was a skilled lute player. Among the talented writers connected to his palace were Bana, Mayura, and Matanga Divakara.
Political unrest persisted after Harsha’s passing in 648 CE until Yashovarman’s conquest in 715–745 CE. Several families then fought each other for possession of Kanauj. One of the most significant aspects of the political history of the time was the three-way war between the Rashtrakutas, Palas, and Gurjara-Pratiharas.
Read about: Maurya Empire
Harshavardhana Empire Decline
After governing for 41 years, Harsha passed away in 647 AD. He left no heirs, so his dominion was swiftly overthrown after his passing. Harshavardhan, a capable administrator and military commander who passed away without leaving any children in 647 CE, is generally regarded as the last Hindu king to hold sway over a sizable territory in North India. His demise marks the end of the Pushyabhuti family and the beginning of Muslim rule over North India.
Read about: Alexander Invasion of India
Harshavardhana Dynasty UPSC
Prabhakar Vardhana, who founded the Pushyabhuti or Vardhana Empire, was the father of King Harshavardhana. One of the most potent kings of the seventh century is thought to have been him. He cemented his dominance in northern India by ascending the thrones of Thaneshwar and Kannauj after the passing of his brother Rajyavardhana. Buddhist traveller from China named Xuanzang praised King Harshavardhana’s deeds in his works. To read all the subjects related to UPSC, candidates preparing for UPSC can visit the official page of StudyIQ UPSC Online Coaching.
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