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The Empire
Empire
of Harsha
Harsha
was an ancient Indian empire founded and ruled by Emperor Harsha
Harsha
from the capital Kannauj. It existed from 606 to 647 CE and at its height covered all of North India. The peace and prosperity that prevailed made the court of Harsha
Harsha
a center of cosmopolitanism, attracting scholars, artists and religious visitors from far and wide, such as the Chinese traveler Xuanzang.

Contents

1 Background 2 History 3 Economy

3.1 Feudalism

4 Contact with China 5 Patron of Buddhism
Buddhism
and literature 6 Disintegration 7 See also 8 Notes 9 References

Background[edit]

Palace ruins at "Harsh ka tila" mound area spread over 1 km.

Prabhakarvardhana, the ruler of Thanesar, who belonged to the Pushyabhuti
Pushyabhuti
family, extended his control over neighbouring states.[citation needed] Rajyashri, the sister of Rajyavardhana and Harsha, had married the Maukhari
Maukhari
king, Grahavarman, whose capital was at Kannauj. Sometime later, Grahavarman was killed by the ruler of the Malava kingdom, who also kidnapped Rajyashri. Rajyavardhana, who had succeeded his father as king at Thanesar, marched against the Malava king and defeated him. Around 606 CE, Rajyavardhana died, perhaps murdered at a meeting by Shashanka, ruler of the Gauda kingdom.[a] It was after the death of Rajyavardhana that Harsha
Harsha
succeeded to the throne.[1][2] History[edit] The Empire
Empire
of Harsha
Harsha
revived the past glory of the Gupta Empire
Gupta Empire
in northern India.[3] The economy of northern India prospered and his capital at Kanauj
Kanauj
became a great centre of trade.[4] During his early career he possessed a force of 5,000 elephants, 20,000 cavalries, and 50,000 infantry and with this, he overran northern India. After the conquest of almost the entire of northern India, his military resources were so increased that he could field an army with 100,000 cavalry and 60,000 elephants. His long run of victories was only broken when he was defeated by Pulakesi II
Pulakesi II
of the Chalukya dynasty.[5] According to Dr. Shreenand L. Bapat, Registrar, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune, Pulakeshin II defeated Harsha
Harsha
on the banks of Narmada in the winter of 618-619 CE. This information is based on a copperplate inscription of Pulakeshin II discovered recently.[6][7] The administration of Harsha
Harsha
was similar to the Gupta Empire. He was just in his administration and punctilious in exercising his responsibilities.[8] There was no forced labour and everyone was free to busy himself with his own affairs.[9] Harsha
Harsha
built for the benefit of the poor throughout his Empire
Empire
in both the towns and rural parts Rest-Houses which provided food, drink and medicine.[10] Harsha
Harsha
was continually travelling up and down his wide dominions to see with his own eyes how the people were ruled in his Empire.[11] The merchants travelled freely in his Empire
Empire
and officials were paid regularly.[11] The taxes were light and one-sixth of the land produce was charged as land revenue.[4] Today a mound 1 km long and 750 m wide known as "Harsh ka Tila" in Thanesar
Thanesar
has ruins of structures built during the reign of Harsha. Amongst the archaeological finds from the mound include 'Painted Grey Ware' shreds in the pre- Kushana
Kushana
levels and 'Red Polished Ware' from post Gupta period.[12] Economy[edit]

Ruins of Harsha
Harsha
Ka Tila warehouse.

Economy under the Empire
Empire
of Harsha
Harsha
became increasingly more locally self-sufficient and feudal in nature as trade and commerce receded. This is reflected in the decline of trade centres, paucity of coins and near complete disappearance of trader and merchant guilds. Diminishing trade and commerce affected handicraft and other industries through want of demand; affected agriculture although not directly. As a result of the lack of trade, the need to produce agricultural goods for sale externally vanished and people began producing amounts adequate enough to meet their own local needs. This marked the rise of self-sufficiency in the village economy and the growing dependence on agriculture.[citation needed] Feudalism[edit]

Coin of Harshavardhana, circa 606-647 CE.[13]

When scholars mention Indian feudalism, the Empire
Empire
of Harsha
Harsha
is usually taken as a typical state. Insight into Harsha's Empire
Empire
is given by the discovery of a set of plates of copper, dating back to 632 CE, recording the gift of land by a military officer under Harsha's service to two Brahmins. Donations before Harsha's reign had come from either a royal prince or one of the provincial governors. In the copper plates, the first dignitary mentioned was a Mahasamanta, who ruled a territory adjoining Kanauj. But, the donor of the land was a military servant of Kanauj, and the execution of the grant came under Harsha's accounts. This leads to the conclusion that the Mahasamantas were, in fact, independent rulers with kingdoms near the core area of an overlord - here, King Harsha
Harsha
- and they paid tribute and provided military assistance to him. Though they may have obtained their territories through inheritance or conquest, there were some who served kings and got grants in the form of land to support their official duties; a process similar to distribution of feudal grants in Europe.[citation needed] Contact with China[edit] Harsha
Harsha
maintained friendly diplomatic relations with China, which was under the rule of Emperor Taizong of the Tang dynasty. Envoys from each country visited the other, most notably the Chinese monk Xuanzang who spent eight years in the Empire
Empire
of Harsha.[citation needed] Patron of Buddhism
Buddhism
and literature[edit]

King Harsha
Harsha
pays homage to Buddha

Harsha's father, Prabhakarvardhana, was from Thanesar, his brother followed Hinayana Buddhism
Buddhism
while, according to Bana, Harsha
Harsha
himself was a Mahayana Buddhist. Harsha
Harsha
was a tolerant ruler and supported all Indic faiths – Buddhism, Vedism
Vedism
and Jainism. Early in his life, he seems to have been a follower of Sun Worship, becoming a patron of Shaivism
Shaivism
and Buddhism
Buddhism
later on.[3] His sister Rajyashri's conversion to Buddhism
Buddhism
presumably had a positive effect on his support to the religion. His approach to religion is evident in his celebrated play Nagananda. The play's theme is based on the Jataka
Jataka
tale of the Bodhisattva
Bodhisattva
Jimutavahana, but Harsha
Harsha
introduces the Goddess Gauri, Shiva's consort, as the saviour of Jimutavahana, a feature not found in the Jataka.[citation needed] According to the Chinese Pilgrim Xuanzang, who visited his kingdom in 636, Harsha
Harsha
built numerous stupas in the name of Buddha. Xuanzang entered a grand competition organised by Harsha
Harsha
and won the theological debate. Harsha
Harsha
also became a patron of art and literature. He made numerous endowments to the University at Nalanda. Two seals of Harsha
Harsha
have been found in Nalanda
Nalanda
in the course of the excavations. All these favours and donations of the great emperor were crowned by the construction of a lofty wall enclosing all the buildings of the university to defend the institution from any other possible attack. In 643 he held a Buddhist convocation at Kannauj
Kannauj
which was reputedly attended by 20 kings and thousands of pilgrims.[14] In 641, following Xuanzang's visit, Harsha
Harsha
sent a mission to China which established the first diplomatic relations between China and India. The Chinese responded by sending an embassy consisting of Li Yibiao and Wang Xuance, who probably travelled through Tibet
Tibet
and whose journey is commemorated in inscriptions at Rajagriha – modern Rajgir, and Bodhgaya.[citation needed] Harsha
Harsha
was a noted author on his own merit. He wrote three Sanskrit plays – Nagananda, Ratnavali and Priyadarsika. His reign is comparatively well documented, thanks to his court poet Bana in Harschacharita and by Xuanzang
Xuanzang
in Si-Yu-Ki. Bana composed an account of Harsha's rise to power in Harsha
Harsha
Charitha, the first historical poetic work in Sanskrit
Sanskrit
language. Xuanzang
Xuanzang
wrote a full description of his travels in India.[15] Disintegration[edit]

Harsha
Harsha
Ka Tila ruins

In 648, Tang Taizong sent Wang Xuance to India in response to Harsha sending an ambassador to China. However once in India he discovered Harsha
Harsha
had died and the new king attacked Wang and his 30 mounted subordinates.[16] This led to Wang Xuance escaping to Tibet
Tibet
and then mounting a joint of over 7,000 Nepalese mounted infantry and 1,200 Tibetan infantry and attack on the Indian state on June 16. The success of this attack Wang Xuance the prestigious title of the "Grand Master for the Closing Court."[17] He also secured a reported Buddhist relic for China.[18] See also[edit]

History of India

Notes[edit]

^ The claim of murder is dubious because the only sources for it are Banabhatta and Hiuen-Tsang, who differ in their accounts and who were both prejudiced in their writings.[1]

References[edit]

Citations

^ a b Sengupta, Nitish K. (2011). Land of Two Rivers: A History of Bengal from the Mahabharata
Mahabharata
to Mujib. Penguin Books India. pp. 34–35. ISBN 978-0-14341-678-4.  ^ Roy, Kaushik (2013). "Bana". In Coetzee, Daniel; Eysturlid, Lee W. Philosophers of War: The Evolution of History's Greatest Military Thinkers. ABC-CLIO. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-313-07033-4.  ^ a b Drekmeier, Charles (1962). Kingship and Community in Early India. Stanford University Press. p. 187. ISBN 0-8047-0114-8.  ^ a b History of Ancient India: Earliest Times to 1000 A. D. by Radhey Shyam Chaurasia p.185 ^ Smith, Vincent A. The Early History of India. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 339-340.  ^ "Pulakeshin's victory over Harsha
Harsha
was in 618 AD". The Hindu. 25 April 2016. p. 9.  ^ "Study unravels nuances of classical Indian history". The Times of India. Pune. 23 April 2016. p. 3.  ^ Daniélou, Alain (2003). A Brief History of India. Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions. p. 162. ISBN 978-0-89281-923-2.  ^ Daniélou, Alain (2003). A Brief History of India. Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions. p. 163. ISBN 978-0-89281-923-2.  ^ Indian Civilization and Culture by Suhas Chatterjee p.339 ^ a b The Cambridge Shorter History of India
History of India
p.108 ^ "Harsh Ka Tila". Kurukshetra district website. Retrieved 8 August 2014.  ^ CNG Coins [1] ^ Watters, Thomas (1973) [First published as two volumes. 1904–1905, Royal Asiatic Society, London.]. On Yuan Chwang's Travels in India. Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal. pp. 343–344. OCLC 968967201.  ^ Beal, Samuel (1969) [First published 1884. London.]. Si-Yu-Ki: Buddhist Records of the Western World. Delhi: Oriental Books Reprint Corporation. OCLC 917827504.  ^ Bennett, Matthew (1998). The Hutchinson Dictionary of Ancient & Medieval Warfare. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. p. 336. ISBN 978-1-57958-116-9.  ^ Sen, Tansen (2003). Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade: The Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-8248-2593-5.  ^ Chen, Jinhua (2002). "Śarīra and Scepter. Empress Wu's Political Use of Buddhist Relics". The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. International Association of Buddhist Studies: 45. 

v t e

Middle kingdoms of India

Timeline and cultural period

Northwestern India (Punjab-Sapta Sindhu)

Indo-Gangetic Plain Central India Southern India

Upper Gangetic Plain (Kuru-Panchala)

Middle Gangetic Plain Lower Gangetic Plain

IRON AGE

Culture Late Vedic Period Late Vedic Period (Brahmin ideology)[a] Painted Grey Ware
Painted Grey Ware
culture

Late Vedic Period (Kshatriya/Shramanic culture)[b] Northern Black Polished Ware

Pre-history

 6th century BC Gandhara Kuru-Panchala Magadha

Adivasi
Adivasi
(tribes)

Culture Persian-Greek influences "Second Urbanisation" Rise of Shramana
Shramana
movements Jainism
Jainism
- Buddhism
Buddhism
- Ājīvika
Ājīvika
- Yoga

Pre-history

 5th century BC (Persian rule)

Shishunaga dynasty

Adivasi
Adivasi
(tribes)

 4th century BC (Greek conquests) Nanda empire

HISTORICAL AGE

Culture Spread of Buddhism Pre-history Sangam period (300 BC – 200 AD)

 3rd century BC Maurya Empire Early Cholas Early Pandyan Kingdom Satavahana dynasty Cheras 46 other small kingdoms in Ancient Thamizhagam

Culture Preclassical Hinduism[c] - "Hindu Synthesis"[d] (ca. 200 BC - 300 AD)[e][f] Epics - Puranas
Puranas
- Ramayana
Ramayana
- Mahabharata
Mahabharata
- Bhagavad Gita
Bhagavad Gita
- Brahma Sutras - Smarta Tradition Mahayana Buddhism Sangam period (continued) (300 BC – 200 AD)

 2nd century BC Indo-Greek Kingdom Shunga Empire Maha-Meghavahana Dynasty

Early Cholas Early Pandyan Kingdom Satavahana dynasty Cheras 46 other small kingdoms in Ancient Thamizhagam

 1st century BC

 1st century AD

Indo-Scythians Indo-Parthians

Kuninda Kingdom

 2nd century Kushan Empire

 3rd century Kushano-Sasanian Kingdom Kushan Empire Western Satraps Kamarupa
Kamarupa
kingdom Kalabhra dynasty Pandyan Kingdom(Under Kalabhras)

Culture "Golden Age of Hinduism"(ca. AD 320-650)[g] Puranas Co-existence of Hinduism
Hinduism
and Buddhism

 4th century Kidarites Gupta Empire Varman dynasty

Kalabhra dynasty Pandyan Kingdom(Under Kalabhras) Kadamba Dynasty Western Ganga Dynasty

 5th century Hephthalite Empire Alchon Huns Kalabhra dynasty Pandyan Kingdom(Under Kalabhras) Vishnukundina

 6th century Nezak Huns Kabul Shahi

Maitraka

Adivasi
Adivasi
(tribes) Badami Chalukyas Kalabhra dynasty Pandyan Kingdom(Under Kalabhras)

Culture Late-Classical Hinduism
Hinduism
(ca. AD 650-1100)[h] Advaita Vedanta
Advaita Vedanta
- Tantra Decline of Buddhism
Buddhism
in India

 7th century Indo-Sassanids

Vakataka dynasty Empire
Empire
of Harsha Mlechchha dynasty Adivasi
Adivasi
(tribes) Pandyan Kingdom(Under Kalabhras) Pandyan Kingdom(Revival) Pallava

 8th century Kabul Shahi

Pala Empire Pandyan Kingdom Kalachuri

 9th century

Gurjara-Pratihara

Rashtrakuta dynasty Pandyan Kingdom Medieval Cholas Pandyan Kingdom(Under Cholas) Chera Perumals of Makkotai

10th century Ghaznavids

Pala dynasty Kamboja-Pala dynasty

Kalyani Chalukyas Medieval Cholas Pandyan Kingdom(Under Cholas) Chera Perumals of Makkotai Rashtrakuta

References and sources for table

References

^ Samuel ^ Samuel ^ Michaels (2004) p.39 ^ Hiltebeitel (2002) ^ Michaels (2004) p.39 ^ Hiltebeitel (2002) ^ Micheals (2004) p.40 ^ Michaels (2004) p.41

Sources

Flood, Gavin D. (1996), An Introduction to Hinduism, Cambridge University Press  Hiltebeitel, Alf (2002), Hinduism. In: Joseph Kitagawa, "The Religious Traditions of Asia: Religion, History, and Culture", Routledge  Michaels, Axel (2004), Hinduism. Past and present, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press  Samuel, Geoffrey (2010), The Origins of Yoga
Yoga
and Tantra. Indic Religions to the Thirteenth Century, Cambridge University Press 

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