Harsha (c. 590–647 CE), also known as Harshavardhana, was an Indian
emperor who ruled
North India from 606 to 647 CE. He was a member of
the Pushyabhuti dynasty; and was the son of
defeated the Alchon Huna invaders, and the younger brother of
Rajyavardhana, a king of Thanesar, present-day Haryana. At the height
of Harsha's power, his Empire covered much of North and Northwestern
India, extended East till Kamarupa, and South until Narmada River; and
Kannauj (in present
Uttar Pradesh state) his capital,
and ruled till 647 CE.
Harsha was defeated by the south Indian
Pulakeshin II of the Chalukya dynasty, when
Harsha he to
expand his Empire into the southern peninsula of India.
The peace and prosperity that prevailed made his court a centre of
cosmopolitanism, attracting scholars, artists and religious visitors
from far and wide. The Chinese traveller
Xuanzang visited the court
Harsha and wrote a very favourable account of him, praising his
justice and generosity. His biography
Harshacharita ("Deeds of
Harsha") written by Sanskrit poet Banabhatta, describes his
association with Thanesar, besides mentioning the defence wall, a moat
and the palace with a two-storied Dhavalagriha (white mansion).
6 See also
8 Further reading
Palace ruins at "Harsh ka tila" mound area spread over 1 km
After the downfall of the
Gupta Empire in the middle of the 6th
North India was split into several independent kingdoms. The
northern and western regions of
India passed into the hands of a dozen
or more feudatory states. Prabhakara Vardhana, the ruler of
Sthanvisvara, who belonged to the Pushyabhuti family, extended his
control over neighbouring states. Prabhakar Vardhan was the first king
of the Vardhana dynasty with his capital at Thaneswar. After Prabhakar
Vardhan's death in 605, his eldest son, Rajya Vardhana, ascended the
Harsha Vardhana was Rajya Vardhana's younger brother. This
period of kings from the same line has been referred to as the
Vardhana dynasty in many publications. 
According to major evidences, Harsha, like the Guptas, was of the
Vaishya Varna. The Chinese traveler
Xuanzang mentions an emperor
named Shiladitya, who had been claimed to be Harsha. Xuanzang
mentions that this king belonged to "Fei-she". This word is generally
restored as "Vaishya" (a varna or social class).
Territorial reach of Harsha.
Rajya Vardhana’s and Harsha’s sister Rajyashri had been married to
the Maukhari king, Grahavarman. This king, some years later, had been
defeated and killed by king Devagupta of
Malwa and after his death
Rajyashri had been cast into prison by the victor. Harsha's brother,
Rajya Vardhana, then the king at Thanesar, could not stand this
affront on his family, marched against Devagupta and defeated him. But
it so happened at this moment that Shashanka, king of Gauda in Eastern
Magadha as a friend of Rajyavardhana, but in secret
alliance with the
Malwa king. Accordingly,
murdered Rajyavardhana. On hearing about the murder of his
Harsha resolved at once to march against the treacherous king
of Gauda and killed
Shashanka in a battle.
Harsha ascended the throne
at the age of 16.
See also: Empire of Harsha
North India reverted to small republics and small monarchical
states ruled by Gupta rulers after the fall of the prior Gupta Empire,
Harsha united the small republics from Punjab to central India, and
their representatives crowned him king at an assembly in April 606
giving him the title of Maharaja.
Harsha established an empire that
brought all of northern
India under his control. The peace and
prosperity that prevailed made his court a center of cosmopolitanism,
attracting scholars, artists and religious visitors from far and wide.
The Chinese traveler
Xuanzang visited the court of Harsha, and wrote a
very favourable account of him, praising his justice and
Pulakeshin II defeated
Harsha on the banks of Narmada in the winter of
Tang dynasty emperor Tang Taizong sent
Wang Xuance to
Harsha sending an ambassador to China. However once in
India he discovered
Harsha had died and the new king attacked Wang and
his 30 mounted subordinates. This led to
Wang Xuance escaping to
Tibet and then, mounting a joint force of over 7,000 Nepalese mounted
infantry and 1,200 Tibetan infantry attacked the Indian state on June
16. The success of this attack brought
Wang Xuance the prestigious
title of the "Grand Master for the Closing Court." He also secured
a reported Buddhist relic for China.
Like many other ancient Indian rulers,
Harsha was eclectic in
religion. His seals describe his ancestors as sun-worshippers, his
elder brother as a Buddhist, and himself as a Shaivite. His land grant
inscriptions describe him as Parama-maheshvara (supreme devotee of
Shiva), and his play
Nagananda is dedicated to Shiva's consort Gauri.
His court poet Bana also describes him as a Shaivite.
According to the Chinese Buddhist traveler Xuanzang,
Harsha became a
devout Buddhist at some point in his life.
Xuanzang states that Harsha
banned animal slaughter for food, and built monasteries at the places
visited by Gautama Buddha. He erected several thousand 100-feet high
stupas on the banks of the Ganges river, and built well-maintained
hospices for travelers and poor people on highways across India. He
organized an annual assembly of global scholars, and bestowed
charitable alms on them. Every five years, he held a great assembly
Xuanzang also describes a 21-day religious festival
Harsha in Kannauj; during this festival,
Harsha and his
subordinate kings performed daily rituals before a life-sized golden
statue of the Buddha.
Since Harsha's own records describe him as Shaivite, his conversion to
Buddhism would have happened, if at all, in the later part of his
Xuanzang states that
Harsha patronized scholars of all
religions, not just Buddhist monks.
Harsha is widely believed to be the author of three Sanskrit plays
Nagananda and Priyadarsika. While some believe (e.g.,
Mammata in Kavyaprakasha) that it was Bana, Harsha's court poet who
wrote the plays as a paid commission,
Wendy Doniger is "persuaded,
however, that king
Harsha really wrote the plays ... himself."
History of India
^ CNG Coins 
^ India: History, Religion, Vision and Contribution to the World, by
Alexander P. Varghese p.26
^ a b c d e International Dictionary of Historic Places: Asia and
Oceania by Trudy Ring, Robert M. Salkin, Sharon La Boda p.507
India by Ramesh Chandra Majumdar p.274
^ Vasudeva Sharana Agrawala (1969). The deeds of Harsha: being a
cultural study of Bāṇa's Harshacharita. Prithivi Prakashan.
Harsha Charitra by Banabhatt
^ Legislative Elite in India: A Study in Political Socialization by
Prabhu Datta Sharma, Publ. Legislators 1984, p32
^ Revival of
Buddhism in Modern
India by Deodas Liluji Ramteke, Publ
Deep & Deep, 1983, p19
^ Some Aspects of Ancient Indian History and Culture by Upendra
Thakur, Publ. Abhinav Publications, 1974,
^ Chandra Mauli Mani (2005). A Journey Through India's Past. Northern
Book Centre. p. 91. ISBN 978-81-7211-194-6.
Wendy Doniger (2006). Ratnāvalī. New York University Press.
^ Shankar Goyal (2006). Harsha, a multidisciplinary political study.
Kusumanjali. p. 122.
^ Bindeshwari Prasad Sinha (1977). Dynastic History of Magadha, Cir.
450-1200 A.D. Abhinav. p. 151.
^ "Pulakeshin's victory over
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.
^ Bennett, Matthew (1998). The Hutchinson Dictionary of Ancient &
Medieval Warfare. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. p. 336.
^ 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:
^ a b c Abraham Eraly (2011). The First Spring: The Golden Age of
India. Penguin Books India. p. 86.
^ a b
Harsha (2006). "The Lady of the Jewel Necklace" and "The Lady
who Shows Her Love". Translated by Wendy Doniger. New York University
Press. p. 18.
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
Reddy, Krishna (2011), Indian History, Tata McGraw-Hill Education
Private Limited, New Delhi
Price, Pamela (2007), Early Medieval India, HIS2172 - Periodic
Evaluation, University of Oslo
"Conquests of Siladitya in the south" by S. Srikanta Sastri
ISNI: 0000 0003 5697 689X