Thursday, 14 November 2013

Emperor Harshavardhan

Harsha Vardhana was an ancient emperor who ruled the Indian subcontinent for more than 40 years. After the Gupta Dynasty’s downfall, it was Harsha Vardhana who united the northern India and established a strong empire. Harsha Vardhana was born in 590BC to Prabhakara Vardhana, founder of Vardhan Dynasty. Rajya Vardhana was the elder brother of Harsha Vardhana.

After the death of Prabhakara Vardhana, Rajya Vardhana became the king. But Raj Vardhana was got killed by king of Gauda, Sasanka. At that moment, Harsha ascended the throne. He was only sixteen at that time. Ascending the throne he declared battle against Sasanka. But only after the death of Sasanka, he was able to won Gauda.

      He was abled to bring entire northern India into his kingdom. He won Kannauj, West Bengal, Bihar, Dhruvasena, Ganjam , Punjab. But he lost to Pulakesi II, the Chalukya King of Vatapi. Thus his kingdom was only extended to the border of Narmada River. Southern India was left untouched by him. The defeat resulted in a truce between the two kings, with Harsha accepting River Narmada as the southern boundary for his kingdom.

King Harshavardhan was a Shaivite. However, he was tolerant towards all other religions and supported them fully. Some time later in his life, he became a patron of Buddhism also. King Harshavardhana propagated the religion by constructing numerous stupas in the name of Buddha. He believed in supporting art and literature and even made several donations to the Nalanda University. Harsha Vardhana also wrote three Sanskrit plays, namely Nagananda, Ratnavali and Priyadarsika. The Chinese traveler, I-Tsing recorded that Harsh versified the story of Jimutayahana in Nagananda and extremely fond of literature. It is contended that the Banskhera and Madhuban copper-plate inscriptions were probably composed by Harsha himself. The other works attributed to him are the two Sanskrit stotras in praise of the Buddha and a work on grammer. Besides Harsha, Bana was the Chief poet who wrote Hadembari and is also supposed to have written the'Parvati-parinay' and the Chandiskata, A writer Mayura was a master of erotic poetry. A other literary figure was Matanga Divakara.

 In 641 BC, he sent a mission to China, which helped in establishing the first diplomatic relations between China and India.

The age of Harsha was a trubulent one. Yet, the general life of people was a prosperous one. Hiuen-Tsang attributes commendable administrative vigilance to Harsha - made tours of inspection throughout his kingdom, and promoted benevolent activities like construction and maintenance of roads, sarais, hospitals, etc. Hiuen-Tsang states as the government is generous officials requirements are few. Families are not registered and individuals are not subject to forced labor contributions the king's tenants pay one-sixth of the products as the rent."

Crimes and Punishment in the kingdom

Cruel punishment continued in this tenure. Trial by or deal was common. For offences against social morality, disloyal and inferior conduct, the punishment was to cut of the nose, ear, hand, foot or to banish the offender to another country or into wilderness. Hiuen-Tsang maintains that as the government was honestly administrated and the people lived on good terms the criminal classes was small. But Chinese pilgrim about whom special care may have been taken by the government was robbed of his belongings, although he records that according to the laws of the land severe punishments were inflicted for crime. Robbery was considered to be a second treason for which the right hand of the robber was amputated. But it seems that under the influence of Buddhism the severity of punishment was mitigated, and criminals were imprisoned for life.

King Harshavardhana left for the holy abode in the year 647 AD, after ruling over the Indian subcontinent for more than 41 years. However, since he did not have any heirs, his empire rapidly disintegrated and collapsed into small states again.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Emperor of Emperor's Ashoka

            King Ashoka is the Emperor of Emperors, belong to Maurya Dynasty(304-232 BCE). He is One of India's greatest emperors who ruled thirty eight years, Ashoka reigned over most of present-day India after a number of military conquests. Great king Ashoka was the grandson of the famous ruler Chandragupta Maurya and son of Mauryan emperor Bindusara and his queen, Dharma. As a young lad, Ashoka excelled in whatever he was taught. Be it the art of warfare or reading the Holy Scriptures, Asoka excelled in everything he did. Ashoka had many half brothers and was loved by one and all. Thus, after his father died, his elder brother Suman took over the reign of the kingdom. But most of his father's ministers found Ashoka to be more efficient and helped him attain power. After a three year war, Ashoka accepted the throne and was crowned as the king of Magadha in 273 BC. After being crowned as the king, he proved himself by smoothly administrating his territory and performing all his duties as an able and courageous king.

 His empire stretched from the parts of the ancient territories of Khorasan, Sistan and Balochistan (unpartitioned) in what is now Afghanistan and possibly eastern Iran, through the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan, to present-day Bangladesh and the Indian state of Assam in the east, and as far south as northern Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. The empire had Taxila, Ujjain and Pataliputra as its capital,  from which he controlled northern India and 14 other states, extending to Bactria and Persia, in the west, and southern India to the Krishna River and eastward to Bengal. The capital city, according to Kautilya's "Arthaśāstra" on War and Diplomacy in Ancient India," by Roger Boesche [The Journal of Military History, Vol. 67, No. 1 (Jan., 2003), pp. 9-37], was the largest city in the world at the time. There were about fifty million people in this empire, making it larger than the later Mughal Empire and  the British Empire in India.

When Ashoka was in his eighth year of rule, his wife Devi gave birth two twins: Prince Mahindra and Princess Sanghamitra.

            Ashoka posted "the edicts of Ashoka" on large, animal-topped pillars, chiseled in the ancient Brahmi script, rather than Sanskrit. Mostly reforms, the edicts also list public works projects, including universities, roads, hospitals, and irrigation systems. In these edits, Ashoka calls himself "Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi," according to King Ashoka - His Edicts and His Times, where you'll find translations of the edits. The edicts are found in India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The pillars of Ashoka are a series of columns dispersed throughout the northern Indian subcontinent, and erected by Ashoka during his reign in the 3rd century BCE. Originally, there must have been many pillars of Ashoka although only ten with inscriptions still survive. Averaging between forty and fifty feet in height, and weighing up to fifty tons each, all the pillars were quarried at Chunar, just south of Varanasi and dragged, sometimes hundreds of miles, to where they were erected. The first Pillar of Ashoka was found in the 16th century by Thomas Coryat in the ruins of ancient Delhi. The wheel represents the sun time and Buddhist law, while the swastika stands for the cosmic dance around a fixed center and guards against evil. There is no evidence of a swastika, or manji, on the pillars.

The nobler phase of his reign followed Ashoka's conversion to Buddhism, which came after he had waged a far too bloody war in Kalinga, in c. 265. After a period of eight years of serving as king, Ashoka planned to seize the territory of Kalinga, the present day Orissa. He led a huge army and fought a gruesome battle with the army of Kalinga. The battle of Kalinga made him pledge to never wage a war again. The battle took place on the Dhauli hills that are located on the banks of River Daya. Though Ashoka emerged victorious at the end, the sight of the battlefield made his heart break with shame, guilt, and disgust. It is said that the battle was so furious that the waters of River Daya turned red with the blood of the slain soldiers and civilians. The battle was a massive one and caused the deaths of more than 100,000 soldiers and many civilians who rose up in defence; over 150,000 were deported.

             The sight of numerous corpses lying strewn across the battlefield made his heart wrench. He felt sick inside. The battle ground looked like a graveyard with bodies of not just soldiers but men, women, and children also. He saw young children crying over the bodies of their dead parents, women crying over the bodies of their dead husbands, mothers crying over the loss of their kids. This turned him heartbroken and thus, made a pledge to never ever fight a battle again. 

To seek solace, he converted to Buddhism. He was so inspired by the teachings of the Buddhist monks and Buddhist philosophies that he used his status to impart this knowledge all over the world. He is credited to be the first Emperor to make a serious attempt at developing Buddhist policies.

Devi his wife was Buddhist and perhaps this in combination with Ashoka's memory of learning about Buddhist principles led him to change his ways.
From this point on, he embraces Buddhism. He took on the Buddhists Radhaswami and Manjushri as his teachers. He decided that he would base the rest of his rule on Buddhist principles.

Ashoka ruled for over 40 years. 50 years after his death, the Mauryan Empire came to an end. He had numerous wives and many heirs but most of their names are lost. Buddhism did not, of course, stay the state religion of India. Still, empowered by Ashoka, Buddhism quickly spread outside of India's borders into Southeast Asia.

The Lion capital of Ashoka is a sculpture of four "Indian lions" standing back to back. It was originally placed atop the Aśoka pillar at Sarnath, now in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. The pillar, sometimes called the Aśoka Column is still in its original location, but the Lion Capital is now in the Sarnath Museum. This Lion Capital of Ashoka from Sarnath has been adopted as the National Emblem of India and the wheel "Ashoka Chakra" from its base was placed onto the center of the National Flag of India.
Today, the Ashokra Chakra, the Wheel of Dharma, is featured on the national flag of India.  Ashoka used this image on many of his constructions. 

The wheel has 24 spokes which represent:
Self sacrifice
Godly knowledge
Godly wisdom
Godly moral
Reverential fear of God
Hope/trust/faith in the goodness of God 

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Chandra Gupta Maurya

Maurya Dynasty started with the Emperor Chandra Gupta Maurya(340BC-298BC), his tale of establishing the empire is of exemplary courage, valor & magnificence of a young man who was destined to a life of servitude until he came into contact with Chanakya, the scion of wisdom. Chandragupta Maurya is born in Patna, Bihar. His mother was Mura. Maurya Dynasty is named after her. Historian are of different opinion regarding the birth of Chandragupta, some believe him to be from Magadha, as the son of a Nanda Prince, while others connect him to Gandhara. He was the disciple of Chanakya, a teacher in Taxila.

His abilities were first identified by his teacher Chanakya. He taught Chandragupta different lessons on politics and war. Later with the help of Chanakya, he established Maurya Empire defeating Dhana Nanda of Nanda Empire. At that time he was only 20 years old. He formed many other alliances and built a composite army of Yavanas, Kambojas, Shakas, Kiratas, Parasikas and Bahlikas. After defeating Dhana Nanda he acquired his army and territory and used all this in acquiring more territories.

             Under his guidance, Chandragupta rose from being a mere commoner to one of the greatest kings of ancient India. Chanakya's motivation and encouragement helped Chandragupta become a master strategist, a diplomatic ruler as well as a sensitive & intuitive human being. Under his rule flourished the great Mauryan Empire which extended from Bengal and Assam in the east, to Afghanistan and Baluchistan in the west, Kashmir and Nepal in the north, and Deccan Plateau in the south. He was the first emperor who unified all the states of india and brings them under one state. After establishing the Maurya Empire, Chandragupta started to unify the India. He was able to conquer every part of the Indian subcontinent except for the Kalinga of Orissa and some southern subcontinent. It is the largest empire yet seen in Indian history.

After unifying India, Chandragupta and his chief advisor Chanakya passed a series of major economic and political reforms. He established a strong central administration patterned after Chanakya’s text on politics, the Arthashastra(English: Economics and Political Science). Mauryan India was characterised by an efficient and highly organised bureaucratic structure with a large civil service. Due to its unified structure, the empire developed a strong economy, with internal and external trade thriving and agriculture flourishing. In both art and architecture, the Mauryan empire constituted a landmark. There was a growth in culture which derived its inspiration from the Achaemenids and the Hellenistic world. Chandragupta's reign was a time of great social and religious reform in India. Buddhism and Jainism became increasingly prominent.

In foreign Greek and Latin accounts, Chandragupta is known as Sandrokottos and Androcottus. He became well known in the Hellenistic world for conquering Alexander the Great's easternmost satrapies, and for defeating the most powerful of Alexander's successors, Seleucus I Nicator, in battle. Chandragupta subsequently married Seleucus's daughter to formalize an alliance and established a policy of friendship with the Hellenistic kingdoms, which stimulated India's trade and contact with the western world. The Greek diplomat Megasthenes is an important source of Mauryan history.

Alexander’s invasion to India

Chandragupta Maurya, with the help of Chanakya, defeated the Magadha king and the army of the Chandravanshi clan. Following his victory, the defeated generals of Alexander settled in Gandhara (the Kamboja kingdom), today's Afghanistan. At the time of Alexander's invasion, Chanakya was a teacher in Takshasila. The king of Takshasila and Gandhara, Ambhi (also known as Taxiles), made a peace treaty with Alexander.


 Chanakya, however, planned to defeat the foreign invasion and sought help from other kings to unite and fight Alexander. Parvateshwara (Porus), a king of Punjab, was the only local king who was able to challenge Alexander at the Battle of the Hydaspes River, but he was defeated.

Chanakya then went further east to Magadha, to seek the help of Dhana Nanda, who ruled the vast Nanda Empire which extended from Bihar and Bengal in the east to Punjab and Sindh in the west, but Dhana Nanda refused to help him. After this incident, Chanakya began to persuade his disciple Chandragupta of the need to build an empire that could protect Indian territories from foreign invasion and succeeded very well. He has built a very strong empire in Indian history.

At the age of 42 he handed over his throne to his son Bindusara. He accepted Jainism and made saint Bhadrabahu his guru. He travelled to the southwest India and spent his last days in Shravana Belgola, a famous religious site where meditated without eating and drinking until he died (this process is called sallekhana or santhara). He has played a crucial role in shaping the national identity of modern India, and has been lionised as a model ruler and as a national hero.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Sree Krishna Devaraya

         తెలుఁగ దేల యెన్న దేశంబు దెలుఁగేను
             తెలుఁగు వల్లభుండఁ తెలుఁగొకండ
యెల్ల నృపులు గొలువ నెరుఁగవే బాసాడి
దేశ భాషలందు తెలుగు లెస్స” – తుళువ రాజు శ్రీకృష్ణదేవరాయ"

“Desa bhashalandu Telugu Lessa” meaning " Telugu is the best/sweetest among the languages of the nation", said by none other than the Vijayanagara king Shri Krishna Deva Raya of Tuluva Dynasty well known as Andhra Bhoja, Kannada Rajya rama ramana, Moorurayaraganda(King of 3 kings). He is born on 17th January,1471 at Hampi of Karnataka state to Tuluva Narasa Nayaka. Emperor’s coronation took place on the birthday of Hindu God Krishna.

            He is one of the greatest kings in India. Krishnadevaraya who ruled the kingdom of Vijayanagara in between 1509-1529(16th century A.D) was one of the greatest statesmen which medieval South India had produced. Size of Vijayanagara empire is estimated as large as Rome. The Vijayanagara period (1336-1565 A.D.) is considered to be the golden age of Telugu literature. Literary activities flourished during the rule of the Vijayanagara dynasty, and the period of Krishnadevaraya’s rule in the sixteenth century. During this time Telugu was one of the languages spoken in the royal courts. 

                Telugu literature also flourished in the traditional “samsthanas” (centres) of Southern literature, such as Madurai and Tanjore. Therefore this age is often also referred to as the Southern Period. Emperor was fluent in many languages. Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Sanskrit poets enjoyed emperor’s patronage. Painting, sculpture, dance and music were greatly encouraged by him and his successors. Nilakantha Somayaji (Greatest south Indian Mathematician) , Allasani Peddanna, Nandi thimmana, Madayyagari Mallana, Dhurjati ( Andhra Kavi), Ayyala-raju Rama-Bhadrudu, Pingali surana, Ramaraja Bhushanudu and Tenali Rama Krishna are the Ashta Diggajas of his court, (Ashta + dik + gaja) means elephants in eight directions. It refers to the old Hindu belief that eight elephants hold the earth in eight directions. The court of poets were also called Bhuvana Vijayam (Conquest of the World).

Among these eight poets Allasani Peddana is considered to be the greatest and is given the title of Andhra Kavita Pitamaha (the father of Telugu poetry). Manu-charitramu which was patronised to Sri Krishna Devaraya is his popular prabhanda work. Nandi Timmana wrote Paari-jaata-apaharan-amu. Madayya-gari Mallana wrote Raja-sekhara Charitramu. Dhurjati wrote Kalahasti Mahatyamu and Ayyal-raju Rama-bhadrudu wrote Rama-abhyuday-amu. Pingali Surana wrote the still remarkable Raghava-pandaveeyamu, a dual work with double meaning built into the text, describing both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Bhattumurty alias Rama-raja-bhushanudu wrote Kavyalankara-sangrahamu, Vasu-charitramu, and Harischandra-nalopakhyanamu. Among these works the last one is a dual work which tells simultaneously the story of King Harishchandra and Nala and Damayanthi. Tenali Ramakrishna first wrote Udbhataradhya Charitramu, a Shaivite work and later wrote Vaishnava devotional texts Pandu-ranga Mahatmyamu, and Ghatikachala Mahatmyamu. The period of the Empire is known as “Prabandha Period,” because of the quality of the prabandha literature produced during this time. Tenali Ramakrishna remains one of the most popular folk figures in India today, a quick-witted courtier ready even to outwit the all-powerful emperor. Among Dhurjati's works, a set of poems rather a collection of 100 poems called the "srikalahastheeshwara satakamu" (satakamu means set of 100 poems) is the most famous.

The Vijayanagar kingdom reached the pinnacle of its glory during the reign of Krishnadeva Raya. He was successful in all the wars he waged. He defeated the king of Orissa and annexed Vijaywada and Rajmahendri. He defeated the Sultan of Bijapur in 1512 and took the possession of the Raichur Doab. The Vijayanagar kingdom extended from Cuttak in east to Goa in the west and from the Raichur Doab in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south.


Sri Krishna Deva Raya being himself well conversant with literature, wrote the book Amuktamalyada in Telugu, beautifully describing the pangs of separation suffered by Sri Andal (one of the twelve bhakti-era alwars) for her lover Lord Vishnu

One of the main characters is Periyalvar, the father of Andal. Lord Vishnu commands Periyalwar to teach a king of the Pandya dynasty the path of knowledge to moksha. Amuktamalyada is also known by the name Vishnu-chitteeyam, a reference to Vishnu-chittudu, the Telugu name of Vishnuchittar aka Periyalwar. Several other short stories are included in Amuktamalyada in the course of the main story of Godadevi, the Sanskrit name of Kothai Naachiyaar aka Andal, which is used throughout the tome. Krishna Raya was also well-versed in Sanskrit, Tamil and Kannada. Jambavati Kalyanamu is his Sanskrit work. He strove for the welfare and the uplifting of Telugu people.


Sri Krishnadevaraya used to place lot of importance to trade. As warfare during these times depended upon effective cavalry, the import of horses from Arabia and Central Asia was very important for rival kingdoms. This trade was initially controlled by Arab traders. Local communities of merchants known as kudirai chettis or horse merchants also participated in these exchanges. From 1498 other actors appeared on the scene. These were the Portuguese, who arrived on the west coast of the subcontinent and attempted to establish trading and military stations. Their superior military technology, especially the use of muskets, enabled them to become important players in the tangled politics of the period.

In fact, Vijayanagara was also noted for its markets dealing in spices, textiles and precious stones. Trade was often regarded as a status symbol for such cities, which boasted of a wealthy population that demanded high-value exotic goods, especially precious stones and jewellery. The revenue derived from trade in turn contributed significantly to the prosperity of the state.

The following extract from Amuktamalyada will clarify how much important trade is in the view of Sri Krishnadevaraya -"A king should improve the harbours of his country and so encourage its commerce that horses, elephants, precious gems, sandalwood, pearls and other articles are freely imported … He should arrange that the foreign sailors who land in his country on account of storms, illness and exhaustion are looked after in a suitable manner … Make the merchants of distant foreign countries who import elephants and good horses be attached to yourself by providing them with daily audience, presents and allowing decent profits. Then those articles will never go to your enemies." 

  1. Kalinga war

The Surya Vamsi Gajapatis of Odisha ruled a vast land comprising Andhra region, most of Telengana region, the whole of Odisha, parts of present West Bengal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Krishna Deva Raya's success at Ummatur provided the necessary impetus to carry his campaign into the Telangana region which was in control of Gajapati Prathapa Rudra Dev. The Vijayanagar army laid siege to the Udayagiri fort in 1512. The campaign lasted for a year before the Gajapati army disintegrated due to starvation. Krishna Deva Raya offered prayers at Tirupati thereafter along with his wives Tirumala Devi and Chinnama Devi. The Gajapati army was then met at Kondaviduraju where the armies of Vijayanagara, after establishing a siege for a few months and heavy with initial defeats began to retreat, until Timmarusu upon discovering a secret entrance to the unguarded eastern gate of the fort launched a night attack culminating with the capture of the fort and the imprisonment of the greatest swordsman of his time, Prince Virabhadra, the son of Gajapati Emperor of Kalinga-Utkal,Gajapati Prataprudra Deva. Saluva Timmarasa took over as governor of Kondavidu thereafter. The Vijayanagar army then accosted the Gajapati army at Kondapalli area and laid another siege. Krishnadevaraya then planned for an invasion of mainland Kalinga-Utkal but the Gajapati Emperor, Prataparudra, privy of this plan had built up a strategy to rout the Vijayanagara army and along with it its king, Krishnadevaraya. The confrontation was to happen at the fort of Kalinganagar. But the wily Timmarusu secured the information by bribing a Telugu deserter, formerly under the service of the mighty Prataprudra deva. Prataprudra was driven to Cuttack,the capital of the Gajapati empire and eventually surrendered to Vijaynagar, giving his daughter Princess Annapurna Devi in marriage to Sri Krishna Deva Raya.As per treaty Krishna river became boundary of Vijaynagar and Odisha Kingdom. Thereafter peace between the two strongest Hindu empires in India ensured a period of harmony and the safety of Sanatana dharma in India.

 The complicated alliances of the empire and the five Deccan sultanates meant that he was continually at war, in one of these campaigns, he defeated Golconda and captured its commander Madurul-Mulk, crushed Bijapur and its Sultan Ismail Adil Shah and restored Bahmani sultanate to Muhammad Shah.
The highlight of his conquests occurred on 19 May 1520 where he secured the fortress of Raichur from Ismail Adil Shah of Bijapur after a difficult siege during which 16,000 Vijaynagar soldiers were killed. The exploits of the chief military commander, Pemmasani Ramalinga Nayudu, during the battle of Raichur were suitably rewarded by the grateful emperor. During the campaign against Raichur, it is said that 703,000 foot soldiers, 32,600 cavalry and 551 elephants were used .Finally, in his last battle, he razed to the ground the fortress of Gulburga, the early capital of the Bahmani sultanate. His empire extended over the whole of South India.
In 1524 he made his son Tirumala Raya the Yuvaraja though the crown prince did not survive for long. He was poisoned to death. Suspecting the involvement of Timmarusu, Krishna Deva Raya had his trusted commander and adviser blinded. At the same time, Krishnadevaraya was preparing for an attack on Belgaum that was in the Adil Shah’s possession; Krishnadevaraya took seriously ill. He died soon after in 1529. Before his death, he nominated his brother, Achyuta Deva Raya as his successor. The rule of Krishnadevaraya was a glorious chapter in the history of Vijayanagara Empire.Even the ruins at Hampi tell the glorious tale of that mighty empire.

The decline of the Vijayanagar kingdom began with the death of Krishnadeva Raya in 1529. The kingdom came to an end in 1565, when Ramrai was defeated at Talikota by the joint efforts of Adilshahi, Nizamshahi, Qutubshahi and Baridshahi. After this, the kingdom broke into small states.