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.


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