Early life of Harsha
Harsha was the second son of Prabhakaravardhana, the first king of Pushyabhuti dynasty with its capital at Thanesvar. Pushyabhutis were the feudatories of the Guptas but had assumed independence after the Huna invasions. Harsha was a great warrior and a conqueror and fought against many powers. In his first expedition he drove away Sasanka from Kannuj who had occupied it after killing his elder brother. It appears that there was a war between Harsha and the king of Valabhi. His hostilities with Valabhis ended through matrimonial alliance. Upon consolidating his position in the north Harsha led an expedition to the south. But he was defeated by King Pulakesin II of Chalukya dynasty. However Harsha was successful in his eastern campaign.
In the east the empire extended right up to the Brahmaputra. A Chinese account mentions him as the king of Magadha in 641 AD, the king of Kamarupa, Bhaskaravarman was his ally in his campaign of Bengal and other parts of eastern India. According to Bana, his empire included the states of Kashmir, Sindh and Nepal. It included the states of eastern Punjab, UP, Bihar, Bengal, Orissa, Saurashtra, Kanyakubja etc. He maintained cordial relationship with China and Persia. Harsha was a great scholar and authored several dramas and books. He profusely encouraged learning and patronised the learned persons. The Nalanda University was the great seat of learning which came to forefront under his patronage. His court was adorned with scholars like Bana, Matanaga, Divakara, ayasena, Bharti hari. He reigned for about 41 years and died in the beginning of 647AD.
Important Officials of the empire
Maha Sandhi-Vigrahadhikrit- Office to decide about war and peace
Mahabaladhikrit- The highest official of the army
Baladhikrit- The commanders
Vrihadashwar- Head of cavalry
Chat Bhat- Salary holder and non salary holders of royal service
Katuk-head of Elephant brigade
Doot Rajastuaniya- Foreign Minister
Uparik Maharaj- Provincial head
Ayuktak- Ordinary servant or officer
Economy under Harsha
The nature of the economy under Harsha became increasingly more feudal and self-sufficient. The decline of trade and commerce went on unabated under Harsha. This is evident from the decline of trade centres, paucity of coins and almost complete disappearance of guilds of traders and merchants. The decline of trade and commerce affected the handicrafts and other industries for want of demand. This decline affected even agriculture though indirectly. When trade was flourishing a great part of the merchandise consisted of food stuffs and also most of the raw materials for handicrafts and industries came from agricultural production.
But now there was a lack of large-scale demand for agricultural goods. So the agriculturist now began to produce only that much which was required to meet his own needs and those of the locality but not for the market, both internal and external. This naturally led to the rise of a self-sufficient village economy in which all the needs of the village were met from within and also marked by an increasing dependence on agriculture.
This period witnessed the ascendancy of varnasrama-dharma and it became an indispensable cornerstone of the Brahmanical social structure. Hiuen Tsang writes about the existence of four varnas or orders in Indai. Bana characterised Harsha as one who carried out all rules for the varnas and asramas. The first varna Brhamins continued to enjoy a very high and respectable position in the society and the glorification of gifts to them by the other three varnas became a distinct feature of Brahmanism. Despite the existence of some Sudra kings, the Kshatriya kings were in overwhelming majority. The third varna Vaishyas formed the class of traders according to Hiuen Tsang. The fourth varna Sudras comprised the agriculturists according to Hiuen Tsang. Both Bana and Hiuen Tsang talk about the existence of many sub castes such as the class of vernacular poets, class of bards, class of betel bearers and so on.
The rise of those sub castes was due to the social violation in the code of marriages and general ethics and also different occupations. Hiuen Tsang takes note of many outcastes and untouchables such as butchers, fishermen, executioners and scavengers who were segregated and were not allowed to mix with the people of the higher varnas and had habitations marked by distinguishing sigh. The position of women seems to have suffered a further decline during this period. The institution of svayamvara declined and there is no instance of its practice in the contemporary literature. Remarriage of widows was not permitted particularly among the higher varnas. The evil system of dowry according to Bana was quite common. There were few examples of practice of committing sati.
Brahmanisim which reasserted itself under the Guptas got further strengthened during this period. Its gradual ascendancy brought about the decline of Buddhism despite the patronage given to it by Harsha which is evident from the account of Hiuen Tsang. But Jainism did not undergo any major changes and it made neither progress nor any decay. Saivism became the main theistic system of this period. But Vaishnavism which was popular during the age of the Guptas was gradually declining during these period. The Vedic ceremonies and rituals once again came to be regarded as inseparable and integral constituents of Brahmanisim and the people practised them on a larger scale.
Interesting facts about Harsha
At the end of every five years, Harsha used to celebrate a solemn festival in Prayaga named as Prayaga festival.
Harsha was also known as Siladitya.
Hieun Tsang wrote book si-yu-ki in which he has mentioned Harsha and his reign.
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