HARHAVARDHAN EMPIRE

Introduction

The decline of Gupta Empire in the north created political disunity which was resolved after Harshavardhan established his Empire. The details of Harshavardhan’s Empire can be seen in Huen Tsang’s, a Chinese traveler account and works of Bana, a court poet. 

Foundation of the Empire:

The founders were initially feudatories of the Gupta’s. They declared independence after the Huns invaded and the Gupta Empire weakened. When Harsha acceded to the throne he had to face crisis initially. His brother and brother in law were murdered and his sister was about to immolate herself. Harsha rescued her and took revenge on the rulers of Malwa and Bengal.

Harsha Empire extended over to entire north India. This was done by extensive military conquests. The suzerainty was also accepted by Kashmir, Sind, and Valabhi. However his ambition to entire the southern states was crushed by Chalukya ruler Pulekasin II who defeated him. 

Buddhism:

Harsha was initially a Shaiva later he became a Hinayana Buddhist. Huen Tsang converted him to Mahayana Buddhism with the assistance of his sister. He constructed many Stupa’s and monasteries. Once every five years he convened a gathering of Buddhist monks to discuss Buddha’s doctrine.

He patronised Nalanda University.

He was tolerant towards all religions.

Administration:

The administration was on lines of the Gupta’s. Taxation was light and civil liberties were given. Administration was organized and inspections by the king were common. However cruel punishments of Mauryan age continued. Forced labor was rare. 

Maintenance of records about events was done meticulously. 

Society:

  1. Society was divided into Varna’s or castes. Brahmins and kshatriyas enjoyed privileges and the lower castes were oppressed.
  2. Condition of women was unsatisfactory.
  3. Remarriage wasn’t permitted to widows.
  4. Sati, dowry became prevalent.

Economy:  

  1. Trade and industry declined. This led to decrease in trading centers, limited number of coins issued.
  2. Declining demand for handicrafts and agricultural produce led farmers to cultivate less. The self sufficient village economy started.
  3. On the whole prosperity was less than the Gupta age.

Culture:

  1. Harsha period followed the art and architecture style of the Gupta’s.
  2. Harsha himself was a learned scholar and patron of learning. He wrote the plays Ratnavali, Nagananda and Priyadarshika.
  3. Nalanda University became an international centre of reputation during Harsha reign.

Huen Tsang: 

  1. Wrote Book – Journey to the West.
  2. He wrote about way of life, agriculture, food, dress, jewellery and taxes.
  3. He was attacked by robbers along the way.