Vardhana dynasty – Harsha vardhana

Sources of Varshana dynasty

  • Banabhatta wrote Harshacharita , Kadambari.
  • Harshavardhana wrote Ratnavali, Nagananda, Priyadarsika
  • Madhuben plate inscription and the Sonpat inscription chronology of Harsha.
  • Banskhera inscription signature of Harsha.

Political history of Vardhanas

  • Pushyabhuti Dynasty, also known as Vardhana Dynasty.

  • It was founded by Pushyabhuti.

  • Prabhakaravardhana ruled with his capital as Thaneswar, north of Delhi. He assumed the title Maharajadhiraja and Paramabhattaraka.

  • After Prabhakaravardhana’s death, his elder son Rajyavardhana came to the throne.

harsha vardhanaHarsha Vardhana (606 – 647AD)

  • After Rajyavardhana murder, Harsha Vardhana came to rule.

  • His real name was Siladitya.

  • In his first expedition, Harsha drove out Sasanka from Kanauj & made Kanauj as new capital.

Harsha vardhana and Buddhism
  • In his early life, Harsha was a devout Saiva but later he became an ardent Hinayana Buddhist. Hiuen Tsang converted him to Mahayana Buddhism.

  • Harsha prohibited the use of animal food in his kingdom and punished those who kill any living being.

  • He erected thousands of stupas and established travellers’ rests all over his kingdom.

  • Once in 5 years he convened a gathering of representatives of all religions and honoured them with gifts and costly presents.

Kanauj Assembly

  • Harsha organized a religious assembly at Kanauj to honour the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang towards the close of his reign.

  • He invited representatives of all religious sects.

  • It was attended by 20 kings, 1000 scholars from the Nalanda University, 3000 Hinayanists and Mahayanists, 3000 Brahmins and Jains.

  • The Assembly went on continuously for 23 days. Hiuen Tsang explained the values of Mahayana doctrine and established its superiority over others.

harsha vardhana court poet Hiuen TsangAllahabad Assembly

  • Hiuen Tsang mentions in his account about the conference held at Allahabad, known as Prayag.

  • It was the one among the conferences routinely convened by Harsha once in five years.

  • Harsha gave away his enormous wealth as gifts to the members of all religious sects.

  • According to Hiuen Tsang, Harsha was so lavish that he emptied the treasury and even gave away the clothes and jewels he was wearing.

Administration under Harsha vardhana

  • Administration of Harsha was organized on the same lines as the Guptas did.

  • Taxation was light, only One sixth of the produce was collected as land tax.

  • Cruel punishments of the Mauryan period continued in the times of Harsha.

Harsha’s army consisted of the traditional four divisions i.e foot, horse,  chariot &  elephant.

Society under Harsha vardhana

  • The 4 fold division of the society

Brahmin Priest class,

Kshatriya Ruling class,

Vysya mainly traders &

Sudra Farmers.

  • Position of women was not satisfactory.

  • Swayamvara (the choice of choosing her husband) had declined.

  • Remarriage of widows was not permitted, particularly among the higher castes.

  • Dowry had also become common. Practice of sati was also prevalent.

  • Hiuen Tsang mentions 3 ways of disposal of the dead:


Water burial &

Exposure in the woods.

Nalanda University

  • The term Nalanda means “giver of knowledge”.

  • It was founded by Kumaragupta I during the Gupta period.

  • The professors of the University were called panditas.

  • Education was free including the boarding and lodging.

  • Sankhya and Yoga philosophies were also taught.

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