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Subjects /Indian History / Ancient History / Harshvardhana (606 AD to 647 AD)

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Introduction
10 Jan 2021

The most important dynasty after the Guptas was the ‘Pushyabhuti’ dynasty. The dynasty reached its zenith during the reign of Harshvardhana. Prabhakarvardhan (brother of Harsha) was the first important ruler of Pushyabhuti dynasty. He established its capital at Thaneshwar (at present Kurukshetra in Haryana).

Contemporary to Pushyabhuti was ‘Maukhari’ dynasty (in present Uttar Pradesh area) whose ruler was Grahavarman. Its capital was at Kannauj.


Harshvardhana Rule

Harshvardhan’s sister was married to ‘Grahavarman’, because of some unfortunate incident – Grahavarman was killed by Bengal ruler ‘Shashanka’. After his death Maukhari kingdom came under Harshvardhan kingdom.

Harsha fought against Dhruvasena II of Valabhi and defeated him.

Most important military campaign of Harsha was against western Chalukaya ruler Pulakeshin II but Harsha was defeated according to Aihole inscription and Hiuen Tsang’s accounts.

In his early life, Harsha was a devout Saiva but later he became an ardent Mahayana Buddhist.

He organized Kannauj assembly to honour Hiuen Tsang.

He organized Allahabad conference every five years to present gifts to all religious sects.

Administration under Harsh

  • Light taxation nearly one-sixth of the produce.
  • Punishment was cruel in his rule for the crimes.
  • Nilopitu was the archive of the Harsha period and it was under the control of special officers.

Society and Economy during Harshavardhana reign

  • There was four -fold division of the society- Brahmin, Kshatriya(ruling class), Vyasya(traders) and Sudra(agriculture).
  • Dowry system and Sati pratha was present.
  • Dead bodies were disposed in three ways- cremation, water burial, exposure in woods.
  • Decline in trade was seen during his reign.

Culture under Harshavardhana

In Art and architecture he followed gupta empire.

He was a great patron of learning.

He patronised Nalanda University. It attained international reputation as a centre of learning during his rule.

In the court of Harshvardhan, there was a great scholar of Sanskrit of that time – ‘Banabhatt’.

Banabhatt wrote the biography of Harshvardhan - ‘Harshcharita’

He also wrote another book – ‘Kadambari’.

There was an another poet, philosopher and grammarian in his court whose name was Barthihari.

Besides the books of Banabhatt, Harshvardhan himself authored 3 books:

  • Priyadarshika
  • Ratnavali
  • Nagananda


Hiuen Tsang

Hiuen Tsang, second Chinese scholar, visited India during Harshavardhan period.

He came to study Buddhism in ‘Nalanda University’.

First Chinese scholar was Fa-Hien, he came during Chandragupta II period.

Hiuen Tsang mention controversial things in his writings about Harshavardhan’s rule-

  • India was completely free of Robbery and crime and there was good roads and highways.
  • He himself was robbed twice around Ganga river.
  • According to Hiuen Tsang, in India, there was complete absence of Human sacrifice.
  • He himself was captured by bandits for sacrifice and he managed to flew.

Wrong information was given to appease King Harshavardhan, who gave patronage and also provided a great reception to him.

Did You Know


  • Actual author of the 3 books written by Harshavardhan was ‘Dhavak’, who transferred his name for monetary gains.