“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers…

An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers……….
An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

The Knowledge Library


Harsha who ruled between 600 and 647 A.D. was viewed till recently as the last great Hindu rulers, but this assessment is no longer tenable. His achievment were exaggerated both by Bana and Hiuen-Tsang.

The chief source for assessing Harsha’s achievement in the Harsha Charitra of Bana. His expression in the book is poetic, allusive, and full of punning references. At oneplace sunset stands for bloody wars, buzzing bees, for arrowsn and blooded moon, for the rising power of Gauda King. “Harsha Charitra is as much based on real events as Scott’s quantin Durward of Waverley.”

The points of dispute in Bana’s version and the following First, Bana claims that Harsha installed Bhaskar Varmen on the throne. Secondly many rulers owed their appointments to him. Thirdly, the ruler of Kashmir surrendered the tooth relic of the Buddha to Harsha. Fourthly, the rulef of Sind was stripped of his royal fortune. Fifthly, no mentions made about the defeat of Harsha by Pulakesin. Sixthly, that elephants and horses were not unharnessed for six years by Harsha. Seventhly, description of internal administration is full of panegyrics – no foged documents, no multilation of offenders, no quarrles about revocery of debts, and no occasion to resort to courts of justice. All these remarks of Bana should be taken with a pinch of Salt in view of the facdt that they differematerially with the available information.

In like manner the accounts of Hiuen-Tsand, too, era open to debate. First, his praise of Harsha is an eulogy. “He was indefatigable and the day was to sought for him. His qualification moved heaven and earth, and his sense of justice was admired by the gods and men. His renown spread out everywhere.” To describe all his conduct would be to tell again the deeds of Sudhama. He forgot sleep and food in his devotion to good work”. Secondly, his statement that Harsha had 60,000 elephants was an exaggeration. His other statements that after sixth years of struggle and fighting agains the “five Indies” Harsha enjoyed peace for 30 years with out resorting to arms, in sdefinitely false, Thridly, his remark that one-forth of the revenue from the crown lands was earmarked for rewarding scholars or literarymen is an exaggeration. Fourthly his praise of Harsha on account of his predilection for Buddhism is uncalled for because Harsh’s affinity to Buddhism is in no way contrary to the tradtion of ancient India. He states, At the ryoyal lodges every day viands wer provided for 1,000 Buddhist monks and also 500 brahmins. The King’s day was devided into three periods of which one was given to the affairs of government and the other two were devoted to religios work”. Dr. R.C. Majumdar states that his account of Prayag quinquennial conference is ins all likelihood about a perversion of truth. Of course, the information as given by him about the quanquennial assembly on the condition of Kanauj and no the declining nature of Buddhism in the different parts of India, are quite valuable.

Apart from this, the praise of these two contemporaries is not reliable because of the following reasons. The unity maintained by Harsha was superficial. In norther India the Maukhar is ruled independently over the astern protions of their hereditary dominions. Madhava -Gupta and Magadha was a powerful ruler. The Maitrekas of vallabhi and Bhaskar Varman were hardly vassals of the empire. The administrative system not that god as made out by the two contemporaries. Even the Gauda ruler, against whom Harsha took an oath of Vengeance, remained powerful till his death in 637 A.D. and this Gauda rulers was subdued by Bhaskar Varman of Kamarupa, not by Harsha. The Chiecene chroniclers record serious disturbances from 618to 627 A.D. Harsha was defeated by Pulakesinin 637 A.D. A record of the Gurjaras of Broach refues to the defeat of Harsha by prince of Vallabhi. After Harsha’s death one of his ministers usurped the throne, All these go wo show that the Picture was not as the rosy as presented by Bana and Hiuen-Tsand.

Indeed, Harsha was undoubtedly a great monarch. At one time the ruler of Kamarupa wasconstrained not to detain a Chinese pilgrim against the will of his mighty ally. The ruller of Kashmir, Sind, Sallabhi and Kamarupa feared and also respected him. Sasanka was forced a withdraw, leaving Kanauj alone. Even after the defeat in the south, Harsha was the only ruler entiled to use music-pace durms. Besides his sense of duty, literacy merits, patronage of scholars and unheard of philanthropy are really remarkable.

And the very fact that the capial of Harsha, Kanauj, became the eynosure of all the neighbours from 647 to 1200 A.D., speaks volumes. Thus, without dyenying to Harsha what undoubtedly is his, we have to be critical of the wo Boswells who exaggerate the greatness of their Johnson.

Events towards the end of Harsha’s reign are described in Chinses sources. An embassy was sent by the Tanj emperor of the dayin 643 and agina in 647. It was on the second occasion that the Chinese abassador found that Harsha had recently died and the throne was usurped by an undeserving the King. The Chinese ambassador rushed to Nepal and Assam and raised a force with which he defeated the usurper and he was taken to China as a prisoner. The kingdom of Harsha his death, disintegrated rapidly into small states.


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