King Harsha of Thaneshwar

King Harsha of Thaneshwar

Harsha Vardhana was an Indian King who reigned in the northern region of India from c.606 to c.647AD. He was born in a royal Rajput clan, the Bais Rajput, to the Thaneshwar King Prabhakar Vardhana in Haryana and was Rajya Vardhana’s younger brother. Harsha Vardhana was born in the Hindu pilgrimage centre of Thaneshwar, in ancient India, which is Haryana in the present times. Thaneshwar is one of the 51 Shaktipeeth. When he came to power he was a young man. He proved to be an able and good administrator and conqueror. He got Kannauj and Thaneshwar, the two kingdoms united and transferred his capital to Kannauj from Thaneshwar.


In both war and peace, remarkable success was achieved by Emperor Harsha. The political fragmentation within the northern region of India characterized this age. In the whole of Northern India, integrity and unity was established after a gap of more than a century. He is considered as the North India’s Lord or the Sakalouttarapatha in Pulakesin II’s Aihole inscription.

Right from the Himalayas located in the north to the Narmada River in the south and Bengal in the east and Punjab in the west his empire extended which means that he unified India, one of the most remarkable achievements by this ruler.

As far as administration was concerned, he was an efficient and successful administrator. His administrative system was efficient and strong in entire Northern India with a lot of stability and peace prevailing in the region. In both private and public life, the common man enjoyed freedom to a large degree. He followed benign principles and lofty ideals. On the subjects he did not impose excessive control besides which he had minimal demands on the state. Taxes imposed were light and the land revenue rate collected was 1/6th. Families were not forced into labor and there was no need for them to get themselves registered. He took control of government affairs and feudal elements. A department of archives and records was also well maintained to keep a record of everything that kept taking place in the empire. He was also a successful military conqueror who fought many battles and wars and conquered many areas without using any barbarous methods. Harsha emphasized on using moral methods and never gave orders for mass slaughter of the people. He is well known for his diplomatic and friendly relations with other kingdoms and nations across the world.

Political, Social And Cultural Contributions Made By Harsha

Harsha ensured he was accessible to his people, and so this energetic king traveled frequently. On his own merit, Harsha was a noted author too. Despite his administrative duties, he used considerable talent and literary interests to write plays like the Nagananda, Priyadarshika and Ratnavali with Priyadarshika and Ratnavali with classical style comedies and Nagananda with a religious theme that was serious.

Dramatists, philosophers, painters and poets flourished in his magnificent court. He had as court poet, the author of Kadambari and Harsha-Charita named Banabhatta in his court. Also the grammarian and Vakyapadiya author Bhartrihari and Mayurashataka author Maurya lived in his court. He was the Nalanda University’s chief patron where around ten thousand students from different parts of India and across the world studied. He kept giving money to the poor and hence XuanZang, the Chinese pilgrim and Bana, the court poet celebrated him.

Harsha was a patron of literature and Buddhism. He was a Mahayana Buddhist himself but supported Jainism, Vedism and Buddhism, the Indic faiths. It seems that he followed Sun worship in the early years of his life thus becoming a patron of Shaivism and later on he became a patron of Buddhism. In the name of Buddha he constructed a number of stupas. He won the theological debate in a grand competition.

He was also a patron of art besides literature. To Nalanda University he had made many endowments, donations and favors. During excavations in Nalanda, two seals of King Harsha were found.

After Xuanzang a pilgrim from China visited India, King Harsha established the very first diplomatic relations between India and China by sending a mission to China. China in turn sent back an embassy comprising of Wang Xuanze and Li Yibaio.

In the cultured life of his very own court, Harsha participated a lot. As compared to the other kings, his participation was far more direct. Towards Sanskrit literature he made a personal contribution. On the Buddhist theme, he came up with 2 significant poems including Suprabhatastotra and the Ashtamahasricaityastotra besides the Linganusasanam a grammatical gender tract.

Extent Of The Empire

When his power was at its height his kingdom spread to regions like Gujarat Odisha, Punjab, Bengal, Rajasthan and whole of Indo-Gangetic plains towards the north of River Narmada. When in the middle of the sixth century, the Gupta Empire experienced a downfall, many small monarchial states and republics that were ruled by the Gupta kings came up in northern India. He was responsible in uniting Punjab’s smaller republics to Central India. In April 606 at an assembly representatives of the republics crowned him as their king. When he was just sixteen years old, he attained the Maharaja title. Supremacy was established by the Hunas in Northern Punjab. The western and northern Indian regions got passed into the hands of many feudatory states.

He had great ambitions to extend his power to Southern India and the Deccan region but was stopped by Pulakeshi II the Southern India’s Chalukya Emperor. In 620 on the Narmada river banks, Harsha’s army was defeated by Pulakeshi. There was a truce agreed upon and the Narmada River was marked as his kingdom’s Southern boundary.

Reasons For Decline Of Harsha’s Empire

In the year 647, King Harsha died after ruling for 41 years. The Harsha Empire also died with him after this. There was disintegration which led to the rise of smaller states. Kalyanvardhan and Vagyavardhan were the two sons of Harsha who were killed by his chief minister, Arunashwa. Durgavati the wife of Harshavardhan was taken as prisoner.