Archaeological Sources

April 8, 2010

Inscriptions and seals of Harsha’s period are important archaeological sources.

Inscriptions Banskhera is situated in the Shahjahanpur district of Uttar Pradesrr. An inscription dated AD 628 was found here in 1894. This inscription gives a lot of informa tion regarding Harsha. The inscription says that Harsha had granted Markatsagar village to two brahmans-Balachandra and Bhattaswami. This also speaks of the victory of Rajyavardhana over the Malwa king Devagupta and the murder of Devagupta by Sasanka.

Madhuban is situated in Ghoshi tehsil of Ajamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh. A Harsha inscription dated AD 631 has been found here. It mentions the grant of Somkunda village by Harsha.

The Aihole inscription of the Chalukya king Pulakesin II is dated AD 633-34. The inscription deals with the war between Harshavardhana and Pulakesin II. The inscription was written by Ravi Kirti, a court poet of Pulakesin.

Seals Two seals of Harsha have been found in Nalanda (Bihar) and Sonepat. One is of clay, while the other is of copper. These seals contain the names of all the kings, from Rajyavardhana I to Harshavardhana, of the Vardhana dy nasty. It is the Sonepat seal which gives Harshavardhana as the full name of Harsha.

According to Bana’s HarsMcharita, the predecessors of Harshavardhana were all rulers of the land of Srikantha (Thaneswar). The Pushyabhuti kingdom, as it was known, was founded by Naravardhana around the close of the fifth or the beginning of the sixth century. It was under Prabhakaravardhana that the kingdom grew in both territory and influence. He entered into a matrimonial alliance by marrying his daughter Rajyasri to the Maukhari ruler, Grahavarman. Prabhakaravardhana died in 605 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Rajyavardhana. Just at the time of his accession he had to rush his army to Malwa as Devagupta, the king of Malwa, had murdered Grahavarman, the king of Kanauj, and imprisoned Rajyasri.

Rajyavardhana defeated Devagupta, but he fell fighting the Bengal king, Sasanka. Harsha, who was only 16 years old at that time, succeeded Rajyavardhana on the throne in AD 606. The first arduous task before him was to search for his sister Rajyasri, who had escaped from the clutches of Sasanka. Harsha is said to have found her when she was about to immolate herself. He returned to Kanauj with his sister and, on her refusal to take up the responsibility of ruling, decided to continue as ruler, on ~e advice of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, without any royal insignia.

\ Harsha’s mastery over Kanauj greatly enhanced his power and prestige and he transferred his capital from Thaneswar to Kanauj. Harsha conquered the five kingdoms of northern India, viz., Punjab, Kanauj, Bengal, Bihar and Orissa and thereby consolidated his position in North India. Harsha also defeated the king of Valabhi, Dhruvasena. He later married his daughter to Dhruvasena and thus ex tended his empire upto the coast of the Arabian Sea. Harsha now turned towards the Deccan. Here he came face to face with Pulakesin II, the Chalukyan ruler of Vatapi.

A battle I was fought between the two rulers on the banks of River 1 Narmada, in which the Chalukyan ruler came out victori ous. Harsha’s last campaign was against the Ganjam ter ritory. Some historians also believe that Harsha had con quered the territories of Nepal, Sind and Kashmir. Pulakesin°II bestowed the title of Sakalottara-patha-natha-’the lord of the entire north’ -on him. Harsha is said to have main tained diplomatic relations with China. In 641 AD, he sent a brahman envoy to China. Three Chinese missions sub sequently visited his court.

HSUAN-TsANG The Chinese pilgrim, Hsuan-Tsang visited India during Harsha’s reign. He set out in 629 at the age of 29, and passing through Tashkant and Samarqand, reached Gandhara in 630. He came to study at Nalanda and to collect Buddhist texts. He left India in 643. He spent about eight years (635-643) in the dominions of Harsha and earned his friendship.

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