After the decline of the Gupta Empire, there appeared a number of small independent kingdoms in North India. One of them was at Thaneswar. It was ruled by the Vardhana dynasty. Prabhakara Vardhana was the founder of the Vardhana dynasty. He had two sons, Rajya Vardhana and Harsha Vardhana and a daughter Rajyasree. Prabhakara Vardhana was a mighty warrior. After his death, his son Rajya Vardhana succeeded him. But, soon his enemies murdered him, So Harsha became the ruler of Thaneswar in A.D. 606. He ruled up to A D 647.


Harsha’s Conquests

Harsha defeated the rulers of Maiwa and Kanauj. He then extended his kingdom from the Bay of Bengal to the Arbian Sea and from the Himlayas in the North to the Narmadha in the South. He also tried to bring South India under his rule. Biil Pulakesin IL, the Chalukya king, defeated him.


Harsha shifted his capital from Thaneswar Kanauj. He was not only a successful warrior, but also a capable administrator. He looked after the welfare of his people. He closely watched the activities of his officials and ministers: He visited the different parts of his kingdom in disguise to get first hand information from his subjects. The farmers paid one sixth of their produce as taxes to the Government. There was no forced labor. Punishments were light and there was no death penalty. Hospitals were well maintained. Excellent roads were provided with rest houses. Tue needy travelers were given food and medical care, Harsha was also generous. He gave all his personal wealth and belongings in charity during the Prayag Assembly which was held once in five years.
During Harsha’s reign, Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim, visited India. He stayed for about fourteen years in India; He traveled almost all parts of North India. He also visited Kanchipuram in the South. He visited the courts of Harsha, the Chalukya rulers and the Pallava kings He was called as the ‘Prince of Pilgrims’. Hiuen Tsang wrote a book called Siyuki which means My Experiences. It is also known as Records of the Western World. It is the main source of information about Harsha’s conquests, religion, administration and the conditions of the people. Harsha’s seal is also another important source to know the reign of Harsha.

Harsha’s Contribution to Buddhism

Initially Harsha was the follower of Hindu religion. Later he became a Buddhist and followed Mahayana Buddhism. Yet he had continued to worship Lord Siva and Sun God, In A.D 644, he called for a Buddhist Council at Kanauj in honor of Hiuen Tsang’s visit to India. It lasted for 23 days.

Nalanda University

Kumara Gupta. The Gupta king, founded Nalanda University in the 5th century A it became the principal seat of learning during Harsha’s time, Students from many countries gathered here. The university had more than 1500 teachers and 10000 students. Hiuen Tsang was a student of this university for some time. As a result, this university assumed international character. A number of subjects like Vedas, Philosophy, Grammar, Logic, Law, Science, Medicine and Fine Arts were taught in this university. Darmapala served as Vice of this university during Harsha’s time. He belonged to Kanchipuram in Tamilnadu. A colossal copper statue of Buddha, 80 feet height was erected at Nalanda.

Harsha, a Great Scholar

Harsha was a lover of literature. He himself was a great scholar. He wrote three dramas. They are Ratnavali, Nagananda and Priyadarshika. He had many scholars in his court. Bana was the chief among them. He wrote Harsha Charita and Kadambari. Haridatta and Jayasena were also patronized by Harsha.
Harsha died in A.D.647. After his death the kingdom was split into many small states. With that the rule of Vardhana dynasty in North India came to an end. Harsha ranks as one of the great rulers of India,

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