Harsha Vardhana :
The northern and western regions of India passed into the hands of a dozen or more feudatories. Gradually, one of them, Prabhakar Vardhana, the ruler of Thanesar, who belonged to the Pushabhukti family, extended his control over all other feudatories. Prabhakar Vardhan was the first king of the Vardhan dynasty with his capital at Thanesar now a small town in the vicinity of Kurukshetra in the state of Haryana. After the death of Prabahakar Vardhan in 606 A.D., his eldest son, RajyaVardhan, became king of Kananuj. Harsha ascended the throne at the age of 16 after his brother Rajya Vardhana was killed in a battle against Malwa King Devigupta and Gauda King Sasanka..
Harsha, quickly re-established an Indian empire. From 606-647 AD, he ruled over an empire in northern India. Harsha was perhaps one of the greatest conquerors of Indian history, and unlike all of his conquering predecessors, he was a brilliant administrator. He was also a great patron of culture. His capital city, Kanauj, extended for four or five miles along the Ganges River and was filled with magnificent buildings. Only one fourth of the taxes he collected went to administration of the government. The remainder went to charity, rewards, and especially to culture: art, literature, music, and religion.
The most significant achievements of this period, however, were in religion, education, mathematics, art, and Sanskrit literature and drama. The religion that later developed into modern Hinduism witnessed a crystallization of its components: major sectarian deities, image worship, bhakti (devotion), and the importance of the temple. Education included grammar, composition, logic, metaphysics, mathematics, medicine, and astronomy. These subjects became highly specialized and reached an advanced level.
Because of extensive trade, the culture of India became the dominant culture around the Bay of Bengal, profoundly and deeply influencing the cultures of Burma, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka. In many ways, the period during and following the Gupta dynasty was the period of “Greater India,” a period of cultural activity in India and surrounding countries building off of the base of Indian culture.
The history of the Kingdom of Kanauj after the death of Harshavardhana can be said to have been uncertain till the year 730 AD, when Yashovarman is said to have ruled till 752 AD. This was followed by the Ayudha dynasty which comprised three kings. The first was Yajrayudha who is said to have ruled in about 770 AD. After Ayudhs, Prathihara King Nagabhatta II annexed Kannauj. North and north west part of India after Harsha Vardhana was mostly controlled by Pratihara Kings while Central India and part of South was mostly under Rashtrakutas dynasty (753-973 AD ). Pala Kings (750-1161 AD) ruled the Eastern part of India (present Bengal and Bihar).
ADMINISTRATION OF HARSHA
The administration of Harsha is one inname only. Whatever information we have on it does not speak well of it. And the only relieving feature of this picture is the striking personality of Harsha.
Harsha’s interest indirect supervision of administration is one plus point. Hiuen-tsang writes that “If there was any irregularity in the manners of the people in the cities, he went amidst them.” Inscriptions reveal that Harsha had stayed in two places during his travels. Harsha traveled ingreat state and his camps looked very impressive because he was surrounded by a number of guests. Hieum-Tsand writes: “The king’s day was divided into three periods of which one was given to the affairs of government, and two were devoted to religious work. He was indefatigable, and the day was too short for him.” The way in which Harsha worked was recorded by Bana also.
The emperor appointed provincial governors known as Lokapalas who were posted at chosen centers in different quarters. The provinces were known as Bhuktia, districats as Vishayas, sub-divisions of districts as Patakas and Villages as gramas.
Next to the sovereign was the chief minister and the mantriparishad. According to Bhandi, a cousin of Rajayavardhana, Harsha’s accession to throne was approved by the parishad. This account is corroborated by the Chinese pilgrim. Avanti was the supreme minister of war and peace, according to Bana. For maintaining law and order, a great number of military and executive officers were employed. At times, some of the high officers were combined in one and the same persons. A few other names also are known: Simhanada was Harsha’s senapati. Harsha treated him with great respect as he was a scholarly man. Also, we hear of a handful of officials who themselves were chiefs indicating that in all probability Harsha’s sovereignty was of a confederate nature. According to Hiuen-Tsang, both ministers and officials received land grants instead of salaries. One-fourth of eth crown land was set apart for the endowment of great public servants and another one-fourth for the expenses of government and State worship.
The army of Harsha was organized into four traditional divisions. Probably 60,000 elephants and 100,000 horses. However, some of the regions were not free from brigands as is known from the experience of Hiuen-Tsand who was way laid.
Lawlessness was not the order of the day but there were plots against kings including one against Harsha. The offender was punished by imprisonment for life. for offance against social morality the punishment was either mutilation of limbs or deportation. Trial by or deal was common. Justice was harsh, but as the Chinese pilgrim maintains, the government was very generous and did not make any large demands either on the liberties or pockets of the people.
In general, the country was not entirely free from brigands who made traveling very risky. Hiuen-Tsand himself twice had narrow escapes from the clutches of bandits, Villagers haunted by the fear plunder often questioned the right of the King to rule according to Bana. However, as Hiuen-Tsand states that since the government was honestly administered, the people lived on good terms and the criminal class was very small.
Regarding administration of provinces and villages very meager information is available. The territory of the empire was called rajya or desa, which was divided into bhuktis, visayas and gramas. The governor of the provinces was, at times, a member of the royal family. The governor appointed his suordinate officials. Probably, the officials mentioned in the Gupta period continued to work in the time of Harsha. Besides the officials of states non-official element was also associated with the local administration. The Madhuban plate of Harsha (grant of an agrahara to some persons) states that the grant was made in the presence of all his chief officers and the resident people who were summoned as witnesses to this transaction. Such orders of the king were, at times, signed by Harsha himself. The Banskhera plate was signed by Harsha and described as one given under his own hand and seal. Often the king’s orders were delivered through messagers to local officers, who in turn, grew up necessary charters and handed over the grant to the grantees.
Finally, regarding fiscal administration we get some information from inscriptions. In all probability, land was surveyed measured and divided into holdings with well-defined boundaries. The holdings were of different sizes. At times these were served by common land which in certain cases, had irrigation wells. The names of owners of land were entered in the village records. It appears that record of village census was also kept. It is certain that land revenue was only a modest percentage of total yield. Taxation was light-revenue from crown lands amounted to only one -sixth of the crop, according to traditional standard. The other sources of revenue were trade, and duties at ferries and barrier stations.
The enlightened character of Harsha’s administration is shown by the creation of a department of records and archieves. Both good and bad were faithfully recorded in officials annals and state papers while instance of public calamities of good furtuns are set forth indetails. Taxation was light. The land tax was one-sixth of the crop. According to tradition, standard revenue was also derived from trade. Ligth, duties were levied on ferries and barriar stations.
In this manner, we have a very shetchy knowledge of Harsha’s administration. Ineed the administration was not well integaretd as Harsha domain itself was so shaky. However, the fat that the knig devoted himself to the welfare of the people by traveling in the country and the generosity with which he gave grants, shows that he was one of the illustrious rulers of Inda the manner of Ashoka and Shaivaji.