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Ancient History / Post-Guptan Era

Pushyabhuti Dynasty and Harshavardhana

    The Pushyabhuti dynasty, also called Vardhana dynasty, initially ruled as one of the feudatories to the Maukhari kingdom of Kannauj. Harshacharita, the biography of Harshavardhana written by Banabhatta, cites Pushyabhuti as the founder of Pushyabhuti dynasty. Prabhakara Vardhana became an independent king and took the title, "Maha Rajadhiraja".

    Prabhakara Vardhana was succeeded by his eldest son, named Rajyavardhana. After the demise of Rajyavardhana, his younger brother Harshavardhana succeeded him. The greatest king of this dynasty is Harshavardhana. The capital of Pushyabhuti dynasty was located at Sthaneshvara (Thanesar). Pushyabhuti dynasty ruled over parts of northern India between 6th and 7th centuries. Harshavardhana shifted the capital from Thanesar to Kannauj.

    Administration of Harshavardhana

    • Harshavardhana is the greatest among all other Pushyabhuti dynasty rulers. He assumed the title, "Sakalottarapathanatha", which means the paramount Lord of the entire North. He also took two more titles namely, Rajaputra and Shiladitya.

    • After the Gupta dynasty ended, the other kingdoms that were ruling across India were,

      • Maukhari kingdom with capital at Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh of which Pushyabhuti dynasty rulers were feudatories

      • Maitraka kingdom with capital at Vallabhi, Gujarat

      • Gauda kingdom with capital at Karanasuvarna, Bengal. In this kingdom, a king named Shashanka, a Shaivite and anti-Buddhist, destroyed the Bodhi tree of Gaya.

      • Kamarupa kingdom was ruled by Varman dynasty with capital at Pragjyotishpura (the present day Guwahati).

    • Military achievements of Harshavardhana included annexation of Maukhari kingdom. He also conquered Vallabhi, Assam (Kamarupa), Odisha, Bihar and Bengal (Gauda).

      His military failure was being the defeat in the hands of Pulakesi II of Badami Chalukya dynasty and both accepted Narmada as their boundary.

    • At Kannauj, the capital of Harshavardhana, he conducted a religious assembly in 643AD, known as Kannauj Assembly that was attended by people of all religions. It was a kind of Parliament of religions. For this assembly, Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese traveller during Harshavardhana's rule, was the president.

    • Harshavardhana was initially a Shaivite and later took Mahayana Buddhism under the influence of Hiuen Tsang.
    • Maha Moksha Parishad and Welfare Measures

      • Harshavardhana was conducting Maha Moksha Parishad at Prayaga. It is a quinquennial programme conducted for every 5 years.

        In this Parishad, whatever wealth was there in the treasury used to be brought to Prayaga and given it out to the poor.

      • According to Hiuen Tsang (he visited India during Harsha's reign), Maha Moksha Parishad was used to be conducted for 75 days.

        In total, 6 such Parishads were conducted. Everything used to be given out including personal jewelry. He generally returns with pair of clothes.

      • He created a welfare state (after Ashoka). He set up many hospitals for poor, built number of roads and bridges, built number of Dharmashalas (food used to be distributed to the poor).
    • Harshavardhana's Contribution to Literature

      • Harshavardhana was a scholar by himself. He wrote 3 dramas namely, Priyadarshika, Ratnavali and Nagananda all in Sanskrit.

      • His court poet, Bana or Banabhatta wrote Harshacharita, Kadambari and Parvati Parinayam.

    History of India after Harshavardhana

    • During the period between 650 AD and 750 AD, a king named Yashovarman (around 700 AD) was ruling over Kannauj for some time.

      He wrote books and patronized scholars. He wrote a Sanskrit drama named Ramabhyudayam. Two scholars were present in his court.

      • Bhavabhuti - He wrote 3 Sanskrit dramas namely, Malatimadhava, Uttara Ramacharita and Mahaviracharita

      • Vakpati - Gaudavaho written by Vakpati, talks about Yasovarman conquering Bengal. It was written in Prakrit language.

    • According to Indian historical sources, Harshavardhana can be considered the last ruler of Pushyabhuti dynasty because next 100 years after Harshavardhana, no proper records were found about North India.

      According to Chinese sources, after the death of Harshavardhana in AD 647, there was decline of Vardhana dynasty and an officer named "Arunasva" usurped the throne from the successor of Harshavardhana.

      Wang-Hiuen-Tse, a military commander sent by Chinese emperor, defeated Arunasva and took him to China as a prisoner and the kingdom was given back to Harshavardhana's successor. Harshavardhana and the Chinese emperor were maintaining good diplomatic relations.