Indian History Part 28 THE CENTURY OF DARKNESS Section II THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HARSHA-VARDHANA

Canberra, 12 May 2014

Harsha was not only a great warrior-king but also a distinguished statesman and an equally caring and welfare-minded king. He displayed ample skill and prudence in managing the affairs of his kingdom and was able to consolidate his initially precarious position as the king of Thanesar to subsequently become the unquestioned Emperor of Kanauj. In fact a number of books describe him as ‘Sri Harsha of Kanauj’ rather than referring to him as the Pushyabhuti king of Thanesar. At one stage he entertained the ambition of wanting to unite the Northern and Southern kingdoms of the sub-continent, much as Samudra Gupta had earlier done. However, the equally strong and ambitious Pulakesin II of the famous Chalukya dynasty put an end to manoeuvres in that direction and Harsha had to be content with being the ‘Lord of Northern India’ or ‘Sakalottarpatha Natha’ as the Chalukya chronicles refer to him.  

Sources of Information

There are two primary authorities who provide authentic information regarding the life and times of Harsha-Vardhana, the single most important king or emperor that illuminated an otherwise expanse of dark centuries between the fall of the Golden Guptas and the commencement of the marauding Islamic invasions, which were confined initially to the north-west of the sub-continent and then spreading further south. The first is the book, Harshacharita, written by his own court poet Banabhatta; and the second, the record of the travels of Hiuen Tsang that provides vivid details of Harsha’s rule and the state of the nation.

The Harshacharita was for a long time dismissed as a sycophantic biography written by a poet bent on overstating the importance of his patron through exaggerating the accounts of his achievements. It was only after Hiuen Tsang’s books and journals were translated from the Chinese that the true historical value of Harshacharita was recognised by historians. The biography is now accepted as accurate even to the minute details that it provides. It is true that the book attempts to portray Harsha as the greatest of all kings in the traditional Puranic mould and that Bana unashamedly glorifies his patron as the epitome of all virtues. Further, the book is written in a language that is ornate, artificial, and the prose if arranged in a complex manner. However, within this complicated book, Banabhatta also provides a clear listing of the facts and events as they occurred during the king’s life. Harshacharita also paints a descriptive picture of the social and political life of the times and provides a recognisable timeframe for the king’s rule. The book is a veritable treasure trove of information regarding the functioning and nature of the royal court and the manner in which the king toured his land on an almost constant basis. It is instructive in explaining the setting up of the camps and the manner in which the king dispensed justice across his vast empire.

The book is definitely embellished in some aspects and sounds fantastic in others. However, it is certain that Bana did not deviate from the facts as they were, confirmed by his not attempting to embellish the ancestry of his king, even a little bit, in order to make him appear as the greatest of an important and powerful dynasty. There is no attempt at covering up the mediocre and small kingdom from which he originated and grew into power. Unfortunately, the Harshacharita only covers the early part of Harsha’s life, which is a loss for the contemporary historian attempting to understand the nuances of the long reign of this great king.

Hiuen Tsang left behind copious memoirs of his time in India, which was subsequently published in China as a book called Si-yu-ki. Since Hiuen Tsang had an almost blind belief in Buddhist miracles and was essentially a pilgrim with the greatest of faith in Buddha’s teachings, his writings are obviously biased towards exemplifying the Buddhist religion. Therefore, it is not surprising that the book became considered as a classic in the Buddhist countries of the time. It is written in a no-nonsense, matter of fact style in simple language. The importance of the book however lies in the fact that it fully corroborates the writings of Banabhatta, thereby mutually endorsing each other and providing the historian with clear facts and descriptions.  

There are other secondary sources that were produced during the 19th and early 20th centuries after the European historians started to become interested in Indian history. This interest could have been piqued because of the relative breadth and depth of Indian history and perhaps more importantly because of the information regarding the magnificence of some of the older dynasties that started to become available after the initial colonisation of India. Volumes V to VIII of the Epigraphica Indica gives detailed descriptions of the rule of Harsha; M Ettinghansen’s Harsha Vardhana: Emperor et Poet published in Paris in 1906, and translated later into English, brings together all information regarding Harsha available at that time; Dr Indraji’s transliterations of the inscriptions found in Nepal corroborates a number of facts regarding Harsha given in other sources; and I-Tsing’s book Record of the Buddhist Religion in India, translated by Takakusu and published in Oxford in 1896, gives detailed information regarding Emperor Harsha-Vardhana’s religious activities. 

Kanauj – the Capital

Kanauj, at times also spelt Kannauj, today is a small country town and the headquarters of the district bearing the same name in Uttar Pradesh.However, it claims a history that could be the envy of any other town. It is an ancient town, mentioned several times in the epic Mahabharata, and was the capital of Panchala. According to legend, prior to Kanauj rising as the most important town of the nation, Panchala was divided into two—North Panchala, with its capital Ahichchtra the present-day Ramnagar in Bareilly district of Uttar Pradesh, was gifted to Drona, by the Panchala king Drupada after he had been defeated by Drona’s student Arjun in war; and South Panchala with its capital Kampilya ruled by Drupada himself. The rise of Kanauj obscured both the capitals. Kanauj is also mentioned by Patanjali in his work dated to 2nd century B.C.

Kanauj is mentioned as both Kanagora and Kanogza in Ptolemy’s Geography, written about 140 A.D. It is certain that the town was completely destroyed early in its history, leaving no remains and therefore there is no testimony to its earlier glory. Fa Hien, the Chinese pilgrim visited the town in 405 during the reign of Chandra Gupta Vikramaditya and reported that it only had the status of a secondary town in the great empire. The town witnessed great developments during the reign of Harsha who made it the capital of his extensive empire. The town was very strongly fortified and extended for four miles on the east bank of the River Ganges. The inhabitants were all well-to-do and some were very wealthy, befitting the population of the capital of a great empire.    

The General State of the Empire

In the later years of Harsha’s rule, his kingdom or more correctly Empire, extended east to west across the whole of the Gangetic Plains and included Nepal; from the Himalayas in the north to the River Narmada in the south; and also included the provinces of Malwa, Gujarat and Saurashtra in the west. The detailed administration of the various parts of the Empire was entrusted to local kings or chiefs who were bestowed with both civil and criminal jurisdiction. However, Harsha’s suzerainty over the lesser kings ruling on his behalf was absolute and even the King of Kamarupa (Assam) in the far east implicitly obeyed his commands. In the extreme western part, the King of Valabhi, who was also Harsha’s son-in-law, was a feudatory and personally attended the imperial court regularly.

Harsha’s rule was built on personal supervision by the Emperor and there is hardly any mention of a trained and organised bureaucracy having been put in place. However, in the age-old tradition of Aryan kings, the Emperor was assisted by a State Council, which was influential in the development and implementation of state policies. In times of crisis this Council wielded great power, as indicated at the almost imperial powers that it assumed at the untimely death of Rajya-Vardhana and its actions to install Harsha as the ruling king in order to ensure the security and stability of the nation. It is also certain that there was a hierarchically organised central cadre of trained officers who were directly responsible to the king in the discharge of their duties. In a unique manner Harsha’s rule was extremely centralised and yet decentralised in its governance.

In direct contrast to the Gupta administration, Harsha himself took on the role of the Royal Inspector, dispensing justice during his extensive and almost continuous travels. Punishment to criminals and other wrong-doers was swift, harsh, and strictly enforced. Since the king travelled almost incessantly, there was a specially trained group of artisans who were adept at erecting a temporary, but spacious and comfortable palace of reeds within a single day as the Emperor’s temporary residence. The palace was always burned to the ground when the king departed from a campsite. It is interesting to note that in the 18th century, the kings of Burma followed a similar pattern of rule, including the construction of temporary palaces. There is no doubt that Harsha travelled in great state and with the pomp and ceremony befitting his status as a conquering emperor.

Officials were given grants of land in lieu of payment, with only the military forces being paid regularly in cash. By the 6th century, this system of salaries being paid through land grants had become entrenched and almost traditional in the broader Indian system. Hiuen Tsang mentions this practice, although he does not give any details of the manner in which the system was administered. From other sources some details of the system can be gleaned. Land grants were of two types. One, the ‘agrahara’ given to Brahmins which were exempt from any kind of tax and which normally was inherited by the family on the death of the grantee. However, the king was at liberty to confiscate the land at any time at his pleasure from the grantee or his successors. The second type was the grant made to secular officers for services rendered to the king. The practice of the officers sub-leasing the lands had a secondary effect—it started the process of the gradual weakening of the central authority of the king through the dilution of the loyalty to him. Their loyalty shifted to the intermediate land owners who were directly in contact with the general population. 

Hiuen Tsang was highly impressed with the conduct of the civil administration, which he reported as being based on benign principles. The principal source of revenue for the state was rent from the lease of crown lands, set at one part of six of all the produce of the land. It was compulsory for the people to provide labour for public works and they were paid wages by the king for their efforts. The king also extracted personal services from his subjects but again the requirements were moderate and within reasonable limits. Taxes were light and there were a number of liberal charities that catered to various religious communities. Here again the king was equally liberal with all of them, without any demonstrated bias.

Social Condition

During Harsha’s reign, the rate of crime was low, although there are some indications that the roads were not as safe as during the rule of Chandra Gupta Vikramaditya. [This does not automatically mean that the incidence of crime was lower during the Gupta rule. There are no comparative statistics available to make such a judgement. In all probabilities the rate of crime would have been similar and even the safety of the roads would have only varied in a minor manner.] There were dedicated benevolent institutions aimed at providing succour for travellers, the sick and the poor throughout the kingdom. Centrally administered ‘Dharamsalas’ or rest houses where food, drink and shelter were provided free of charge were common features in all towns and villages. These rest houses normally also housed a physician in attendance to treat the sick.

The most common punishment for the commitment of a crime was an extremely cruel type of imprisonment. Further, mutilation of the nose and ear, and the severing of feet, hands and arms was practised more commonly than during the Gupta rule. It has been reported that the punishment meted out even for the neglect of one’s parents was harsh. Minor offences were punished with fines and banishment from the kingdom itself although banishment was a rare practice. Ordeal by fire, water, and poison continued to be considered esteemed methods to ascertain the truth and seems to have been common occurrences. In an overall assessment, it is possible that Harsha’s reign took a harsher attitude towards criminals that in turn could indicate rising criminal activity, as compared to the more peaceful times during the rule of the Imperial Guptas.

It is certain that Harsha used inscriptions, as was the practice of the time, to mark the important events of his rule. This assertion is being made based on the fact that almost all public events were recorded on a routine basis by the administration through the employment of special officers. It is therefore inconceivable that inscriptions would not have been made. Unfortunately, none of these inscriptions have survived the ravages of time. From the actions initiated in the later years of his rule it can be surmised that Harsha was aware of Asoka the Maurya and the greatness of his rule. Harsha emulated the actions of the great Maurya king, first by gradually leaning towards a total bias on Buddhism as a religion and the adoption of its teachings as state principles; and thereafter by officially prohibiting the killing of animals. Once again, like in the case of Asoka, there is a dichotomy visible in this development—the killing of animals was prohibited on pain of death to the perpetrator and the death penalty for criminals was still an established and practised punishment. There has to be a sense of detached division in the mind if these two principles have to be simultaneously accepted.

The Status of Women

Women were emancipated and were not secluded as in later Islamic societies. Harsha ruled with his widowed sister by his side at all times. From all available records it is certain that women were held in high esteem in society and that they were normally well-educated, especially if they belonged to the higher strata of society. A number of women contributed to the literary achievements of the time and some were known to hold regular philosophical discussions with learned scholars. The king’s widowed sister, Rajyasri, was a renowned scholar of Buddhist scriptures and gave discourses on Dharma.

Women did not observe the purdah system that came into vogue in later days and the practice of sati (the burning of the wife on the husband’s funeral pier) was not common, although isolated incidents have been reported. Domestic life, materially, was almost the same as practised in India today with the joint family system being fairly well-developed and established by the time of Harsha’s rule. Polygamy was a fairly common practice while early marriage and enforced widowhood was starting to become customary. [All these three practices could be considered a further step in the gradual subjugation of women, a concept from which India is yet to recover.] Inter caste marriages were permitted and was fairly common within what was termed as Anuloma, which meant that both the individuals belonged to recognised varnas and the man was of a higher caste to the woman. Pratiloma, the marriage of a higher caste woman to a lower caste man was forbidden by law and religion. Once again this indicates the disparity and discrimination in the levels of freedom that was guaranteed to men and women.     

On Religion

The Pushyabhuti kings exercised individual freedom of religious expression and followed their own personal choices, unlike most other dynasties that were strict regarding the adherence to the family religion and even family deities. The earlier Pushybhuti kings have been reported to have been devotees of Shiva and that they shunned the worship of any other god. However, Prabhakara-Vardhana worshipped the Sun to the exclusion of every other deity and his elder son Rajya and daughter Rajyasri were both ardent Buddhists. Perhaps in a bid to be seen as even handed towards all religions, Harsh initially worshipped Shiva, the Sun and Buddha. At this time Buddha had not yet been conferred the status of a deity, although by the 7th century he was already being considered a god and being worshipped accordingly. [This situation could be likened to the current Christian practice of granting sainthood—a divine status slightly lower than that of the gods—to an individual who lived sometime back.] Harsha erected temples for all three of his chosen gods and went on to found various religious establishments based both on the worship of Hindu gods as well as Buddhist rituals.

During the last years of his illustrious reign, Harsha positively favoured the Buddhist movement, giving them the larger share of all his endowments, building a number of monasteries, and erecting ‘thousands’ of 100-feet high stupas along the bank of the River Ganges. Again, none have survived to stand testimony to the Emperor’s religious magnanimity. At this stage, there were more than 200,000 Buddhist monks living in various monasteries, dedicated to learning and attempting to propagate their faith. Even with unassailable evidence of such a large number of monks living in the kingdom, it is also clear that Buddhism as a religion was in decline in the sub-continent. The reasons for this somewhat contradictory situation are two-fold. First, and perhaps the more important of the two, was the eclectic approach to religion and religious practices adopted by the Pushyabhuti dynasty, especially when Buddhism had lost its prominent status in the Gangetic heartland as a result of the markedly Hindu Gupta rule. Even though Buddhist teachings continued to be a powerful influence in the minds of the broader population, the continuous neglect of the basic religion through loss of patronage had a detrimental effect.

Second was the fact that Puranic Hinduism was finally getting established as an inclusive religion, sufficiently modified and less rigid than its earlier version. The religion had grown into an evolving concept that subsequently kept pace with the changes in social norms and attitudes, which was to stand the test of time for centuries thereafter. By this time the early books of the religion were already being considered sacred and revered as such, becoming the basis for further broader interpretation and evolution of the religion.

Sasanka Gauda’s Persecution of Buddhism

Most kings of the 6th and 7th century in India practised a fairly high level of religious tolerance. Sasanka the King of Central Bengal belonging to the Gauda dynasty was an exception. He was an ardent worshipper of Shiva and hated the very concept of Buddhism as a religion. Throughout his reign he tried to exterminate the religion from his kingdom. This religious persecution must have happened around 600 A.D. and its devastation is attested by Hiuen Tsang about 40 years later. Sasanka destroyed Buddhist monasteries and convents and consciously scattered the monks, prohibiting them to gather in one place even to pray. He is reported to have uprooted and burned the holy Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, under which Gautama the Buddha is supposed to have attained enlightenment—the very same tree that the Emperor Asoka had worshipped in great reverence. Further, he also broke the stone that had the footprint of Buddha in Pataliputra. The Bodhi tree is reported to have been replanted by Purna-varman, the Raja of Magadha and the last descendent of Asoka Maurya.    

While stories of perfect religious tolerance being practised in ancient India is a myth, it is also a fact that official persecution of religious minorities was not rampant. Religious persecution and discrimination, as was practised in the case of Sasanka, occurred only infrequently. However, inter-religious rivalry was common with Hiuen Tsang reporting the bitter rivalry between a re-emerging Puranic Hinduism and a waning Buddhism as well as the ill-feelings between the two main sections of Buddhism itself.

Harsha marched back from Bengal along with Hiuen Tsang having given instructions to convene a great Special Assembly of scholars in Kanauj to publicise the teachings of Hiuen Tsang, By this time, Hiuen Tsang had been bestowed with the title of ‘Master of the Law’, one that he was to be known as even after his death. Harsha and his entourage reached Kanauj in March 643 and was received with great honour by Kumara, the Raja of Kamarupa, Harsha’s son-in-law the Raja of Valabhi, and 18 other tributary rajas and chieftains. The Assembly, conducted in a specially erected shrine and monastery, was attended by 4000 Buddhist monks as well as more than 3000 Jains and Brahmins. A large statue of Buddha was installed in a 100-feet high tower and worshipped every day. A smaller statue was carried in procession daily with Harsha—dressed as God Sakra himself—personally holding the ceremonial canopy over the statue of Buddha. The daily procession was followed by debates amongst the more senior monks and then by celebrations and feasting. The Assembly lasted many days and ended with the fire and the attempt on the Emperor’s life, as mentioned earlier.

The Kanauj Assembly was followed by another great ceremony at Prayag (Allahabad) at the confluence of the Rivers Ganga and Yamuna. The proceedings of this religious festival lasted 75 days and was attended by representative ascetics of all sects and religions in North India. The religious services were eclectic, with all Pushyabhuti dynasty gods—the Sun, Shiva, and Buddha—being worshipped on different days. [This change from a focus on Buddha alone, as was practised in Kanauj, could have been one of the repercussions of the attack on the person of the king and the perceived disaffection of the ‘Hindu’ Brahmins to the regime. It is also noteworthy that the Prayag festival was being conducted as the perpetrators of the attack on the king were being executed and exiled in the capital Kanauj. The need for the state machinery to continue to function independently and irrespective of the king’s personal activities is clearly discernible.] The Prayag festival is listed as the sixth such gathering to be held in 643 and the king distributed a great deal of accumulated wealth to the poor and needy during these festivals, on a daily basis.

About Hiuen Tsang

Hiuen Tsang has also been called Yuan Chwang in some books.

Hiuen Tsang was the fourth son of a learned Chinese gentleman of ‘honourable’ lineage and was already a well-known Buddhist sage at the age of 29 when he started on his journey to India. He travelled over 3000 miles from Western China to Kabul and reached Gandhara in 630. For the next 13 years he travelled to all the provinces of North India and recorded exact observations regarding the country, its people, prevailing socio-economic situation, and religious practises. He has been called the ‘Indian Pausanias’ because of his writings. (Pausanias was a scholar who travelled through Greece in 2nd century A.D. and recorded in detail all manner of things that he observed. His observations, titled Itinerary, were published in 10 volumes.)

Hiuen Tsang’s writings were titled Records of Western Lands and published in 12 volumes, although the last three volumes cannot be authenticated as originals and could be considered later-day extrapolations. Of the 13 years that he spent in India, he was in Harsha’s kingdom for eight and therefore his writings are considered a primary source of information regarding Harsha’s rule. Hiuen Tsang returned to China, reaching his native country in 645, with a large and valuable collection of manuscripts, images, artefacts and relics. He spent the remainder of his life working to refine his recordings and understand the results of his expedition with the help of a staff of scholars. Hiuen Tsang, a man of indomitable and undaunted courage and profound learning died in 664, at the age of 64. He is still referred to as the ‘Master of the Law’, more than 1200 years after his death.

Hiuen Tsang’s manuscripts were stored in a Pagoda called ‘Wild Goose Pagoda’ that still stands in Xian. His body was interred in a small monastery outside the city that still holds palm leaf manuscripts written in the Pali language of ancient Sri Lanka.                       

Amongst the Buddhists, Harsha-Vardhana is considered the fourth and last pillar of Buddhism for his great patronage of the religion, after Asoka Maurya, Menander, and Kanishka.

Education

Education was highly prized and a learned person was honoured by all people. Learning was however more wide-spread amongst the Brahmins and the Buddhist monks, although it was not uncommon for a lay person also to be educated to a certain degree. It is definite that Harsha supported education and learning, but this was a continuation of the great revival of education that took place under the Imperial Gupta kings and emperors, the impetus of which lasted more than two centuries after the fall of that illustrious dynasty. The dissemination of knowledge was a prominent feature of the 5th, 6th, and 7th century India. During this period India was undoubtedly the most educated country in the world and the academic centre of Asia with students from China, Japan, and the Far-East travelling there to study.

A primary institution of learning was the Buddhist Sangharamas, loosely translatable as monasteries with an emphasis on education, with each important town having at least one such ‘college’. Each of these Sangharamas had a college of instruction within it that taught Tarka (Dialectics), Dharma Sutra (Law) and also Buddhist scriptures and doctrine. At the height of its glory, Kanauj alone boasted of more than a hundred such institutions. At this time Nalanda was the only international university in the world with over 4000 students and Harsha bequeathed a large wing to it. At Nalanda, the education provided was not sectarian, although it was predominantly a Buddhist institution. The subjects taught included, grammar, the Vedas, mathematics, logic and medicine.

In general, education was a mix of vocational training and classical learning. The effort in the early years of the three centuries was to provide holistic and secular education to the deserving, but in the later years different schools of metaphysics, based on religion, was developed. The Buddhist taught five vidyas, or disciplines—grammar; the principles of mechanical arts, science of cause, and astrology; medicine; the science of reasoning; and the science of the internal along with the doctrine of karma. The Hindu learning centres concentrated on the teaching of the four Vedas, to ‘arouse the student’ to the nuances of the religion. Further, during this period wandering monks and sanyasins, ascetics in their own way, were considered learned men and honoured as such.

Harsha The Poet

Harsha was a renowned calligraphist and an author of repute. He is acclaimed to be the author of a grammatical work, three Sanskrit plays and a number of poetic verses. The three plays are: Nagananda, the story of a Buddhist legend retold, and considered one of the best Sanskrit plays in the anthology of Indian theatre; Ratnavali, the Necklace; and Priyadarshika, the Gracious Lady. The last two are acknowledged for the simplicity of their form and expression. However, there is some controversy regarding the authorship of these three plays. A close examination of the plays clearly highlights the fact that they were all definitely written by the same person and that the person was called Harsha. The controversy is whether or not Harsha the author was the same as Harsha Siladitya of the Pushyabhuti dynasty.

There are five known ‘Harshas’ mentioned in the history of India who various sources claim to have been the author of the three works. Of the five, two were not kings, but fairly well-known authors, one having written the book Naishadiya Charita and the other the author of the work Karya Pradipa. Since they were not kings, they can be discounted as having written the three plays in question. There is a Harsha who was the ruler of Kashmir from 1089 to 1101, who is known to have been a ruthless tyrant. He is said to have been immoral and was often referred to as a Mohammadan. [This is most likely because of the ruthlessness of the Islamic invaders who were by this time making their presence felt in the North-West of the country, to whom the king was being equated.] It is highly unlikely that such a person would have written a play extolling the virtues of Buddhist life and therefore can be discounted from the list of five Harshas as the possible author. Further, the timeframe of his rule and the antiquity of the plays are also at odds making it impossible for the Kashmir king to have been the author of these plays.

The fourth Harsha is Sri Harsha, the grandfather of King Bhoja (to be discussed later in this forum) of Dharanagar. He lived in the early half of the 10th century. There is a book called Kuttinimata, written by Damodara Gupta in the 8th century that quotes a sloka, or verse, from Ratnavali and also summarises the story of the book. This would obviously mean that a person who lived after Kuttinimata was written could not have been the original author of the plays in contention. Sri Harsha can also therefore be ruled out as a possible contender as the author, purely in terms of the time that he lived. This leaves only the fifth person, Sri Vikramaditya Harsha of Ujjain as a plausible contender for claiming the authorship. He had a court poet under his patronage called Matragupta who wrote the Kalhanas Rajatarangini that describes the achievements of the king. The king is mentioned in the book as Vikramaditya and the name Harsha is only mentioned at times as a secondary name of no importance. Hiuen Tsang also refers to this king purely as Vikramaditya and does not mention the secondary name Harsha even once. Considering that the plays uniformly mention the name Harsha as the author, this king can also be ruled out as having written the three plays.

There is yet another view that tries to discredit Harsha, an erudite king, and lessen his achievements. This argues that the plays were written by an author called Bhasa and sold to Harsha for monetary considerations. Bhasa, remained shrouded in mystery for a long time, till the Curator of the Trivandrum Sanskrit Library discovered and published some of his works. This claim of his selling the works to Harsha was then conclusively proved wrong, since the works of Bhasa obtained in Trivandrum were of a much later origin. He could not have lived during the reign of Harsha-Vardhana. Harsha was indeed a patron of letters and also an individual author. However, it has to be acknowledged that his plays were merely average excursions into literature by a king with literary ambitions, or even pretensions, and is definitely not entitled to any high place in the anthology of Classic Sanskrit literature.

Conclusion

In the first half of the 7th century, India was at an enviable and unique position in terms of its prosperity and the state of its civilisational development. At this time in world history, the great Persian empire was in the last stages of its degeneration and would soon fall prey to the onslaught of Islam; Europe had already fallen to the forces of anarchy and barbarism that had completely destroyed the Roman civilisation; and in China, the glorious Tang dynasty was only coming to power, its first emperor being crowned in 618. They were ardent and practising Buddhists and considered India a sacred land, being the land of birth of the great Buddha himself. There is absolutely no doubt that in the 7th century India was the most civilised country in the world.

Harsha-Vardhana was the last in a long line of Hindu rulers, starting with Chandragupta Maurya centuries ago, when India burst forth into the world stage—not merely as an ancient civilisation but also as a powerful and organised state, foremost amongst others in its attempt to improve the fundamental lot of the common man and dedicated to the spread of broader humanity. With the end of Harsha’s reign, the beginning of the culmination of Hindu culture and elevation of the religion could be seen. The sub-continent was about to witness the loss of cohesion, both culturally and as a recognisable state, plunging it into gloom and darkness.            

 

© [Sanu Kainikara] [2014]
All Rights Reserved
No part of this website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of the author. You may quote extracts from the website or forward the link to the website with attribution to http://www.sanukay.com/. For any other mode of sharing, please contact the author @ (sanukay@hotmail.com)

     

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About Sanu kainikara

Sainik School Kazhakuttam (Kerala), National Defence Academy 39/A, 108 Pilot's Course IAF, fighter pilot, QFI, FCL, psc, HACC, Voluntary Retirement as Wing Commander. Canberra-based Defence Analyst specialising in air power and national security. PhD in International Politics from University of Adelaide Adjunct Professor, University of New South Wales, Distinguished Fellow Institute For Regional Security (IFRS)

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