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"Harsa" redirects here. For the Romanian village of Hârsa, see Plopu.
"Harshvardhan" redirects here. For other people with similar names, see Harsha Vardhan.
For other uses, see Harsha (disambiguation).
Ruler of North India
Reign c. 606 – c. 647 CE
Predecessor Rajyavardhana
Born 590
Died 647
Dynasty Pushyabhuti
Father Prabhakarvardhana

Harsha (c. 590–647), also known as Harshavardhana, was an Indian emperor who ruled North India from 606 to 647 from his capital Kanauj. He belonged to Pushyabhuti Dynasty. He was the son of Prabhakarvardhana who defeated the Huna invaders[1] and the younger brother of Rajyavardhana, a king of Thanesar, Haryana. He was the founder and ruler of the Empire of Harsha and at the height of his power his empire spanned the Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bengal, Odisha and the entire Indo-Gangetic plain north of the Narmada River. Harsha was defeated by the south Indian Emperor Pulakeshin II of the Chalukya dynasty when Harsha tried to expand his Empire into the southern peninsula of India.[2]


Palace ruins at "Harsh ka tila" mound area spread over 1 km

After the downfall of the Gupta Empire in the middle of the 6th century, North India was split into several independent kingdoms. The northern and western regions of India passed into the hands of a dozen or more feudatory states. Prabhakara Vardhana, the ruler of Sthanvisvara, who belonged to the Pushyabhuti family, extended his control over neighbouring states. Prabhakar Vardhan was the first king of the Vardhana dynasty with his capital at Thaneswar. After Prabhakar Vardhan's death in 605, his eldest son, Rajya Vardhana, ascended the throne. Harsha Vardhana was Rajya Vardhana's younger brother. This period of kings from the same line has been referred to as the Vardhana dynasty in many publications.[3][4][5] [6]

The Chinese traveler Xuanzang mentions an emperor named Shiladitya, who is identified as Harsha.[7] Xuanzang mentions that this king belonged to "Fei-she". This word is generally restored as "Vaishya" (a varna or social class). 19th century scholar Alexander Cunningham restored the word as "Bais", and believed that it referred to Bais Rajputs, since rulers belong to the Kshatriya class.[8] However, his conclusion has been criticized for faulty reasoning by modern scholars.[9]


Rajya Vardhana’s and Harsha’s sister Rajyashri had been married to the Maukhari king, Grahavarman. This king, some years later, had been defeated and killed by king Devagupta of Malwa and after his death Rajyashri had been cast into prison by the victor. Harsha's brother, Rajya Vardhana, then the king at Thanesar, could not stand this affront on his family, marched against Devagupta and defeated him. But it so happened at this moment that Shashanka, king of Gauda in Eastern Bengal, entered Magadha as a friend of Rajyavardhana, but in secret alliance with the Malwa king. Accordingly, Sasanka treacherously murdered Rajyavardhana.[10] On hearing about the murder of his brother, Harsha resolved at once to march against the treacherous king of Gauda and killed Shashanka in a battle. Harsha ascended the throne at the age of 16.


As North India reverted to small republics and small monarchical states ruled by Gupta rulers after the fall of the prior Gupta Empire, Harsha united the small republics from Punjab to central India, and their representatives crowned him king at an assembly in April 606 giving him the title of Maharaja. Harsha adopted Buddhism[11] and established the Empire of Harsha which brought all of northern India under his control.[12] The peace and prosperity that prevailed made his court a center of cosmopolitanism, attracting scholars, artists and religious visitors from far and wide. The Chinese traveler Xuanzang visited the court of Harsha, and wrote a very favourable account of him, praising his justice and generosity.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ India: History, Religion, Vision and Contribution to the World, by Alexander P. Varghese p.26
  2. ^ Ancient India by Ramesh Chandra Majumdar p.274
  3. ^ Harsha Charitra by Banabhatt
  4. ^ Legislative Elite in India: A Study in Political Socialization by Prabhu Datta Sharma, Publ. Legislators 1984, p32
  5. ^ Revival of Buddhism in Modern India by Deodas Liluji Ramteke, Publ Deep & Deep, 1983, p19
  6. ^ Some Aspects of Ancient Indian History and Culture by Upendra Thakur, Publ. Abhinav Publications, 1974,
  7. ^ Wendy Doniger (2006). Ratnāvalī. New York University Press. p. 15. 
  8. ^ Sir Alexander Cunningham (1882). Report of a Tour in Bihar and Bengal in 1879-80 from Patna to Sunargaon ... Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing. p. 164. 
  9. ^ Shankar Goyal (2006). Harsha, a multidisciplinary political study. Kusumanjali. p. 122. 
  10. ^ "Harsha (Indian emperor)". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 6 October 2014. 
  11. ^ "Harsha". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 6 October 2014. 
  12. ^ a b International Dictionary of Historic Places: Asia and Oceania by Trudy Ring, Robert M. Salkin, Sharon La Boda p.507

Further reading[edit]