|Ruler of North India|
|Reign||c. 606 – c. 647 CE|
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 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.
Xuanzang, the well known Chinese scholar, traveller, and translator who described the interaction between China and India in the Harsha period, stated that Harsha was of a Kanojia caste. According to Alexander Cunningham, Xuanzang might have mistaken the Vaisa for Bais Rajputs clan. though, Thomas Watters has pointed out this is most unlikely as Xuanzang, "had ample opportunities for learning the antecedents of the royal family, and he must have had some ground for his assertion, moreover, Xuanzang had an expert knowledge of Sanskrit and the caste system, which he discusses, in some detail in his book. He mentions that rulers traditionally belonged to the Kshatriya caste and his specific mention that Harsha was a feishe was probably because this was an uncommon occurrence." However, Banabhatta clarifies that the Bais Rajput descent must have been correct considering the Harshacarita the author Bâna never stated his background to be strangely non Kshatriya. Harsha's Royal descent being known (rulers of Sthanvisvara, modern Thanesar) and his sister being married into prominent Kshatriya families of Maukharis. (a highly contentious occurrence, had Harsha's family not been of royal or Kshatriya descent). Moreover, upon his formal coronation ceremony, Harsha took the title Rajputra. 
Period prior to his reign
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,. 
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. 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 and established the Empire of Harsha which brought all of northern India under his control. 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.
Legacy of Kumbha Mela
Harsha, who was a Shaiva by faith, began celebration of religious festivals every five years, at the confluence of three rivers (the Ganga, the Yamuna, and the Saraswati) at Prayaga. On this occasion Harsha donated all his personal earnings among people and returned only in single cloth at his kingdom and start a new journey again. It is said to be the beginning of the famous Kumbh Mela of India which still attracts millions of people from all around the world.
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|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Harsha.|
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