Maharashtra State BoardHSC Arts 11th
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Vardhan Empire

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notes

Vardhan Empire:

During the declining period of the Guptas, in Nothern India, there was rise of dynasties such as Vardhans at Sthaneshwar (Thanesar), Maukharis in Ganga Yamuna Doab, Maitrakas in Saurashtra, etc. Pushyabhuti was the founder of the Vardhan dynasty. After the accession of Prabhakarvardhan, the Vardhan dynasty became powerful. He took up the sovereign title of ‘Parambhattarak Maharajadhiraj’. The most prominent ruler of this dynasty was Harshavardhan. His empire extended from Nepal to Narmada and Saurashtra to Bengal. After Harshavardhan, there was no heir to the throne under the situation the empire disintegrated and many feudatories declared independent status in North India. We get a lot of information about this period from ‘Harshacharita’ written by Banabhatta who was the court poet and also from the travel accounts of Chinese traveler Yuan Chwang. The universities of Nalanda and Vallabhi became the great learning centers during Harsha Vardhan's reign Hundreds of students, not only from India but also from other countries like China, Tibet, Korea, Japan, Shri Lanka, etc. came here. Harshavardhan’s empire was the last powerful empire in ancient India.

According to Hiuen-Tsang who visited Harsha’s kingdom, there was an existence of the caste system in Indian society. Also, there was a rise of several mixed and sub-castes. Hiuen-Tsang also mentions the existence of untouchables and outcastes. The position of women had also declined considerably during this period. Yet women were not regarded as inferior to men. In the religious field, the ascendancy of Brahmanism brought about the decline of Buddhism. Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Jainism were also practiced. Harsha was considered to be a liberal and secular king. The chief source of revenue was the one-sixth produce of the land. Few other taxes were imposed on ports, ferries, etc. Return from royal lands, mines, and tributes from vassals filled royal coffers were also the revenue sources.

Harshavardhan was a great patron of learning and he himself wrote three Sanskrit plays-Nagananda, Ratnavali, and Priyadarshika. He built many rest houses and hospitals. Hiuen-Tsang mentioned the grand assembly held at Kannauj which was attended by twenty kings, four thousand Buddhist monks, and about three thousand Jains and Brahmans. Harsha also used to organize a religious festival called Mahamoksha Harishad at Prayaga (Allahabad), at the end of every five years. Here he performed the ceremony of Dana. Harshvardhana divides his income in four equal parts namely- for the royal family, for army and administration, for religious endowments, and for the poor’s and destitute.  According to Hiuen-Tsang, Harshvardhana had an efficient government. He also mentioned that families were not registered and there was no forced labour. However, he complained about the robbery which was a regular affair. The defeat of Harshavardhana in the hands of Pulakesin II is mentioned on the Aihole inscription (Karnataka). He was the first North Indian king to be defeated by South Indian King.

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