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Harshavardhana Biography

Harshavardhana Biography

Harshavardhana was an Indian emperor who belonged to Pushibhukti family. He was born around 580 AD and is believed to be the son of Prabhakar Vardhan, the founder of Vardhan Dynasty. At the height of his glory his kingdom spanned the Punjab, West Bengal, Orissa and the entire Indo-Gangetic plain north of the Narmada river.He ascended the throne after his elder brother Rajya Vardhana got murdered by Sasanka, King of Gauda. At this time he was just 16 years of age. After his accession to the throne he merged the two kingdoms of Thanesar and Kannauj and shifted his capital to Kannauj.

Harsha was a secular ruler and respected all the religions and faiths. In his early life he used to be a sun-worshipper but later he became the follower of Shaivism and Buddhism. According to the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang, who visited the kingdom of Harsha in 636 AD, Harsha built many Buddhist Stupas. He was also a great patron of the Nalanda University. He was the first to establish the Sino-Indian diplomatic relationships.

He was a good scholar and a noted author. He wrote three plays in Sanskrit namely Ratnavali, Priyadarsika and Nagananda. We can find well-documented record of his reign in the work of his court poet Banabhatta. Bana wrote Harsha Charita, the first historical poetic work in Sanskrit language. Work of the Chinese traveler, Xuanzang also provides a deep insight into the life during Harshavardhana’s rule.

He ruled India for almost forty years, and died in 647 AD, leaving behind no heir to the throne. After his death his empire disintegrated.


Facts and Information about Harshvardhana


Born 590 A.D.
Father Prabhakara Vardhana
Wife Durgavati
Sons Vagyavardhana and Kalyanvardhana (both were murdered by Arunashwa, a chief minister in Harsha’s court)
Brother Rajya Vardhana (king of Thanesar, Haryana)
Religion Hindu Brahman but later converted to Buddhism
Sister Rajyasri (married to the Maukhari king Grahavarman)
Predecessor Prabhakara Vardhana
Kingdom spanned He was successful in spanning the regions of Gujarat, Bengal, Punjab, Rajasthan, Odisha and the entire Indo-Gangetic plain to the north of Narmada.
Wars and reign Thanesar and Kannauj were two kingdoms during his reign. Later he transferred his capital from Thanesar to Kannauj.

He also formed an association with the king of Kamarupa, Bhaskaravarman to fight against Shashanka.

Works Ratnavali and Priyadarshika are the famous comedies in classical style written by him.
Court Poets Banabhatta, the author of Harsha-Charita and Kadambari, was the court poet of Harsha.
Maurya and Bhartrihari, the authors of Mayurashataka and Vakyapadiya, respectively, also lived in the court of Harsha.
War with Chalukya king Pulakeshi II The Chalukya Emperor Pulakeshi II of Badami in northern Karnataka along the banks of river Narmada turned out to be an obstacle for Harsha as he stopped him from extending his territory. Pulakeshi defeated Harsha’s army on the banks of Narmada River in 630 AD.
Patron of Buddhism and knowledge Chief patron of the University of Nalanda
Harsha was a Mahayana Buddhist
He supported Buddhism, Vedism and Jainism
He was a patron of Shaivism and Buddhism
Stupas As per the Chinese Pilgrim Xuanzang, Harsha had built many stupas in the name of Buddha.