The Age Of Harsha

The Age Of Harsha

Harsha’s reign is significant because it was the last great Hindu Kingdom before the Rajput dominated the smaller kingdoms after his death. his reign was also significant because it was the last attempt by the king to unite North India and also the last attempt by attempting to resolve sectarian conflicts.

Harsha belonged to the Pushyabkutis of Thaneshwar who were the feudatories of Guptas along with Matrikas of Vallabi, later Guptas of Magadha, Maukharis of Kannauj, and the Goudas of Bengal. All of them declared Independence when the Guptas became weak. Kannauj became the center of struggle and it replaced Patliputra As the nerve center of North India. in the struggle which ensued between these feudatories, the Pushyabhuti strengthened by an Alliance with the Maukharis emerged successful.

The main sources available for the study of Harsha Supreme are Bana’s Harshacharita and Huen Tsang’s Si-Yu-ki. The former which is a biography of Harsha written in Sanskrit is compared in its brilliance to Abul Fazal Akbarmana. Huien Tsang’s book Was a book on his travels in India is sketchy but of immense value as it has been written by a foreigner.

Harsha went on to defeat All the above-mentioned feudatories his conflict with Sasanka of Bengal was the most protracted one lasting for almost 30 years.  he went on to defeat the rulers of Kashmir, Punjab, and Sindh and got the title The Lord of Aryavarta. Though there is no source available from Harsha’s side, he seems to have been defeated by Pulakesin II as is known to us from the Aihole inscription of Ravikriti, the court poet of Pulakesin II. Both sides decided to fix Narmada as the boundary between the two kingdoms.

Harsha’s administration was decentralized and broadly followed by Gupta. he paid all his officials’ rules and assignments.  he had a Mantri Parishad to advise him and the Prime Minister was an important figure.  the other man officials were the Mahasandhi Vigrahadhikrita, The foreign minister Mahabaladhikrita,  the chief of the army, and Mahapratihara who was the chief of Palace guards.

The highlight of Harsha sprain was his religious policy. do the Pushyabhuti were Saivites, Harsha embraced Mahayana Buddhism.  during the period there was great sectarian strife as seen by the fact that there were 18 sects within Mahayana Buddhism alone. Hi first held the Grand assembly at Kannauj to honor Hiuen Tsang and then held a religious assembly called Mahamokshaparishad at Prayag. He invited all the religious leaders and rulers of friendly kingdoms to resolve the problems of different sects. 

Learning and education especially Buddhist Institutions made great progress. the two Institutions which made valuable contributions to the spread of education were the universities of Nalanda and Vallabhi. but it was Nalanda that received the greatest patronage from Harsha. Huien Tsang studied at Nalanda says that it hosted 10,000 students and 1500 lectures. Besides religious subjects, secular ones like mathematics and astronomy, etc were also taught. Harsha himself was a poet of great merit having written the plays of Nagananda, Ratnavali, and Priyadarshika in Sanskrit. Extended patronage to learn and men like Bana, who was his Court poet, Diwakar and Mayura. Barna Road Harshacharita and Kadambari in a true prose style in Sanskrit.

The Economy In Ancient India

By 600 BC when iron was discovered agriculture received a great boost as jungles were cleared for cultivation in the Gangetic plain. agriculture crossword and surplus was generated thereby leading to the development of trade. various crafts like weaving, metallurgy, pottery, etc made Rapid strides. the barter system had ceased to exist and coinage was in use. the first coin to be mentioned was Nishka but its identity is doubtful. there is a mention of a punch-marked copper coin called Karshapana But it was maintained by private individuals and not by the state.

The real boost to industry and trade came with the political unification of India by the Nandas and the subsequent opening of Western trade routes following the invasion of Alexander in 326 BC.

Even the Mauryan period witnessed a sizable growth in trade.  it is mentioned that Madhura, Aparanta, and Kalinga were famous for textiles. Dukula (Plant fibers), Kshauma (linen) from Benares, and Patrorna (washed silk) from Magadha were widely exported. A Peculiar rainproof fabric called Varsha Varnam was exported from Nepal.  Royal Highway was built from Patliputra( modern Patna) to Taxila (Takshasila, Now in Pakistan)  which was extended is towards toward the port of Tamralipti, which developed a great deal under the Maurya and help export goods to Southeast Asia.

Trade was regulated by the state during the Mauryan period. the Panyadhyaksha was the commercial superintendent of fixed prices for commodities, levied taxes on imports, and even fixed the percentage of profits to be earned by the merchants.  Fraudulence and tax invention invited severe punishment from the state.

The period between the decline of the Maurya and the rise of the Guptas (200BC – 200AD) has been styled by historians as the ‘mercantile age’ As it was during this period that trade and Commerce reached their Zenith in India. various factors were responsible for this:

  • The influx of foreign dynasties is leading to the connection of Indian trade with the Chinese Silk route passing through North Afghanistan called Bactria. Kanishka brought the root under his control and goods from India were exported to the Roman empire through this route.
  •  the later disruption of the Chinese Silk route due to the conflict between the Romans and the Parthians( rulers of modern Iran).  so the Chinese Silk was diverted to Taxila and then to the famous port of Bharukaccha (Modern broach)  from where it was shipped to Europe.
  •  the southern dynasty is of the Sangam age- the Pandya, the Chola, and the Cheras developed active contact with the Roman empire and a Pandian ruler is said to have sent an Embassy to the Court of Agustus. The Roman factory was excavated at Arikamedu near Pondicherry. evidence also comes from famous authors like Pliny, a Roman historian, and Ptolemy’s Geography besides an anonymous work called periplus of the Erythraean sea.
  •  at this time the whole country was crisscrossed with the member of trade routes and international sea routes also developed. these land routes in India connected important places like Taxila Pataliputra, Sravasti, Ujjain Pratishthana( modern Paithan), and to the various parts on the eastern and western coasts. The discovery of monsoon winds by Hippalus in 45 a d greatly aided the movement of ships thereby boosting trade.
  •  all these developments led to the rise and development of various ports on both coasts.  the main ports which developed during this period were Barbaricum in the Indus Delta, Dwaraka, Bharukaccha or Broach, Sopara (In modern Thane District), Muziris ( modern Cranganore in Kerala)  on the Western coast, and Korkai in Tamilnadu, Kaveripattinam in the Kaveri delta, Arikamedu near Pondicherry and Tamralipti( modern Tamluk in West Bengal) Besides others. they handled both the exports and imports and were well connected with the interior towns.

This period witnessed the growth of mercantile organizations called guilds. these guilds were of three types- trade guilds, craft guilds, and caravan guilds for transportation.  Of these, the craft guilds were most prominent.  the guilds or Srenis were regulated by a charter called Srenidharma Which had approval from the ruler of the area.

The craft guilds were in charge of the production and scale of the particular commodities manufactured by the craftsmen. They fix the prices wages for workmen and percentage of profit. Executive and legal powers to arrest a workman who violates Srenidharma, Try him, expel him from the guild, and in extreme cases sentence him to death. at the same time, the guilds provided security to the craftsmen and protected their interests.

The head of a guild was called Jyestha or Jetta, usually the richest man in the Guild and also one who could wield a lot of influence in the Royal Court. the girls had their own seals and insignias. They also negotiated family and property disputes within the guilds. some guilds also had their own militias and helped the king in times of need.

They also took charge of Temple Trust. they constructed and maintained various temples and other Buddhist monuments. For example, the Ivory workers Guild of Vidisha contributed to the construction of the Sanchi Stupa. they also established educational institutions and made a great contribution to the diffusion of scientific knowledge. they also acted as bankers who received deposits and give loans at a fixed rate of interest.

During the Gupta period and the reign of Harsha trade with Southeast Asia assumed great proportions. Indian culture spread to Southeast Asia and kingdoms with Hindu and Buddhism rulers came up. the evidence is seen by the fact that islands like Bali and Sumatra retain the Hindu name. Singapore was earlier Simhapuri and Cambodia Kambhoja.

Trade declined after Harsha as the kingdom broke up into various small principalities ruled by Rajputs who fought against each other.  this disturbing situation was not conducive for trade. the Roman and Sassanid empires,  the biggest consumers of Indian goods declined. The Brahmin gained Supremacy and branded craftsmen as Sudras. they also prohibited sea voyages. all these factors brought stagnation into the Indian economy and this paved the way for the Muslim conquest of India.

Check out History of India notes in detail. 

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