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Harshavardhana was hard-working and energetic king

Updated on February 25, 2016

King Harshavardhana

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Statue of Harsha

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Harsha reign

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Harsha is regarded as the last great ruler of ancient India

Harshavardhana was hard-working and energetic king

It is said that he toured the country in disguise, in order to find out details of the activities of his officials. This enabled him to check the power of the military governors who might dare to challenge the authority of the Emperor.

Harshavardhana was the youngest son of Prabhakara Vardhana. He was barely sixteen years of age, took up the reins of the empire in AD 606. he marched against the ruler of Bengal and defeated him, rescued his sister and became the ruler of Thaneswar. He also took charge of the kingdom of the Maukharis and made Kanauj his capital.

According to Hiuen Tsang, a Chinese Buddhist scholar who came to India in AD 630, the empire of Harsavardhana stretched from Punjab in the West to Bengal in the east. His coins and inscriptions have also been found in this region.

Harshavardhana was a worshipper of Shiva in his early life, but later on became a Buddhist. He was a tolerant and gifted scholar. His works are Ratnavali, Priyadarshika and Nagananda. He patronised scholars like Banabhatta who wrote Harshacharita and Mayur, who wrote Surya Satakam. Mating Diwakar was his court poet.

Harsha patronised Buddhism by building a number of monasteries, encouraging Buddhist learning. He also organised Assemblies where Buddhist philosophy and teachings were discussed. Harsha was a benevolent ruler. He had no son to succeed him as the ruler. Nor did he make any arrangements to nominate his successor. He died in AD 647. There was once again political chaos in North India. Harsha is regarded as the last great ruler of ancient India.

The emperor arranged for a special Assembly of Buddhist monks and scholars to honour the Chinese pilgrim and propagate the doctrines of Mahayana Buddhist. After every five years, Harsha organised an assembly or religious festival at Prayag (Allahabad). One such Assembly was attended by Hiuen Tsang in AD 640. Harsha gave gifts of money, clothes and food to the poor. He was tolerant towards all other religions.

The King Harshavardhana granted scholarships

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king harshavardhan

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He forbade the slaughter of animals and the use of flesh as food

The King Harshavardhana Worshipper of Lord Shiva, but after he took the Buddhism. Like Ashoka, Harsha took the following measures for the spread of Buddhism -

He forbade the slaughter of animals and the use of flesh as food. He got the Buddhist monuments, stupas and monasteries renovated and new ones constructed. He granted scholarships and stipends to Buddhist scholars to encourage them to propagate Buddhism. However, like many other Indian monarchs, Harsha was tolerant to other creed and paid attention to the nobler teachings of all religions alike. Despite his learnings towards Buddhism he honoured his old gods and favoured the Brahmins.

Religious Assemblies

Harsha used to call religious assemblies for the purpose of examination and discussion on matters concerning religion. Hiuen Tsang witnessed an assembly held at Kannauj, the capital of King Harshavardhana, for the purpose of disputations on religious subjects \. the main object of the assembly was to give wide publicity to Hiuen Tsang' s exposition of Mahayanism. The deliberations in this grand assembly continued for 23 days. This special assembly was attended by twenty tributary Rajas including the King Assam from the extreme east and the king of Gujarat from the extreme west, four thousand Buddhist monks and about three thousand Jain Munis and Brahmins scholars.

The Kannauj Assembly then moved on to Prayag (Allahabad) in 643 AD. The King Harshavardhana gave away all the wealth he had accumulated during the previous five years to the Buddhist, Brahmin and jain scholars in these assemblies. He then begged clothes from his sister and paid worship to the Buddha. His charity has, thus, a record `Which no king in any age or country can possibly beat'.

After his death, dark clouds of disintegration once again hovered over the Indian subcontinent. The national unity of India was completely lost. In the confused state of affairs, many petty kingdoms came into existence in north India, the Deccan and South India.

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