Administration & Legacy of Harsha

We know about the administration of Harsha mostly from the accounts of Huen Tsang, who was most impressed by the Civil Administration. The principal source of revenue was the rent of the crown lands, which was 1/6th of the produce. The officials were remunerated by land grants and the tax administration was not so rigid. The crime was rare though unlike the narrations of Fa Hien, the routes were less safe. This evident from the fact that Huen Tsang was stopped and looted by the robbers. The punishments were severe than the Gupta rulers. The nose, ears, hands, feet of the criminals were mutilated and death sentence prevailed.

Interest in Literature

Harsha was a great patron of the literature and was an accomplished calligraphist and author of reputation. He has written three extant Sanskrit Plays viz. Nagananda, Ratnavali and Priyadarsika and one grammatical work. His plays are as follows:

  • Nagananda: Nagananda has an enlightening Buddhist legend for its subject and is one of the best works of the Indian Drama. It describes the story of the Jimutavahana’s self-sacrifice to save the Nagas.
  • Ratnavali: Ratnavali is a great drama, which narrates the story of a princess called Ratnavali and a king called Udayana. Ratnavali is probably the earliest textual references to the celebration of Holi, the festival of colors.
  • Priyadarsika: Priyadarsika is another great play by Harsha.


Banabhatta is considered the greatest ornament in the literary circle of Harsha. Bana’s Kadambari is not only the most celebrated prose romance in Sanskrit, but also the best work with universal appeal. Similarly Harshacharita, is probably first work of its kind is the biography of his great hero Harsha. The work is not only the first attempt of Biography Indian literature but also an authentic work. There are two more works attributed to Banabhatta viz. Chhandakasthtaka and Parvatiparinaya. Please note that Banabhatta did not complete Kadambari. His work was later finished by his son Bhushanbhatta (or maybe Pulindabhata) and thus Kadambari is divided into two parts viz. Purvabhaga and Uttarbhaga, ascribed to the father and son respectively.

The religion of Harsha

In Harsha, we find a learned king who was well versed in the doctrine of Sammitiya School, an offshoot of the Vatsiputriya school of Early Buddhism. After the Ganjam conquest, Harsha started showing the favor for the quietest teachings of Buddhism. He favored the Hinyana initially and Mahayana later. We find in him a great devotee of Buddhism, who enforced the Buddhist traditions with utmost strictness. He forbade the slaughter of any living thing. Use of animal flesh was a punishable offense in his reign. The benevolent institutions based upon Asoka’s model were established through his empire. Numerous monasteries were erected in the closing years of his empire. Huen Tsang describes about the numbers of the monks occupying the monasteries to be around two Lakh !

Father of Harsha was a Sun Devotee, his remote ancestor Pushyabhuti was a Shiva follower, his brother Rajyavardhana and sister Rajyashri were Buddhism devotees, but Harsha was benevolent of all the three and erected temples also. However, the in the closing part of his reign, his favorite was the faith of Buddhism. We find King Harsha’s autograph in Baanskhera inscription of Haryana.

Prayag Assembly

Every five years, Harsha called for an assembly at Prayag. This ceremony began with the worship of Surya, Shiva and Buddha (a testimony to his tolerance to all faiths), and after that he use do charitable distribution. It is told that every Buddhist monk was given 100 pieces of gold, a pearl and cotton clothe. He also used to donate the cloths and ornaments he wore and then asked his sister Gayatri for cloths and ornaments.


Bhandi was a leading noble of Kannauj and on advice of the political leaders of Kannauj; he offered the crown of Kannauj to Harsha after death of Grahavarmana. Bhandi was later described as one of the chief officers of Harsha. When Harsha chased Shashanka for release of his sister, through Bhandi only Harsha could know that his sister has been released and Shashanka has escaped.


Simhanada was the General of the Harsha’s army and his Prime Minister. When Harsha was preparing to conquest the South, Simhanada warned him about the dreadful consequences. This was for the first time that Harsha did not pay attention to his seasoned councilor and paid the price for the same when Pulkesin II defeated him.

Out of all the powers of the Deccan, the most dominant power up to some 250 AD was Andhra, the Saatvahana Dynasty. After some 3 centuries of the extinction of the Saatvahana, no specific information is available. During those times, the Maharashtra region was ruled by the Rastrakuta dynasty which up till mid of the 8th century became a powerhouse of Deccan.