Harsha Vardhana reigned in northern India from 606-647 AD who brought a consolidated rule after the Guptas. The account of Harshavardhana`s reign could be found from different sources like the accounts of pilgrims, coins and inscriptions, official Chinese documents, writings by famous personalities of that period.The Indian Emperor, Harshavardhan ruled over the northern parts of India for a period of more than forty years. Spread over the states of Punjab, Bengal, Orissa and the entire Indo-Gangetic plain His empire was, lying to the north of the Narmada River. History recognizes him as a great ruler.
The ancestors of Harsha Vardhana ruled in Thaneshwar. He was the younger son of Pravakara Vardhana, the king of Thaneswar. Rajya Vardhana was his elder brother and Rajyashri was his sister. Prabhakara Vardhana died in 605 AD. His daughter Rajyasri was married to the Maukhari King Grahabvarman. The king of Gauda in Bengal, Sasanka defeated Grahavarman of Kannauj and killed him. Rajyasri was put into prison. Rajyavardhana, the eldest brother of Rajyasri was the ruler of Thaneswara. He proceeded against Sasanka to take avenge on his sister`s behalf. But he was killed too by Sasanka. Thus the throne of Kannauj became vacant and Harshavardhana had to ascend the throne. He wanted to consolidate the northern India.
Harsha was a great conqueror. He brought under him a vast territory of northern India and even far off provinces had accepted his sovereignty. He is often compared with Akbar and Samudra Gupta.
Harsha has the credit of providing political unity to the northern India in the time of turmoil and disturbances. Between the Guptas and the Rajputs, he is a great ruler who made endeavors to establish political unity in the country. Immediately on his accession to the throne he lad military campaigns. Through his conquests he brought under a vast area of northern India. Like Samudra Gupta, he also devoted himself to consolidation of his empire. Harsha was undoubtedly a great warrior and a conqueror.
Besides being a great conqueror, Harsha was also a great diplomat. He entered into political alliance with she king of Kanya kubja and Kamrupa and made his position strong against Sasanka and Pulakesin II. Against Pulakesin II, he established friendly relations with china. It was the result of his good diplomacy that he could rule over a vast area of northern India, for a long reign of 61 years.
Harsha was an able administrator though not as great Akbar. It was through his efficient administration that Harsha was able to establish firmly. His administrative system was based on the administration of Guptas. He took personal interest in every department of the state and was particular about the welfare of his people. He was an ideal. According to Hiuen Tsang, "He was indefatigable and forgot sleep and food in his devotion to good works."
He himself was an accomplished dramatist and a worthy scholar. Besides this, he was a patron of scholar. He gathered the finest intellects and scholars of that period round him. He was the author of the three literary works, `Kavitavali,` `Priyadarsika` and `Naganada`. Famous scholars like Bana, Mayura, Divakarmitra, etc. adorned his court.
As regards his generosity and charity, no king can equal him much less surpass him. After every five years, he used to give enormous wealth in charity to Brahmans, Buddhist monks, poor and orphans, etc. The charity at the prayaga assembly is a wonderful event. According to Hiuen Tsang, "It took near about a month to distribute charities among the poor, orphans and destitute. Only the horses, elephants and military equipment was not distributed as it was considered necessary for maintaining order and protecting the royal estate." and further "All being given away Harsha begged from his sister i.e. Rajyasri an ordinary second hand garment and having but it on he paid worship to the Buddha of the ten religions and rejoiced that his treasure had thus been exhausted in the field of religious merit."
He had built roads and rest houses for the travellers. He had made arrangement for the free medical aid for patients.
As a religious propagator Harsha is compared with Ashoka and Kanishka. He infused life in Buddhism that had begun a tottering state since the period of the Guptas. On account of the royal support and patronage of Harsha, Buddhism spread with new enthusiasm after having triumphed over other religions in the assembly of Kannauj. He built many stupas and viharas and forbade the slaughter of all sorts of creatures.
Many historians remarked that Harshabardhana`s character was a reflection of many attributes of the Gupta King, Samudragupta as well as the religious tolerance and statesmanship revealed the characteristic features of Ashoka.Harshabardhana was also a scholar and a poet. He was the last sovereign Hindu monarch in northern India. harshabardhana passed away on about 647 AD. After his death there was an utter chaos and disorder in Northern India. Haershabardhana died without any heir. His entire kingdom was divided into many parts and various rulers took charge of those parts. The Indian history did not show any sign of stability until the conquest of Muslims. Narasinghavarman, the Pallava king of Kanchi won the maximum part of peninsula, which was once under Harshavardhana`s rule and king Bhaskaravarmana of Assam annexed the rest of the kingdom.