Harshacharita (socio-cultural Study)

by Mrs. Nandita Sarmah | 2014 | 67,792 words

This page relates ‘Part 5(a): Brief Note on the Harshacarita’ of the English study on the Harshacharita: A Sanskrit (poetical work) which can be studied as a Historical book of Indian society during the 7th century. It was originally written by Banabhatta who based his Harsacarita on the life of the Gupta emperor Harshavardhana. This study researches the religion, philosophy, flora and fauna and society of ancient India as reflected in the Harsha-Charita.

Part 5(a): Brief Note on the Harṣacarita

The Harṣacarita is an ākhyāyikā, not a pure history. But it holds the position of one of the few valuable historical kāvyas in Sanskrit literature. It deals with the deeds of king Harṣavadhana of Sthāṇvīśvara, who ruled the whole Northern India in the 7th century A.D. This prose-kāvya is composed by the famous prose-writer Bāṇabhaṭṭa, who flourished in the court of king Harṣa and who supplies the abundant material with a true picture of his contemporary society.

This ākhyāyikā has eight chapters. The first ucchvāsa is known as vātsāyanavaṃśavarṇanā, where, the author gives his autobiographical account and chronology of his family along with his own birth and his childhood. The 2nd ucchvāsa is named as rājadarśanam, which describes how Bāṇa went to the camp of king Harṣavardhana and won his favour. In the 3rd ucchvāsa-rājavaṃśavarṇanam, Bāṇa narrates a part of the life of king Harṣa starting from the four immediate ancestors of him to the description of their country Śrīkaṇṭha. The 4th ucchvāsa, named cakravartījanmavarṇanam, deals with the birth of princes Harṣa and Rājyavadhana and princess Rājyaśrī, the children of king Prabhākaravardhana and queen Yaśomatī. Again, the full-fledged description of marriage ceremony of princess Rājyaśrī with all the customs and rituals are found. Therefore, this ucchvāsa is the most valuable and the most important for the socio-cultural study, because, the clear description of all customs and rituals, culture are available here of the then society. The 5th ucchvāsa finds the description of skandhāvāra, rājakula, rājabhavana, dhavalagṛha etc., and, at last, the death of king Prabhākaravardhana and his funeral pyre. Therefore, this ucchvāsa is named as mahārājamaraṇavarṇanam. The 6th ucchvāsa, known as rājapratijñāvarṇanam, describes how Mālava king killed Grahavarman, the brother-in-law of Rājyavardhana, and thereof Rājyavardhana’s determination to kill Mālava, but unfortunate and treacherous murder of him by the enemy king of Gauḍa. The 7th ucchvāsa starts with preparation of emperor Harṣa’s world conquest (digvijaya) mission from royal mansion along with his vast army. In that time, Haṃsavega, the messenger of Kumāra Bhāskaravarman, the king of Prāgjyotiṣa, came to Harṣa with many gifts as tokens of friendship. Again, when Harṣa preceded his journey, he got the news that Rājyaśrī was seized by the Gauḍa and she escaped in to the Vindhya forest with her attendants. Hearing the news, Harṣa went in to the Vindhya in search of his sister. This chapter is named as chatralabdhi, for it describes Harṣa’s coronation. The 8th ucchvāsa deals with Harṣa’s wandering in the Vindhya forest; at last his meeting with his sister and his bringing her into the hermitage of sage Divākaramitra who got converted from Brahmanism to Buddhisism. Then Rājyaśrī was motivated by the Buddhists and at last she expressed her desire to put on the red garments. Hearing the sister’s vow, he (Harṣa) confirmed that after completing his vow, he and his sister would take up the red robes. Divākaramitra readily agreed and Harṣa returned with the sage to his army which encamped on the bank of the Gaṅgā. Here ends the last chapter.

This gadyakāvya finishes in a climax. It is clear that the book Harṣacarita is completed in these eight chapters, the biography of king Harṣavardhana and the autobiography of the author remain unfinished. The remarkable point, in this connection, is Bāṇa’s statement[1] that before he would start the description of Harṣa’s deeds he was ready to give only a partial account of Harṣa’s life.

Footnotes and references:


kaḥ khalu puruṣāyuṣaśatenāpi saknuyādavikalamasya caritaṃ varṇayitum. ekadeśe tu yadi kutūhalaṃ vaḥ, sajjā vayam, Harṣacarita,III.p.41

Help me keep this site Ad-Free

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: