Harshacharita (socio-cultural Study)

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

This page relates ‘Plan of the Thesis’ 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 7: Plan of the Thesis

This thesis is an attempt to study the social, political, economic, cultural, educational conditions and cultivation of knowledge, caste system and different stages of life, religion and religious sacraments and customs, art and architecture, environmental awareness and hygiene consciousness among the people, and herbal treatment, flora and fauna etc. as reflected in the Harṣacarita. Here, comparative studies of the societies as described in the Harṣacarita and in the Kādambarī are also done . In nine chapters, an attempt is made to study the following-

The chapter-1 deals with the writer Bāṇabhaṭṭa’s time, date, his works, his position in the Sanskrit literature etc. Caste hierarchy and their status and varṇāśrama have great influence in the social structure. Therefore, chapter-2 deals with caste system. In the 7th century A.D., there were mainly four castes or varṇas (caste) viz., brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya and śūdra. Position and duties of these castes are discussed in this chapter. In chapter-3, discussion about the cultivation of knowledge and system of education during that time, formal and informal education, and curriculum of that education system and various lore of learning also are incorporated. Chapter-4 deals with the position of women in the then society, which plays an important role. Chapter-5 relates the political aspects such as-forms of government and administration, duties of kings and other office bearers, arm, army and warfare under the reign of emperor Harṣa in 7th century A.D. Chapter-6 incorporates the study of other social-cultural aspects such as-the life of the people, various customs and Vedic rituals, their economic condition, dresses, ornaments, occupations etc., which were relevant under the reign of king Harṣa and his contemporary time of India. Chapter-7 is dedicated to the relation of human with the environment which, now-a-days, emerges as the very vital issue for the sustainment of human civilization. Impact of environment on human mind and body, environmental awareness of the people, how the people had used the herbs as medicine and cosmetics and also the hygiene consciousness among the people in the 7th century A.D.—all these aspects in the light of the Harṣacarita are discussed here.

Apparently it seems that the descriptions of societies are the same in the Harṣacarita and in the Kādambarī. Although both are the greatest gadyakāvyas of Bāṇa, it is worth-mentioning that the Kādambarī is a kathā,[1] basically based on the author’s imagination and the Harṣacarita is an ākhyāyikā[2] based on the life of a real hero. Chapter-8 is, moreover, a novel attempt to figure out some of the similarities and dissimilarities between the two societies.

Chapter-9 is the concluding chapter of this work.

Conventions Used

1. The Sanskrit words and Sanskrit quotations are in italics. They are presented in the transliterated form in English in the work.

2. All names of book, both traditional and modern, are mentioned in Italics.

3. Quotations are generally given in the foot notes. Only in certain cases, they have been inserted in the main body. These quotations are enclosed with quotation marks.

4. Scheme of the transliteration used is given in separate pages.

5. The work is mainly based on various available original literary books viz., ‘The Harshacarita of Bāṇabhaṭṭa’ edited by Mahamahopādhyāya P. V. Kane, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi and ‘Hindi Harṣacharita’- with Saṅket Sanskrit commentary of Saṅkara Kavi and Hindi translation by Prof. Jagannath Pathak, The Chowkhamba Vidyabhavan, Varanasi-1, 3rd edition, 1972 and ‘Bāṇa’s Kādambarī’ (of Bāṇabhaṭṭa, Pūrvabhāga) edited by M. R. Kale, published by Motilal Banarsidass, 4th edition, 1968.

Footnotes and references:


pravandhakalpanā kathā, Amarakoṣa, I.6.6


ākhyāyikopalabdhārthā, Ibid., I.6.5

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