Harshacharita (socio-cultural Study)

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

This page relates ‘Kingship and Duties of a King’ 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 2: Kingship and Duties of a King

In ancient India, a king was treated as a divine personality. The king has been described as the epitome of all that is divine, with which he is said to have been created. Manu says that a king is formed of the essential qualities of the eight gods viz., Indra, Vāyu, Yama, Sūrya, Agni, Varuṇa, Candra and Kubera.[1] Bāṇa has compared king Śūdraka with another form of Indra, Viṣṇu, Śiva, Kārtika and Brahman[2] in Kādambarī. Similarly he also describes that the emperor Harṣa was the incarnation (avatāra) of all devatās such as the Sun and the Moon[3] and compares Harṣa with so many historic heroes such as Bhīsma, Droṇa, Karṇa, Yudhiṣṭhira, Arjuna etc.[4] Manu also recommends the highest duty of a kṣatriya (king) is to ensure protection to his subjects.[5] An ideal king rules his kingdom very perfectly. We find in the Harṣacarita, the king Puṣpabhūti is depicted as an expert ruler,[6] virtuous and well versed in all aspects of poetry.[7] He also protects all the castes like Indra, for which he is compared with Candra, Vāyu etc.[8] and under his kingdom the citizen was living very joyfully and felt happy.[9] Bāṇa also mentions that emperor Harṣa protected all the castes according to the law of Manu.[10] It shows that the king would not rule his kingdom according to his own choice, but he should follow the rule of the Dharmaśāstras.

Therefore, Bāṇa has mentioned[11] that a king should be well versed with four things—mūla (i.e., a kings hereditary territory), daṇḍa (i.e., his territorial army), koṣa (i.e., his treasury) and maṇḍala (i.e., the circles of kings near and distance neighbors) and rājadharma[12] depends on mantra (state policy), koṣa (treasury) and sādhana (army). Bāṇa also has mentioned in the Kādambarī that the king should always avoid the four principle vices viz., kāma (i.e., the love of pleasure), dyūta (i.e., gambling), paradārabhigamana (i.e., seducing others wife), mṛgayā (i.e., hunting), and pāna (i.e., drinking).[13] Again other destructive activities of the kings have been advised by minister Skaṇḍagupta in the Harṣacarita.[14] Manu also noted the same view. Besides, Bāṇa mentions that the king Harṣa has such power to control his senses that cupid could not touch his mind,[15] and although he was a king, he followed the rule of brahmacarya.[16] Sometimes, kings are misleading by the surrounding flatters. So the king should always keep a distance from them. Bāṇa described it through the advice of king Prabhākaravardhana to his son Harṣa.[17]

It is also described in Kādambarī by Bāṇa as the Śukanāsa’s advice to prince Candrāpīḍa.[18] Sometimes, flattery was so simple a case for other kings. Bāṇa mentions that the king Śaśāṅka of Bengal, friend of Mālava king, invited Rājyavardhana, by fair promise of a conference and assassinated him when he was unguarded.[19] Manu also recommends that the soldier shall not strike one who is without his armour, or one who has fallen in difficulties regarding weapons etc.[20]

It is observed in the ancient polity that the kings tried their best to satisfy the subjects. Bāṇa describes that Tārāpīḍa removed all the grievances of his subjects and made his people happy from all side,[21] establishment of good order in his state or all the usual duties of a king. King Harṣa also follows this duty and feels that the good make the world theirs by their goodness.[22] Under the reign of the king Harṣa, the citizens were very much satisfied with him. He was always possessed of good friends and counselors and he was the only king of his time who possessed sovereign power. Happiness and justice always stayed in his kingdom.[23] He appointed his feudatory kings to protect his citizen.[24]

Manu also says that the king should deliberate on the most important affairs which relate to the six measures[25] of royal policy (guṇa) viz., alliance (sandhi), war (vigraha), marching (yāna), halting (āsana), dividing the army (dvaidhībhāva), and seeking protection (saṃśraya). In this context, the author has mentioned that under his reign, king Prabhākaravardhana had performed many sacrifices for the general people in the form of sabhā (hall), satra (the room), prapā (where water is given to the travelers), prāgvaṃśa (it is a room to the east of the agniśāla) outside the city to make good relation with them.[26]

One of the duties of the king was to honour the brāhmaṇs as is known from several law books. Nārada[27] states that when any man grants prosperity to brāhmaṇs, the king must give his consent to it. Emperor Harṣa donated the land as royal grant (agrahāra) to brāhmaṇas,[28] and he also donated the all treasuries to the brāhmaṇas, which he had got in conquering time.[29] Bāṇa also mentions Harṣa liked the brāhmaṇas very much,[30] and donated the mahādāna in his life.[31] King Prabhākaravardhana, too, donated his wealth to the brāhmaṇas.[32]

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

Manusaṃhitā,VII.4,5

[2]:

āsīda pākaśāsana iva….cakradhara iva…..karakamalopalakṣyamānaśaṅkhacakralāñcano hara iva….rājānām, Kādambarī, p.8-10

[3]:

[a] aruṇapādapallavena…aruṇa..prasannāvalokitena candramukhena kṛṣṇakeśena vapuṣā sarvadevatāvatāramivaikatra darśayantam, Harṣacarita, II p.32 [b]...haricandana…pāde śaśīmaya iva …samupaviṣṭam, Ibid.

[4]:

bhīṣmājjitakāśinam, droṇāccāpalālasam, karṇānmitrapriyam, yudhiṣṭhirādvahukṣamam, dhanañjayānmahābhārataraṇayogyam…., Ibid.,II.p.35

[5]:

Manusaṃhitā, VII.144

[6]:

dakṣaprajākarmaṇi, Harṣacarita, III.p.44

[7]:

vedamaya ivākṛtrimālāpatve, Ibid.

[8]:

tatra ca sākṣātsahasrākṣa iva sarvavarṇadharma dhanurdadhānaḥ, śaśīmaya iva kalasaṃgrahe, …pavanamaya iva…. rājā puṣpabhūtiriti nāmnā babhūva, Ibid.

[9]:

….māsamekaṃ divasamiva mahotsavamkaronnarapatiḥ, Ibid.,IV.p.60

[10]:

manāmiva kartari varṇāśramavyavasthānāṃ…, Ibid.,II.p.36

[11]:

samucitamūladaṇḍakoṣamaṇḍalapi….., Kādambarī,p.171-172

[12]:

mantrakoṣasādhanapravṛttasyākṣamālāmiva rājadharmasya, Harṣacarita,VIII.p.138

[13]:

Kādambarī,p.177

[14]:

pramadādoṣābhiṣaṅgeṣu śrutabahuvārta iva pratidinaṃ devaḥ……pramattānāṃ ca pamadākṛtā api pramādāḥ śrutuviṣayamāgatā iva devasya, Harṣacarita,VI.p.105-106

[15]:

...nigraharucicitīndriyaiḥ…, Ibid.,II.p.35

[16]:

gṛhītabrahmacarya…, Ibid., II.p. 34

[17]:

kriḍārasena nartayanto mayūratāṃ nayanti bāliśāḥ, Ibid.,IV. p.66

[18]:

pratāranakuśalaidhurtaiḥ amānuṣalokacitābhiḥ stutibhiḥ…….sarvajanasyopahāsyatāmupayati, Kādambarī,pp.166-180

[19]:

. …helānirjitamālavānīkamapi gauḍādhipena mithyopacāropacitavisvāsaṃ muktaśastramekākinaṃ viśrabdhaṃ…., Harṣacarita,VI. p.98

[20]:

Manusaṃhitā, VII.91-93

[21]:

susthitaḥ prajāḥ kṛtvā…, Kādambarī, p.101

[22]:

[a] sajjanamādhuryāṇāmbhṛtadāsyo daśa diśaḥ, Harṣacarita,VII.p.119 [b] devo’pi harṣa sakalarājyastitīścakāra, Ibid.,VI. p.106

[23]:

tāta, santoṣajuṣāṃ ….kṛtyaṃ sukhitayā sakalabhuvanabhuji …..rakṣati kṣitiṃ kṣitibhujo bhuje. sarvathā sukhina eva vayam, Ibid., III.p.39

[24]:

atra lokanāthena diśāṃ mukheṣu parikalpitā lokapālaḥ.., Ibid.,III. p.40

[25]:

Manusaṃhitā, VII. 160

[26]:

yasmṃinśca rājani…..barhiruparacitavikaṭasabhāsatraprapāprāgvaṃśamaṇḍapaiḥ prasūtamiva grāmaiḥ, Harṣacarita,IV.p.57

[27]:

Nāradasmṛti, XVIII.34,47

[28]:

ityabhinandya manasā mahānimittaṃ tatsīrasahasrasaṃmitasimnāṃ grāmāṇāṃ satamadāddvijebhyaḥ, Harṣacarita, VII.p.109

[29]:

sakalabhuvanakośaścāgrajanmanām vibhaktaḥ, Ibid.,III. p.40

[30]:

yacśa ca bāla eva prītyā dvijātīnaprītyā cārātīnsamagrānapratigrahānagrāhayat, Ibid.,VII.p.118

[31]:

jivitāvadhigṛhīta…….mahādānadīkṣa…, Ibid., II. p.33

[32]:

dvijadīyamānairarthakalaśaiḥ phalitamiva bhāgyasampadā, Ibid.,IV.p.57

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