Harshacharita (socio-cultural Study)

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

This page relates ‘Position of Princes and Their Coronation’ 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 4: Position of Princes and Their Coronation

In a monarchy, birth of a child was very important for future successor of the country so that dynastic rule could never be discontinued. Therefore, the prince had to have knowledges of all the branches, such as all Śāstras, use of all different weapons etc., so that they could be fit for the throne. Princes Rājyavardhana and Harṣavardhana got the knowledge in their proper ages.[1] At that time, the prince had to be placed under his maternal relations. Prabhākaravardhana selected Kumāragupta and Mādhavagupta, sons of king Mālava as comrades of his sons Rājyavardhana and Harṣavardhana respectively.[2] Bāṇa mentions a characteristic of a prince while giving the description of prince Dadhīca, that a prince does not know how to serve; he only knew how to command.[3] In ancient times, Indian kings transferred their kingdoms, when they grew old, to their sons and went to a forest to practice austerities. It is noticed in the Harṣacarita that the system of primogeniture was followed in those days in Indian society. The king organized the coronation ceremony of his son so that the prince would be able to rule the kingdom after his father. Bāṇa describes that king Prabhākaravardhana gave up the wealth that stuck to the rājyāṅgas, in the time of his coronation.[4] It implies that the coronation of the king Prabhākara’s was performed. Bāṇa has vividly described the cornation (i.e., yauvarājyābhiṣeka[5]) of the king in the Kādambarī. In the Kādambarī, it is found that, king Tārāpīḍa ordered the attendants to collect together all the requisites[6] to crown his son Candrāpīḍa. This ceremony made a king the lord of the people. It is found in the text—India Age of the Brāhmaṇas, that, the word abhiṣeka means ‘sprinkling’, as the main item of the ceremony consists in sprinkling the king with holy waters collected from different sacred rivers and Seas.[7] Bāṇa also speaks about the holy water collected from different seas and rivers for coronation[8] of prince Harṣa.

In the Harṣacarita, description of the coronation of prince Harṣa, after the death of his father and brother is found. Manu also recommends—

“If the eldest son suffers from any physical or mental defect, he is to be passed over and his younger brother should be the king.”[9]

King Prabhākaravardhana also requested Harṣa to accept the throne.[10] Though, Harṣa respects his older brother very well, king Prabhākaravardhana was trying to persuade him much against his will to lead the throne when Rājyavardhana was away.

Therefore, to strengthen his point he (Prabhākaravardhana) says thus:—

“Upon you, my happiness, my sovereignty, my succession, as mine as those of all my people, you wear marks declaring sovereignty of the four oceans, one and all, to be almost in your grasp.”[11]

It implies that a dying father was to select his best and favorite son to the throne, though his wish did not materialized. After the death of Rājyavardhana, Harṣa came to the throne of Sthāṇvīśvara through selection by ministers and magistrates.[12]

According to the Vedic tradition the holy water was collected from 17 different sources consisting of rivers, pools, wells, dewdrops, rain waters, seas etc.[13] The water for bathing was collected from rain for prince Harṣa.[14] Afterwards, his body was anointed with sandal paste.[15] The coronation ceremony was regarded as a new birth of the king. At the time of coronation, Harṣa wore the new garments[16] and wore fresh blossomed flowers on his head and ear ornaments made of the blades of the durvā grass sprinkled with gurocanā paint.[17] He also put on śāsanavalaya in his hands.[18] The priests blessed him with the holy water thrown in to his head.[19] After the coronation ceremony was over he came out from the palace (rājabhavan), where all the people greeted him with the auspicious words.[20] On that day, Harṣa went to conquer the world. Again, the writer Bāṇa mentions about puṣyābhiṣeka[21] performed in his time.

The Saṅketa commentary describes—

yatra dine puṣyanakṣatre rājā snāti taddinaṃ puṣyābhiṣekākhyam.[22]

Footnotes and references:


. ….śāstrābhyāsa……yogyakāleṣu dhiraidhanur…., Ibid.,II.p.66


…mālavarājaputrau…..kumāraguptamādhavaguptanāmānavasmābhirbhavatoranu-caratvārthamimau nirdiṣṭau, Ibid.


jānāti sevitumityasvāmibhābocitam, Ibid.,I.p.16


yo rājyāngasangīnyabhiṣicyamāna iva malānīva mumoca dhanāni, Ibid.,IV,p.56




rājā candrāpīḍasya yuvarājyābhiṣekaṃ ……saṃgrahārthamādideśa, Ibid.


India age of the Brāhmaṇas, p.145


[a]…prayāgapravāhaveṇikāvāriṇevāgatya svayamabhiṣicyamānam, Harṣacarita,II.p.34 [b].…..kamalinīpālāśapuṭasalilaiścaturarbhirapi ….kriyatābhiṣekaḥ, Ibid.,IV.p.60


Manusaṃhitā, IX.201


[a] ātmīkriyatām rājakam, Harṣacarita,V. p.87 [b] gṛhyatāṃ śrīḥ, Ibid.,V. p.86


sukhaṃ ca rājyam ca vaṃśaśca prāṇāśca paralokasya tvayi me sthitāḥ. yathā mama tathā sarvāsām prajānām, Ibid.,V. p.79


yenaiva ca te gataḥ pitā pitāmahaḥ prapitāmaho vā tameva mā ……panthānaṃ…..kulakramāgatāṃ ……rājalakṣīṃ….devabhūyaṃ gate narendre …….dharaṇīdhāraṇāyādhunā tvaṃ śeṣaḥ. samāścāsaya aśaraṇāḥ prajāḥ, Ibid.,VI.p.102


India age of the Brāhmaṇas,p.100


salilamokṣaviśāradaiḥ śaradairivambhodharaiḥ…., Harṣacarita,VII.p.108


candanena śarīraṃ...., Ibid.


śarīraṃ paridhāya..…dukūle, Ibid.


…karṇagocaratāṃ gorocanācchuritamabhinavaṃ durvāpallavaṃ…, Ibid.


….binyasya śāsanavalayena…, Ibid.


… paripūjitaprahṛṣṭapurohitakara….śāntisalilasīkara…., Ibid.


…pramuditaprajājanyamānajayaśabdakolāhalo…., Ibid.




Ibid., II.p.99

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