Harshacharita (socio-cultural Study)

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

This page relates ‘Economic Condition’ 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.

Without mentioning the economic conditions, economic products and economic life of the then society, the discussion of all the other things of social lives are worthless. The people were divided into three classes-upper, middle and lower based on the economic prosperity. The upper class included the kings, ministers and state officers, wealthy brāhmaṇas. They wore very costly garments and gold ornaments.[1] The queens put on the golden griddles.[2] The middle class people were such as the employees of the royal palaces and other people who were engaged in various professions such as-carpenter, goldsmiths, clay-workers, painter, modelmaker, artisan, panegyrist, alchemist, physician, astrologer etc.

In this context, Bāṇa used the term śilpin[3] to indicate artisans.

“Naturally porters, waivers, blacksmiths, carpenters and goldsmiths were included among these Śilpins. They also earned their livelihood through their small occupation.”[4]

The foresters, villagers, hermitage people were included into lower class by the writer. They wore minimum essential dresses, which were also not decorative. It is also found that the villagers did not wear the decorative dresses because they were afraid of the thieves.[5] The extensive writing of Bāṇabhaṭṭa in his Harṣacarita, fully reflects the life and economic condition of the people of 7th century A.D. such as-description of engaging the people in different occupations, markets in the city, condition of the roads and transport and conveyance, facilities for travelers, trade etc. The writer states that the economic condition of the villages and cities were different from one another. While describing the skandhāvāra (camp headquarter), Bāṇa informs that it was decked with long and big market with lines of streets shops.[6] He also informs the markets flourished at that time and the roads of the city were plastered and whitened.[7] But the village roads were not pleasant and the people’s body rendered dirty by the dust of the roads.[8] For communication, goods-carrier and conveyance, the people used carts[9] drawn by animals such as-bullocks or oxen, elephants, horses, camels etc in the 7th century A.D.[10] References is founds about the public supplies of water using water reservoirs on the road-side the outside of city.[11]

Again, not only the description of use of gold-coins with royal stamp are found in the 7th century A.D.,[12] but also other essential accessories of royal families such as-the jewelries, king’s footstool, utensils etc. were made of gold and silver.[13] The writer informs of presenting of the ivory-boxes to king Harṣa by kumāra Bhāskaravarman.[14] Also, one of the foot-stools (pādapīṭha) of Harṣa was made of the ivory.[15] It implies that the ivory industry also developed in the 7th century A.D. Description of leather bags[16] and leather used in making shields,[17] leather making elephants[18] and dolls[19] etc. implies that in Bāṇa’s time, the leather industry was also highly developed.

Descriptions are also found that various iron articles were used for domestic works, agricultural implements, military weapons and equipments were. These were iron belt,[20] axe,[21] hoe,[22] shields,[23] armour,[24] iron-door-panels[25] etc. In this regard Bāṇa describes the heat of summer in the village by blacksmiths (vyokāro means lohakārakaḥ[26]) that burnt heaps of wood for charcoal.[27] It shows the iron industry was also not less developed in his time. Moreover, from the description of the mirrors,[28] information about the glass industry is found. Again, from the description of using of many big or small earthen jars,[29] or pots,[30] ceramic objects,[31] it may be assumed that there was pottery industry also developed at that time.

The description of various clothes such as-loin-cloth,[32] jackets,[33] blankets,[34] coat-mail,[35] etc. implies that textile industry was also developed at that time. Of the clothes, are references mainly made to cīnāṃśuka,[36] (i.e. Chinesesilken-garments) and pauṇḍre vāsasī[37] (i.e. clothes from Pauṇḍra country). It clearly indicates that the Indian people of then society imported their silk-cloth from China and Pauṇḍra country, and thus a trade link between India and China or India and Pauṇḍra did exist at that time. It is also learnt from the Rājataraṅgiṇī that the king Harṣa introduced in Kashmir some of the dresses, ornaments and coin-types of Southern India.[38] Again the writer mentions that different types of horses filled the royal stable of king Harṣa, which were imported from the various countries such as-Turaska, Kāmboja, Āraṭṭa, Vanāyu, Sindhu, Persia, etc.[39] It is found that the economy was dependent mainly on agriculture, cattle-farming and trade.

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

Ibid.,II.p.25

[2]:

….kāñcanakāñcigūṇāñcitakañcukivikāra….kāmabāgurā…., Ibid.,IV.p.64

[3]:

Ibid.,IV.p.69

[4]:

Barathakuria, A. Ch., The Mabhābhārata: An encylopedia of Indian Wisdom, Thoughts and Culture, p.182

[5]:

..pāṭaccarapratavāyapratipannapaṭaccareṇa…, Harṣacarita,VII.p.123

[6]:

[a] ….vipanivartamani…., Ibid.,V.p.75 [b] aprasāritapaṇapaṇyam, Ibid.

[7]:

…..dhavalīkriyamāna…..pratolī…..śikharam, Ibid.,IV.69

[8]:

[a] …uddhuyamānadhūlipaṭalam, Ibid.,VII.113

[9]:

gantrī, Ibid.,p.110

[10]:

[a] pṛṣṭhapratiṣṭhāpyamāna….karabhe, Ibid.,VII.p.109 [b] gamanasaṃbhramabhraṣṭā…turaṅgamata…, Ibid.,p.110
[c] ….gamanasukhāyamānakhakkhaṭastūyamānatuṅgatuṅgaṇagaṇe, Ibid.
[d].…gantrīgaṇagṛhyamānaprahatavatmani, Ibid.
[e] …..kareṇukayā siddhayātrohyamānaḥ, Ibid.,p.111 [f] niṣādininiścalānekanīkapāropyamāṇakośakalaśa…, Ibid.,VII.p.109
[g] boṭakūṭairuḍavāriṇā puraḥsarabaladvalīvardayugasareṇa, Ibid.

[11]:

[a] kaṇṭakitakarkarīcakrākrāntakāṣṭhamañcikāmuṣitatṛṣām… …śītalasikatilakalaśīśamitaśramāṇām…, Ibid.,VII.123
[b] viśrāmyatkārpaṭika……….pīyamānapayasāmaṭavīpraveśaprapānām…, Ibid.
[c] aṭavīsulabha…nabakhāṭakūpikopakaṇṭhapratiṣṭhita….kuṭīrakāṇām, Ibid.

[12]:

vṛṣāṅkamabhinavaghaṭitāṃ hāṭakamayīṃ mudrā…, Ibid.,VII,p.108

[13]:

[a] kāñcanamayasarvopakaraṇaivibhavai…, Ibid.,IV.p.57
[b] sauvarṇapādapīṭhī…, Ibid.,VII.p.114
[c] …kāladhautanalaka…, Ibid.,VII.p.110
[d] rājataihiraṇmayaiśca maṇḍanakabhāṇḍamaṇḍalaiḥ…, Ibid.,VII.p.112
[e].…gṛhītasauvarṇapādapīthiparyaṅkakaraṅkakalaśapatadgrahāvagrāhai…
…pārthivopakaraṇa…kārayabhibhūrpatibhṛtakabhārikai……, Ibid.,VII.p.113
[f] ….kautūhalakṛnti kanakaśṛṅkhalāniyamitagrīvāṇāṃ…., Ibid.,VII.p.117

[14]:

…dāntasapharukadhāriṇyā kanakaputrikayā…, Ibid.,IV.p.71

[15]:

[a] …muktāphaladāmadanturāṇi dantakāṇḍakuṇḍalāni, Ibid.,VII.p.117
[b].… dantapāṇḍurapāde…, Ibid.,II.p.33
[c] …dāntasapharukadhāriṇyā kanakaputrikayā…, Ibid.,IV.p.71

[16]:

cipiṭacarmapuṭe, Ibid.,VII.p.109

[17]:

kāradaṅgacarmamaṇḍala…..caṭulaḍāmara …, Ibid.,VII.p.110

[18]:

[a] karikarmacarmapuṭasyeva…, Ibid.,VII.p.120
[b] …..kāradaṅgacarmānāṃ sambhāran, Ibid.,VII.p.116

[19]:

carmaputrikā, Ibid.,II.p.25

[20]:

hiñjīram or śṛṅkhalā or kālāyasanigaḍa, Ibid.,p.109,122

[21]:

kuddāla, Ibid.,p.123

[22]:

kuṭhāra, Ibid.,p.124

[23]:

kāradaṅgacarmamaṇḍala…..caṭulaḍāmara …, Ibid.,VII.p.110

[24]:

kavaca, Ibid.,p.74

[25]:

kālāyasakabāṭa, Ibid.,p.82

[26]:

Amarakoṣa,II.10.7

[27]:

…gaiṣmamuṣmāṇaṃ …aṅgārīyadārusaṃgrahadāhibhiḥ vyokāraiḥ, Harṣacarita,VII.p.123

[28]:

[a] manibhitridarpaṇeṣu mukhapratibimbāni.., Ibid.,IV.p.73 [b] …maṇidarpaṇeṣu mukhamutkhāte…, Ibid.,IV.p.61

[29]:

kumbhaiḥ, Ibid., p.108

[30]:

kalaśaiḥ, Ibid.,p.45

[31]:

lepyakārakadambakakriyamāṇamṛṇamayamīnakūrmamakaranārikelakadalīpūgavṛkṣ-akam, Ibid.,IV.p.69

[32]:

kaupīnam, Ibid., p.46

[33]:

mecakakañcukaḥ, Ibid.,p.110

[34]:

kuthāḥ, Ibid., p.114

[35]:

kañcuka, Ibid.,p.111

[36]:

[a]...upacitachīnacolakaiśca…, Ibid.,VII.p.110 [b] ….kenacicchīnāṃśuka…, Ibid.,VIII,p.131

[37]:

Ibid.,III.p.39

[38]:

Rājatarṅginī, p.260

[39]:

atha vanāyujaiḥ, āraṭṭajaiḥ, kāmbojaiḥ, sindhudeśajaiḥ…adhiṣṇyagārampaśyat, Harṣacarita,II.p.28-29

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