Harshacharita (socio-cultural Study)

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

This page relates ‘Art and Architecture’ 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.

Bāṇa has not only portrayed the cities, palaces etc. of the king but turns over attention to the aesthetic and artistic senses of the people’s in art and craft. Therefore, he himself mentions that the city Sthāṇvīśvara was the field of architecture for artisans.[1] The fully surrounded and protected walls around the dūrgas or forts were made of stones,[2] and sometimes with irons.[3] Water reservoirs,[4] were also made for playing.

Other various things, [which are also described, declare that the people were very advanced in the fields of different arts]—such as—

  1. parikhā[5] (i.e., moat),
  2. surālaya[6] (i.e., temples),
  3. vajramandira,[7]
  4. prāsāda[8] (i.e., big buildings),
  5. toraṇa[9] (i.e., royal gate),
  6. sūvarṇapādapīṭḥa[10] (i.e., golden footstool),
  7. carmaputrikā[11] (i.e., dolls of leather),
  8. anjalikārikā[12] (i.e., clay doll) etc.

The floor of the palaces inlaid with gems reflects all these things.[13]

The writer has provided the image of the architecture through the description of things inside the royal-palace such as—

  1. citrapaṭa[14] (i.e., big paintings),
  2. sakāñcanapratimā[15] (i.e., a doll made with gold),
  3. śālabhañjikā[16] (i.e., a doll or puppet or a clay doll made from śāla tree).

According to Saṅketa commentary—

añjalikārikābhirmṛnmayapratimābhiḥ, śālabhañjikārvā.[17]

The writer also had given the structure of royal palace[18] i.e. skandhāvāra, which consisted of many rooms[19] and staircases.[20] In this context, the writer mentions king Prabhākaravardhana took rest in the third room in his illness, which was the inner-court,[21] known as dhavalagṛha.[22] It is found in the great Mahākāvya Rāmāyaṇa[23] that the third kakṣa was set aside for the queen and her confidential attendants. In a palace, there were many other house premises which are defined as follows-

Bhuktasthāna: It is an audience hall,[24] also known as outer-court. The king used to come here to give justice or take interviews of other persons etc. The author describes that king Harṣa in the audience hall,[25] which was crowded in other sovereign kings, when he went to meet emperor Harṣa for the first time.

Alindaka: It is a terrace before an outer door. The Harṣacarita refers that it was made with the gold shaped by goldsmith.[26]

Vitardikāstambha: The word vitardi[27] means platform. It mentions in the Harṣacarita that sometimes it sometimes implies pillars in the courtyard.[28]

Candraśālikā: P.V. Kane comments that it is a chamber on the roof.[29] But, normally, it implies the terrace of the palace, from where the king enjoyed the moonlight. It[30] is described in many times by the writer Bāṇa.

Bhavanamaṇivedikā: It is a square like board crystal slabs,[31] made for taking rest.

According to M. R. Kāle

vedikā usually means the raised space round an altar.”[32]

Vedī: It is a quadrangular spot[33] in a temple or courtyard, through which one can easily and fearlessly walk in his courtyard.

Āsthānamaṇḍapa: It was a big palace where the king’s assembly was performed and from where, the king announced[34] every important news.

Caitya: It is a monument or a sacred tree grown on a temple or hall, or a holy tree grown on the side of a road. The writer describes there was small caitya[35] of pinkred colour in the forest, the stamp of which was imprinted on vermilion. Again, the author uses the word caityacihna[36] to imply tombstone of Prabhākaravardhana.

Footnotes and references:


viśvakarmamandiramiti vijñānibhiḥ, Ibid.,p.44


śilāprākāreṇa…, Ibid., II,p.33


..lohaprākāram, Ibid.,p.31


krīḍāvāpīsamūham, Ibid.,p.69










samuttambhitatuṅgatoraṇe.., Ibid.,VII.p.108


Ibid., p.113




Ibid., p.72


…nirmalamaṇikuṭṭimanimagnaprativimbanibhena…., Ibid.,IV.p.60


Ibid.,IV. p.72


Ibid., p.31


komalavarṇikavicitrairmitramukhaiśca maṅgalyaphalahastābhirañjalikārikābhirudbhāsitaparyantām, Ibid.,IV.p.72




rājakulam, Ibid.,p.77


trīṇi kakṣāntarāṇi catūrthe bhuktāsthānamaṇḍapa…., Ibid.,II.p.31


….sopānaprakupitapratīhāre, Ibid.,IV.p.72


tṛtīyaṃ kakṣāntaram, Ibid.,V.p.77


Ibid., V.p.78




…bhūpālasahasrasaṅkulāni ….. bhuktasthānamaṇḍapasya purstadajire sthitam….harṣamadrākṣīt, Ibid.,II.p.31-35


hemakāra…hāṭakaghaṭana…….alindakam, Ibid.,IV.p. 69


syātvitardistu vedikā, Amarakoṣa,II.16


[a].…ajiravitardikāni, Harṣacarita, II.p.21
[b] …aśokapallava…..śikharānudvāhavitardikāstambha..., Ibid., IV.p. 69




[a] pratiburdhamānāyaśca candraśālikā…, Ibid.,IV.p.60 [b] candraśālikālīnamamūkamaulaloke, Ibid.,V.p.77


viśālasphatikaśilātala…. viśrāmakāraṇamanirmittaṃ bhavanamaṇivedikā, Ibid.,III.p.44


aṅganavedī vasudhā…, Harṣacarita,VII.p.108


visarjitarājalokaḥ……bāhyāsthānamaṇḍapasthāpitamāsanamācakrām, pāstasamāyogaśca kṣanamāsiṣṭa, Ibid.,VII.p.114-115


…pāṭalamūdrācaityakamūrtayaḥ, Ibid.,VIII, p.127


sudhānicaye citācaityacihne, Ibid.,VI.p.91

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