Impact of Vedic Culture on Society

by Kaushik Acharya | 2020 | 120,081 words

This page relates ‘Mingling of Cultures (I): The Pushyabhutis’ of the study on the Impact of Vedic Culture on Society as Reflected in Select Sanskrit Inscriptions found in Northern India (4th Century CE to 12th Century CE). These pages discuss the ancient Indian tradition of Dana (making gifts, donation). They further study the migration, rituals and religious activities of Brahmanas and reveal how kings of northern India granted lands for the purpose of austerities and Vedic education.

Mingling of Cultures (I): The Puṣyabhūtis

Let’s take a look at the land grants made by the kings (especially Śrī-Harṣa) of Puṣyabhūti dynasty. Śrī-Harṣa was a king of the intense religious mind. Banskhera Plate of Śrī-H arṣa (c. 628 -629 CE)[1] records a grant of a village Markkaṭasāgara to two vedic Brāhmaṇa 1) Bhaṭṭa-vāla-candra an adherent follower of Bahvṛca-śākhā (gveda) 2) Bhadra-svāmi, an adherent follower of chāndogya (Sāmaveda). Kurukshetra Plates of Śrī -H arṣa (c. 650 -651 CE)[2] records a grant of a village Paṇḍārāṭgāka to Bhaṭṭa Ulūkhala of Bahvṛcha (gveda). Again, in The Madhuban plates (c. 631 -632 CE)[3] he granted land properties to two vedic Brāhmaṇas, Bhaṭṭavātasvāmi of the chāndogya school (Sāmaveda) and Śivadevasvāmi of Bahvṛca school (gveda). In his inscriptions and seals we see Śrī-Harṣa’s ancestors, Rājyavardhana I, his son Ādityavardhana and Ādityavardhana’s son Prabhākarvardhana were all Parama-Ādityabhaktas (sunworshipers), and his elder brother Rājyavardhaṇa II was a Buddhist (Parama-Saugata), and Harṣa himself was a Śaivite (Parama-Māheśvara).

His land grant inscriptions, as mentioned above, describe him as ParamaMāheśvara (supreme devotee of Śiva). According to the Chinese Buddhist traveler Xuan zang (Hsuan-Tsang), Harṣa became a devout Buddhist at some point in his life. Xuan zang also describes a twenty-one-day religious festival organized by the King Harṣavardhana in Kanauj; during this festival, Harṣa and his subordinate kings performed daily rituals before a golden idol of the Buddha.[4] Harṣa was eclectic in his religious views and practices, like many other ancient Indian rulers. Vedic texts were studied, and vedic rituals performed at that time of Harṣavardhana. However, we may visualize that religious festivals relating to the three different faiths viz. worship of Sūrya (Sun-god), Śaivism and Buddhism were being performed in the royal palace on behalf of the kings and we came to know the fact despite of Harṣa’s ultimate inclination towards Buddhism, at the Prayāga Assembly he worshiped Buddha, Śiva and Sūrya together and donated charity to the devotees of all faith at that time.[5]

Apart from his religious views, Harṣa was a patron of art and education. He himself wrote three excellent Sanskrit plays, Ratnāvalī, Priyadarśika, Nāgānanda that have earned literary critics. It is known that a quarter of his revenue went to the patronage of scholars. Xuan zang[6] gave a very clear account of the famous Nālandā University which was at the top during the reign of Harṣa;however, was established during the era of the Kumāragupta I (5th century CE). This Chinese traveler described how the regularly erected towers, the forests of the manḍapas, the temples seemed to rise above the folds of the sky so that the monks could witness the birth of wind and clouds from their cells. In its legacy, Nālandā had about ten thousand students and two thousand teachers. But the admission process was also very strict. Besides, the records say that strict oral examinations were taken by the doormen there and many of them were rejected. The curriculum covered all the subjects that were available at that time including Vedas, philosophy, logic, Buddhism, medicine, law, astronomy, etc.

Footnotes and references:


Ibid., pp. 345-347.


Ibid., part II, pp. 1-4.


Ibid., part I, pp. 438-446.


Abraham Eraly, The First Spring: The Golden Age of India, p. 86.


T. Watters, op. cit., vol. I, p. 364.


Rene Grousset, Sur les Traces du Buddha, eng. trans. Mariette Leon, The Footsteps of the Buddha, pp. 156-160.

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