Having rescued his sister, Rajyashri, Harshavardhana headed for Kannauj, where his brother-in-law had been slain by the lord of Gauda – Shahshanka. A state of confusion reigned over the Maukharis. Not one male heir had survived the tragic affair. The elderly queen was averse to the idea of ruling the kingdom. Harsha’s cousin, Bhandi, and the Maukhari courtiers, pleaded with him to take control. But the young prince was reluctant. Finally, according to legend, he was visited by the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who told him to assume kingship without royal insignia or imperial title. It was then that Harshavardhana took the name Kumara Shiladitya.

He brought the Pushyabhuti and Maukhari domains under one umbrella and reigned from Kannauj. A six-year long campaign was waged against Gauda which led to the defeat and expulsion of Shashanka. But Harsha did not manage to capture and kill him. What Harsha did achieve (according to the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang) was the unification of the ‘Five Indies’ viz. Sarasvata (Punjab), Kanyakubja (Uttar Pradesh), Mithila (Bihar), Gauda (Bengal) and Utkala (Odisha). This gained him the a new title – ‘Lord of All North’ (Sakala-Uttarapatha-Natha). Apart from these provinces, Harsha also exercised control over Ahichchatra (Bareilly), Govishana (Kashipur), Brahmapur (Garhwal), Matipur (Bijnor), Srughna (Yamunanagar), Satadra (Sirhind), Kuluta (Kullu) and Jalandhara (Jalandhar). Once more, the imperial idea seemed possible.

Image Attribution: The image above, sourced from Wikimedia Commons, shows the signature of Emperor Harsha. It was found on the Banskhera Inscription (a copper plate land grant to a Brahman priest) and dates back to 628 CE. The signature reads as ‘Svahasto Mama Maharajadhiraja Shriharshasya’ (By my own hand, Shri Harsha, the King of Kings).

References:

  • India: The Ancient Past (A History of the Indian-Subcontinent from 7000 BC to AD 1200) by Burjor Avari (2007)
  • The Penguin History of Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300 by Romila Thapar (2002)
  • Ancient Indian History and Civilization by Sailendra Nath Sen (1988)
  • The Culture and Civilization of India in Historical Outline by DD Kosambi (1964)