The text below is from the second chapter of the ‘Harshacharita’ (Deeds of Harsha) as translated by E. B. Cowell and F. W. Thomas. It describes Bana’s (the court poet, and author of the Harshacharita) brief stay in his village, Pritikuta, after his days of wandering with a troupe of performers. The descriptions of his kinsmen’s habitations, and of the onset and deepening of summer (in North India) are remarkable. Bana is then summoned to Emperor Harshavardhana’s camp at Manitara on the banks of the Ajiravati. He provides a beautiful account of the encampment, focusing on the multitude of vassals awaiting their turn at the court, the royal elephants, horses and camels, the monarch’s favourite mount (an elephant named Darpashata), and the bearing of the king (full of literary hyperbole, as was usual for court poets of the age). The king admonishes Bana for his careless ways for which the awe-struck writer offers an explanation. He is finally accepted into the inner circle of the great king of kings. Towards the end, there is a delightful portrayal of nightfall around Bana’s abode.

Bana roamed about happily in the homes of his kindred seen after a long absence, resonant as they were with the noise of continual recitation, filled with young students attracted by the sacrifices, running about with their long tawny braids of hair, and their foreheads white with sectorial marks made of ashes, with the terraces in front of the doors green with little beds of soma plants all fresh from recent watering, with the rice and panicum for the sacrificial cakes laid out to dry, scattered on the skins of the black antelope, with the ablations of wild rice strewed by the young maidens, with the fuel, leaves, and bundles of green kusha grass brought by hundreds of pure disciples, filled with heaps of cow-dung and fuel, with covered terraces in their courts marked by the round hoofs of the cows as they came in for the daily offerings, dropping the milk which was to be used for preparing curds, with troops of ascetics busy pounding the clay for making pots, with heaps of udumbara branches bought to make pegs to mark out the altars for the three sacrificial fires, with the ground white with lines of offerings to the Vishve Devah, with the sprays of the trees in the courts grey with the smoke of the oblations, with the wanton calves sporting about, caressed by the young cowherds, with the succession of animal sacrifices clearly suggested by the young spotted goats playing about, all peaceful through the cessation of the labours of the brahman teachers, while busy repetitions were now commenced by the parrots and mainas, like so many hermitages for the Three Vedas.

While he stayed there, Time in his character of Summer, with his smile white with the jasmines in full flower, yawned and swallowed up the two flowery months. At first he was gentle and showed compassion to the thirsty young gardens, as if they were the young children left behind by the spring when it had passed away; and at its first rising by its warmth the hot season unloosed all the imprisoned blossoms throughout the earth. The Sun made his expedition against the North as if in wrath for the lotus beds which the winter frosts had burned. The women slept away the day, grey with sandal-wood applications, like the night- lotuses unable to bear the sight of the sun; their eyes, heavy with sleep, could not bear the light of their jewels, far less the cruel sunshine. The fierce heat of the sun made people long not only to drink water perfumed with the strong scent of the trumpet-flower, but even to drink up the very wind.

But as the season’s childhood passed away and the sun’s rays became hotter, the lakes grew dry, the streams sank lower, the waterfalls ebbed away, the din of the crickets increased, every thing was deafened by the continued cooing of the distressed doves. Then the other birds grew audacious, the wind swept away the refuse, the shrubs grew less dense, the hard clusters of the bahupushpika were licked by the young lions in their blind thirst for blood, the sides of the mountains were wet with the water spouted from the fainting elephant herds, and the bees were dumb, as they lay in the dark patches of the dried ichor of the heat-distressed elephants. The season appeared with its borders painted red with blushing mandara flowers, while the splitting crystal rocks were marked by the horns of buffaloes bewildered by the doubt that what they saw was a flowing stream of water; the dry creepers rustled in the sultry heat, the scratching wild cocks were frightened at the straw conflagrations, the porcupines took shelter in their holes, while the pools were dried down to their muddy bottoms, discoloured by the fishes as they lay rolling on their backs, disturbed by the troops of ospreys hovering in the arjuna trees on the banks; the world lighted its forest conflagrations like a solemn lustration ceremony, and the nights fell into a consumption as the days lengthened.

The winds raged madly, leaping up in every direction in the waste places, and carrying off masses of the roofs of the watering sheds, rubbing against the rough stony places as if they were itching with the prickings of the ripe bushes of the kapikachu, and bearing the sharp shoots of the muchukunda, plunging into the false waters of the mirage as it trembled with waves in the heat of the young sun, hurrying through the desolate tracks rustling with the dry shami trees, carrying bunches of the rattling dry seeds of old karanja trees, bursting out with the panting snorts of the buffaloes faint with the heat, shaking the points of the barley-awns as if they were a beard, alarming the three worlds by the sound of rattling dry bamboo thickets to proclaim the imminent drying up of the entire watery element. Dreadful forest conflagrations appeared on every side, raging as if fanned to fury by a thousand bellows, like exhalations blowing from the cavern-like jaws of old dragons. One day during that terrible hot season as he was in his house, after having eaten the afternoon meal, Chandrasena, his half-brother by a Shudra mother, entered, saying, “A renowned courier is waiting at the door, sent to you by Krishna, the brother of Shriharsha, the king of kings, the lord of the four oceans.” He replied, “Introduce him without delay.”

Then he beheld the messenger entering as he was brought before him, his legs tired and heavy with the long journey, with his tunic girt up tightly by a mud-stained strip of cloth, the knot hanging loose and fastened up by a ragged clout swinging behind him, and having his head wrapped with a bundle of letters, which had a deep division pressed into it by a very thick thread that bound it; and he said to him, while he was yet some way off, “Is all well with my honoured friend Krishna?” He answered, “All is well”; and then making his obeisance he sat down at some distance and said, after resting awhile, “This letter has been sent by our honoured lord,” and he unloosed it and gave it. Bana took it respectfully and read it to himself. Having mastered the contents of the letter and sent away his attendants, he asked for the message. Mekhalaka replied, “In thy absence the king was on various occasions prejudiced against thee by the malevolent; but it was not a true report. Some unworthy remark was uttered concerning thee by some envious wretch, and others caught it up and repeated it. Therefore your highness must repair to the palace without delay. I cannot approve of thy habits, living as thou dost away from the king amidst thine own friends like a tree without fruit away from the sun’s beams. Nor shouldst thou shrink from the toil of court-attendance or feel any fear of waiting upon him. His natural instinct is to help his friends, sovereignty means to him helping his dependents, learning means helping the learned and success means helping his kinsfolk, power means helping the unfortunate and wealth means helping the brahmans.”

Having heard this, he said to Chandrasena, “Refresh the messenger with food and clothing, and then let him rest”. When he was gone and the day had come to a close, and the afternoon sunshine was fading away, he offered his evening prayers and retired to his couch, as the early night was hurrying on in the east. He pondered by himself, “What shall I do? I have indeed been misunderstood by the king, and this advice has been given by my disinterested kinsman Krishna; but all service is hateful, and attendance is full of evils, and a court is full of dangers. My ancestors never had any love for it, I have no hereditary connection with it, nor is mine the consideration from remembering former benefits, nor the affection caused by service rendered when a child, nor family dignity, nor the kindness of old acquaintance, nor the allurement of mutually imparting information, nor the desire of more knowledge, nor the respect paid to one’s fine appearance, nor practice in all the turns of voice fit for inferiors, nor the cleverness needed in the circles of the learned, nor the skill to win friends by the expenditure of wealth, nor long intercourse with royal favourites. Still I must certainly go. Purarati, the venerable guru of the world, will do everything that is proper when I am away.” Thus having considered, he made up his mind for the journey.

The next day, having risen and bathed, and put on a dress of white silk and seized his rosary and repeatedly recited the hymns and sacred texts fit for one starting on a journey; after washing the image with milk, he offered worship to Shiva, with lighted lamps, ointments, oblations, banners, perfumes, incense and sweet flowers. Then, having offered a libation with profound reverence to the holy fire, whose right flame was kindled by a profuse pouring of ghee, and whose fiery crest was noisily crackling with the splitting husks of restless mustard seeds which had been previously offered, he distributed wealth according to his means to the brahmans, and walked solemnly round a sacred cow which faced the east, himself decked with white unguents, and wearing white garlands and white garments, and having his ears adorned with giri-karnika flowers, fastened with the ends of durva grass, and covered with yellow rocana paint, and having white mustard put on his topknot. All the rites necessary at starting on a journey were performed for him as by a mother by his father’s younger sister Malati, clad in white garments and with her heart overflowing with tenderness; he was greeted with blessings by the aged women of the family, applauded by the old female attendants, dismissed with good wishes by the gurus whose feet he worshipped, kissed on the head by the elders whom he himself saluted, while the birds by their omens increased his eagerness for starting, and the astrologers wished their utmost to secure favourable constellations. So in a favourable moment, having paid his homage to the family deities and being followed by his own brahmans with their hands holding flowers and fruits and muttering the apratiratha hymn, he went out from the village of Pritikuta, setting his right foot first.

On the first day, having slowly passed through a grove sacred to Chandika which was parched and waterless from the hot season, and ugly with leafless trees, with figures of the goddess carved on the trees at the entrance, which received the homage of passing travellers, he arrived at last at the village Mallakuta. There he stayed happily, hospitably received by his brother and his friend Jagatpati who was just like his own heart. The next day, having crossed the holy Bhagirathi, he passed the night in a forest-village named Yastigrahaka, and arrived at the royal camp, which was pitched near Manitara along the Ajiravati river; and he stopped near the royal residence.

Having bathed and eaten his meal and rested, when only one watch of three hours remained of the day, and when the king had dined, he proceeded leisurely with Mekhalaka to the royal gate, one by one observing the many camps of the renowned subject kings. Here the royal gate was all dark with crowds of elephants, some brought to carry turbans of honour, others to bear drums, some newly bound, others acquired as tribute or as presents, some sent by the rangers of the elephants’ district, or brought in the excitement of a first visit to the court or sent at the time of an embassy or presented by the lord of a wild settlement or demanded for the spectacle of a mimic battle, or given or taken by force, or let loose, or set ready for a watch, or collected to conquer all continents, gay with banners, cloths, kettledrums, conchs, chowries, and unguents. The place seemed all in waves with plunging horses, foam curling round the corners of their mouths like a scornful laugh, and the drum of the ground struck by ceaselessly prancing hoofs. In another part it was tawny with troops of camels sent or being sent as presents or brought back in return for others which had been sent, mouths ornamented with lines of cowries, ears gay with red chowries or strings of ever-jingling golden ornaments; having long tufts of hair and variegated threads of wool of five colours hanging near their ears.

In another part it was all white with its masses of white umbrellas, like autumnal clouds white through having just emptied themselves of their water-stores. In another part it was waving with thousands of stirring chowries bright like moonbeams. The camp was filled on every side with conquered hostile vassal-chiefs, some who could not find admission hung down their heads and seemed in their shame to sink into their own bodies, others seemed to present chowries in obsequious service, others with the flashing sapphires hanging on their breasts seemed to be carrying sword-blades suspended from their necks to propitiate their lord’s anger; others with their faces darkened by the swarms of bees which flocked attracted by their perfumed breath wore their beards long as in mourning for their lost prosperity, others afraid of the common mortification of paying homage, honoured even in being conquered and destitute of every other refuge, continually asking the servants who at intervals made their exits and their entrances, and whose track was followed by thousands of supplicants, “Will it be today? Will the great lord give an audience in the hall after he has dined? Will he come out into the outer court?” and thus spending the day in the hope of an audience.

Other kings too were there, come from the desire of seeing his glory, natives of various countries, who were waiting for the time when he would be visible. There were also seated by themselves Jains, Arhatas, Pashupatas, mendicants of the school of Paracharya, brahman students, natives of every land, and savages from every forest that fringes the ocean shore, and ambassadors from every foreign country. It seemed like a creation ground where the Prajapatis practised their skill, or a fourth world made out of the choicest parts of the other three; its glory could not be described in hundreds of Mahabharatas, it must have been put together in a thousand golden ages, its perfection constructed with millions of svargas, watched over by crores of tutelary royal deities. Mekhalaka, being recognised from afar by the doorkeepers, asked him to wait a while, and himself pressed forward unrepelled and entered.

Then in a moment he came out, followed by a tall man fair like a karnikara flower, clothed in a clean jacket, with his waist tightly bound by a girdle ornamented with a quantity of flashing rubies, with his chest broad like a rock of Himalaya, shoulder rising over it like the hump of Shiva’s bull, and carrying on his breast a string of pearls, gleaming with two jewelled earrings at his ear. He greeted Bana from afar, lifting his white turban as a token of respect, and grasping in his left hand his sword, its handle rough with the pearls which thickly studded it, and in his right, his burnished golden staff of office. Having come out, Mekhalaka said to him, “This is the chief of all the doorkeepers, the king’s special favourite Pariyatra; let him who pursues success treat him with suitable ceremony.” The doorkeeper, having come up and saluted him, addressed him respectfully in a gentle voice, “Approach and enter, his highness is willing to see you.” Then Bana entered, as directed, saying, “I am indeed happy that he thinks me worthy of this honour.”

He next beheld a stable filled with the king’s favourite horses from Vanayu, Aratta, Kamboja, Bharadvaja, Sindh, and Persia; red, dark, white, bay, chestnut, dappled like partridges, marked with the five auspicious kinds of marks, with eyes spotted with white, or marked with light yellow spots in groups like the Pleiads, with long thin jaws and short ears, and round delicate well-proportioned throats, with long upraised curved necks like sacrificial posts, with their shoulders stout and robust at the joints, their chests full and projecting, their legs thin and straight, and their round hoofs hard like masses of iron; their round bellies seemed solid, as if they had no entrails within them, lest they should be broken by their excessive swiftness, and their broad flanks were divided by a long depression, with the hairs like new shoots swaying about in the wind. They were with difficulty restrained by the ropes fixed tightly in the ground on both sides, and the studs on their necks were ornamented with cords of many strings, their eyes were closed, and they kept moving their mouths, which were flecked with bits of foam dark with the juice of durva grass. Some stood, lazily moving their tails, with one side of their loins drooping as they rested on one hoof, seeming to ponder in sleep, and slowly uttering interrupted neighs, while the ground was marked by their hoofs; others sought for food, having their longing excited by the stray morsels of fodder scattered about, while the pupils of their eyes trembled for fear at the yells of the angry Chandalas who guarded them. They had a lustration-fire always near to protect them, their bodies yellow with a saffron unguent rubbed on them, while an awning was spread over them and the tutelary deity (Govinda) was worshipped before them. As he looked, his mind was filled with curious wonder, and he entered a little further within, and saw on his left hand an elephant stable, indistinct owing to the distance, but regaling the nostrils with an odour as of groves of vakula trees in full bloom which diffused itself far and wide; the stable was filled with streams of ichor covered with bees, and its outskirts were surrounded by a grove of plantain trees, and its height seemed to crowd the very sky.

He asked “What does the king do here?” The other replied, “This is his majesty’s favourite elephant, his external heart, his very self in another birth, his vital airs gone outside from him, his friend in battle and in sport, rightly named Darpashata, a lord of elephants; this is his special pavilion.” He replied, “O my friend, if he is called Darpashata and he has no faults, I may surely see this lord of elephants, will you take me to him, for I am overcome by curiosity?” “Be it so.” he answered, “Draw near by all means, what harm is there in it? Have a good look at the lord of elephants.” So he went forward in that direction, and there while he was still at a distance he saw the elephant Darpashata surrounded by the troops of chataka birds uttering their loud notes in the sky, and the domestic peacocks which made the ground resound with their cries. It was as though the world could not contain him and he was striving to force a passage out, while his drivers tried to shew him every service which could alleviate the hot season. He threatened to block up the whole world with with his huge bar of a trunk, which was all wavy with thin lines of wrinkles running round it. His bright tawny eyes seemed to emit a stream of honey, while his cheeks poured out under the guise of ichor, a rich mixture of perfumes. He was constantly cooled by a trickling garland of ornaments cut out of the moongem in the shape of the constellations, and he carried his head high as if it had been crowned with the tiara of universal empire over all his compeers. He seemed to pour out again from his mouth the rivers which he had drunk up in his triumphal progress of conquest, in the form of the clear cold water which he spouted forth; and he displayed his sensitiveness to insult by loud trumpetings. He seemed to pity himself for not being in the thick of the fray. He affected all with his gracefulness, he rained influence on every side by his beauty. As he wondered, thinking to himself, “Surely in his creation the mountains were used up, how else could this astonishing majesty have been produced? It is indeed a marvel!” The doorkeeper addressed him; “Come, you will have another opportunity of seeing him; you shall now see my lord himself!”

On hearing these words he with an effort drew away his eyes; and, following the path indicated by the doorkeeper, passed through three courts crowded with subject-kings, and in the fourth he saw King Harsha, in an open space in front of a pavilion where he used to give audience after eating, surrounded at a distance by his attendants in a line, all six feet in height, fair like karnikara flowers, armed and of old families. He was sitting on a throne made of a stone clear like a pearl, washed with sandalwood water, and bright as the moon with its feet of ivory and its surface cool to the touch like snow-water, he rested the weight of his body on his arm which was placed on the end of the seat, and he seemed to be sporting with his subject-kings. He was embraced by the goddess of the royal prosperity, who forced him, however reluctant, to mount the throne. With his long glances which penetrated space he seemed to examine what the regents of the different quarters had done or left undone; in his greatness, he was beyond the sphere of all good qualities, out of the range of ordinary successes, outside of common benefactions, beyond the possibility of blessing, out of the reach of desires, far removed from fortune, not within the scope of comparisons, out of the influence of fate, and beyond the past experience of prosperity. He displayed an avatara of all the gods united in one, as he had the delicate feet of Aruna, the slow-moving thighs of Buddha, the brawny forearm of Indra, the round lip of the sun, the mild look of Avalokita, the face of the moon and the hair of Krishna. His left foot was placed on a large costly footstool made of sapphires, girt round with a band of rubies. He shone, like the mountain Mandara at the churning of the ocean, with his lower garment radiant, washed in pure water, ornamented with the jewels of his girdle, while his thin upper garment spangled with worked stars. His neck was encircled by a necklace of pearls like the serpent Shesa. He was consecrated by the light of the pearls in his top-knot and the dark rays of the emeralds.

His imperial splendour was however eclipsed by the women, as their foreheads became blackened by the darkness produced through the ornamental tilaka of black agallochum being melted by the drops of perspiration; with their flashing pearl-necklaces, their great jar-like bosoms, encircled with bands of large vakula flowers, carrying the king reflected in their soft cheeks; more illustrious for victory than Bhisma, more delighting in the bow than Drona, more unerring with the arrow than Ashvatthaman, dearer to Mitra than Karna, more forbearing than Yudhisthira, possessing the might of more elephants than Bhima, more worthy of figuring in the war of the Mahabharata than Arjuna. Having seen him, feeling, as it were, at once welcomed and checked, full of desire and yet satisfied, he stood at a distance smiling in wonder and pondered, “This then is the Emperor Shri Harsha, that union of separate glories, noble in birth and of well-chosen name, the lord of the field bounded by the four oceans, the enjoyer of all the fruits of the world, the surpasser of all the victories won by all the kings of ancient times. Through him the earth does indeed possess a true King! His youthful exploits, unlike Krishna’s, transgress not right; his power cause no offence to the man of refinement as did those of Shiva; his boasts lead to no destruction of families as did those of Indra; unlike Yama, he is not too fond of wielding the rod of punishment; unlike Varuna, his treasure-houses are not guarded by thousands of pitiless sea-monsters; unlike Kuvera, seeking an interview with him is never fruitless; unlike Jina, the sight of him is never without solid result; unlike the Moon, his glories do not wane. Wonderful is his royalty, surpassing the gods! His liberality cannot find range enough in suppliants, nor his knowledge in doctrines to be learned; his poetical skill finds words fail, as his valour lacks opportunities to exercise it; his energy wants scope and his fame sighs for a wider horizon, his kindly nature seeks in vain more hearts to win, his virtues exhaust the powers of number, and all the fine arts are too narrow a field for his genius.

So approaching, wearing the sacred thread, he uttered his good wishes. Then on the north not far from the royal palace the attendant on the elephant chanted this sweet couplet in the aparavaktra metre, “O young elephant, dismiss thy playful restlessness, follow the rules of good behaviour, with bent head; the heavy hook, crooked like a lion’s claws, held aloft, does not spare thee.” But when the king heard it and saw him, he asked, filling the sky with his voice deep like the roar of a lion in a mountain cave, “Is that Bana?” The doorkeeper replied, “As my Lord commands; it is he.” “I will not see him yet, as he has not as yet offered his tribute of respect,” so saying, he turned the long brilliance of his eye, and said to his favourite, the son of the king of Malwa, who was sitting behind, “He is a thorough petit-maitre.” But when the other paused for a moment in silence at this unexplained speech of the king and the courtiers were all dumb, Bana replied, “Why, my lord, do you thus address me, as if you did not know my character and did not believe me, as if you depended on others for guidance and did not understand the ways of the world yourself? The nature and talk of people will always be wilful and various; but the great ought to see things as they are. You surely will not regard me with prejudice as if I had no special claims. I am a brahman born in the family of the Soma-drinking Vatsyayanas. Every ceremony was duly performed, as its time came, beginning with the investiture with the sacred cord; I have thoroughly studied the Veda with its six angas, and as far as I was able I have heard lectures on the shastras, and from my marriage I have been a diligent householder; what signs have I of being a petit-maitre? My youth indeed was not without follies, so far I will not deny; and my heart on this point will confess a feeling of repentance. But now-a-days, when your highness, calm in mind like Buddha himself, one who carries out all the rules for the castes and orders like Manu, and bears the rod of punishment as visibly as Yama, governs the whole earth girdled by the seven oceans, and bearing all the continents as its garland, who would venture without fear even to act in his own mind the character of indecorum, that bosom-friend of open profligacy? I will not dwell on human beings; in consequence of your power even the bees drink honey in fear, even the ruddy geese are ashamed of their too great fondness, the very monkeys are alarmed when they play their wanton tricks, and all the destructive animals eat flesh with compassion. Your highness will in time know me thoroughly by yourself, for it is the nature of the wise that their minds never act perversely.” Having said this, he was silent.

The king also, after simply saying, “So we have heard,” was silent; but he did not welcome him with any signs of favour such as friendly conversation, inviting him to sit down; he only revealed his inward pleasure by a gracious glance; and as the setting sun was verging to the west, he dismissed his courtiers and entered his private apartments. Bana also went out, and retired to his place. The day was now calm and its fierce blaze soft like polished brass, and the sun, the diadem of the western mountain’s crest, as he left the sky, was letting fall his rays like the sprays of the nichula tree; the deserted cow-stations in the forests had their patches of tender grass covered with families of deer lazily ruminating; the river banks resounded plaintively with the cooing of melancholy female ruddy geese; in the pleasure groves all the water pots were being turned over to fill the basins near the trees, while the troops of chattering sparrows were sitting on the boughs which formed their home; the companies of hungry calves were drinking their mothers’ flowing udders, after they had returned from wandering during the day; the sun’s round goblet for drinking the evening libation of the western ocean was sinking, covered with a red glow; the religious mendicants were intent on worshipping the shrines, having washed their feet and hands; the fire, with the sacred grass spread round it, was blazing up, purified by the sacrificial vessels; the devout sacrificers were duly offering their libations; the trees of the groves stood with monkeys resting from all their tricks, and the nests of the crows crowded with their inmates fast asleep; the owls, settled in the hollow trunks of old trees, were preparing to go out; a thicker host of stars was indenting the expanse of the sky, like water-drops scattered at the time of evening worship by the sages; lines of the lamps shone out as if they had come forth to point in scorn at the darkness; the gates seemed to announce their closure by the creaking of the folding leaves; the children were beginning to long to go to sleep, having enjoyed a good lying in bed while listening to the long stories of the old nurse; the dreadful mouth of early night was beginning to yawn, with its darkness as black as ink, and waking up ‘the good people’.

He reflected to himself, “King Harsha is very gracious, since he is still fond of me, though he is vexed at the rumours which have naturally spread about my many youthful follies; if I had been really under his displeasure, he would not have honoured me with an audience. He wishes me to be virtuous; for lords teach proper behaviour to their dependents even without words by granting them an appropriate reception. Shame on me, thus blinded in my mind by my own faults, and crushed by neglect, that I venture to indulge in various fancies concerning this most excellent monarch. Verily I will endeavour so to act that he may recognise in time in my real character.” Having made this resolve, he went out the next day from the royal camp and remained for a while in the houses of his friends and relations, until the king of himself learned his true character and became favourably inclined to him. Then he reentered again to visit the royal abode; and in the course of a very few days he was received by his gracious majesty into the highest degree of honour springing from kindness, of affection, and of confidence, and shared with him in his wealth, his hours of unbending, and his state dignity.

PS: Though the text is taken from the English translation by E. B. Cowell and F. W. Thomas, I have made minor changes to make it easier to read and understand. This required the removal of entire paragraphs in between (mostly literary hyperbole), and the substitution of certain words (archaic or confusing).

Image Attribution: The image above, sourced from Wikimedia Commons, is a painting showing a horse and his trader (dated to 1800 CE). It is the work of an artist named Bagta from Deogarh in Rajasthan. The ‘thikana’ (feudal estate) of Deogarh was ruled over by ‘rawats’ (feudal lords) subservient to the kings of Udaipur. Horses have been imported by Indian rulers for thousands of years. The usual explanation offered for this is the climate and landscape of much of India, said to be hostile for breeding horses. But horses have been bred in tropical lands for long. Maybe, native stock was considered inferior to imported mounts. Maybe, the foreigners who brought horses into India wanted a monopoly over the business and refused to share their trade secrets. Maybe, Indian royalty were both wealthy enough to pay for costly imports, and negligent enough to ignore horse breeding. During Harsha’s time (r. 606-647 CE), horses were brought from Vanayu, Aratta, Kamboja, Bharadvaja, Sindh, and Persia.

References:

  • The Harshacharita of Bana translated by E. B. Cowell and F. W. Thomas (1897)
  • Banabhatta: A Monograph by K. Krishnamoorthy (1976)
  • Portraiture in South Asia Since the Mughals: Art, Representation and History edited by Crispin Branfoot (2018)