Short Note on Vardhanas

In North India as the Gupta rule began to decline from the turn of the sixth century – to disappear eventually by the middle of it – a number of small kingdoms arose. Two of these were ruled by the Maukharis of Kanauj and the Pushyabhutis of Sthaneshvara (modern Thanesar in Haryana) respectively. The Pushyabhuti kings had the suffix vardhana at the end of their name, such as Prabhakaravardhana, Rajyavardhana, Harshavardhana. That is why they are also known as Vardhanas. Princess Rajyashri from the Vardhana family was married to the Maukhari king. When he died, her brother, King Harshavardhana of Thanesar (Harsha in short), became the effective ruler of both the kingdoms, probably by virtue of his widow sister’s claim to the throne; she, according to the Chinese sources, ‘regularly took a seat of honour beside her brother Harsha, and shared in state deliberations’. Through a number of wars lasting over a number of years, Harsha formed a very large, but extremely short-lived, empire in North India; it fell to pieces immediately after his death in 647 CE.

You will see that while the three empires well represented the three major divisions of India – North India (Vardhanas), the Deccan (Chalukyas), and South India (Pallavas)– they did not span over the same range of time in Indian history. The Vardhanas ruled for the shortest period, the Chalukyas ruled both before and after them, and the chronologies of both formed a subset of the Pallava period, which was the longest of all. Since our chief interest lies in the changes that historians have identified in the transition to the early medieval period in Indian history, we shall focus on the two centuries from circa 550 to 750 CE. The transitional aspects of the periods outside this time-bracket are usually discussed in the lessons on the preceding and succeeding periods of early Indian history, with special reference to the Guptas and the Palas- Pratiharas-Rashtrakutas-Cholas respectively. The focus on the transition also requires that we take into account other realms than those of the Vardhanas, Chalukyas and Pallavas.

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