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Harsha(hûr`shə), b. c.590, Indian emperor (606–47). He became (606) king of a small state in the upper Ganges Valley, and by 612 he had built up a vast army with which he forged nearly all India N of the Narmada River into an empire. An extremely able military leader, his only defeat was at the hands of the Chalukyas, when he attempted (c.620) to invade the Deccan. His capital at Kanauj was an artistic and literary center, and Harsha himself was a distinguished poet and dramatist. A Hindu early in life, Harsha later became a devout Buddhist and forbade the killing of animals in his realm. He built innumerable stupas, established many monasteries, and founded several state hospitals. His great Buddhist convocation at Kanauj (643) was reputedly attended by 20 kings and thousands of pilgrims. The life and times of Harsha are described in the Harsha-charita, a flowery work by Bana, the court poet, and in the Si-yu-ki [records of the Western world] written by the Chinese pilgrim Hsüan-tsang. After Harsha's death, N India relapsed into anarchy.
See R. K. Mookerji, Harsha (1926); studies by D. Devahuti (1970) and B. Sharma (1970).
Harsha(här`shə), in the Bible, family that returned from the Exile.
(also Harshavardhana). North Indian ruler (606–c. 647). Member of the Pushyabhuti dynasty.
By inheritance Harsha ruled lands in the upper Ganges-Yamuna Doab, in eastern Punjab, and in eastern Rajputana. His initial capital was Sthaneswara (Thaneswar). Harsha captured the lands the Bengali ruler Sasanka and the Guptas of Malwa had seized in the Maukhari state in the central Ganges valley. He combined the domains of the Maukharis with his kingdom and made Kanauj his capital. He conquered part of Malwa and undertook a campaign against the Deccan, but he was defeated on the Namrada River circa 612. By 643 he had conquered Bengal and Orissa.
A typical military feudal state, Harsha’s empire consisted of a large number of tributary kingdoms; it disintegrated after the death of its founder.