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OCTOBER 25, 2012

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The Guptas ruled over north and west India until 550 AD. Thereafter, the north India split into small principalities. Gradually, one of these dynasties headed by Harshvardhan ruling at Thanesar extended its authority over all other feudatories.



Harsha’s capital was Kannauj. Harsha’s history can be understood from his court poet Banbhatta’s writing Harshcharita. Harsha is often called the Last Great Hindu King of North India. But Harsha was neither a Hindu nor great.



Harsha tried to conquer the South, but his march was stopped on the Narmada river by the Chalukyan king Pulakesin. Harsha had a highly feudal administrative system, in which land was allocated to the feudatories, who contributed their quota of soldiers in war. Harsha continued and even furthered the system of land grants. In fact, the feudal practice of rewarding officers with land grants began under Harsha.



The Chinese Buddhist scholar Hsuan Tsang, who left China in AD 629 had come here to study the Mahayana Buddhism in Nalanda. Under his influence, Harsha became a great supporter of Buddhism. As a devout Buddhist, he convened a grand assembly in Kannauj which was widely attended, including by Hsuan Tsang. Such an assembly was held  later in Prayag also. Harsha is remembered not only for his patronage of Buddhism but also for his authorship of three dramas -- The Priyadarshika, The Ratanavali, and The Nagananda.  

This phase is also marked by India’s wide-ranging contacts with foreign countries.  Indian culture spread to many foreign lands including Indonesia and Cambodia. The Pallavas had their colonies in Sumatra. Eventually, it led to the flowering of the Sri Vijaya kingdom. They became significant channels for radiating Indian culture in those countries, where even today the remains can be found as temples and paintings. The Indians also set up powerful kingdoms in Kamboja, identical with the modern Cambodia, in the 6th century AD and trading settlements in Champa, which is identical with modern Vietnam.



Borobudur in Java (Indonesia) has the biggest Buddhist temple worldwide and Angkor Vat has the biggest Hindu temple complex, both of which were built by Indians.



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