Pushyabhuti is believed to be the founder of the Vardhana dynasty. Banabhatta has described ‘Pushpabhuti’ in the Harshacharita as the founder of the Vardhana dynasty. Banabhatta has called Pushpabhuti a Bhupal and a king, thereby attesting to his being a feudatory in place of an independent ruler, but there is no mention of Pushyabhuti (Pushpbhuti) in the records of Harshavardhana. The authentic first man of the Vardhana dynasty was Narvardhana and it was probably from the last name of Vardhana that this dynasty got its name ‘Vardhan dynasty’. The political development of the Vardhana dynasty took place in the form of feudal rulers. The Vardhan dynasty was feudal with the Guptas, Hunas, and Maukharis from time to time.
With regard to the ethnic origin of the Vardhana dynasty, historians say that the Vardhana dynasty was a Vaishya caste.
The names of six authentic kings are found in the Vardhana dynasty of Thaneshwar. The names of four rulers of the Vardhana dynasty and their queens are found in Harsha’s Banskheda and Madhuvan copper inscriptions and Sonipat and Nalanda Rajmudra inscriptions.
- The first ruler was Narvardhana, his wife’s name was Vajrini Devi.
- The second ruler, Rajyavardhana (the first), and his wife’s name was Apsaradevi,
- The name of the third ruler Adityavardhana and his wife was Mahasengupta Devi.
- The fourth ruler Prabhakarvardhana and his wife are named Yashomati Devi.
We do not get authentic information about the political and administrative work of the first three rulers from any historical source. In the inscriptions of the first three rulers, it is called Maharaj.
Historians have placed the reign of the three rulers of the Vardhana dynasty between about 500 – 580 AD.
Rulers of Vardhan Dynasty
1. Maharajadhiraja Prabhakarvardhan
Prabhakarvardhana was the first ruler of the Vardhan dynasty. Banabhatta has written in Harshacharita that Prabhakarvardhana was also famous by the name ‘Pratapsheel’. He had converted a small kingdom spread around Thaneshwar of the Vardhana dynasty into an empire with his conquests. For this reason, Prabhakarvardhana was decorated with titles like Maharajadhiraja and Parambhattaraka.
2. Maharajadhiraj Rajyavardhan
After the death of Prabhakarvardhana, in about 605 AD, Rajyavardhana became the next ruler of the Vardhana dynasty. At the time of the death of Prabhakarvardhan, Harshavardhana had returned from the war to Thaneswar. Due to the absence of Rajyavardhan and the then-critical situation, the throne could not be kept vacant, that is why Prabhakarvardhan asked Harsha to sit on the throne. But Harsha refused to accept the throne and asked to wait for the arrival of Rajyavardhan. Rajyavardhan refused to sit on the throne after returning to the capital Thaneshwar and asked Harshavardhana to take over.
The information about the murder of Maunkhari King Grahavarma (who was Rajyavardhan’s brother-in-law) of Kannauj by Malvaraj and the imprisoned sister of Rajyashree in Kannauj reached Thaneshwar. In such a dire situation, Rajyavardhan had to accept to sit on the throne. Rajyavardhan marched towards Kanauj with a large army and soon he established his suzerainty over Kanauj. It is mentioned in Madhuvan and Banskheda inscriptions that Rajyavardhan defeated Devgupta etc.
Dr. Sudhakar Chattopadhyay is of the opinion that, Rajyavardhan had defeated not only Devgupta but a confederacy of enemies. Historians believe that it was Devagupta, the king of Malwa, Devagupta, who was killed by Rajyavardhana. Devgupta’s friend was Gaudraj Shashank, whom Rajyavardhan vowed to overthrow. But Shashank influenced Rajyavardhan by diplomacy by not fighting a direct war and summoned him to his camp and murdered him by deceit.
3. Harsh Vardhan
Harshavardhana was the most powerful and majestic king of the Vardhana dynasty. After the fall of the mighty Gupta Empire, by filling the power-empty on the political scene of India, established a strong state. Harshavardhana became the ruler of the Vardhana dynasty in 606 AD at the age of about 16 years. Harshavardhana was born in Thaneshwar in about 590-91 AD. His father’s name was Maharaja Prabhakarvardhan and his mother’s name was Yashomati. Harshavardhana’s elder brother’s name was Rajyavardhan and his sister Rajyashree (wife of Maukhari Naresh Grahavarma). The death of parents, the murder of brother Rajyavardhan and brother-in-law of King Grahavarma of Kannauj, and the imprisonment of sister Rajyashree, etc. had disturbed the heart of Harsha, a poignant description of this has been given in Harshacharita by Banabhatta. Harsha took the throne under very dire circumstances. Harsha himself created the Sanskrit language for the plays Nagananda, Ratnavali, and Priyadarsika.
The famous scholar Banabhatta lived in Harsha’s court, he wrote Harshacharita, Kadambari, Chandishtak and Wrote texts like Parvati Parinay.
Harshavardhana resolved to kill the Gaur king Shashank, the killer of Rajyavardhan, as soon as he ascended the throne. Harsha marched towards Kannauj with a large army. But on the way, Harsha got information that Shashank has freed Rajyashree from captivity and Rajyashree has gone to the Vindhya forests. Now Harsha’s aim was to find the kingdom first. While searching for Rajyashree in the Vindhya forests, fortunately, Harshavardhana found Rajyashree with the help of Grahavarma’s childhood friend Diwakar, who was living in the Vindhya forests as a Buddhist monk. When Rajyashree was found, she was entering the fire to end her life. Somehow Harsha and Divakarmitra were able to convince Rajyashree. Now Harsha went ahead and established his suzerainty over Kannauj. Harsha started ruling Kannauj with his sister Rajyashree. Harsha was running the rule of Kannauj with the help of his sister. Harsha had become the ruler of both Thaneshwar and Kannauj, Harshavardhana made Kannauj his capital in place of Thaneshwar and got all the achievements as the ruler of Kanauj.
The Kannauj conference and Prayag Sabha are the best cultural achievements of Harshavardhana.