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Harshavardhana (606-647), the ruler of Thaneshwar (in Haryana), ascended the throne at the young age of 16. He belonged to the Vardhana dynasty. Harsha proved himself as a great conqueror and an able administrator right from the beginning. He united the two kingdoms of Thaneshwar and Kannauj and transferred his capital from Thaneshwar to Kannauj. During his reign, Harsha waged many wars. He brought Eastern Punjab (modern Haryana), Kannauj, Bengal, Bihar and Orissa under his control.

Harsha governed his empire on the same lines of the Guptas, the previous rulers of north India and the Deccan. The conquered kings paid him revenue as tribute and sent soldiers to his aid on war campaigns. They accepted his sovereignty, but remained rulers over their territories.

Harsha ruled his empire for about 41 years. He was one of the last to build an empire in ancient India. Harsha supported the development of philosophy and literature and was himself a man of letters. Nagananda, Ratnavali and Priyadarsika were well-known plays written by Harsha. Harsha was a great patron of Buddhism. The renowned Buddhist monk Hieun Tsang visited India during his reign.

Harsha died in 647. Following Harsha's death, his dynasty declined in power and gradually came to a close. The empire disintegrated rapidly into small princely states.

Updated on 25th September, 2014

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