New Empires and Kingdoms Chapter 10 is about Prashastis, Samundragupta, Vikram Samvat, Harshavardhana and the Harshacharita, The Pallavas, Chalukyas and Pulakeshin’s prashasti. How were these kingdoms formed? Assemblies and ordinary people in these kingdoms are also covered in this lesson 10 New Empires and Kingdoms. We have also included the question, answers with solution. These notes are prepared by expert teachers. We have tried our best to include the each and every thing related to this chapter.
Prashastis and what they tell us
- A long inscription about Samudragupta was inscribed on the Ashokan pillar at Allahabad.
- It was composed as a Kavya by Harishena, who was a poet and a minister at the court of Samudragupta.
- This inscription is of a special kind known as a prashasti, a Sanskrit word, meaning ‘in praise of’.
- Prashastis were composed for some of the rulers such as Gautamiputra Shri Satakarni, they became far
more important from the time of the Guptas.
- The poet praised the king in glowing terms — as a warrior, as a king who won victories in battle, who was learned and the best of poets.
- He is also described as equal to the gods.
- The prashasti was composed in very long sentences.
- The rulers of Aryavarta, the area shaded in green on the map.
- Here there were nine rulers who were uprooted, and their kingdoms were made a part of Samudragupta’s empire.
- The rulers of Dakshinapatha.
- Here there were twelve rulers, some of whose capitals are marked with red dots on the map.
- They surrendered to Samudragupta after being defeated and he then allowed them to rule again.
- They brought tribute, followed his orders, and attended his court.
- The descendants of the Kushanas and Shakas, and the ruler of Sri Lanka, who submitted to him and offered daughters in marriage.
- The era beginning in the 58 BCE is traditionally associated with Gupta king, Chandragupta II, who had founded it as a mark of victory over the Shakas and assumed the title of Vikramaditya.
- Most prashastis also mention the ancestors of the ruler.
- His mother, Kumara devi, belonged to the Lichchhavi gana, while his father, Chandragupta, was the first ruler of the Gupta dynasty to adopt the grand title of maharaj-adhiraja, a title that Samudragupta also used.
- His great grandfather and grandfather are mentioned simply as maha-rajas.
- It seems as if the family gradually rose to importance.
- Samudragupta in turn figures in the genealogies (lists of ancestors) of later rulers of the dynasty, such as his son, Chandragupta II.
- He led an expedition to western India, where he overcame the last of the Shakas.
- According to later belief, his court was full of learned people, including Kalidasa the poet, and Aryabhata the astronomer
Harshavardhana and the Harshacharita
- Harshavardhana ruled nearly 1400 years ago
- His court poet, Banabhatta, wrote his biography, the Harshacharita, in Sanskrit.
- This gives us the genealogy of Harsha, and ends with his becoming king.
- Harsha was not the eldest son of his father, but became king of Thanesar after both his father and elder brother died.
- His brother-in-law was the ruler of Kanauj and he was killed by the ruler of Bengal.
- Harsha took over the kingdom of Kanauj, and then led an army against the ruler of Bengal.
- He was successful in the east, and conquered both Magadha and Bengal, he was not as successful elsewhere.
- He tried to cross the Narmada to march into the Deccan, but was stopped by a ruler belonging to the Chalukya
dynasty, Pulakeshin II.
The Pallavas, Chalukyas and Pulakeshin’s prashasti
- The Pallavas and Chalukyas were the most important ruling dynasties in south India during this period.
- The kingdom of the Pallavas spread from the region around their capital, Kanchipuram, to the Kaveri delta, while that of the Chalukyas was centred around the Raichur Doab, between the rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra.
- Aihole, the capital of the Chalukyas, was an important trading centre
- It developed as a religious centre, with a number of temples.
- The Pallavas and Chalukyas frequently raided one another’s lands, especially attacking the capital cities, which were prosperous towns.
- The best-known Chalukya ruler was Pulakeshin II.
- Prashasti, composed by his court poet Ravikirti tells us about his ancestors, who are traced back through four
generations from father to son.
- Pulakeshin evidently got the kingdom from his uncle
- According to Ravikirti, he led expeditions along both the west and the east coasts.
- Harsha means happiness.
- The poet says that after this defeat, Harsha was no longer Harsha! Pulakeshin also attacked the Pallava king, who took shelter behind the walls of Kanchipuram.
- But the Chalukya victory was short-lived.
- Both the Pallavas and the Chalukyas gave way to new rulers belonging to the Rashtrakuta and Chola dynasties
How were these kingdoms administered?
- Land revenue remained important for these rulers, and the village remained the basic unit of administration
- There were some new developments as well.
- Kings adopted a number of steps to win the support of men who were powerful, either economically, or socially, or because of their political and military strength
- Some important administrative posts were now hereditary. This means that sons succeeded fathers to these posts. For example, the poet Harishena was a maha-danda-nayaka, or chief judicial officer, like his father.
- Sometimes, one person held many offices. For instance, besides being a maha-danda-nayaka, Harishena was a kumar-amatya, meaning an important minister, and a sandhi-vigrahika, meaning a minister of war and peace.
- Besides, important men probably had a say in local administration. These included the nagarashreshthi or chief banker or merchant of the city, the sarthavaha or leader of the merchant caravans, the prathama-kulika or the chief craftsman, and the head of the kayasthas or scribes.
- These policies were reasonably effective, but sooner or later, some of these powerful men grew strong enough to set up independent kingdoms.
A new kind of army
- There were military leaders who provided the king with troops whenever he needed them.
- They were not paid regular salaries.
- Instead, some of them received grants of land.
- They collected revenue from the land and used this to maintain soldiers and horses, and provide equipment for warfare.
- These men were known as samantas.
- Whenever the ruler was weak, samantas tried to become independent.
Assemblies in the southern kingdoms
- The inscriptions of the Pallavas mention a number of local assemblies.
- These included the sabha, which was an assembly of brahmin land owners.
- This assembly functioned through subcommittees, which looked after irrigation, agricultural operations, making roads, local temples, etc.
- The ur was a village assembly found in areas where the land owners were not Brahmins.
- And the nagaram was an organisation of merchants.
- These assemblies were controlled by rich and powerful landowners and merchants.
- Many of these local assemblies continued to function for centuries.
Ordinary people in the kingdoms
- Kalidasa is known for his plays depicting life in the king’s court. An interesting feature about these
plays is that the king and most Brahmins are shown as speaking Sanskrit, while women and men other than the king and Brahmins use Prakrit.
- His most famous play, Abhijnana Shakuntalam, is the story of the love between a king named Dushyanta and
a young woman named Shakuntala.
- The Chinese pilgrim Fa Xian noticed the plight of those who were treated as untouchables by the high and mighty. They were expected to live on the outskirts of the city.
- Beginning of the Gupta dynasty (about 1700 years ago)
- The rule of Harshavardhana (about 1400 years ago)