Chintaman Vinayak Vaidya.

History of mediæval Hindu India (being a history of India from 600 to 1200 A.D.) .. (Volume 1) online

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struck off their small tents, boxes were filled with the
m arching materials and other paraphernalia.Elephants were
roused from their sleep and taken out of their sleeping
places and harnessed. Horses too were roused and taken
out and made ready. Mad elephants were moved out of
the way with heavy iron chains clanking behind them, as
their hind legs dragged them. Families of Kulaputras
( relatives ) and Samantas ( chiefs ) were got into bullock
carts or on elephants and moved. The royal kitchen ser-
vants with their paraphernalia and animals of food (Harsha
appears to have been a flesh-eater in his young days ) and
with pots of milk and other preparations covered and
sealed, walked fast and pushed people here and there. The
princes in attendance, well attired and seated on female
elephants, with umbrellas on their heads and with foot
soldiers walking about them, hurried to the gate of the
royal camp."

" As the sun was rising, the royal intimation conch
began to send forth its peculiar notes"announcing that the
king was ready and donning his accoutrements. Within
a few minutes Harsha came out of the gate riding a richly
caparisoned she-elephant. ( she-elephants appear to
have been used by royal personages for riding on the
march), surmounted by a white umbrella, with Tambiila or
bstelleaf in his mouth ( he had already bathed and taken
some refreshment ). wearing a very delicate white piece of
Naitra cloth. Exchanging glances of greeting with the
princes and speaking a word here and a word there, he
moved on to a place preceded by hundreds of gold mace-
beaiers who were making room in the crowd and staying
"there he saw the whole army pass on, an army as vast as
the creation itself coming out of the milky ocean." Then
the army marched swiftly to the next halting place at a
distance of 8 krosa. Bar.a true to nature also depicts the
many interesting incidents that usually happen on a Royal
march. "At some villaqes the villagers curious to see the



ARMY, NOBLES AND COURT 145

king would turnout preceded by their Mahattaras or Patils
and by women having pots full of water on their
heads and when turned back by the mace-bearers running
and falling and yet looking at the king. At others, people
would cry out complaints against the evil doings of
lax-collectors (vfiw^) and the past delinquencies of police-
m en wz). H. C. p. 286. At others still, the people reck-
less from rage at the pilfering of their crops and grass
would pour denunciations on the king, crying ' Who is
the king? Whence does '^e king come? What sort of
man is the king? At ^ spillage two Brahmin disputants
got into high trees *" • fear of being hustled away by the
mace-bearers an, rrom thence kept crying out their own
complaints." Such amusing incidents so characteristic
even of the present Indian ryot happened in the days of
Harsha also. The array contained contingents of cavalry-
detachments commanded by their own Rajput leaders.
There is no description of the cavalcade of the Royal
seraglio which formed so conspicuous a section of the
Mogul army on march as described by Manucci. Probably
Harsha was unmarried at this time, that is, when he
started for his digvijaya and no sergalio hampered his
movements. Having arrived at the next halting place
Harsha dismissed his attendant princes at the gate of the
royal enclosure and is shown to have entered it alone.

There does not appear to have been any mercenary
forces in the army of Harsha.* It consisted generally of
Rajputs and other lower castes of the king's country. The
Kulaputras ( or relatives of the kingly family or king's
clansmen ) seem fo have always been of importance. What
they represent in modern times we cannot exactly say. (Per-
haps they are the modern Bhaiband of Rajput states).
Each arm had its commander, and the whole was under the
commander-in-chief. The description by Bana of Harsha's
commander-in-chief is as detailed and complete as any by

Curiously enough ^RT^TF'^ or Deccan horsemen are mentioned by BSiiia in the
description of Harsha's army. Perhaps -they were few. But the reference testifies to
the ancient sk:U of the Marathas in horsemanship,

19



146 HARSHA AND HIS TIMES

a modern English novelist. ( E. C. p. 257 ) He was a tall,
yellow-complexioned, massive, deep-voiced, bearded and
whiskered man of about 80 bearing many scars on his half
hare body. The mention of many scars seems somewhat
strange, for the higher grades of officers must have worn
an armour when in fight. Armours however are not men-
tioned in the descriptions given by Bana. All the same,
they must have been used as they are mentioned even in
the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.

The army was maintained by the king from his own
revenues. The men were probably paid yearly in kind and
money, corn being given from the granaries of the state filled
with grain collected in every district in the form of revenue
from lands. This is the mode of payment mentioned by
Manu though there is no reference to it in the Harsha
Charita or Hiuen Tsang's Records. The maintenance
of a vast army of elephants was indeed a matter of
very great expense. Probably the 60,000 elephants men-
tioned by Hiuen Tsang as eventually forming the force
of Harsha", the emperor, is an exaggeration. At all
events it could not have been maintained at one place,
but in sections kept at several places, throughout the
empire. The feed and nuisance of so large an elephant
force are almost incalculable. The permanent camping
of an elephant force is indeed a novel affair to us at this
distance of time. Bana with his usual liking for details
has described the elephant camp at Sthanesvara with all
its intricate paraphernalia, when Harsha was not yet an
emperor but merely king of Sthanesvara, the commander
of the elephant force being one Skandagupta with his
prominently long nose " as long as the pedigree of his
master." We will give some of the interesting details in
this description. 'There were physicians of elephants who
reported every day the health of the bigger ones to the
commander. There were drivers ornamented with peacock
feathers on the head and followers of elephants propitiat-
ing newly caught elephants with green cane grass. Some
reported the fresh rutting of elephants; some sought orders



ARMY, NOBLES AND COURT 147

for mounting heavy drums on the vicious ones. There
"were foresters reporting the capture of elephants in jungles
by the help of what are jokingly called ^fwf:] or curtezan
she-elephants (these were female elephants who enticed by
their blandishments wild elephants within enclosures).
There were bogus elephants made of hide with which
elephants were taught to fight. There were purchasers
of grain from towns and villages for the food of elephants.
These and other details of the working of an elephant
camp are indeed interesting at this day when the elephant
arm has disappeared from Indian armies-

l^efore proceeding further we may cite the description
•of an Indian army recorded by Hiuen Tsang for the sake
of comparison as well as further detail.

"The national guard are heroes of choice valour, and
as the profession is hereditary, they become adepts in
■military tactics. In peace they guard the sovereign's
residence and in war they become the intrepid vanguard.
The army is composed of foot, horse, chariot andt
elephant soldiers. The war elephant is covered with coa
of mail and his tusks are provided with sharp barbs. On
him rides the commander-in-chief and there is a soldier
on each side to manage the elephant. The chariot in
which the officer sits is drawn by four horses while infan-
try guard it on both sides. The infantry go lightly into
action and are men of intrepid valour. They bear a large
shield and carry a long spear. Some are armed with
swords or daggers and dash to the front line of the advan-
cing battle. They are perfect experts withall the implements
of war having been drilled in them for generations. '
Waiters' Vol. I p. 171.

SAMANTAS OR NOBLES

The Samantas or Sardars as they are now called in
India or the nobles as they are called in the west, were
a necessary and a usual part of the administrative machi-
nery of a country in ancient India. The word Samanta is



148 HARSHA AND HIS TIMES

clearly derived from Samanta or vicinity and means ety-
mologically those who are near the king. The Samantas
were mostly the king's kinsmen and relatives or such
families as had rendered meritorious services in past
times or scions and representatives of dispossessed kingly
families. They appear to be always territorial lords and
were miniature kings in their own subject territories. For
they clearly had the power to make grants, as inscriptions
show many grants made by Samantas, They were also
masters of small armies, with which they were bound to
assist the king whenever he moved against his enemies.
They were also bound to assist the king on other necessary
occasions as Bana mentions an Atavika Samanta {i. p.. a
feudatory chief of the forest country) coming to assist
Harsha in his search for his sister. ( H. C. p. 309 ). These
feudatories or nobles or Sardars lived usually, however, at
the capital town and graced the Darbar on all state
occasions. Their wives similarly attended on the queen.
Bana describes the wives of the Samantas as coming
in "hundreds to the palace at the time of Harsha's birth
and keeping the birth festival by dancing as has already
been stated. ( H. C. p. 186 ?TJT^cTi?^rfF=n^:3^^^05T?^i=[). The
Samantas with their wives thus exactly fulfilled the func-
tions which dukes and duchesses and other noblemen
and noblewomen discharge in European countries. Besides
this duty of attending on the king and queen on state occa-
sions, the Samantas often appear to be employed as officers.
Bhandi for instance was the son of a Samanta chief and
was the commander of the Thanesar cavalry force. Skanda-
gu;jta, again, the leader of the elephant force of Thanesar
■was himself a Parthiva or king ( H. C. p. 267 ) i. e. a
feudatory chief or Samanta. The Samantas were usually
then as now employed in the military service, but perhaps
they must sometimes have been employed even in the
capacity of ministers of whom we shall now go on to speak.

The ministers were certainly as necessary a part
of the administration as the nobles. They were called
Mantris ( councillors. ) or Sachivas ( helpers ) or Amatyas.



ARMY, NOBLES AND COURT 149

( those who live with the king, the word being derived
from Ama together ). Their number was not fixed, but
they had separate departments to look to, or functions
to discharge. The most important and usually mentioned
is the 'm^'-Tf^rnp: or the minister of peace and war, in
other words the minister for foreign affairs. Thus Bana
describes Harsha as asking his foreign minister to write
to all other courts ( JTfT^^T^it^J I'm t":1^'=IM'+'^ M'+i'!:^-Ti^ I K^il H. C.
p. 263 ). These officers are called maha or great because
they belong directly to the court and attend on the king.
They were often hereditary, See Corp. Ins. Ill p. i55.
SF^RTHTTl^^T oJ-ll^d-Hl^-lRi^: In grants of inam villages
the names of such officers frequently find mention. These
Sasanas ( or Sanads ) are written by a responsible officer
who is usually described as ^"tt%r, one who is entrusted with
the collection of w^ or tax /. e. a revenue officer, sometimes
even the foreign minister also. It was customary to give
the name of the father and the grandfather also of the
writer. See e. g. Corp. Ins. Ill p. 104. f^5%?[ =^ ^^^mP^^w^v
^jfmMi'i^ri'^'W mw-f. ?m^rr5^ ^^]m^'^^^%W. ^^y=\^. See also

ditto p. 119. fe%a: jr^TT m^w. ii^^ - ^. i m i ^.^-H'Zh n?rasq^rr^nJt^

3^lwf^T. Bhogika has noc been explained by Dr. Fleet but
as we have just said he probably was a minister of
Bhoga or revenue.' The grants also always mention a
Dutakara ( messenger ) who is always an important
person. It appears that a minsiter or other important
officer was specially deputed to deliver on the spot the land
or village to the grantee and to make the grant known
to the villagers and village officers. For instance, in the
grant at page 119 ditto, the Dutaka is ^qrt^-^'rfajcT-^fTfcT
?'-^'T%-'dMi?;^i4^TT: 'who was the chief of sacrificers, house-
holders and sthapatis', probably the head of the department
of religion or state church. Sometimes the grant deed was
written out at the king's own dictation and the word
^^^sm^T is used, see Corp. Ins. Ill p. 199. And it is curious
to note that grant deeds were sometimes signed by the

" See aisD H. C. p. 288. sfir^pr ^fvfT'niT^tnrn^rT^fr^': '• «• villagers complain
n& of imaginary evil deeds of past taxacollectors



150 HARSHA AND HIS TIMES

king himself. Harsha's own signature is thus before us
in the Banskheda grant.* Probably the king signed the
deed written on paper and the copyist engraved its exact
counterpart on copper, for the real signature is on the
copper plate. The signature of Harsha is in a very ornate
hand. Ornate letters were then usually written. And
it is further curious to add that the word for signature is
its exact English equivalent in the expression "given under
my own hand," (t^tIJ^ ^^ ^^irr^w^'m). Further the sig-
nature is not sutficient and must be supported by the seal
as in English documents. The seal or ^ of Harsha is
thus also known to us, and usually the seal was impressed
on the linking of the copperplates. Strangely enough our
connection with our own past is so completely broken
by the intervening Mahomedan rule that we have forgotten
our ancient words for seal and signature namely 53T and
fci^.fi and know only the Mahomedan equivalents namely
Muhr and Sahi. The use of the king's own signature shows
that the ministers had not the power to make valid grants
of lands and villages. Their authority was restricted.

Besides the ministers there were other important
officers called superintendents or btejt^ namely, the superin-
tendent of 5j^ or customs, of ^"[^[ttr or storehouses, of
^ or fort and so on. They did not enjoy the rank of w^j^
or minister but yet were important officers. We have already
described the district officers but these A.dhyakshas
seem to be officers of the whole state and as such
may be ranked next to the ministers. These may not have
been hereditary though the tendency has always been
in India to make offices hereditary. The grant of Pravara-
sena of the Vakatakas Corp. Ins. Ill page 237 mentions
these officers in the line ^^JW^^^^^^^A T^-'^STn^-ijl'il M^f^-chTiaiin^-
=£m^^35r5fn' "+1312? ^JT^^ f^^^q ^\^->Ji\^\v^r[^^' ( Translated as
follows by Dr. Fleet " our obedient and highborn officers
employed in the office of general superintendents, " )

Lastly, we come to the court. The centre of the
court was of course the king. He was an absolute

t Thus Dharsena's Srant and tbat of Siladitya are also signed by them. Sec Corp
Ins. in pages lfl7 and 180.



ARMY, NOBLES AND COURT 151

monarch; he was, however, bound by laws of divine
origin and therefore of an unchangeable nature. He
was, again, considered the father of his people and was
also the dispenser of justice. Except in a few exceptional
cases, the king though despotic, was therefore generally a
just and an affectionate ruler and was also in return loved
by the people. The king of course was born to enjoy and
had come to the royal station, so the people believed, by
reason of austerities performed in former lives. He was,
therefore, always surrounded by young and beautiful
women. He was attended on by these damsels as his
Chamara-bearer, Tambula-Karanka-bearer and so on.
They stood about him even in open court. This feature of
an ancient, king's life strikes us as almost voluptuous. But
it was a long established practice of the court. Even Manu
Smriti ( 7,224 ) describes the king as always surrounded by
women.'^ Megasthenes also does the same. (Ancient India
Mc. Crindle's Megasthenes page 71 & 72 ). Kalidasa
also describes the king as attended by Yavanis and lastly
Bana describes even the chaste and self-restrained Harsha
as attended by beautiful young women in court when Bana
went to see him. (H. C. p. 118). Even on elephants when
marching or fighting, the king had young women for his
arm-bearers. Probably this custom was originally borrow-
ed from the Persians by Chandragupta or even theNandas
who copied the forms of the Persian court, then the most
powerful and magnificent imperial court in the world,
It is hence that we can explain the mention of Yav'inis by
Kalidasa as attending kings. In Bana's days these women
were not probably Yavanis as they are not so described.
They were always selected for their strength, health
and beauty. Except for great kings like Harsha who was
martial and of great moral strength, these women must
generally have been a cause of great moral degeneracy
in Indian kings.

The king had an anointed queen and several other
wives who were, however, subordinate to the former. The

'' Though according to the Mahabharata ancient kings before Chandragupta's days
bad no such attendants.



152 HARSHA AND HIS TIMES

anointed queen had a Pattabandha about her forehead. It
was a narrow golden belt ornamented with jewels.

The palace had besides the harem always more than
three kakshas or courtyards; the outer one being for people
and for state reception, the next inner one for Sardars
and the third for intimate persons only. The palaces were
stately buildings, though not of stone. The floors, however,
are described as made of shining stones. The columns and
walls were ornamented with gold and even precious stones.
The palace was usually a several-storeyed building with
inner gardens of flowerbeds and large fruit trees ( see the
description of the palace of PrabhakaraVardhana at Thane-
ear by Bana, H. C. pages 215-6.)

The king was then theoretically and usually practically
both the leader of armies on the battle-field and the dis-
penser of justice at home. The throne room or audience
hall was also the house of justice and Manu and other
Smritis require the king to attend court every morning to
dispense justice to the people. Here everybody had admis-
sion as a matter of course. Suitors were sometimes per-
mitted to draw the attention of kings to their wrongs by
ringing the bell of justice hung in the audience hall."
The king dispensed justice with the help of Brahmin and
Kshatriya and Vaisya assessors.

The Smritis direct the king to divide his time for con-
venience of business into three portions : one devoted to
dispensation of justice, one to administration and the third
to his own recreation and pleasure. Harsha followed
this practice most scrupulously as Hiuen Tsang has
recorded and his times were most punctually
observed. Drums and conches announced to the public
what the king was doing at any particular time. Some
sounding instruments were looked upon as royal i. e. to be
used by kings oniy. These instruments are described as
five in number in the epithet ^iwf'T'RrT^W^^i^- which usually
occurs in inscriptions as applied to kings, and even Sa-
mantas or feudatory chiefs (see Corp. Ins. p. 294). What

* AiVang^r's Ancient India p. a*fi.



ARMY, NOBLES AND COURT IM

these five were has been discussed in a note at p. 296-29 ditti)
where Prof. Pathaka's view is referred to(Iu. Ant. Vol. XII
p. 98.) and the instruments are stated to be the Sringa or
horn ( trumpet ), the Rammata (tambour), Sankha (conch),
Bheri(kettledrum)and Jayghanta (gong). But it seems they
are mentioned in the following line of Bana : ^5?TJf ^^T-
'^, 2W^ f^^rpi w:!^pm^ 5T1;% ( H.C. p. 275). The Pataba
or drum and the Sankha or conch were of course promi-
nent and are easily recognisable.* Hiuen Tsang mentions
that Harsha's drum was given a stroke with a golden stick
for each pace that he walked, a distinction which was not
allowed to any other king. Perhaps this was done in
special honour of Harsha as Emperor or king of kings. We
may well imagine the importance of royal drums and
conches in those days when cannon had no existence.

The king was usually surrounded by his body-guard
which consisted of select strong men of hereditary service.
Bana describes the guardsmeu of Harsha as devoted men
with strongly exercised half-bare bodies, yellowish fair in
complexion, standing arround him in a row at fixed dis-
tances and poetically compares them to a colonnade of
golden pillars surrounding the king. (H. C. p. 110). The
king's seat was usually a couch, the four feet of which
were inlaid with ivory and the surface covered with a slab
of stone sprinkled with sandal pigment. There was also
a small portable seat of the king called Asandi. When
the Malava king was conquered and slain in battle the
things seized in plunder were his Sinhasana ( throne )
Sayana (couch) and Asandi (chair) (H. C. p. 103). For the
resting of the foot there was always a jewelled footstool
called Padapitha-

The Pratihari or the usher of the king was an import-
ant personage about him- The head usher had several
subordinates under him. The head Pratihari of Harsha
is minutely described by Bana as a tall.gold-complexioned,
broad-chested man with his body encased in a fresh washed



' Of the rest NSndi is given is M, William's dictionary as in music a measure
Dvadasaturya-ihosha and Kabala is given as a large drum (Panchatantra).

20



154 HARSHA AND HIS TIMES

kanchuka or coat, wearing a golden belt about the waist,
provided with a jewelled buckler, a necklace about hi&
chest, and kundalas in his ears, a white turban on his
head, a pearl-hilted sword in his left hand and a golden
wand in his right (H. C- p- 98). The Pratihari is always
called Kanchuki which shows that he alone used a coat-
His white turban is also peculiar to him for the others had
usually bare topknot hair surmounted by garlands. This
description probably proves that like the Yavani attendants,
the Kanchuki was also borrowed from the Persian court-
In one important particular, however, in the seventh
century the Persian court system appears to have been
abandoned. I find no mention of eunuchs in the descrip-
tion of the royal household in Bana's Harsha Charita and
elsewhere. The Varshavaras or eunuchs were undoubtedly
employed by Chandragupta. They are mentioned along
with the ?Rs^#ujiiiq"j|: or Usiiers by Kautilya, see hiss Artha
Sastra. They are also mentioned in the Brihatkatha as
employed in the palace at Pataliputra. Of course the in-
human practice of castrating men for the use of the
harems of kings was originally a practice of the Semitic
peoples. From the kings of Babylonia and Nineveh the
eunuchs were borrowed by the Persians and from them by
Chandragupta (or his predecessors the Nandas) and suc-
ceeding Mauryas. But later the supply of such persons
probably ceased and from the Guptas onwards they are not
found in India. This moral reclamation of Indian courts
continued down to the time of theMahomedans who intro-
duced eunuchs again but since the establishment of the
civilized and more moral British rule, this pest has coased
to disfigure even the courts of Indian princes.

A study of the inscriptions recorded in the Corp. Ins.
Vol. Ill discloses that dependent kings used the title
Maharaja, independent kings Maharajadhiraja and also
Parama Bhattaraka; while emperors added to this the
title Paramesvara. The Chalukya king Pulakesin as-
sumed this title, it is expressly said, because he defeated
the Emperor Harsha. Besides these titles generally used



ARMY, NOBLES AND COURT 155

particular kings affected particular adjuncts or rather
epithets. For instance, the Chalukyas called themselves
Prithivivallabha, the Valabhi kings called themselves Sena-
patis, the Guptas used the word Vijitavani Avanipati on
"their coins. The Vakatakas called themselves Parivraja-
kas because perhaps they were Brahmins, and so on.

Every line of kings had its separate banner or Dhvaja
and Lanchhanas or crest as it is translated by Dr. Fleet.
The Lanchhana was used no doubt on coins and seals, but
it is not certain if the same symbol might not often be
used on the Dhvaja also. The symbol was always an animal.
Strangely enough even countries in the west ancient and
modern also adopt particular animals only as t-heir sym-
bols. The Lanchhana of the Guptas appears to have been a
peacock, that of the Vardhanas of Thanesar a bull. That
of the Chalukyas appears to be a Varaha or boar. The
Lanchhana of the great conqueror Yasodharman of Mand-
saur inscription was the Aulikara (Corp. Ins. Ill p. 151-
153). Aulikara must be some animal* but what animal it
is has not yet been determined. The Dhvaja or banner



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