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Harsha Administration


  • According to historian Burton Stein, a centralised administration did not even exist under the powerful Guptas.
  • It was restricted only to the central part of the Gangetic plain between Pataliputra and Mathura.
  • Beyond that zone, there was no centralised authority.
  • The only difference between Guptas and Vardhanas is that the former had formidable enemies like Huns, while the latter had no such opponents.
  • The copper plates of 632 CE record a gift of land to two Brahmans.
  • The names of certain political personages with state power, as protectors of the gift, are mentioned in them.
  • Some were mahasamantas, allied to the king but of a subordinate status.
  • Others were independent maharajas but acknowledged feudatories of Harsha.
  • There was yet another category of rulers who pledged their loyalty to Harsha and professed to be at his service.
  • This is the characteristic of Harsha’s imperial authority in North India.

Council of Ministers

  • It appears that the ministerial administration during the reign of Harsha was the same as that of the imperial Guptas.
  • The emperor was assisted by a council of ministers(Mantri Parishad)in his duties.
  • The council played an important role in the selection of the king as well as framing the foreign policy of the empire.
  • The prime minister was of the most important position in the council of ministers.

Key Officials

1. Avanti – Minister for Foreign Relations and War

2. Simhananda – Commander-in-Chief 

3. Kuntala – Chief Cavalry Officer

4. Skandagupta – Chief Commandant of Elephant Force

5. Dirghadhvajas – Royal Messengers

6. Banu – Keeper of Records

7. Mahaprathihara – Chief of the Palace Guard

8. Sarvagata – Secret Service Department

Revenue Administration

  • Bhaga, Hiranya and Bali were the three kinds of tax collected during Harsha’s reign.
  • Bhaga was the land tax paid in kind.
  • One-sixth of the produce was collected as land revenue.
  • Hiranya was the tax paid by farmers and merchants in cash.
  • There is no reference to the tax Bali.
  • The crown land was divided into four parts.
    • Part I – for carrying out the affairs of the state
    • Part II – for paying the ministers and officers of the crown
    • Part III – for rewarding men of letters
    • Part IV – for charity to religious institutions

Administration of Justice

  • Criminal law was more severe than that of the Gupta age.
  • Mimamsakas were appointed to dispense justice.
  • Banishment and the cutting of limbs of the body were the usual punishments.
  • Trial by ordeal was in practice.
  • Life imprisonment was the punishment for the violations of the laws and for plotting against the king.
  • Hieun Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim, spent nearly 13 years in India (630–643 CE), collecting sacred texts and relics which he took back to China.
  • He was known as the“ prince of pilgrims” because he visited important pilgrim centres associated with the life of Buddha.
  • His Si-Yu-Ki provides detailed information about the social, economic, religious and cultural conditions during the reign of Harsha.
  • According to Hieun Tsang, perfect law and order prevailed throughout the empire, as the law-enforcing agencies were strong.
  • The pilgrim records the principal penalties and judicial ordeals practised in India at that time.
  • Corporal punishment for serious offences was in practise.
  • But the death penalty was usually avoided.
  • Offences against social morality and defiance of law were punished by maiming.
  • Harsha travelled across the kingdom frequently to ensure his familiarity with his people.
  • He was accessible to people and kept a closer watch on his tributary rulers.

Administration of Army

  • Harsha paid great attention to discipline and strength of the army.
  • The army consisted of elephants, cavalry and infantry.
  • Horses were imported.
  • Ordinary soldiers were known as Chatas and Bhatas.
  • Cavalry officers were called Brihadisvaras.
  • Infantry officers were known as Baladhikritas and Mahabaladhikritas.
  • Hieun Tsang mentions the four divisions (chaturanga) of Harsha’s army.
  • He gives details about the strength of each division, its recruitment system and payment for the recruits.

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