The reign of Harsha (606-647 A.D.) is a comparatively well-documented period of ancient Indian history. But it is indeed surprising that no full-length study of culture of the period has been attempted since the publication of Professor V.S. Agrawala's classic work entitled Harshacharita : Eka Samskrtika Adhyayana from Patna in 1953. The present work, we hope, fills up this long felt need admirably. Its author Dr. Shankar Goyal has been working ceaselessly on the age of Harsha since the middle of the eighties of the last century. His D.Litt. thesis, Harsha: A Multidisciplinary Political Study (Jodhpur, 2006), has been widely acclaimed as 'the best work on the subject written so far' by the late Professor R.S. Sharma (University of Patna}, as 'a compulsory reading for those working on ancient Indian history' by Professor Romila Thapar (JNU), as 'refreshing in its critical method and unbiased conclusions' by Professor Irfan Habib (AMU), as 'a solid piece of work' by Professor David N. Lorenzen (El Colegio de Mexico) and as 'a remarkable achievement for Dr. Goyal in historical research and writing' by Professor Priti Kumar Mitra (University of Rajshahi, Bangladesh).
Now, Dr. Shankar Goyal has brought out the present study The 'Medieval' Factor and the Age of Harsha : A Cultural Study (Jodhpur, 2016). It is divided into nine chapters- Introduction : The Making of Early Medieval Indian Society (pp. 1-24), Religion and the Medieval Trends in the Religious Activities of Harsha (pp. 25-38), Social Organisation in the Age of Harsha and the Impact of Feudalism (pp. 39-62), Society and Social Life in the Age of Transition (pp. 63-81), Economy and the Feudal Tendencies in the Economic Life of the Age of Harsh a (pp. 82-103), Political Culture of the Age of Harsha and the Feudalization of Administrative Structure (pp. 104-129), The 'Medieval' Factor in Indian Art (pp. 130-143), Literary Activities under Harsha: (i) Bana and the Writing of Harshacharita (pp. 144-180), Literary Activities under Harsha : [ii) The Problem of the Authorship of the Three Plays: Ratnavali, Priyadarsika and Nagananda (pp. 181- 188), and an Appendix entitled Art and Architecture of the Age of Harsha as Known from the Literary Sources (pp. 189-196)-and contains an exhaustive bibliography. The present monograph is somewhat different from other existing works on the subject because it seeks to study the culture of the age of Harsh a not only as an aggregate of the data found in the works of Bana and other contemporary writers, but as the cultural situation which marked the end Continued on Flap 2 of the 'classicism' of the Gupta age and the beginning of the early 'Medievalism'. When looked with the help of these two peep-holes-the classical culture of the Gupta period and the medieval culture of the Rajput age-the works of Bana, Yuan Chwang and their contemporaries appear to yield new meaning and light.
The work of Dr. Goyal stands out for its in-depth research and use of original sources. It will be an irreplaceable addition to the existing literature on the subject, and opens new areas for further research and analysis. All scholars seeking to work on the subject will have to reckon with Dr. Goyal's work which they would find most useful.
About the Author
Dr. Shankar Goyal (b. 1959) is one of the well-known authorities on ancient Indian history and historiography. His major works include Recent Historiography of Ancient India, Marxist Interpretation of Ancient Indian History, Contemporary Interpreters of Ancient India, Ancient India: A Multidisciplinary Approach, Harsha: A Multidisciplinary Political Study and 175 Years of Vakataka History and Historiography. His books and many articles brought him recognition from scholars such as R.N. Dandekar, G.C. Pande, R.S. Sharma, Irfan Habib, Romila Thapar, A. M. Shastri, Bardwell L. Smith (Minnesota, U.S.A.), Waiter M. Spink (Michigan, U.S.A.), Maurizio Taddei (Napoli, Italy), P. K. Mitra (Rajshahi, Bangladesh) and others. In 2009 he presided over the Cultural History Section of the XXIX Annual Session of the South Indian History Congress and in 2012 was elected General President of the xxxvii Annual Congress of the Epigraphical Society of India. He has also delivered some prestigious endowment lectures. In December, 2012 he visited China, the land of the famous Chinese pilgrim Yuan Chwang, which is close to his heart. Again, he has been to Australia in December, 2013 and to the United States of America and Canada in June, 2014. Recently, he has been invited by the Organising Committee of the 16th World Sanskrit Conference, 201 5, Silpakorn University, Bangkok, Thailand, to participate in the deliberations of their Epigraphy Section to promote Indian epigraphical studies on the world forum.
Dr. Goyal did his graduation from the University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, post-graduation from the prestigious Deccan College, Pune, Ph.D. on Main Trends in Indian Historiography Since Independence and D. Litt. on Political History as an Integral Study of Political Life and Institutions: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Harsha and His Times, both from the University of Jodhpur, Jodhpur, where he is presently working in the Department of History.
If we exclude Asoka, the ruler best known to us from ancient India would undoubtedly be Harsha. True, unlike Asoka's series of inscriptions on rocks and pillars, only three copper-plate grants survive from Harsha. But then, we have two contemporary witnesses, totally independent from each other, who have left accounts of him in writings, each of which forms a class by itself. One is Bana, himself a great name in Sanskrit literature, who wrote Harshacharita, the first royal biography in Sanskrit; the other, the Chinese pilgrim Yuan Chwang (Xuan Zhwang), who wrote his great work, The Records of the Western World, whose information is supplemented by his Life compiled by Hui Li. Both these works have received much scholarly attention. The Harshacharita, a notably difficult text, has been rendered into English by E. B. Cowell and F. W. Thomas (London, 1929), while P. V. Kane has edited it with very important detailed commentary (2nd ed., Delhi, 1962). Yuan Chwang's Records have been translated by Samuel Heal as Si- Yu-Kior Buddhist Records of the Western World, 2 vols., London, 1884, followed by Thomas Watters' critical commentary, On Yuan Chwang's Travels in India, 2 vols., London, 1905. The first biography of Harsha based on this material came from K. M. Panikkar, then Professor at Aligarh, who published his Sri Harsha of Kanauj in 1922, followed by Radha Kumud Mookerji' s more substantive Harsha (1926), and then, after a long interval, by D. Devahuti's Harsha, a Political Study (1970). Dr. Shankar Goyal himself, the author of the present volume, has published two works on Harsha, viz., History and Historiography of the Age of Harsha (1992), and Harsha, a Multidisciplinary Political Study (2006).
What distinguishes the present volume is the author's effort to survey the nature of state, society and culture (including court culture) in the age of Harsha. It is a work of both synthesis, taking into account the works of scholars such as R. S. Sharma, B. N. S. Yadava, Romila Thapar and others, and of exploration, based on the author's own extensive study of the sources of the period.
To put it simply, Dr. Shankar Goyal argues that while the picture of India in the seventh century did correspond broadly to that of Europe after the decline of the Roman Empire, yet owing to important variations, such as the presence of caste system in India, Indian feudalism - for which he seems often to prefer the term 'medieval' - was different in important respects from its European counterpart. He sees similarities in the emergence of political decentralisation, sub-infatuation of land rights, and regionalisation of culture, while acknowledging a major point of differences in the absence of serfdom in India, balanced, so to speak, by an increasing rigour in the caste system.
Dr. Shankar Goyal retains throughout an admirably objective spirit. Harsha, the biographers' delight, receives no benefit of doubt from him over shadowy events, like Rajyavardhanas murder or over his malexpenditure. His is a scholarly voice that needs to be heard, and I wish him a very wide readership.
The reign of Harsha (606-647 A.D.) is a comparatively well- documented period of ancient Indian history. But it is indeed surprising that no full-length study of culture of the period has been attempted since the publication of Professor V.S. Agrawala's classic work Harshacharita: Eka Samskrtika Adhyayana from Patna in 1953.1 That the present work appears more than six decades after and many years after briefer accounts by well-known scholars is a matter of huge satisfaction for me. In this study I have looked upon the culture of the age of Harsha not only as an aggregate of the data found in the works of Bana and other contemporary writers, but as the cultural situation which marked the end of the 'classicism' of the Gupta age and the beginning of the early 'medievalism'. When looked with the help of these two peep- holes - the classical culture of the Gupta period and the medieval culture of the Rajput age - the works of Bana, Yuan Chwang and their contemporaries appear to yield new meaning and light. This, of course, could not have been possible without the invaluable Indian and Chinese sources, nor without the numerous studies on ancient Indian polity and feudalism. To these sources I am sincerely indebted.
My researches in the history of the age of Harsha commenced in the middle of the eighties of the last century. Since then I have published more than twenty-five research papers and several monographs dealing directly and indirectly with the history of this monarch and his times. But after the publication of my D. Litt. thesis Harsha : A Multidisciplinary Political Study in 2006, I have been particularly engaged in intensive study of the culture of the period, a natural sequel to my researches into the political history of Harsha, and presented some papers on them in national congresses and seminars. The present work The 'Medieval' Factor and the Age of Harsha: A Cultural Study is actually the outcome of the efforts I put in gradually, but steadily, since then. In this context I wish to acknowledge my debt to Professor Irfan Habib who invariably invited me to participate in the panel discussions under the auspices of the Aligarh Historians Society to provide me a learned platform to present the results of my studies on the socio-religious life and culture of the age of Harsha. The discussions generated on my papers in those panels helped me a lot in polishing my ideas. In a way, eventually, these papers formed a bedrock for my present work. Professor Habib has further put me under his deep obligation by contributing a learned foreword to this book. I cannot thank him enough.
I would also like to express my gratefulness to Professor Romila Thapar who always evinced serious interest in my researches on Harsha and other academic pursuits since last so many years. Her suggestions have always stimulated my academic thinking which is also reflected in my writings. Needless to say, her dedication to the Indological studies constantly instils in me an urge to work.
While writing this Preface I remember with a heavy heart my esteemed father, the late Professor S. R Goyal, whose scholarly guidance is reflected in every chapter of this work. He was himself a great authority on Harsha, who, when alive, always gave me valuable academic suggestions in general and/ or on the classical age in particular. Unfortunately, he passed away on 9th November, 2015, after a prolonged illness. I tried my best for his recuperation but, alas, the Almighty had willed otherwise. In his death India has lost one of the greatest Indologists of our times. To me this loss is an intensely personal one. However, he has left to the posterity a rich heritage which should serve as a beacon light to the coming generations.
I am equally thankful and obliged to the late Professor RS. Sharma who was unquestionably one of the best minds of the Indological world. When alive, he was always concerned with my writings, especially on Harsha and the early medieval phase of Indian history, which is evident from his many letters written to me in the last two decades or so. How I wish he is alive today!
I also remember with a heavy heart the late Professors V.S. Pathak and D. Devahuti, both great authorities on Harsha and his times, who, when alive always treated me with great affection. To both these legends of ancient Indian history, I bow my head with utmost regards.
In the preparation of this work I was greatly encouraged by my uncle, Dr. S. K. Gupta, an eminent art-historian. I have always enjoyed his love and good wishes which are indeed an asset for me.
To my colleague, Professor Vinita Parihar, my sincere thanks for helping me in multiple ways. In this case, words are, really, a poor means of expression.
It would be no mere formality to express my indebtedness to my wife, Mrs. Chitra Goyal, for her help throughout. I realize her contribution in making this enterprise a success.
To my daughters Meghna and Akshara I am also obliged. Their support is always available to me in abundance.
Tichchu, our sweet rabbit, who is very close to my heart, also played his role in keeping the atmosphere of the house warm and pleasant, especially, in difficult times. My thanks and praise to him.
For the errors of omission and commission I seek the indulgence of sympathetic readers.
|Foreword: Professor Irfan Habib||vii|
|Detailed Synopsis of chapters||xv|
|1||Introduction: the Making of Early Medieval Indian society||1-24|
|2||Religion and the medieval Trends in the Religious Activities of harsha||25-38|
|3||social Organisation in the Age of Harsha and the Impact of Feudalism||39-62|
|4||society and Social Life in the Age of Transition||63-81|
|5||Economy and the Feudal Tendencies in the Economic Life of the Age of Harsha||82-103|
|6||Political culture of the Age of harsha and the Fedulization sof Administrative Structure||104-129|
|7||the 'Medieval' Factor in Indian Art||130-143|
|8||Literary activities Under Harsha: (i) Bana and the Writing of Harshacharita||144-180|
|9||Literary activities Under Harsha: (ii) The Problem of the authorship of the Three Plays Ratnavali, Priyadarsika and Nagananda||181-188|
|Appendix: Art and Architecture of the Age of Harsha as Known from the Literary Sources||189-196|
Item Code: NAK252 Author: Shankar Goyal Cover: Hardcover Edition: 2016 Publisher: Kusumanjali Book World, Jodhpur Language: English Size: 9.0 inch X 5.5 inch Pages: 230 Other Details: Weight of the Book: 455 gms