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Administration of King Harshavardhana

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Administrative System of King Harshavardhana

Harshavardhana followed the traditional monarchical system of administra­tion which had existed in India during the earlier imperial periods. His time having been nearer to the Gupta Age, the various features of the imperial Gupta administration influenced Harshavardhana’s administration to a very large extent. Yet, there were new innovations in accordance with the needs of the time. Moreover, every great monarch had had his personal designs to shape his administration, and Harshavardhana too went by his own individuality in governing the empire. The following were the main fea­tures of Harshavardhana’s administration.

The King – Head of the Administration

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Harshavardhana was a true representative of ancient monarchy in its finest aspects. In theory, the king was absolute and all powerful. But in practice, he enjoyed limited power, being subject to the rules of the Dharma, the laws and customs of the land, and to the wise advice of the ministers and courtiers. He had also to respect the wishes of the subjects. The King was no doubt the supreme lawmaker, the chief executive, and the fountain of justice. He was also the central figure of the entire administrative machinery working like its pivot. In spite of all such powers, Harshavardhana’s monarchy was far from being autocratic. It maintained moderation and rested on popular support. One need not forget that Harshavardhana came to the thrones of Thaneswara and Kanauj in response to the collective decisions of the Councils of Ministers and of the notables of the two kingdoms.

Besides the Chief Minister, other ministers also shouldered impor­tant responsibilities. It is known from Bana that a minister named Avanti was the Minister for Foreign Relations and War under Harshavardhana. As the king alone could not have carried the burdens of an imperial government, the ministers discharged their part of duty in helping the king.

The Bureaucracy

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Harshavardhana maintained an efficient civil service. The importance of some of the higher officers of the state is known from their designations. The chief officers used to directly receive instructions from the King. Besides these, there were the Commander-in-Chief, the Chief of the Cavalry Forces, and the Chief Commandant of the Elephant Force.

In Harshavardhana’s Empire, the king’s share was one-sixth of the agricultural produce. Revenue was also earned from trade and commerce. But dittoes on goods were light.

Administrative Divisions of the Empire

Harshavardhana’s Empire was divided into several provinces. The villages were looked after by their headmen. The government did not interfere with the freedom of the villages in their usual ways of existence. The bigger territorial divisions of the empire were no doubt, controlled by the centre. But a system of decentralization also worked for better management of various units.

Harshavardhana’s administration created fear in the mind of men by a thorough penal code; though in practice, the punishments were not turned into a cruel system.

With these features, Harshavardhana’s government managed a large empire by generosity and efficiency, under the direct supervision of a dutiful emperor.

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