Bharat Ek Khoj

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Harshvardana
(Episode 20)

Nehru notes from the fourth century onwards the Guptas ruled for about 150 years over a powerful and prosperous state in the north. For almost another 150 years their successor continued but the empire shrank and became smaller and smaller. New invader from Central Asia were pouring into India and attacking them when some of their chiefs became aggressive in the 7th century, they were crushed by the king of Kanauj, Harshvardana who thereafter build up a powerful state right across Northern and Central India. Although an ardent Buddhist, he encourage both Hinduism and Buddhism. A poet and dramatist himself, he gathered round his court many artist and poet, making his capital Ujjaayini (now Ujjain), a famous center of cultural activities.

In the new artistic revival, Banabhatta from Thaneshwar was and important literary figure. Besides authoring Kadambari, india's first novel in prose , he penned harsha Charita, the emperor biography. Here we witness Katha Vachan (story telling) by Banabhatta to his avid listener.

Finally Harsha position was consolidated with ujjain as the seat of a powerful kingdom spread over entire north India up to the eastern and western seas, from the Himalayas to Vindyanchal and contain in the south by Pulakesin II of the Chalukya empire.

Nehru notes that when Harsha was reigning over his powerful kingdom, Hsuan-tsang, the Chinese scholar pilgrim was studying in Nalanda university. Hsuan-tsang came over land and cross the Himalayas into India. As ardent Buddhist he travel all over the country. In a grand congregation of Shamans, Brahmins and Bhikshus in Buddhist monastery on Ganga-banks, 'Mahayana' wins. But when the monastery gutted by fire cause by opponent, Hsuan-tsang serenely infers that is only proves the point of mortality of every thing in Mahayana conviction!

While the arsonist-leader is banished the local prince arragned a daramatic-show for entertaining Hsuan-Tsang and other dignitaries of his own play Nagananda,where he himself participate as an act of atonement. The play depicets the fairy antagonism between Vasuki, the king of Nagas (snakes) and Garuda, the bird-mount of Vishnu. The compromise reached is that a snake would be offer as food to Garuda everyday. Moved by the wailing of an old women whose son is about to be devoured, the pious prince offers himself clad in symbolic red as a sacrifice to Garuda.

Nehru recorded that Husan-Tsang returned the way he came via Central Asia carrying large number of manuscripts with him. Harsha died in 648AD, after which his empire disintegrated into small principalities.