Vardhan dynasty :


6th century – 7th century


The original territory of the Pushyabhutis was located around modern Thanesar. (Top map)

The Empire of Harsh at its maximum extent. (Bottom map)

Capital : Sthanvishvara (modern Thanesar) Kanyakubj (modern Kannauj)

Government : Monarchy

History :

Established : 6th century

Disestablished : 7th century


Preceded by


Later Gupta dynasty


Gaud Kingdom


Succeeded by


Gurjar-Pratihar dynasty  


Chalukya dynasty


The vardhan dynasty, also known as the Pusyabhuti dynasty, ruled parts of northern India during 6th and 7th centuries. The dynasty reached its zenith under its last ruler Harsh-Vardhan, whose empire covered much of north and north-western India, and extended till Kamrup in the east and Narmada River in the south. The dynasty initially ruled from Sthanvishvar (modern Thanesar, Haryana), but Harsh eventually made Kanyakubj (modern Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh) his capital, from where he ruled until 647 CE.


Etymology and name :

According to Harsh-charita, composed by the court poet Bana, the family was known as Pushyabhuti dynasty, or Pushpabhuti dynasty. The manuscripts of Harsh-charit use the variant "Pushpabhuti", but Georg Bühler proposed that this was a scribal error, and that the correct name was Pushyabhuti. Several modern scholars now use the form "Pushpabhuti", while others prefer the variant "Pushyabhuti". Pushya refers to the constellation of stars and Vibhuti means the sacred ash or blessing, thus Pushyabhuti literally means "the blessings of auspicious star constellation" enoting the "divine/heavenly blessings" or "the fulfillment of prophecy".[citation needed]


Some modern books describe the dynasty as "Vardhan", because the names of its kings end with the suffix "-vardhan". However, this may be misleading as the names of kings of other dynasties also end with this suffix.


Origins :

No concrete information is available about the origins of the dynasty. Harshcharit by the 7th century poet Bana gives a legendary account of their origin, naming Pushyabhuti as the dynasty's founder. According to this legend, Pushyabhuti lived in the Srikanth janapad (modern Kurukshetra district), whose capital was Sthanvishvar (modern Thanesar). A devotee of Shiv, Pushyabhuti became involved in a tantric ritual at a cremation ground, under the influence of Bhairavacharya, a teacher from "the South". At the end of this ritual, a goddess (identified with Lakshmi) anointed him the king and blessed him as the founder of a great dynasty.


The Pushyabhuti mentioned in Bana's account appears to be a fictional character, as he is not mentioned in the dynasty's inscriptions or any other source.


History :

The Pushyabhuti dynasty originally ruled a small area around their capital Sthaneshvara (Thanesar). According to Hans T. Bakker, their ruler Aditya-Vardhan (or Aditya-Sen) was probably a feudatory to Sharv-Varman, the Maukhari king of Kannauj. His successor Prabhakar-Vardhan may have also been a feudatory to the Maukhari king Avanti-Varman in his early days. Prabhakar's daughter Rajyashri married Avanti-Varman's son Graha-Varman. As a result of this marriage, Prabhakar's political status increased significantly, and he assumed the imperial title Param-bhattarak Maharajadhiraj. ("the one to whom the other kings bow because of his valour and affection").


According to the Harshcharit, after Prabhakar's death, the king of Malav attacked Kannauj, supported by the ruler of Gaud. The Malav king killed Grah-Varman, and captured Rajyashri. Bana does not mention this king, but historians speculate him to be a ruler of the Later Gupta dynasty. Prabhakara's elder son Rajya-Vardhan defeated the Malav ruler, but was killed by the Gaud king.


The Harshcharit further states that Prabhakara's younger son Harsh-Vardhan then vowed to destroy the Gaud king and their allies. Again, Bana does not mention the name of the Gaud king, but historians identify him with Shashank-Dev, a Maukhari vassal (mahasamant). Harsh formed an alliance with Bhaskar Varman, the king of Kamrup, and forced Shashank to retreat. Subsequently, in 606 CE, Harsh was formally crowned as an emperor. He captured a large part of northern India. There are different assessments of the exact extent of Harsh's empire, but he controlled major parts of northern India; his overlordship was accepted by the king of Vallabhi in the west and the Kamrup king Bhaskaravarman in the east; in the south, his empire extended up to the Narmada River.


Harsh eventually made Kanyakubj (modern Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh) his capital, and ruled till c. 647 CE. He died without an heir, leading to the end of the Pushyabhuti dynasty.


Rulers :


Coin of Harshvardhana, circa 606-647 CE

The following are the known rulers of the Pushyabhuti or Vardhana dynasty, with estimated period of reign :


Pushyabhuti, possibly mythical

Naravardhan c. 500-525 CE

Rajyavardana 1 c. 525-555 CE

Adityavardhan (Adityvardhan or Adityasen), c. 555-580 CE

Prabhakar-vardhan (Prabhakarvardhan), c. 580-605 CE

Rajya-vardhan (Rajyavardhan 2), c. 605-606 CE

Harsh-vardhan (Harsavardhana), c. 606-647 CE


Source :