Any Empire that firmly sustains for at least 220-250 years can be called a successful Empire. A protracted and vigorous rule over a geographical spread roughly equivalent to the size of four average states of today’s India was considered to be a powerful Empire. Using this yardstick, we find some royal dynasties in India such as the Mauryas, Guptas, Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Pratiharas and Vijayanagara. After the demise of the grand Gupta Era, several kings attempted to recreate the same grandeur.
After Krishnadevaraya’s death, Achyutaraya just managed to run the kingdom. He wasn’t particularly competent. And by the time of Ramaraya, the kingdom had completely declined. In this context, we must recall the Mahābhārata’s Daṇḍanīti (Principles of Governance).
An emperor as powerful as Pulakeshi II had to face numerous struggles during his last days. His brother “Kubja” [Short] Vishnuvardhana would repeatedly rise in rebellion, Pulakeshi would quell it and forgive him—this seemed to have become the norm. However, what we notice in each such instance is simply Pulakeshi’s weakness. The younger brother fully exploited his sibling’s sentimentality. Pulikeshi had four children. He justifiably displayed greater affection towards his third son, Vikramaditya.
The fact that Shiladitya Harshavardhana developed greater fondness towards Buddhism in his later years is evident from his own writings. Three Rupakas whose authorship can be attributed to Harshavardhana are extant. He has also written a few Stotras (loosely, “hymns”) and a collection of independent verses. His Rupakas, “Priyadarshika,” “Ratnavali,” and “Nagananda” continue to remain popular amid lay persons and scholars alike. “Priyadarshika” and “Ratnavali” belong to the “Natika” genre of “Drishyakavya” (dramatic poetry enacted on stage).
In the later part of the Gupta Era, we see the rise of Sthaneshwar, which is on the banks of the Ganga. It lies between Ambala and Delhi, near Kurukshetra. A great king who came from there was Harshavardhana. Like the Guptas, he too came from a family of vaiśyas. Harshavardhana’s father was Prabhakaravardhana and his brother was Rajyavardhana. Even when they were in quite a formidable position, their kingdom had threats; they faced pressure from various sides. One thing is true: every kingdom will have opposition from its own people.
In this discourse about the tradition of kṣātra in India, at every step, the storyline goes up and down, backwards and forward. It is my desire that all the important aspects must be covered in an informal yet succinct and rigorous manner. Consequently as we have observed so far, there have been several lineages of kings. Here I refer only to the great milestones of our history and tradition of kṣātra. So much more has to be said, going further back into the past and moving forward too.