The Harsha Charita of Bana/Introduction

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The Harsa-Carita of Bana

Translated by E. B. Cowell and F. W. Thomas

London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1897, 197-229


The Harsha Charita of Bana (IAST:Harṣacarita, Sanskrit: हर्षचरित), "The Deeds of Harṣa", is the biography of Indian Emperor Harsha by Banabhatta, also known as Bana.

Banabhatta was an outstanding Sanskrit writer of 7th century in India. He was the 'Asthana Kavi' meaning 'Court Poet' of King Harsha. 'Harsha Charita' was the first composition of Bana and can be treated as the beginning of writing of historical poetic works in Sanskrit language. This is written in ornate poetic prose, in which Bana gives us a fragment of autobiography unparalleled in Sanskrit literature. Not only do his elaborate descriptions show accurate and close observation, but throughout his work, the personality of the author breaks through.

Harsha Charita ranks as the first historical biography in Sanskrit although it is written in a florid and fanciful style. Bana's detailed and vivid descriptions of rural India's natural environment as well as the extraordinary industry of the Indian people exudes the vitality of life at that time. However, since he received the patronage of the Emperor Harsha, his descriptions of his patron are not an unbiased appraisal and presents the Emperor's actions in an overly favorable light.

Jat historians consider Harsha to be a Buddhist Jat. According to the historians Bhim Singh Dahiya and Thakur Deshraj Harsha’s clan was Virk, but Dilip Singh Ahlawat, Carlyle and Alexander Cunningham say that he belonged to the Bains clan of Jats. The Virk clan is linked to the Virks of Mandsaur, Central India, and Bains to the Punjab. Both Bains and Virk are clans of the Jats. The purpose of this article is to further research about Harsha.

About Bana

Bana holds an unrivalled position in the galaxy of India`s literary stars. He is a unique artist in the domain of Embellished Sanskrit prose. Bana`s Harsacarita is a historical romance which presents actual events of his sovereign--Harsavardhana of Thanesar and Kanauj who ruled over northern India in the first half of the seventh century A.D.The present work is an English translation of Harsacarita by two eminent scholars E.B. Cowell and F.W. Thomas. It is a faithful rendering of the original Sanskrit text into English language. It preserves the characteristic features of the author`s style. All the puns in the words and veiled allusions in the sentences are explained in the notes, not in the body of translation, out of consideration to the English reader. A short introduction, two appendices and an index of proper names etc. are also very useful.

About the Author

E.B. COWELL was a D.C.L. of the Oxford University and the First Gold Medalist of the Royal Asiatic Society, London, for Oriental learning. Several Sanskrit texts were introduced to the Western world through his translations. F.W. THOMAS`s position as Asst. Librarian and than Librarian of the India Office, London, and as Bodon Professor of Sanskrit, gave him ample facilities to pursue his varied interests. He was the author of a number of books and papers; much of the latter appeared through the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of which he was also the Director for some time.


This introduction is from Wikipedia for the benefit of the readers.

Go to Chapter I Back to The Harsha Charita of Bana