(Last Updated on : 21/01/2009)
Much of the social condition of India during the reign of Harshavardhan can be known from the writings of the Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang. It is said that the caste system was prevalent in the society. The Brahmans were highly honored and performed religious duties. The Kshatriyas formed the governing class. The Vaisyas formed the traders and merchants class. The Sudras were the lowest rung of the ladder of society and did work of agriculture and performed other menial works. According to Hiuen Tsang. "The Kshatriyas and Brahmans are cleanly and wholesome in their dress, and they live in a homely and frugal way. There were rich merchants who dealt in gold trinkets and so on. They stain their teeth red or black which are very particular in their personal cleanliness. All wash before eating; they never use food left from a former meal. Wooden vessels must be destroyed after use; metal ones must be well polished and rubbed. After eating they clean their mouth with a willow stick, and wash their hands and mouth."
Food habit of the people of upper class also had a distinct line of difference with that of the lower class. People at pure diets, never consumed onions and garlic and it was only the chandals who consumed onion and garlic.
The position of women was good in the society. There was no purdah system. Women of respectable families received education. There were no inter-caste marriages. Marriages within the same caste were prohibited within certain degrees. However, the system of sati existed. For example, queen Yashomati burnt herself after death of her husband Prabhakar vardhan. Rajyasri had also made an attempt to burn herself after Sasanka had freed him. However, her life was saved by the persuasion of Harshavardhan who reached at the scene quite on time.
The dress of the people of this age was very simple. Men covered their upper portion i.e. from waist to chest by a long cloth. They kept their shoulders bare. Both men and women wore ornaments. As for examples necklaces, rings, etc. were very much popular at that time.
People led a highly moral life. According to Hiuen Tsang, people were truthful. Treachery and cheating were rarely found. People were usually simple, honest and truthful. People considered their sacred duty to respect the guests.