(Last Updated on : 19/05/2011)
Harsha Charita is considered as the first Biography in Sanskrit. Banabhatta opens the Harsha Charita with a brief summary of the models of poetry whom he admired. It includes the author of the Bharata, of Vasavadatta, the prose of Harichandra, Satavahana's treasure of song, the poem of Pravarasena. Thereafter he celebrates deeds of Harsha.
In chapter one Bana relates the descent of his family and his own life to the end of his youth. Chapter two carries the reception of the message as well as his journey to the royal camp. Here he admires king's great mount. In Chapter three Bana speaks on a visit home, received entreaties to tell of the king and how he complied. A long description of Sthanvacvara, the capital of the race when the king sprang has been given. This leads to a eulogy of a mythical king Puspabhuti as well as an intricate explanation of his friend and associate in adventure Bhairavacharya. In the fourth chapter Prabhakaravardhana's deeds are touches upon. However the tale deals with the queen's behaviour when her son was yet to take birth, the revelry in the kingdom when Rajya Vardhana was born, the births of Harsha and his sister Rajyasri. The wedding of Rajyasri to Maukhari Grahavarman which was an event of great political importance to the family has also been given importance.
This chapter of joyful celebration follows with a chapter of unrelieved tragedy. Rajyavardhana is bidden attack the Huns and departs with his host. He is accompanied by Harsha, however is attracted to go hunting. At that time he is recalled as his father was down with illness. When he comes back he sees that the whole capital is filled with anxiety. Harsha's mother commits a suicide. Then the final passing away of Harsha's father after an oration to his son has been elaborated.
He is aroused from this stance by the return of Rajya Vardhana. He is eager to throw on Harsha the duties of sovereignty and deserted himself to grief. Harsha urges him to be restraint and resolve. At this point the dread news of the killing of Grahavarman by King of Malwa is also mentioned. Rajyavardhana decides to punish the criminal. He declines help of his brother Harsha. Harsha remains gloomy. He is reported of Rajya Vardhana's success over Malwa king but murdered by a Gauda king.
Harsha wanted to wage war but Skanda gupta gives wise advice. He obeys and prepares for war while omens of evil threat the fate of his enemies. In Chapter vii the movements of Indian army has been vividly described. King's ambassador from Assam has also been mentioned. The king reaches Mountains of Vindhya. In Chapter viii Nirghata, a young mountaineer has been described who helps Harsha. Rajyasri escaped from her confinement and it seems that she was wandering in that forest region.
The king seeks the holy ascetic Divakaramitra whose hermitage has been portrayed brilliantly. The holy ascetic admits that he has not heard of any such princess. Then an ascetic enters with the news that a lady is about to burn herself in despair. The king rushes to find his sister there who is about to perish with her maidens. He stops her and takes her to the sage. The princess begs to be allowed to end her life. However with wise words sage restrains her action. Harsha carries out his vow of vengeance after which both of them would adopt the red garments of the faith. The sage agrees. The party returns to the camp. Then the tale of the recovery of Rajyasri is being narrated.
Historically the composition is of minimal value. The chronology is weak and confused. It is difficult to make out the identity of the king of Malwa. The Gauda king is indirectly indicated as Sashanka. The courses of events have not been skilfully described. He desired writing at a considerable distance of time and in the process leaves the past in a vague position. He supplies to history the vivid pictures of the army, courtly life and the pursuit of Brahmin and his friends.