Harsha (hûrˈshə) [key], b. c.590, Indian emperor (606–47). He became (606) king of a small state in the upper Ganges Valley, and by 612 he had built up a vast army with which he forged nearly all India N of the Narmada River into an empire. An extremely able military leader, his only defeat was at the hands of the Chalukyas, when he attempted (c.620) to invade the Deccan. His capital at Kanauj was an artistic and literary center, and Harsha himself was a distinguished poet and dramatist. A Hindu early in life, Harsha later became a devout Buddhist and forbade the killing of animals in his realm. He built innumerable stupas, established many monasteries, and founded several state hospitals. His great Buddhist convocation at Kanauj (643) was reputedly attended by 20 kings and thousands of pilgrims. The life and times of Harsha are described in the Harsha-charita, a flowery work by Bana, the court poet, and in the Si-yu-ki [records of the Western world] written by the Chinese pilgrim Hsüan-tsang. After Harsha's death, N India relapsed into anarchy.
See R. K. Mookerji, Harsha (1926); studies by D. Devahuti (1970) and B. Sharma (1970).