Dear Reader, are you ashamed of the fact that you were under foreign subjection for a thousand years? You are. And I am. But do we know the whole truth? We do not. But the whole truth alone will make us free from our shame.
But what is the whole truth? To being with, that we produced more conquerors than any other country: Chandragupta, Ashoka, Samudra Gupta and Harsha Shiladitya. And India made those who conquered it pay heavily.
It is not true that Muslim invaders with 200 horses conquered India. This is British history of India. Nor were Muslims superior to the Hindus soldiers.
A few examples: example 1: the Caliph of Baghdad mounted six expeditions between 661 AD and 680 AD against Sind. All were routed. And Sind was a Buddhist country! If Bin Qasim finally overcame Sind’s resistance, it was because a Hindu priest betrayed the country. Example 2: the Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms in the Afghan region resisted the invasions of Central Asian Muslims for 350 years. Example 3: Jaypal, the ruler of Punjab resisted the Muslims for a long time, but was tricked into defeat. The Muslims threw beef into the well from which the Hindu soldiers drew water to drink. Hassan Nizami writes in his book Taj-ul-Massir that Jaypal’s soldiers “were demons in human form. Example 4: Muhammed of Ghazni was able to destroy the Somnath temple by winning over a Hindu priest, but he was defeated by the Solanki kings of Gujarat. Example 5: Mohd Ghori was defeated by Prithviraj twice. True, the Muslims were cleverer, but not superior.
Then what led to the defeat of the Hindus? The fragmentation of the country and the absence of major Hindu powers. There are many other reasons: see my articles of 23.3.08 and 13.4.08 (in the Organiser) of course, lack of unity among Hindus.
But India was different before the Muslim advent. Then we had empires and great conquerors. Even Alexander turned back without marching deep into India. This India was invincible, powerful and ably led. We are proud of this India. Why? Because there was nothing similar to it in the world.
I am particularly fascinated by Ashoka and Harsha. Ashoka was the greatest Buddhists missionary, a great humanist, which is why HG Wells called him the greatest emperor in human history. Ashoka was the first to create a welfare state. He built viharas, roads, hospitals for men, animals and birds, serais for travellers, he dug wells, planted trees, supplied free food and set up rock edicts all over his empire to propagate his doctrines. To be of service to mankind was, he said, his Dharma. He gave up war following his conversion to Buddhism.
We are, of course, proud of Samudra Gupta, a great conqueror, who revived Hinduism. He brought the whole of India under his empire.
But the life of Harsha stands out. He was a great conqueror, a great humanist and philanthropist, a great administrator and military strategist—in fact, a model ruler. Harsha was a Hindu, but he got converted to Buddhism.
Harsha was born at a time of great turbulence in India. His father and brother died in their battles against the Huns. His mother committed sati. His sister was abducted. No wonder he took to wars of revenge. He realised then that small Hindu kingdoms were unable to resist foreign invasions.
Harsha brought Punjab, Kanyakubja, Bengal, Orissa, Mithila under his empire, with peace, Harsha turned to religion. He became a Buddhist under the teachings of Jusn Chwang, the famous Chinese scholar. But before he did so, made sure that no one dared to attack his empire. Not even the Chinese. He had 60,000 elephants, 100,000 horse cavalry and a huge army of foot-soldiers.
He assembled a religious council to propagate Mahayana Buddhism, for which he invited all other sects including the Hinayanists and heretics. Chwang had hung a notice outside the meeting place to announce that he “would offer his dead to anyone who could find single word of his contrary to reason.” Such was the importance Buddhists attached to reason.
Harsha gifted a temple 100 feet high, made of bronze, to the Nalanda University. Nalanda was at its glorious best at this time.
Bana, author of Harsha Charita (he was also Harsha’s Prime Minister) tells us that Harsha was interested in poetry and drama and was author of three plays: Priya Darshika, Nagananda and Ratnavali. He himself directed Nagananda and composed music for it. Jayadeva, author of Gita Govinda, ranks Harsha equal to Kalidasa in poetry.
As a philanthropist Harsha had no compere in the world. He visited Prayag every five years and distributed all the wealth he had collected five years. The distribution took 75 days, until there was nothing left to distribute. Then, Harsha borrowed from his sister Rajya Shree a second-hand garment for his return journey.
Is there an emperor like him? None.