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Sunday, 25 September 2011

When Vartan ruled in India

After watching a documentary about the Tang Chinese Buddhist monk, Xuanzang, and his journey to India in 634 AD, I learned that he had reached a reknowned University called Nalanda. This school of Buddhism became a "prize" that was battled over by two kings of India in 640 AD, one of them was called Harsha Vardhana.
Harsha was the son of Prabhakara, who ruled the city of Thanesar on the river Gaggar. He was descended from Pushyabhuti, a general in the army of king Chastana in around 130 AD. After the death of Prabhakara and his two elder sons, Harsha became king of Thanesar in 606 AD at the age of 16 and ruled northern India for forty years.
Coin of the reign of king Harsha Vardhanna, following the style of the earlier Gupta dynasty.
Now, the origins of Harsha's ancestry is interesting.
He was descended from a "Pushyabhuti" who served under king Chastana. I know one thing regarding the name "Pushyabhuti", in Middle Persian "Pati"= Master, such as "Aspa Pati"= Horse Master. Pushyabhuti may just be the military title the man had, and the title tells of the ethnic origin of him and his king.
Chastana was of the Saka tribe, which had taken control of the Indus valley from around 30 BC onwards until the rise of the Kushan kingdom in about 130 AD. The Saka were ethnically related to the Parthians (Pahlavi or Pahlavuni in Armenia) who ruled Iran and Armenia at the same period. The city of Thanesar is to the east of the Indus valley. Harsha's father's name, Prabhakara, is similar to the names some of the Parthian kings had, Bakur (Pacorus in Roman sources). Harsha's name seems to derive from a name used by some of the Parthian kings, Valarsh (Vagharsh in Armenian). Roman sources had the name as "Vologases". Vardhana is also similar to the name some of the Parthian kings had, Vardan. This name continued to be popular in Armenia (Vartan) long after the overthrow of the Parthian kings in 428 AD and still is a popular name in Armenia.
Yet of course this dynasty in India, by the 7th century, would have been intermarried into the native peoples over many generations, comparable to the later Moghul rulers of the 16th century.

Hrasha's court poet, Banabhatta (Banbad) recorded that the king had followed the religion of his father, sun worship (Mithraism), then followed the worship of Shiva (Shaivism) before becoming a Mahayana Buddhist. The god Mithra, or Mihr, was a diety revered by the Parthian dynasties of Iran and Armenia.