Harsha (c. 590–647 CE), a member of the Vardhana dynasty, was the son of Prabhakar, who defeated the Alchon Huna invaders, also known as the White Huns, and younger brother of Rajyavardhana, king of Thaneswar. After the defeat of the Huna invaders and the final collapse of the Gupta Empire northern India became divided into many small states. In a conspiracy involving two of these states Rajyavardhana was murdered. On hearing of his brother’s death, Harsha mobilized and marched against the main plotter, killing him in battle. Harsha then ascended the throne at just 16 years old, and set about uniting all of the small successor states of the Gupta Empire, which he achieved, being crowned by an assembly of leaders in 606 CE. He was given the title Maharaja and he consolidated his empire, which eventually extended across northern India and included Magadha and Malwa, with its capital established at Kanauj. Attempts to expand to the south were blocked by the powerful Chalukya dynasty. Harsha’s reign was noted for its peace, prosperity and cosmopolitanism, though protecting the empire needed his constant vigilance. Harsha died in 647 CE with no surviving issue, and his empire died with him.
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