Prashastis are special kind of inscriptions and is a Sanskrit word which means “in praise for”. Prashastis are glowing praises of kings and rulers, and were written by the poets of that time.
A famous Prashasti, engraved on the Ashokan pillar in Allahabad, conveys significant information about king Samudragupta of the Gupta Empire, written by Samudragipta’s court poet Harishena. Harishena wrote about the battles won by King Samudragupta and his genealogy and policies.
Harshachararita written by court poet Banabhatta, gives us information about the life and rule of King Harshavardhana. King Harshavardhana belonged to the Vardhana dynasty and he ruled Northern India during the 7th century.
Hieun Tsang stayed in India for 15 years. He frequently attended Harsha’s court and recorded his observations about the period in his book. The Pallavas and the Chalukyas were two important ruling dynasties in south India. Pulakeshin II is the best known Chalukya ruler.
A Prashasti composed by his court poet Ravikirti is the chief source of information about him. The Prashasti, gives us information about the administrative styles favoured by these kings. Land was the main source of revenue.
To ensure the flow of revenue, the kings adopted number of steps, like
- making the important administrative posts hereditary,
- allowing a person to hold more than one important posts
- involving the village administrative officers in the decision making process
Villages were backbone of a kingdom. Land revenues from a village helped the king to maintain his army. There were special military leaders, samantas, to provide the kings with troops whenever he needed them.
An assembly of Brahmin land owners was called a Sabha; an assembly of non-Brahmin land owners was called an Ur, while an organisation of merchants was called as a Nagaram.
These assemblies had sub-assemblies taking care of various departments like irrigation, agricultural operations, road making, temple construction, etc.
An important difference between the local and royal people was that most locals spoke the Prakrit language, whereas the Rajas and Brahmins spoke Sanskrit.