Huein-Tsang was greatly impressed by Harshavardhana’s administration. It was founded on benign principles of previous great Hindu rulers. He was the pivot of administration. He was the head of the state and all administrative, legislative and judicial powers were concentrated in his hands.
He was also the first Commander- in-Chief of his army. Harshavardhana assumed the titles of “Maharajadhiraja” and “Param- Bhattaraka”. He was benevolent ruler and supervised administration personally. He was not only a capable ruler but also very hard-working.
Huein-Tsang writes, “He was indefatigable and Harsha governed his empire on the same line as the Gupta did except that his administration had become more feudal and decentralised.
Like Ashoka, Harshavardhana travelled throughout the length and breadth of his empire in order to gain firsthand information about the conditions of the people.
However, his inspection tours were not confined to the urban areas alone. Even rural areas received equal attention.
A lot of pump and show was associated with the king. When the king was on the march, he was accompanied by several hundred drummers who beat a note on golden drums for each step taken. No other king was allowed to use such “music-peace drums.”
It is true that theoretically the Government of Harshavardhana was an autocracy. However, a large amount of self-governance was allowed to the people in their respective sphere.
As the Huein-Tsang writes that “There was no forced labour; taxes were light; the king personally supervised the whole administration. There was no corrupt bureaucracy; and the rest houses, hospitals and other works of public utility were established through-out the kingdom.
The penal code of Harshavardhana was very severe. Offences against social morality were punished by cutting nose, ears etc. For serious crimes like treason, murder etc. death punishment or deportation was awarded.
A peculiar feature of judicial system of Harshavardhana was the ordeal system. Ordeal by fire, by water and by poison was very commonly used in the investigation of crimes.
The King was assisted by a council of minister which was quite effective. It advised the King both in matters of foreign policy and internal administration such as Harshavardhana was offered the throne of Thaneswar and later on the throne of Kanauj by the then ministers of the respective states.
Besides the ministers there were many other important officials of the state such as-a “Mahasandhivigrahadhikrita”, a “Mahabaladhikrita” and a “Maharatihara”.
The empire was divided into provinces or “Bhuktis” and further divided in districts or “Vishayas” for the sake of administrative convenience.
The Village was the smallest unit of administration. The officer of a province was “Uparika”, that of a district “Vishayapati” and that of a village “Gramika”. There were also some other officers such as “bhogapati”, “ayuktaka” “Pratipalaka purushas” etc.
Roads of Harshavardhana’s empire, however, were unsafe and Huein-Tsang himself plundered by robbers twice. He was very particular in keeping a record of everything. Therefore, there was a separate department known as “Department of Records and Archives”. Which kept a record of all official letters and state papers?
Harshavardhana maintained a very strong standing army at centre. The cavalry, the infantry and war-elephant were the main constituents of his army. It consisted of 60,000 elephants, 1, 00,000 Cavalry and 50,000 infantry. Besides this, the tributary “Rajas” also supplied a large number of troops.
According to Huein-Tsang, recruitment to military service was made by beat of drum stating the salary of the recruits in the bazars and the streets. The royal guards were recruited from among the experienced soldiers. Frontier towns were enclosed by walls.
Land grants continued to be made to priests for special services rendered to the state. In addition, Harshavardhana is credited with the grant of land to the officers by charters.
These grants allowed more concessions to priests and officer than those granted by the earlier rulers. In this way, the feudal practice of rewarding and paying officers with grants of land on a large scale seems to have begun under Harshavardhana.