The founder of the Vardhana dynasty was Pushyabhuti who ruled from Thaneswar. He served as a military general under the imperial Guptas and rose to power after the fall of the Guptas. With the accession of Prabakara Vardhana (580–605 CE), the Pushyabhuti family became strong and powerful. Prabakara Vardhana fought against the Gurjaras and the Huns and established his authority as far as Malwa and Gujarat. He gave his daughter Rajyasri in marriage to the Maukhari king, Grahavarman, of Kanauj (near modern Kanpur), thus making Kanauj his ally.
Prabakara Vardhana’s dream of building an empire was eventually realised by his younger son Harsha-vardhana.
Rajavardhana (605-606 CE), the eldest son of Prabhakaravardhana, ascended the throne after his father’s death. He was treacherously murdered by Sasanka, the Gauda ruler of Bengal. This resulted in his younger brother Harsha-vardhana becoming the king of Thanesar. Harsha had known the weakness of a group of small kingdoms and conquered his neighbours to integrate them into his empire. As Thanesar was too close to the threats from the north-west, Harsha shifted his capital from Thanesar to Kanauj. Kanauj was located in the rich agricultural region of the western Ganges Plain.