Monday, April 4, 2011

Mauryan Administration, Society and Economy

Mauryan Administration, Society and Economy

It is said that king was the supreme head of the legislative, executive and judiciary branches. He was assisted in administration by the Prime Minister, other ministers, the commander-in-chief, the royal treasurer, etc. The members of the council of minister could give advice to the king, but final decisions were left to the king. The ministers and other officials were directly appointed by the king after examining them thoroughly.
There existed both civil and military officials. They were paid a salary in cash. The highest official was paid the salary of 48000 panas per year. The soldiers were paid 500 panas per year. There were officials who maintained the records of population, income and expenditure of government. We find reference to officials and clerks who collected income tax and custom duties.

Espionage was an important feature of Mauryan administration. The royal agents and the spies could contact the king at any time and they reported to the king about various developments in his kingdom.
The empire was divided into four parts: northern, southern, eastern and western parts each of which were governed by a governor and council of ministers. In the provinces there were local officials called rajukas, who gained more powers at the later period of the reign of Asoka.
There were certain departments which decided certain important matters of administration. There existed a standing army which was again controlled by certain committees.
Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador to the court of Chandragupta, has left his ideas regarding Indian society. According to him, there were different social classes like brahmanas, soldiers, councilors, peasants, traders, artisans, and shepherds.
Brahmanas were the philosophers who spent large part of their life in learning. There were different categories of brahmanas. Some of them lived by the study of ancient texts, while there were those who predicted the future and there were others who lived as manual labourers.
During this period there was a great development of agricultural production. There were both crown lands and private property which were taxed by the king. The peasants paid 1/4th of the produce as tax. However, in certain cases, they paid 1/6 or even 1/8 of the produce as tax. Tax assessment depended on the fertility of soil and the nature of agricultural production.
Taxes were also imposed on traders and the goods produced by artisans. There were guilds of traders and artisans. We can say that this period was one of economic expansion. The traders maintained contact with other trade centres of the world and with other parts of India.
1.D.D. Kosambi, Culture and Civilization of Ancient India in Historical Outline,Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi, 1982.
  2. Romila Thapar,Asoka and Decline of the Mauryas, OUP, Delhi, 1987


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