Administrative System, Trade, Literature, Art and Architecture, Social Life




Administrative System, Trade, Literature, Art and Architecture, Social Life:

1) Administration:

At the centre of the administrative structure was the king who had the power to enact laws. Kautilya advises the King to promulgate dharma when the social order based on the Varnas and Ashramas (stages in life) perishes. In the administrative system of the empire, there was a Mantri Parishad (council of ministers) made up of wise, experienced, virtuous, and selfless ministers who gave advice to the king. There was a committee of some of these ministers, who were known as ‘Mantrana’ to look after the day to day affairs of the state. Mauryas had created a stable framework of administration by creating various departments of administration and appointing experienced and expert officers over it. These officers were known as Amatya. Arthashastra mentions a total of 18 Amatyas such as Pradhan, Samaharta (revenue), Sannidhata (finance), Senapati, Yuvraj, etc. Kautilya has given information about 30 administrative departments.

The hierarchical order of the officers in the Mauryan empire started from the Samrat at the head to the lowermost office of the Gramini. At the local level, the people were given autonomous rights to a great extent in internal matters. In this way the administration of the Mauryan kingdom was decentralised. The most important feature of Mauryan administration was the effort made for the overall material and moral development of the people Chanakya calls the king ‘dharmapravartaka’ or ‘promulgator of the social order’.

The Mauryan king did not claim any divine origin yet they attempted to emphasise the connection between kinship and divine power. The Arthashastra suggests that departments should be headed by more than one chief to maintain checks and balances; it also states that officials should be transferred frequently and that no government servant should be allowed to take any decision without referring to his superior. The ministers and Amatyas were assisted by Adhyakshas or superintendents of offices doing supervisory and clerical jobs, of which Kautilya mentions 27 categories. The King was the head of justice – the fountainhead of law and all matters of grave consequences were decided by him. Kautilya refers to the existence of two kinds of courts – dharmasthiyas (dealing with civil matters) and kantakasodhanas (dealing with criminal cases).

There were special courts in the cities and villages presided over by the pradesika, mahamatras, and rajukas. Kautilya mentions the dharma (sacred law), vyavahara (Usage), charitam (customs and precedents), and rajasasana (royal proclamations). The Pradesika were the principal police officers, whose duty was to investigate the crimes com­mitted in the region within their jurisdiction. Police headquarters were found in all principal centres. For the first time in South Asia, political unity and military security allowed for a common economic system and enhanced trade and commerce, with increased agricultural productivity. Farmers were freed of tax and crop collection burdens from regional kings, paying instead to a nationally administered and strict-but-fair system of taxation as advised by the principles in the Arthashastra.

Chandragupta Maurya established a single currency across India, and a network of regional governors and administrators and a civil service provided justice and security for merchants, farmers and traders. The army of Chandragupta, according to Pliny, included 6,00,000 foot soldiers, 30,000 cavalry, and 9,000 elephants, besides chariots. Kautilya classifies troops into the hereditary ones (Maula), the hired troops (bhritakas), troops supplied by forest tribes (atavivala), and those furnished by the allies (mitravala). Kautilya also talks about the salaries of different ranks of military commanders. For example, the Senapati received a salary of 48,000 pannas per annum. It was only in the days of the last Maurya that we find a Senapati overshadowing the king and transferring the allegiance of the troops to himself.

2) Trade:

There was an increase in revenue due to well organised taxation system. ‘Bali’ was a tax to be given in the scale of the land under cultivation. ‘Bhag’ was a share from the tax on production. Agricultural land and the tax acquired from agricultural production was the basic foundation of the administrative system. Industries gained momentum during this period. Cloth production was the most important industry. Apart from that metallurgy, carpentry, ivory art, spinning, weaving and many such professions began. The prosperous agriculture and flourishing industries led to a flourishing internal and foreign trade. Internal trade was carried through the land route and waterways. Many royal ways were built on the trade routes during this period. Many roads such as Pataliputra to Takshashila, Pataliputa to Kashi-Ujjaini, Pataliputra to Tamralipti camne into existence. The increasing use of iron and also the different types of iron implements painted pottery and its distribution up to southern parts of India indicates the expansion of trade. Bharuch, Roruk (Rodi), Sopara, Tamralipti, and many such ports on the coastal region of India were famous for trade purpose. Exports were carried out on a large scale from India to countries like Greece, Rome, Egypt, Syria, Bactria, Sri Lanka, etc. The commodities such as cotton and silk cloth, linen, jari clothes, spices, diamonds, ivory, perfumes, etc. were exported from India to these countries. Glass articles, dyes, etc. were imported. The government levied taxes on the production of goods as well as on its import and export. Vartani (transport tax) and shulk (octroi) are found to be mentioned in contemporary sources. In return, the government took up the responsibility of the security of the goods. For the protection of the trading community, the government had appointed officers like Chorarajjuka and Seemaswami.

3) Literature:

Literature reflects the thought process of the people and the political, social, economic, and religious conditions. During the Mauryan period, along with the literature in the Sanskrit language, the use of Pali and Ardhamagadhi literature in the Prakrit language is also seen. For the spread of Jainism and Buddhism, literature was created in the Prakrit language. The Prakrit languages mainly included Pali, Ardhamagadhi, Shaurseni, Maharashtri, etc. The world-famous work of Panini’s Ashtadhyayi was composed in this period. Bhasa was one of the great dramatists in Sanskrit literature.

The thirteen dramas written by him include ‘Swapnavasavadattam’. The most important work of this period is Kautilya’s Arthashastra. This text is divided into 15 sections including a total of 180 topics. The topics from King to Ganikas and politics to war strategies are found to be discussed in Arthashastra During the Mauryan period, along with Sanskrit literature, many texts were written in Prakrit language. Especially the orders of Ashoka are inscribed on the rocks and pillars in the Prakrit language. The famous texts of Buddhist literature, Tipitaka, were edited during this period. Among the texts of Tipitakas, Abhidhammapitaka was composed after the third Buddhist council. This period was very rich from the point of view of Jain literature. The texts like ‘Dashavaikalika’, ‘Upasakadashanga’, ‘Acharanga Sutra’, ‘Bhagvati Sutra’ etc. were composed during this period.

4) Art and Architecture:

During the Mauryan period, the artists had acquired the skill of cutting and carving stone to the degree of a mirror polish, which became famous as the Mauryan Polish. The monuments, pillars, caves, and their walls were made of hard rocks, which were polished so immaculately that they resembled mirrors. Dr. V.A. Smith stated that “The skill of the stonecutter may be said to have attained perfection and to have accomplished tasks which would perhaps be found beyond the power of the 20th century”.The famous Chauri bearer Yakshini found in Didarganj is supposed to be one of the famous carved statues.

The rock-cut caves was considered as the beginning of the Mauryan architecture. The rock-cut caves at Barabar and Nagarjuna hills are the first datable rock-cut caves of India. There was a huge palace of Chandragupta at Pataliputra, which was compared by Megasthenes to the Palace of Susa (capital of Iran). The high brick fortification wall of the palace and the inner buildings were made of stone. During Ashoka’s reign, stupas were built on a large scale, where Ashoka was rumoured to construct around 84000 stupas.

5) Social life:

The remains found in the excavations reflect the rich lifestyle of the people. Megasthenes mentions the seven classes of Indian society based on their profession; Priest, Cultivators, Shephards and Hunters, Traders and Labours, Soldiers, Spies, and Government officials. The life of the people was prosperous and happy. The class of entertainers is mentioned which includes actors, dancers, singers, musicians, etc. Chariot and horse racing, wrestling as well as dance and singing competition were the popular means of entertainment. Gambling was also in practice but the state had control over it. The system of education during the Vedic period continued during the Mauryan period. The cities of Taxila, Kashi Ayodhya, etc.

Became great centres of higher education and art during the Mauryan period. Female education began to be neglected during this period. But according to Kautilya’s Arthashastra, it seems that during the Mauryan period women were given certain rights. Women had complete rights over the Stridhana. The Government took care of the orphan and disabled women. Many women spies were a part of the intelligence system. The Mauryan period has multiple dimensions and hence it has obtained a historical significance. After the death of Ashoka, the centralised administration continued to grow weak and the empire disintegrated into small kingdoms. In the Post-Mauryan period Shunga, Kanva, and Satavahana rulers rebuilt their empires. Vedic religion, varnashrama system, and Vedic lifestyle once again gained importance.

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