Mahajanapada and Mauryan Empire

Sixteen Mahajanapadas

  • In the 8th century BC, India could be broadly understood in terms of five large regions viz. Madhyadesa (the middle country), Pratichya (western lands), Prachya (Eastern region), Uttarpatha (the land in the north of Vindhyas and Dakshinpatha (the land south of Vindhyas).
  • Around sixth century BC, the territories of sixteen Mahajanapadas got clearly marked. These included Kasi, Kosala, Anga, Magadha, Vajji or Vriji, Malla, Chedi or Cheti, Vamsa or Vatsa, Kuru, Panchala, Machcha or Matsya, Surasena, Assaka or Ashmaka , Avanti, Gandhara & Kamboja.
  • The names of at least 9 among them are given in the Vedic Literature.
  • Panini in the 4th century BC mentions as many as 22 different Janpadas, but also mentions 3 most important viz. Magadha, Kosala and Vatsa.


Evolution of Mahajanapadas

  • The society in Vedic period was rural, where smallest political unit was a However, some later Vedic texts detail about the Janpadas such as Kuru, Panchala, Matysa, Kunti, Kikata, Jayminia, Kashi, Magadha, Anga, Kamboja etc.
  • The rise of Janpadas is mainly attributed to the establishment of settled agriculture communities. The development of an agriculture based economy led to increase in crops and cattle wealth coupled with use of iron in technology. The society was now totally divided into 4 Varna. Based upon occupation, new labour class and landed classes emerged. The landed class was known as The trade flourished and the towns, which were either located on trade routes such as Mathura or located, near the banks of rivers such as Magadha developed. This transition also saw an emergence of taxing, standing army, territorial powers etc.


The sixteen Mahajanapadas



  • Its Capital was Banaras. Kasi was located on the confluence of Ganga and Gomti rivers and somewhere around today’s Varanasi.


  • Its capital was Shravasti. It was located in the Eastern Uttar Pradesh. It covers today’s districts Faizabad, Gonda, Bhahraich etc. and was bordered by River Gomti on the west, River Sadaniva in the east, Nepal hills in the north and River Syandika in the South.


  • Its capital was Champa. It covered the modern districts of Munger and Bhagalpur in Bihar It was later annexed to Magadha by Bimbisar. Magadh was on its west and Raja Mahal hills on the west.


  • The initial capital of Magadha was Girivraja or Rajgriha. It covered the modern districts of Patna, Gaya, Shahabad of Bihar. It was bordered by River Son non North and Ganga on South.

Vajji or Vriji

  • Its capital was Vaishali. It was located on the north of River Ganga in Bihar. The seat of 8 smaller clans / kingdoms called “Athakula” out of which Lichhavais, Janatriks, Videhas were very important. It was separated from Kosala from river Gandak.


  • Its capital was Kushinagar, Pawa. It covered the modern districts of Deoria, Basti, Gorakhpur in Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

Chedi or Cheti

  • It was located in the Bundelkhand division of Madhya Pradesh regions to the south of river Yamuna and along river Betwa or Vetravati. Its capital was Suktimati or Sotthivati located somewhere near Banda in Uttar Pradesh.


  • Its capital was Kausambi. It covered the modern districts of Allahabad and Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh.


  • Its capital was Indraprastha / Hastinapur / Isukara. It covered the modern Haryana & Delhi-Meerut-Ghaziabad region. Its eastern border was River Yamuna.


  • Its capitals were Ahichhtra (Western Panchal) and Kampilya (eastern Panchala). It covered modern day Rohilkhand division & Upper Gangetic Plains of today’s Uttar Pradesh & Uttarakhand.


  • Its capital was Viratnagar. It was located in the Alwar, Bharatpur, Jaipur districts of Rajasthan.


  • Its capital was Mathura. It was located on the junction of Uttarpatha and Dakshinpatha around Mathura of Today.


  • Its capital was Potali, Potana or Podana. Located on the banks of the Godavari River. Its capital was Potali, Potana or Podana, which now lies in the Nandura Tehsil, Buldana district in the Indian state of Maharashtra and it was the only Mahajanapada situated to the south of the Vindhya Range, and was in Dakshinapatha


  • Its capital was Ujjain & Mahismati. Located on present day Malwa region. It was divided into two parts by the Vindhyas, the northern part had its capital at Ujjayini and the southern part had its centre at Mahishmati.


  • Its capital was Taxila. Covered the regions between Kabul and Rawalipindi in North Western Provinces, Peshawar, the Potohar plateau and on the Kabul River.


  • Its capital Rajpur. It was located around Hndukush mountains of Kashmir.


Brief Political History of Magadha

  • Of all the Mahajanapadas, Magadha eventually emerged as most powerful mainly because of its peculiar geographical location. It was bordered by Ganga River in North, Son River in West, Vindhya ranges in south and Champa in East. The natural barriers protected Magadha from three sides and it was not easy to invade such a territory.
  • Earliest known king of Magadha was Brihadrath whose name appears in Rig-Veda as well as Puranas. His son Jarasandha was killed by Bhima in Mahabharata war. The Brihadrath dynasty was followed by Pradyotas. By that time, the practice of killing one’s father to usurp the throne had crept in. The Pradyotas were notorious for patricide and irked people overthrew them in a civil revolt.
  • Next in the line was Haranyaka dynasty, whose great King Bimbisara is remembered as most powerful King of Magadha before Mauryas Bimbisara was a contemporary of Buddha as well as Mahavira.
  • Bimbisara used matrimonial alliances and sending envoys to expand his power. Since patricide was in vogue those days, Bimbisara also became a victim of it. His son Ajatshatru starved him to death.
  • Ajatshatru was also a valorous king who expanded his empire by fighting war with Kashi, Licchhavis and others. During his reign, Mahavira, Buddha and also Makkhali Gosala or Gosala Maskariputta, the founder of Ajivikas path attained Nirvana.
  • Ajatshatru was a devout Buddhist as well as Jain. He enshrined the relics of Buddha in a stupa and also renovated many monasteries. Under his sponsorship, the first Buddhist Council was organized at Sattapani caves in Rajgir. By that time, Rajgir served as capital of Magadha.
  • Ajatshatru built a fort at Pataliputra and his son Udayin developed Pataliputra as a city.
  • Ajatshatru was also a victim of patricide by his son Udayin. Same fate was shared by almost all kings of Haranyaka dynasty.
  • Again there was a civil revolt and public placed Shishunaga on throne of Magadha. Shishunaga was amatya (minister) of last Haranyaka king Nagadasaka.
  • Kalasoka, the son of Shishunaga made Pataliputra as new capital of Magadha. He may be of dark complexion as the contemporary Sri Lankan texts mention his name as Kakavarna (of color like a crow). Kalsoka sponsored second Buddhist council in 383 BC under monk Sabakami. His ten sons ruled simultaneously before Magadha slipped into hands of Nandas.
  • The founder of Nanda dynasty was Mahapadmananda. Since he had one of the largest standing armies in the history of world {2 Lakh infantry, 8000 war chariots, 6000 elephants!}, he is also called Ugrasena. His army was so large that he could arrange it in a lotus shape {Padmavyuh} and he was so wealthy that his wealth could be counted in Padma (One quadrillion). He subdued all the contemporary powers and consolidated power of Magadha.
  • Mahapadmananda, who is thought to be from humble origin {son of a barber} was the first nonkshatriya ruler in the history of India. Nandas were also the first empire builders of India.
  • The Nandas ruled for around 100 years. During the reign of last Nanda ruler Dhanananda, Alexander invaded from west. Alexander was able to cross Beas but before he could cross Ganga, he heard that Dhananda’s 2 Lakh strong army is waiting for his men for a bloody massacre. He lost the confidence and moved back. While moving back, he died on the way probably due to Malaria. However, this invasion along with several other such invasions from west had put the North-West on boil. In Magadha, the popularity of Dhanananda had went down because of his lavishness and greed that led to extortion and corruption. The situation was such that any brave heart could seize the opportunity to topple the Nandas. This opportunity was cashed by Kautilya, who was once thrown out of Nanda’s court.
  • To seek revenge, he groomed Chandragupta Maurya, the brave young man, who is thought to be the son of Dhananda’s shudra concubine Mura.
  • Chandragupta first gave a death blow to Greeks in north-west and then attacked and dethroned the Nandas. Nandas life was spared and they were asked to run with as much treasure as much their chariot could carry.
  • The most important implication of rise of Chandragupta Maurya was that India was, for the first time perhaps, united politically.
  • Meanwhile, Alexander was succeeded by his one of his generals Seleucus, who launched a campaign to get back the Greek territories lost to Mauryas. He was able to cross Indus, but could not succeed to defeat Chandragupta. An alliance was made in which Seleucus returned some of the won areas to Chandragupta. Chandragupta gifted some 500 war elephants to Seleucus and also some kind of matrimonial alliance was made in which son / daughter of one was married to the daughter / son of other.
  • Seleucus also sent Megasthenes to court of Chandragupta.
  • In the old age, Chandragupta abdicated the throne in favour of his son Bindusara and became a disciple of Jain Monk Bhadrabahu. He spent his last days at Sharavanbelgola and supposed to have died practicing Santhara
  • Chandragupta’s successor Bindusara (also known as Amitraghata- destroyer of enemies) carried on the legacy of Mauryas and cemented good alliances with Greek King Antiochus-I. He ruled for some 25 years and was successes by Ashoka after a bloody battle of succession among his sons.
  • Before becoming ruler of Magadha, Asoka had shown his valour in Taxila and Avanti where he was sent by his father mainly to subdue the revolts. He served as Governor of Taxila and Ujjain before terminating as many as 99 other contenders to the throne of his father. He was such a cruel person that some texts call him Chandashoka.
  • During the time of Ashoka, the boundaries of Maurya empire extended to maximum by that time. He invaded and annexed Kalinga mainly because Kalinga controlled land and sea routes to South India. However, this battle changed his mind and introduced a new element in the politics of India in the form of cultural coherence based on the moral values of Buddhism and a norm of benignity, civility and humanity in matters of governance. However, such a policy was bound to have its side effects on polity after Ashoka’s death. Asoka died in 232 BC after ruling for four decades. His sons could not survive the waves of changes. His six successors including Jaluka, Samprati and Dasaratha could rule for only 52 years.
  • The life of last Maurya ruler Brihadrath was troubled. By this time, there were repeated attacks of Yavanas / Greeks from western side. His brave commander Pushyamitra Shunga was able to repel two attacks of Greeks but was not happy with the attitude of his master. He killed Brihadrath in 185-184 BC and thus closed the chapter of Mauryas from Indian history, thus founding Sunga dynasty.
  • Pushyamitra and his son Agnimitra ruled from Pataliputra. The later Shungas made Vidisha as their capital. However, by the time of Shungas, many independent rulers had appeared in west as well as south.
  • The most remarkable was rise of Satavahanas in south and Indo-Greeks, Kushanas, and many others in west and Kharvela in Kalinga (east). Thus, the boundaries of Magadh by the time of Shunga had narrowed down to some parts of Central India only
  • The last Shunga ruler Devabhuti was killed by his own amatya (minister) Vasudeva Kanva around 73BC. Thus, Magadha slipped into hands of Kanvas, who were Brahmins by caste. Only few rulers of this Kanva dynasty are known on the basis of numismatics. This dynasty was finally overthrown by Satavahanas in 30BC and thus once mighty Magadha was broken into many small parts ruled by different dynasties at different periods.


Important Facts on Maurya and Shunga Rule



  • Tisya was the name of one of the brothers of Asoka. The Sri Lankan texts portrait Ashoka as a cruel prince, who terminated all of his 99 brothers except his uterine brother Tisya for throne.


Ashoka’s Names

  • Ashoka has been mentioned by different names in different texts and edicts. In most of the edicts, he is mentioned as Devanampiya and Piyadassi.
  • In Babhru Inscription, he is mentioned as Piyadassi laja Magadhe (Piyadassi, King of Magadha). The Maski edict mentions his name as Asoka while Puranas name him Asokavardhana. Girnar Inscription of Rudradaman mentions him as Asoka Maurya.




Notes on Edicts and Inscriptions

  • Apart from defining the boundaries of Maurya Empire, the inscriptions of Ashoka provide many details about contemporary life, administration and religion.
  • British archaeologist and historian James Prinsep decoded these edicts.


Geographical dispersion

  • The edicts and inscriptions of Asoka are dispersed in modern India, Pakistan and Nepal.


Languages and Scripts

  • They are in four languages depending on their location viz. Prakrit (Magadhi / Ardhamagadhi), Sanskrit, Greek and Aramaic. The Prakrit and Sanskrit inscriptions have been written in Brahmi script. The inscriptions in Pakistan region were written in Kharoshthi script. Rest were written in Greek or Aramaic scripts. However, the Kandahar Rock Inscription is bilingual.


Subject Matters

  • Most inscriptions discuss about Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism, his efforts to spread Buddhism, his moral and religious precepts, and his social and animal welfare efforts.
  • Prohibition of animal slaughter, festive gathering and killing of animals.
  • Care for man, animals, Brahmins and Monks. “Every human is my child…” Tolerance for all people.
  • King’s desire to know about conditions of people.
  • Welfare measures.
  • Discuss about the Chola, Pandyas, Satyaputra and Keralputras (Cheras) as Kingdoms of Asoka in South India.
  • Sending of Rajukas (rural officers), Pradesikas (district officers) and Yuktas (subordinate officers) to all areas of Kingdom every five year to spread message of Asoka’s Dhamma policy.
  • Supremacy of Dhammaghosha on Bherighosa and appointment of Dhammamahamattas for spread of Dhamma.
  • Asoka’s first Dhammayatra to Bodhgaya and Bodhi tree.
  • Victory over Kalinga and how it changed his heart.
  • Hint about Asoka’s contemporaries’ viz. Antiochus, Ptolemy, Antigonus, Magas, Alexander, Cholas, Pandyas, Kamboj, Nabhaks, Bhoja, Andhra
  • Giving away the Barabara cave to Ajivika sect.
  • The Rummindei Pillar Inscription discusses about Asoka’s visit to Lumbini & exemption of Lumbini from tax. This is the first direct archeological evidence of Buddha’s birth in Lumbini.
  • Nigalisagar Pillar Inscription was originally located at Kapilvastu. It mentions that Asoka increased the height of stupa of Buddha Konakamana to its double size.


Notes on Conquest of Kalinga

  • Several inscriptions have discussed about Asoka’s conquest on Kalinga (modern Odisha). Asoka had invaded Kalinga in 9th year of his reign.

Reason for Invasion

  • Maurya Empire was probably in friendly terms with the southern kings such as Cholas and Pandyas.
  • Kalinga was strategically located because:
    • It was located in the heart of his territory
    • It controlled routes to South India.
    • Once Kalinga was won, there was no much need to win over further territories.
  • The Kalinga war was a horrifying event. It mentions that hundred and fifty thousand people were displaced, hundred thousand people were killed and many hundred thousand perished. The vivid description of Kalinga war is given in 13th Rock Edict. After the war of Kalinga Asoka realized the gravity of war and the event had a profound impact on his mind. He vowed to never wage such war and also directed his sons and grandsons.
  • The 13th Rock edict mentions Asoka’s remorse after the war and his changed attitude from Digvijay to Dhammavijay. Asoka adopted Buddhism in 9th year of his reign after winning Kalinga.
  • Nigrodha, a boy monk, inspired him. Later, he met Moggaliputta Tissa, who ultimately become his mentor. Later his brother Tissa, queen Karuvaki also adopted Buddhism.


Asoka’s Dhamma

  • In the Bhabru edict Asoka says that he has full faith in Buddha, Sangha and Dhamma. But he never forced his ideal on people.
  • The Pillar Edict II says: Dhamma sadhu, kiyam cu dhamme ti? Apasinave, bahu kayane, daya, dane, sace, socaye. The meaning is: Dhamma is good, but what constitutes Dhamma? (It includes) little evil, much good, kindness, generosity, truthfulness and purity.
  • In his Pillar Edict VII, he says that all sects desire both self control and purity of mind.
  • In the Major Rock Edict XII, he directed and determined request for tolerance among different religious sects. He says that he honors all sects and both laymen and monks.
  • We can say that Asoka’s Dhamma is a moral code of ethics. Asoka propagated his Dhamma with zeal and earnestness of a missionary. He mentions in Minor Rock Edict I that as a result of his efforts for 1 year (or more) “Human beings who were unmixed were cause to be mixed with Gods throughout Jambudweepa. This was because of his well planned measures such as celestial Chariots (Vimana), luminous balls of Fire (used for showing light in nights) and elephants. Asoka abandoned the pleasure tours (vihara yatras) and hunting.
  • Asoka sponsored the third Buddhist Council in 250 BC. This council was held at Pataliputra. It was presided by Moggaliputta Tissa. Abhidhamma Pitaka was established in this council.


Reasons for Decline of Maurya Empire

  • Asoka died in 232 BC after a reign of 40 years. The Maurya Empire declined in few decades of his death.
  • Immediately after the death of Asoka, the Maurya territories were partitioned into two parts viz. east and west. This partition disturbed the unity of the empire.
  • Most of the successors of Asoka were weak and could not handle the highly centralized administration which only a robust political leader could manage.
  • The pious policy of Asoka might have its own implications. However, this reason is debated because Asoka had left only policy of annexation but still maintained a huge army.
  • It is argued that a Brahmical revolution ended Maurya empire. This argument has little weight.


The Insignificance of Coins

  • About the Mauryan Empire, we know from the literary sources, Epigraphic Sources and Foreign
  • Accounts but the Numismatic Sources are least significant because the coins were punch marked and did not bear many details. The coins became a major source of historic information only much later after Mauryas.


The Maski Edict revealed name of Asoka

  • Maski is a site near Tungabhadra river in Karnataka’s Raichur District. In 1915, a minor rock edict of Emperor Ashoka (Maski Edict) was discovered by C. Beadon. This edict had the name of King Asoka. Prior to this edict, all edicts had the name of Devanampiye piyadasi and after the discovery of this edict, the real name of Asoka was concluded and it was also concluded that all the edicts found in the Indian Sub Continent were of Asoka.


The lake constructed by Mauryas

  • Junagarh Rock Inscription of Rudradaman-I mentions that Girnar Lake was constructed by the Mauryas and he repaired some parts of this lake. It was a dam built by Mauryas to check floods.


Political, Social and Economical Life during Mauryas

  • The Mauryan imperial polity held sway over nearly three quarters of India’s landmass for a period little less than two centuries. As with any other great empire, the genesis of Maurya Empire was in the economic and military strength of its heartland and the ability of its leaders to asset their military power beyond their frontiers. This ability was asserted by first three emperors of the dynasty. There were three major governance factors behind the Maurya hegemony.
    • First, there was a highly centralized administrative machinery with a steel frame of bureaucratic institutions and machinery comparable to modern Indian administration.
    • Secondly, the administrative diktats were able to infuse a sense of security and belonging to the masses though it demanded strict obedience to the emperor.
    • Third was a contradictory element which made its way after the conquest of Kalinga in the form of moral exhortation inscribed on stone in several parts of the empire. These messages instituted an ideal norm of benign and humane governance as a benchmark of political maturity. This third element did not last long beyond life of Asoka and is called the Mauryan Paradox.



The King

  • King was the supreme source of all powers and was center of all authorities, judiciary and administration. In the highly centralized administration, King used to select ministers, high officials and established a well-planned system of supervision and inspection.


The Mantriparishada

  • King was assisted by his council of Ministers (Mantriparishahda), which was headed by a The mantriparishadadhyakshya was also head of the ubiquitous civil servants called Adhyakshas or Amatyas kept in touch with all sections of the society and made a highly skilled secretariat divided into several departments. Some of these departments and their Adhyakshas are listed below:
    • Akahalapadhyksha (Accountant General )
    • Sannidhata (Royal Treasury)
    • Koshthagara (Treasury Superitendent) )
    • Akaraadhyaksha (Mines Superitendent) )
    • Suvarnaadhyaksha (Gold Superitendent)
    • Panyaadhksha (Commerce Superitendent)
    • Kupyadhyaksha (Forest Officer)
    • Lavanadhyaksha (Salt )
    • Ayudhgaraadhyaksha (Armoury)
    • Tulamanapantavaadhyaksha or Pautavadhyaskh (Weights and Measurements)
    • Sutraadhyaksha (Textiles – spinning and weaving)
    • Sitaadhyaksha (Agriculture)
    • Suradhyaksha (Excise)
    • Navadhyasksha (Shipping and maritime)
    • Mudradhyaksha (Government documents)
    • Pattanadhyaskha (Ports)
    • Lakshanaadhyaskha (Mint)
    • Samstha (Trade Routes )


Provincial Administration:

It is thought that the Maurya empire was divided into 5 provinces.

  1. The Northern Province Uttarpatha was having its capital at Taxila and some mandals were Shakal, Kandhar and Saurastra.
  2. The Southern province Dakshinpatha’s capital was Suvarngiri.
  3. Western province Avantipatha’s capital was Ujjain
  4. The eastern Prachyapatha was having its capital at Toshali near Kalinga.
  5. Magadha was the Central province & Capital of the entire kingdom.


The provinces were administered by either a prince or a member of the royal family which was the viceroy of the king.


District Administration

  • Each district was administered by three officers’ viz. Pradeshika, Rajuka, & Yukta. Pradesika was senior and Rajuka was subordinate. Yukta was subordinate to both of them. It was duty of the Pradesika to tour the kingdom every five year and collect details of the administration.


Village Administration

  • Village was the smallest unit of polity and it was called The head of the grama was a Gramika.
  • The Gramika was not a paid employee of the government but was elected by the village people.
  • The 10 villages were collectively headed by a Gopa and 100 villages were collectively headed by a
  • Gramika in Open Panchayats solved most disputes.


Gudhapurusha or Spies

  • There was a well knitted espionage system of Gudhapurushas in the Mauryan administration. The spies were of two kind viz. Sansthana (stationary) and Sanchari (wandering). These spies were ears and eyes of the King, who kept the king informed about all the details of the bureaucracy. The agents included householders, merchants, disciples, ascetics, pensioners and Poisonous girls called “Vishkanyas”. The ambassadors who were appointed in the foreign countries were also sort of spies.


The Army

  • The overall in charge of the Mauryan army was Commander in chief, who was immediately junior to the King.
  • The Mauryan army included 6 Lakh infantry, 30,000 cavalry, 9000 war elephants, 1000 chariots and other things such as transport equipments. There was a War Council, which was further divided into 6 sub-councils each with 5 members which formulated policy for infantry, cavalry, elephant forces, chariots, navy and commiserate. Navy, Transport in forces and commiserate were Mauryan innovations.



  • There was a separate department of road. The width of the cattle tracks, pedestrians, chariots and other traffic were different. There were trunk roads which were managed by the department of Roads.
  • Trees were planted on both sides of the roads. Inns were constructed at places on the road. Nurseries and drinking water facilities such as wells, canals were provided


The Agriculture

  • Sitadhyaksha was the chief of the Agriculture department. There was full-fledged irrigation department as well. There was a network of canals which provided the water for irrigation as per the measurements of the land i.e. requirements.
  • Pushyagupta, who was a provincial governor of Chandragupta Maurya, constructed “Sudarshan Lake” at Girnar in Gujarat. Rice of different verities was grown, Kondrava was a kind of coarse grain. Wheat, Pulses, Saffron, Mustard, Linseed, Sesamum etc. were grown.


Caste System and Slaves

  • There was a well-developed “caste” system as per the accounts of Megasthenes. Megasthenes writes that there were seven castes viz. philosophers (he indicated Brahmins), farmers, soldiers, herdsmen, craftsmen, magistrates and soldiers. So based upon the account we can figure out that still the caste system was based upon “occupation” rather than birth. The marriage and polygamy both were present.
  • Polygamy was confined to Royal classes. Normal people could marry to other women if there was no “son”. The women had their property in the form of Stridhana, which included bridal gift. Women enjoyed high status. The women were appointed as assistances and bodyguards of King. Offenses against women were punishable. There was no slavery in the sense that people used to work as dasa, out of their own compulsions. No Arya including a Shudra could be made dasa The 14th book of Arthashastra titled Secret Means (Aupanisadika) deals with a number of rites and practices.



The Mauryan Art

  • Mauryas contributed to arts significantly. The palace of Chandragupta Maurya at the Pataliputra was mostly made up of wood. The traces of this palace have been found at Kumhrar near Patna. It’s an 80-pillar hall, which speaks of Mauryan Palace art.
  • A large number of Stupas were built in Mauryan Era, many of them by Asoka. The Buddhist tradition writes that Asoka built 84000 Stupas.
  • The rock cut caves of Mauryan era are at Barabar hills, located near Gaya and they are oldest surviving Rock Cut caves.
  • The Nagarjuna Hills rock cut caves are of Asoka and his successors.
  • The barabar caves have been cut of granite and are large halls which provided place for worshippers.
  • The Asokan Pillars are Monolithic and mostly used Hard sandstone procured from Chunar near Varanasi. They were finely chiselled and highly polished.
  • There are two distinct categories of Maurya art viz. Royal art and popular art. The Yaksha image from parkam and Yakshini Image from Besnagar are examples of popular art. While, the pillars are example of Royal art.



  • There was a proper system of census, which registered all the details of the deaths and births.
  • Nagarika was the census officer who was responsible to keep a ready reference data of the farmers, cattle, traders, cowherds etc. This was to ensure that proper tax is levied.


Public health

  • There were proper hospitals and Bheshajas (Doctors) appointed along with a team of midwifes, nurses etc. Treatment was free universally. Food adulteration was a punishable offense which invited a death sentence.


Crimes and Judiciary

  • Suppression of crimes, maintenance of peace and protection of the subjects were the chief duties of the King.
  • The antisocial elements were called “Kantakas”. There were two kinds of courts “civils” and criminals. The civils courts were Dharmastheya and the Criminal Courts were “Kantakashodhna”. The idea of Kantakashodhna was to weed out the antisocial elements. The king was the source of Supreme Justice. Death Sentences were common and Asoka’s edicts detail that he gave additional time to the persons under the Capital punishment to offer donations and repent so that they get a better life in next birth.


Economy: Revenue & Taxes

  • There was an advanced concept of “responsibility accounting’ which envisaged a preparation of budget and activity planning, reporting on the revenue and expenditure, responsibility for both the revenues and expenditures. The “full treasury” was guarantee to the prosperity of state says Arthashastra.
  • Treasury received revenues from farms, mines, forests, pasture lands etc. Tributes were received when a prince was born. Chief source for revenue was “land tax”. It was 1/6 to 1/4 of the total produce and it was collected by the revenue officers. The more productive lands and irrigated lands invited more tax. All craftsmen (except royal) and traders paid taxes.
  • Taxes were of two kinds viz. Bali & Bhaga. The Bali was religious tribute. Bhaga was the part of the produce. Asoka edict says that Lumbini was exempted from Bali and Bhaga was reduced to 1/8 parts of the reduce. Bhaga, which was 1/6th of the produce, was called shadbhaga (6th part) or Rajbhaga (state part).
  • Maintenance of the Royal palaces, members, ministers and public welfare were the main avenues to use the revenue.


Foreign Trade

  • Foreign Trade by means of the land and sea was prevalent, and it was regulated by passports kinds of documents.
  • Indigo, cotton and silk was most traded property. Antiochus I with his joint rule with Selucus issued coins of Indian standard rather than the Attic Standard. This shows that the Mauryan Economy was world’s largest economy and the currency of Mauryas was accepted worldwide and was main currency of that time. The trade routes were called Vanikpatha.
January 1, 2018

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