Maurya dynasty was one of the powerful dynasty of Magadha in Indian history. Chandragupta Maurya overthrown Nanda dynasty around 322 BCE, and founded Maurya dynasty. He built strong and powerful army and conquered almost all Indian subcontinent, except south most region(Now Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Nearby) and Kalinga(now Odisha). That was the first time in Indian history that most of all Indian subcontinent came under same royal umbrella.
He was succeeded by his son Bindusara. By continuing his father’s conquest he annexed all 16 states between Bay of Bengal and Arabian sea except Kalinga. Very little is known about Bindusara’s rule other than that he maintained links with his western neighbor and favored Ajivikas.
Ashoka, the successor and son of Bindusara was the most powerful king of Indian subcontinent. He ruled over the large part of India, South Asia and beyond stretching from present day Afghanistan, parts of Persia in the west to Bengal and Assam in east and Mysore in south. He also conquered Kalinga. His time is considered to be the most prosperous time in the history of India. After the bloody war of Kalinga he became the lay discipline of Buddhism and played major role for spreading Buddhism in India.
Dasaratha, grandson of Ashoka, succeeded him, and then Maurya throne passed to the Samprati. He also known as Jain Ashoka because of spreading Jainism in India. After him there wasn’t any significant ruler in Maurya dynasty and Magadha started to lose its territories and started to weaken.
At last Pushyamitra Shunga(Mauryan army general) , revolted against last Maurya king Brihadratha and killed him. Thus he put an end to the Maurya dynasty and founded Shunga dynasty.
First time in the Indian history most of the Indian subcontinents were united and came under the same rule and unified administration. Mauryan administration was controlled by the King.
The Supreme Government consisted of two main parts:
- The King
- The “Councilers” and “Assessors” (Mahamatras and Amatyas or Sachivas)
According to the Arthashashtra King was the supreme and sovereign authority of the Empire. The possession of the material resources of a great empire and control over the vast standing army gives him real power. He had military, judicial, legislative, as well as executive functions. The executive functions includes the posting of watchman, attending to the accounts of receipts and expenditure, appointment of ministers, priests and superintendents, correspondence with the Mantriparisad or Council of Ministers, collection of the secret information gathered by spies, etc.. It was the king who laid down the broad lines of policy and issued rescripts for the guidance of his officers and the people.
The Sachivas or Amatyas assist the king in deliberating on public affairs. The most important amongst Amatyas were Mantrins. They were given highest salary 48,000 panas(Pana was a silver coin = 3/4 of tola) per annum. In addition to the Mantris there was the Mantriparishad (Council of ministers). They do not appear to have consulted on ordinary occasions, but were summoned among with the Mantrins in urgent situations. The king was to be guided by the decision of the majority.
Besides Mantrins and Mantriparishad, there were another class of Amatyas who filled the great administrative and judicial departments. They were in charge of the
- Measuring the rivers
- Inspect the closed reservoirs from which water is distributed by canals
- Collect the taxes
- Measuring the rivers
- Superintend the occupations connected with land, carpenters, workers in a brass and miners.
- Superintend the public roads, and place a pillar at every ten stadia to indicate byways and distances.
Megasthenes refers that those who have charge of the city divided into six committees of the five members. Each committee responsible for one of the following department.
- The navy
- The infantry
- The cavalry
- The chariots
To make the efficient administration of huge empire, The empire was divided into 5 provinces.
- Uttarapatha — capital, Taxila
- Avantirattha — capital, Ujjayini
- Dakshinapatha — capital, Suvarnagiri
- Kalinga — capital, Tosali
- Prachya, prachina — capital, Pataliputra
The Provincial governor were mostly princes from scion of the royal dynasty. They were responsible for maintenance of law and order and collection on taxes for Empire. The provinces further divided into smaller units and arrangements were made for both rural and urban administration.
According to Kautilya, the central administration maintained about two dozen departments of state. Each department controlled social and economic activities. The Mauryas maintained a vast bureaucracy, in no other period of ancient history do we hear of as many officers as in mauryan times. Mauryan strong administrative system backed by an elaborate system of espionage. Various spies collected intelligence about foreign enemies and kept an eye on numerous officers.
Striking feature of their social development was to use shudra laborers and war captives in agriculture. Around 150,000 war captives brought by Ashoka from Kalinga to Pataliputra may have been engaged in agriculture. Maurayan also developed the irrigation facilities and regulated water supply for the benefit of agriculture.
According to the Megasthenes, Maurya empire officials measured the land as in Egypt and inspected the channels through which water was distributed into smaller channels.
The Maurayan period set a landmark in the system of taxation in ancient India. The list of taxes mentioned in Arthashastra is very impressive. The taxes collected from peasants, artisans and traders. This required strong and effective system for assessment, collection and storage. Mauryan gave greater importance to assessment than storage and deposit.
Highest officer in charge of assessment and collection known as Samaharta. The another important officer was Sannidhata – chief custodian of the treasury and store house. The epigraphic evidence also suggest that taxes were also collected in kind. These granaries were also meant to help local people in the difficult times like famine, drought etc..
A considerable part of the revenue was spent on the army. The artisans, too, received maintenance from the Imperial exchequer. Herdsmen and hunters received an allowance of grain in return for clearing the land of wild beasts and fowls. Another class which benefited from the royal bounty were the philosophers among whom were included Brahmanas as well as Sramanas or ascetics. Vast sums were also spent for irrigation, construction of roads, erection of buildings and fortifications, and establishment of hospitals in the days of Chandragupta’s grandson Ashoka.
Art and Architecture
Another remarkable achievement of the Maurayan time was their contribution in art. Except that of relics of the palace of Chandragupta, everything else is Asokan.
They introduced stone masonry on a wide scale. The polished pillars found throughout India shows their technical skill to polish them. Also it proves that transport had spread to far and wide. These pillars were free standing columns and were not used as supports to any structure.
Hewing caves from the rocks was also started by Maurayan artisans. They usually used by monks to live on. Earliest example are Barabar caves at a distance of 30km from Gaya. Later this art spread to western and southern India.
Around 300 BC, terracotta art was famous and in the time of Mauryas it reached another level. Animals mostly elephants and women in form of mother goddess represented by this art.
Because of the heavy use of iron so many other material skills also developed like prevalence of writing, punch marked coins, an abundance of beautiful pottery called Northern Black Polished Ware, introduction to burnt bricks and ring wells.
This time also evidenced development of tools like axes, hoes, spades, sickles, ploughshares and spoked wheel.
Along with iron, art of making steel also spread throughout India, and that may have led to jungle clearance. Using steel many innovation made in cultivation method and that led rise of chedi kingdom in Kalinga. Same true for Satavahanas, even if they were ruling dynasty of Deccan, in some ways their state was projection of Mauryas.