Land Revenue in Ancient India

Land revenue system in ancient India was based upon income from land, thus rated according to the productivity and kind of soil. Manu fixed it between 1/6, 1/8 or 1/12 according to the quality of the soil. Gautama raises the lower limit to 1/10. Sukra’s schedule gives 1/6, 1/4, 1/3 and 1/2 according to the nature of soil, rainfall and irrigation facilities .

The Arthashstra mentions that the upland or Sthala and lowland i.e. Kedara should be entered differently in the land revenue books. The tax rate is 1/10 as per Arthashashtra initially, but later Kautilya mentioned about two taxes viz. Bali and Shadbhaga or Sadbhaga which is 1/6th.

In summary, the assessment of land varied as per the quality of the land and nature of the crop in ancient India. The King’s share did not necessarily mean a fixed share. It was determined by consideration of fertility of the soil and by the needs of the State or of the cultivator. The system of measurement and survey and differentiation of soil according to productivity also indicate that land revenue assessment was not permanent but revised at intervals although a constant revision was not necessary.

Megasthenes states that Maurya officers were most likely concerned with the measurement and supervision of alluvial deposits for revenue purposes.

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