Life in Maurya Empire

Various aspects of life in Maurya era are as follows:

Social Life

There was a well developed “caste” system as per the accounts of Megasthenes. Megasthenes writes that there were 7 castes viz. philosophers (he indicated Brahmins), farmers, soldiers, herdsmen, craftsmen, magistrates and soldiers. So based upon this account we can figure out that 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 was 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 forcibly. The 14th book of Arthashastra Secret Means (Aupanisadika) deals with a number of rites and practices.


The age of Mauryas is known to have contributed to arts significantly. The palace of Chandragupta Maurya at the Pataliputra was mostly made up of wood. The traces of this palaces have been found at Kumhrar near Patna. It’s a 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 chiseled and highly polished.
  • A Coomaraswamy has categorizes the Mauryan art into two distinct categories 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.
  • Asoka erected a Pillar to mark the spot in Deer Park Sarnath near Varanasi, where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma and where the Buddhist Sangha was founded. It has 4 lions standing back to back. The four lions symbolize the Power, Courage, Pride and Confidence and rest on a Circular abacus which is girded by 4 animals. These 4 animals viz. Lion, Elephant, Horse, Bull are the guardians of 4 directions viz. North, East, South and West respectively. The Chakra with 24 spokes has been chosen to be placed at the center of the Indian Flag on 22 July 1947. The Chakra symbolized


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 to 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 parts of the produce.

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 those time.

The trade routes were called Vanikpatha.

Provincial Administration:

The Whole empire was divided into 5 provinces (probably). They were as follows:

The Northern Province Uttarpatha was having its capital at Taxila and some mandals were Shakal, Kandhar and Saurastra.

The Southern province Dakshinpatha’s capital was Suvarngiri. The eastern Prachyapatha was having its capital at Toshali near Kalinga. 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 3 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 Grama. 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 Sthanaka. Most disputes were solved by Gramika in Open Panchayats.

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  • santhosh

    7th caste was councillors.