Maurya Empire

 

After Alexander’s invasion, India particularly North west region was in a state of ferment as the people from this region tolerated the blows of the repetitive foreign invasions. On the other side, the Nandas were not popular because of its covetousness and greed leading to financial extortions by Dhanananda. These conditions were offering excellent opportunities for somebody to ride the wave of popular discontent to overthrow the unpopular rule. Chandragupta Maurya was that hero, who tried his luck and due to his efforts coupled with his spirit & boldness, India was politically united for the first time in thousands of years.

Three most important Kings of this dynasty have infused the sense of pride in every Indian.

The Mauryan King:

King was the supreme source of all powers and was center of all authorities, judiciary and administration. The Mauryan Administration was highly centralized and King used to select ministers, high official. A well planned system of supervision and inspection was there in the Mauryan Administration.

The normal administrative machinery was as follows:


 

The Council of Ministers:

The King was assisted by the council of Ministers. The ministers were known as Mantrins. The council of Ministers was called Mantriparishahda. The mantriparishadadhyakshya was head of the Council of Ministers
akin to our Chief Ministers and Prime Minister. Composition of Mantriparishada was as follows:


The Superintendents or Adhyakshas:

The second book of Kautilya Arthashastra (The Duties of Government Superintendents) or Adyakshaprachara contemplates a ubiquitous bureaucracy which keeps in touch with all sections of the society. These superintendents were called Adhyakshas. Adhyakshas composed a highly skilled secretariat, divided into several departments. These departments and their superintendents are listed as below:

 


 

Intelligence:

There was a well knitted espionage system in the Mauryan administration. The detectives were known as Gudhapurushas. As per the Arthashastra, there were two kinds of spies 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, poisioners, Poisonous girls which were called “Vishkanyas“.

The ambassadors who were appointed in the foreign countries were also sort of spies.

 

Army:

The overall in charge of the Mauryan army was Commander in chief, who was immediately junior to the King. He was appointed by the king. The 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.

Transport

  1. There was a separate department of road.
  2. 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.
  3. Trees were planted on both sides of the roads.
  4. Inns were constructed at places on the road.
  5. Nurseries and drinking water facilities such as wells, canals were provided

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.

  • “Sudarshan Lake” at Girnar in Gujarat was constructed by Pushyagupta who was a provincial governor of Chandragupta Maurya.

Rice of different verities was grown, Kondrava was a kind of coarse grain. Wheat, Pulses, Saffron, Mustard, Linseed, Sesamum etc. were grown.

 

Reason of Decline of Maurya Empire:

There are several reasons of declining of the Mauryan Dynasty. Some of them are as follows:

  1. Immediately after the death of Asoka, the Mauryan dynasty was partitioned into two parts viz. east and west. This partition disturbed the unity of the empire.
  2. The successors of Asoka were weak rulers and they appeared to not been able to handle the highly centralized tradition of domestic policy of the early Mauryas.
  3. Some scholars say that pious policy of Asoka was responsible to the decline of the empire as it undermined the strength of the empire. This theory is contradicted by some scholars because Asoka only left policy of annexation but never dissolved or weakened his army.
  4. Some scholars say that a Brahminical revolution was a reason of decline; however it is not accepted because Asoka, though patronized Buddhism, but never forced his religion on others.
  5. Some scholars say that there was a pressure on Mauryan economy, which is evident from the low quality punch marked coins in the later Maurya period. However, this idea is not adopted because foreign accounts give details of a flourished economy.
  6. Some scholars such as Romila Thapar say that Mauryan administration was highly centralized and only a prudent ruler could handle this machinery.
  7. Some scholars hold the oppressive policy of the later Mauryan for decline of the empire.

Whatever may be the reason, one thing is clear that Maurya Administration was Highly centralized administration.

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