The administrative system during the Gupta dynasty was found more or less similar to that of the Mauryan Empire. At the time of the Gupta rule, there was political harmony in ancient India. During this period, the Empire was classified into administrative divisions like Rajya, Rashtra, Desha, and Mandala. This denotes the importance being given to administrative decentralization. The administrative divisions helped the rulers to systematically control their territories. The period of Gupta’s has been described, as the golden age in ancient India. There was consolidation of northern India under one political umbrella, which ushered in an era of orderly growth and development.
We will discuss Gupta administration under the following headings:
Monarchy was the form of government during the Gupta Age and it has been hailed, as a benevolent monarchy. The King adopted pompous titles such as Parameshvara, Maharajadhiraja, and Parambhattaraka. The King was the highest authority and wielded wide powers to enable smooth functioning of the Empire. He enjoyed political, administrative, military, and judicial powers. The theory of the divinity of Kings was popular during this period, which added to the royal power and prestige. They were looked upon, as Gods. Though the King possessed extensive powers, he did not rule in a tyrannical manner. Council of ministers and several other officials assisted the King in day to day performance of his duties.
The Gupta Kings appointed all governors and military and civil officials and the latter were responsible to the King. The King conferred all honors and titles. The King was the custodian of all land in the Empire. He looked into works like building of dams, imparting of justice, recovery of taxes, and provision of shelter to needy. The Kings could never afford to be selfish despots. They had to be ruled, according to the principles of ‘Rajya Dharma.’ There were also ministers and high officials to aid and advice him and he shared powers with them. The Emperor was assisted by a council of ministers also known, as Mantri Parishad. The Prime Minister of the state, known, as Mantri Mukhya was among the prominent ones in the council.
The other portfolios such as military affairs, law and order matters, and such others were held by different officials known, as Mahasandhi Vigrahaka, Amatya, Mahabaladhikrita, and Mahadandnayaka. All important matters were decided in a joint sitting of the King and his ministers. The King used to respect the opinion given by his ministers. Being a benevolent monarch, the King was always concerned with the well being of his subjects. He toured the country to keep himself abrupt with the social and economic life of the people.
The Guptas organized a system of provincial and local administration. The Empire was divided into divisions called ‘Bhukth’ and each Bhukti was placed under the charge of an ‘Uparika.’ The Bhuktis were divided into districts or Vishayas and each Vishaya was under a Vishayapati. The Vishayapatis were generally members of royal family. They were assisted in the work by a council of representatives.
The city was governed by a Parishad and the head was known, as Nagara-Rakshaka. Purapala Uparika was another officer and the Nagara-Rakshaka worked under him. Also, there was a special officer, known as Avasthika, who acted, as the Superintendent of Dharamsalas. Professional bodies were given considerable attention. Artisans, merchants, and bankers organized their own guilds and managed their own affairs.
The guild merchants looked after trade in the cities. The village was the smallest unit of administration. Gramika was the head of the village. Other officials known, as Dutas or messengers, headman, and Kartri were also there. Gramika was assisted by a village assembly. During the Guptas, the rural bodies like Panchayats were incharge of the welfare of villagers. These rural bodies comprised of the headman and elders of the villages. Hence, one can construe that the Guptas promoted local participation at all levels of the administration.
The duties of revenue administration were carried out by officials like Viniyuktaka, Rajuka, Uparika, Dashparadhika, and such others. From among the 18 sources of revenue, land revenue was the chief one. It was generally fixed at one-sixth of the total produce. Also, land revalue was an important source of income. The greater part of the revenue generated was spent on public welfare.
Land tax was levied on cultivators, who had no land rights. It was one sixth of the total produce. There were also other sources of income like income tax known, as Bhaga, custom duty, mint duty, inheritance tax, and gift tax. In addition to these taxes, fine such as Dasaparadha that was imposed on the offenders, was a source of income.
Salaries were usually paid in the form of land grants (in lieu of cash). Such land grants gave the beneficiaries hereditary rights over the land. However, the King had the power to take back the land. The lands given to the Brahmins had no tax on them.
Waste lands were brought under cultivation and pasture lands were protected. The Gupta rulers promoted irrigation facilities and this enabled increase in agricultural production.
Gupta rulers had a huge army. They maintained a standing army and the use of cavalry and horse archery were in vogue. The territories of the Empire were kept under watchful eyes. The military officers, referred in inscriptions were the Senapati, Mahasenapati, Baladhikrita, Mahabaladhikrita, Dandanayaka, Sandhivigrahika, and Mahasandhivigrahika,
They were the key functionaries in the military administration. The military had four wings namely the information wing, cavalry wing, elephant wing, and the navy. The main weapons of war were bows and arrows, swords, axes, and spears.
TRADE AND BUSINESS
The Empire carried out trade activities with countries like China, Ceylon, several European countries, and the East Indian islands. This made the Empire become economically and strategically strong, which led to annexation of new states and thereof the expansion of the territorial boundaries of the Empire.