Describe the central, provincial and local government of the maurayan empire.
Indian history entered into a new era with the beginning of the Mauryan Empire, as for the first time India attained political unity and administrative uniformity. The Mauryan Empire was divided into four provinces with Patliputra, as the capital. The names of the four provincial capitals were Tosali in the East, Ujjayain in the West, Suvarnagiri in the South, and Taxila in the North. Mauryans developed an organized and an elaborate system of administration. There was central administration directly under the King. Besides there was provincial administration, local administration, revenue administration, judicial administration, and military administration.
The King was the supreme and sovereign authority of the Mauryan administration.He had the supreme executive, legislative, and judicial powers vested in him. He was responsible for the safety and security of his kingdom. He laid down the general lines of policy that was to be followed by all officials. He and other officers of the royal administration. In addition, the King was the supreme commander of the army and head of the entire military entire.
The Mauryan Empire (before Ashoka) was essentially a Hindu State. According to the Hindu concept, the supreme sovereign of the State was ‘Dharma’ or law and the King was to be its guardian. The King could never dare to defy the laws. He was aided and advised by a ‘Mantri Parishad’ (Council of Ministers) and he was to be guided by it in conduct of day-to-day administration. This became more of an obligation during times of emergencies (war or a natural disaster or health epidemics). The Brahmins had a great influence on the King and the latter was required not to disobey them. Instead, he always looked towards their support. Also, as the powers of the Mauryan government was of a decentralized nature, the provincial governor and provincial ministers had the right to be consulted by the King, especially, in all provincial matters.
The number of ministers in the Council of Ministers varied and was not fixed. The ministers had to qualify by showing their ability, especially in terms of religion and money. In times of emergency, the King was always to be guided by the majority decision of the Council of Ministers.
Besides, there was a well organized hierarchy of bureaucrats, who looked after the executive, judicial, and revenue offices. The entire administration system was organized into departments, each of which was headed by a Superintendent, known as ‘Adhyaksha.’ The Adhyaksha was assisted by clerks, accountants, and spies. In addition, there were two posts of high officials, namely the ‘Samaharta’ and the ‘Sannidhata.’ The Samaharta was the collector general of revenue for the Mauryan Empire. He had control over the expenditure part also. The post of Sannidhata was the officer-in-charge of the treasury and store. Besides, there were other officers like Army Minister, Chief Priest, and Governor of Forts.
The entire Empire was divided into two parts:
- The kingdom that was under the direct rule of the King,
- The vassal states
The Mauryan territory that was directly ruled by the King was divided into a number of provinces called ‘Janapadas.’ Ashoka had five provinces with capitals namely Taxila, Ujjain, Tosali, Suvarnagiri, and Pataliputra. Each province was subdivided into a number of districts and each district was again subdivided into a number of units. However, in addition to these centrally ruled Mauryan territories, there were vassal states. They enjoyed a great deal of autonomy. The provincial administration worked on similar lines of the central administration. The Mauryan Emperor directly ruled the central and eastern parts of the Empire. The other areas were ruled by the provincial Governors. The provincial Governors were responsible for day-to-day conduct of administration of provinces. They were expected to consult on important matters. (the central administration). There were also the district officers, reporters, clerks, who helped in the smooth running of provincial administration.
The district administration was in the charge of ‘Rajukas’, whose position and functions are similar to today’s district collectors. He was assisted by ‘Yuktas’ or subordinate officials. In the urban was, there was a Municipal Board with 30 members. There were six committees with five Board members in each to manage the administration of cities. The six committees were:
1) Committee on Industrial Arts
2) Committee on Foreigners
3) Committee on Registration of Births and Deaths
4) Committee on Trade and Commerce
5) Committee on Supervision of Manufacturers
6) Committee on Collection of Excise and Custom Duties
Village administration was in the hands of ‘Gramani’ and his superior was called ‘Gopa,’ who was incharge of ten to fifteen villages. Census was a regular activity and the village officials were to number the people along with other details such as their castes and occupations. They were also to count the animals in each house.
Census in towns was conducted by municipal officials, especially to track the movements of both foreign and indigenous population. The data collected were cross checked by the spies. Census appears to have become a permanent institution during the administration of the Mauryas.