Mauryan Administration System (Mauryan Government)

The Mauryan Administration System

The Mauryan administration system was efficient and monarchical. The king of the Mauryan government was the head of the Mauryan empire administration. The Mauryan Empire had the privileged of having successful administrators such as Chandragupta Maurya, Bindusara Maurya and Ashoka the Great. The administration of Mauryan Empire was decentralized and the administrative powers were divided into convenient administrative units. Though the units were administered on common system, they were under a rigid central control.

The Mauryan administration can be discussed under the following headings:

  • Mauryan Centralized Administration system (Mauryan centralized government)
  • Mauryan Provincial Administration system (Mauryan provincial government)
  • Mauryan Administration Revenue System
  • Mauryan Judicial System
  • Mauryan Municipal Administration System
  • Mauryan Military Administration
  • Mauryan Administration of Ashoka the Great

Mauryan Centralized Administration

The administration of Mauryan dynasty was controlled by the King. The king was the supreme and sovereign authority of the Mauryan Empire Administration. He had the supreme executive, legislative and judicial power and functions in the government.

As the head of the executive, the Mauryan king maintained social order by punishing the guilty. He was responsible for the safety and security of his kingdom. It was his duty to protect the life and property of his subjects. He was to collect report from the spies. He had to plan different campaigns and movements.

He laid down the general lines of policy to be followed by his subordinate officials. He appointed ministers and other officers of the royal administration.

The Mauryan king was the head of the judicial department. It was his duty to ensure justice to the people and redress their grievances. The Mauryan Empire was vast and this vastness debarred the king from personally disposing of all the cases. But he was the final court of appeal and issued ready judgment. The Mauryan kings remained whole day in the court to hear appeals from the people and in this course he even never cared for these personal amenities. King Ashoka made many reforms in the judicial system of the Mauryan Empire.

The king had the sovereign power of law making and also the power and right to supersede usage and equity.

In addition to all these the king was the supreme commander of the army and head of the Military administration of Mauryan Empire. The King was also the ultimate authority of the bureaucracy. The king also controlled the Mauryan empire revenue system.

It is true that the Mauryan kings enjoyed huge power. But, still there were several limits upon the royal authority. We can summaries these limitations in the following manner:

  • Firstly, 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 merely its guardian.
  • Secondly, the Mauryan king never dared to defy the ancient laws and usage.
  • Thirdly, the king was aided and advised by a Mantri Parishad. In ordinary times he could ignore the advice of his ministers. But in times of emergency it was obligatory on him to hear the individual and collective advice of his ministers.
  • Fourthly, the Brahmins had great influence over the king and even the later dared not to disobey them. Instead he always had to look for their support.
  • Fifthly, as the powers of the Mauryan government was was decentralized in nature, the provincial governor and provincial ministers had right to be consulted by the king especially in all provincial matters.

The Maurya kings were benevolent despots and they were always eager to do well of their people. It was essentially for this reason that the king dared not to do anything which make people unhappy and alienate them.

This is so far the power and position of the king is concerned. But he could not run this vast empire alone. So he had to depend on various officials and ministers. The Mauryan King had to depend on the council of ministers for the success of the Mauryan administration. The Council of Ministers of Mauryan Empire were known as the Mantri Parishad. 

The number of its ministers in Mauryan administration system were not fixed and varied according to needs. Kautilya favored a large Council as per the need to the empire. The members of the Mantri Parishad had to qualify themselves and show their ability by passing tests of religion, love, fear and money. In times of emergency  the king consulted with the Mantri Parisad and always guided by the majority decision of the Mantri Parishad. Even the absentee ministers were consulted by letter correspondence.

For efficient central administration of Mauryan government there was an efficient and well organized hierarchy of bureaucrats who filled the central executive, judicial and revenue offices.  The functionaries of the Mauryan empire administration system were conducted by several departments, each of which was headed by a Superintendent (Adhyaksha). In order to conduct the smooth function of the department the Adhyaksha was assisted by a band of clerks, accountants and spies etc. Possibly the Mauryan central government had not more than 30 Superintendents or Adhyakshas.

In addition to these posts of Superintendents there were two other posts of high officials in Mauryan Administrative System—the “Samaharta” and the “Sannidhata.” The Samaharta was the collector general of revenue for the whole of the Mauryan Empire. Eventually he had control over the expenditure of the revenue as well.

Probably the post of Sannidhata was meant for the officer-in-charge of the treasury and store.  There were also other officers like Army Minister, Chief Priest, Governor of forts, etc.

Mauryan Provincial Administration

For the Mauryan provincial administration, the entire empire was divided into two parts, sucha as

  • The kingdom under the direct rule of the king and
  • The vassal states.

The Mauryan territory that was directly ruled by the king was divided into a number of provinces of Janapadas. Ashoka had at least five provinces whose capitals were Taxila, Ujjain, Tosali, Suvarnagiri and Pataliputra. Each province was subdivided into number of  districts and each districts was again subdivided into number units.

However, in addition to these centrally ruled Mauryan territories, there were of vassal states. They enjoyed a great deal of autonomy.

The Mauryan provincial administration was similar to that of the central administration. The Maurya emperor directly ruled the central and Eastern part of the empire, whereas the other areas were ruled by the provincial Governors.

The provincial Governors were responsible for the day-to-day administration of the provinces. They were expected to consult important matter with the Central Administration. There were also the district officers, reporters, clerks, etc. who helped the smooth running of the provincial administration. In the provincial administration, the village was at the lowest unit.

Mauryan Administration Revenue System

Kautilya, the greatest political thinker of ancient India laid greater stress on the treasury as the smooth and successful functioning of the government depends on finance. The main sources of Mauryan revenue were taxation and rent. The land revenue was the main source of revenue collection. Though theoretically the rate of land revenue was 1/6 of the total produce, yet in reality much higher proportion was charged varying with the economic and local conditions. From the writings of the Greek writers we came to know that the whole of India was the property of the king and no private person had any private land nor were they permitted to keep any land of their own.

In addition to land revenue, there were other sources of revenue of the state. These included excise duty, forest taxes, water taxes, mines coinage etc. Much of the state revenue was expended on paying the army, the officials of the royal government, on charities and on different public works like irrigation projects, road construction etc.

Mauryan Judicial System

As regards the judicial system, the king was the head of the judiciary and he himself was the judge. He was the highest court of appeal and personally listened to appeals from the people. However, since the Mauryan Empire was huge, it was not possible for the king to solve each and every case. So, he appointed many judges subordinate to him to hear the cases.

Ordinary petty cases were generally adjudicated by the village headman. However during Ashoka’s time many reforms were made in the judicial system. Granting of pardon etc. was introduced from that time.

Mauryan Municipal Administration System

There were the Municipal boards. The Greek writer Megasthenes had given us an account how the city of Pataliputra was administered. The Municipal Board was a board of 30 members divided into six committees. Each of these committees had five members to manage the administration of the city.

The six committees had the following duties respectively. They were industrial arts, to take care of the foreigners, to register the birth and death of the citizens of Pataliputra, to look after trade and commerce, to supervise different manufactures and to collect excise duties and custom duties.

Mauryan Military Administration

It is also learnt that the war office of Mauryas were managed by a board of 30 members. They were also divided into six committees, each of the committees having five members to look after:

  • Navy,
  • Transport and supply,
  • Infantry,
  • Cavalry,
  • The war chariots and of
  • War elephants .

Mauryan administration of Ashoka the great

King Ashoka, also known as Ashoka the Great, introduced innovations and reforms in the Mauryan Empire Administration System. Ashoka improved  every sphere of administration, executive, legislative and judiciary. He had reformed many aspects of the provincial Mauryan administration. He appointed many new officers in Mauryan government to contribute the tasks of public welfare. In introducing these reforms he was guided by humanitarian and paternal sentiment.

Ashoka appointed a special class of officers known as the Dhamma Mahamatras. The Dhamma Mahamatras were appointed by him to look after the material and spiritual well being of the people. He introduced these officers to preach the principle of Dhamma.

But the most outstanding reforms of Mauryan Administration during the rule of Ashoka was in the realm of judiciary. The principles of uniformity of penalty and uniformity of judicial procedure were also enforced in Mauryan Government.

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