Central and Provincial Administration System of the Maurya Empire
The Maurya Empire was founded by Chandragupta Maurya in 322 BCE and it existed until 185 BCE. Its capital city was Pataliputra (modern Patna) and the empire covered almost all of the Indian subcontinent except for Tamil Nadu and Kerala and some parts of modern-day Iran. It was an ancient Indian empire during South Asia’s Iron Age. The empire was known for its exceptional architecture, texts, art, and inscriptions. Chandragupta Maurya, with the help of an army, overthrew the Nanda Empire and became the first ruler of the Mauryan Empire.
The Mauryan Empire’s organization had taken inspiration from the Arthashastra; this Ancient Indian Sanskrit text is about political science, statecraft, military strategy, and economic policy and Kautilya is credited as the author. The Greek writer Megasthenes also wrote an account of Mauryan India in a text called Indica or Indika. Ashokan inscriptions give insight into the extensive Mauryan administration.
Central Administration of the Maurya Empire:
- The Mauryan Empire was particularly known for its centralised administration system. The king was the leader and was advised by a council of ministers called ‘Mantriparishad’ with the ministers known as Mantris. The council consisted of Mantriparishad Adhyaksha (Head of Council of Ministers), Mantrin (Chief Minister), Purohita (Chief Priest), Senapati (Commander-in-chief), and Yuvaraj (Crown Prince). Other high officers in charge of portfolios were the Samahartri (chief collector of revenue), Vyabharika (Chief Judge), Sannidhatri (treasurer), Durgapala (Head of Royal Fort), Dauvarika (chief of the palace attendants), Dandapala (Head of Police), Antaravamshika (chief of the palace guard), etc.
- Tirthas were the highest classification of officials in the administration. Ranked next only to Tirthas, the Adhyakshya maintained the military and economic functions. Amatyas, modern-day secretaries, oversaw the judicial and administrative functions. Appointed by Emperor Ashoka, the Rajukas were in charge of rewards and punishments for people. After Ashoka embraced Buddhism, he created the Dhamma Mahamattas spread the message of dhamma and kept the king aware of the public’s opinion.
- All of the births, deaths, industries, foreigners, trade, sale of goods, manufactured goods, and sales tax were registered under the administration’s authority.
Provincial Administration of the Maurya Empire:
- According to Ashokan edicts, the empire was divided into provinces: Uttarapatha with its capital Taxila (north), Dakshinapatha with its capital Suvarnagiri (south), Prachyapatha with its capital Tosali (east), and Avantiratha with its capital Ujjaini (west). The central province was Magadha and its capital was Pataliputra. Royal princes or members of the royal family were appointed as governors of these provinces.
- The provinces were divided into extensive districts and in Ashokan inscriptions, these administrative sections are referred to as Ahara and Janapada. The districts were overseen by Rajukas with assistance from Yuktas. Districts were further divided into villages. Grahmini maintained the village administration and Gopa controlled from ten to fifteen villages. The city superintendent, Nagarika, was in charge of law and order.
Military Administration of the Maurya Empire:
- The Mauryas also had a massive, efficient and well-equipped army maintained by the state. According to Arthashastra, the military divisions were infantry, cavalry, elephants, chariots, navy, and transport. The Senapati was the commander-in-chief of the entire military division. In the Megasthenes text, a board consisting of 30 officers were divided into 6 committees and they oversaw the armed forced administration.
- There was a vast espionage system established to collect information on foreign enemies and officers for internal and external security purposes.
The types of spies were Sanchari (wanderer) and Sansthana (stationary).
Revenue Administration of the Maurya Empire:
- The revenue chief was called Samharta while the Sannidhata was the treasurer. Revenue was collected on things like shops, land, customs, irrigation, ferry, forests, pastures, and mines. Farmers were taxed at the rate of one-sixth of production.
Economical Administration of the Maurya Empire:
- Adhyakshas were the superintendents in charge of the state’s economic activities including agriculture, commerce, trade, crafts, etc.
The Religion of the Maurya Empire:
- The major religions of the empire were Brahmanism, Jainism, and Buddhism. After the Kalinga War, Ashoka turned towards Buddhism and had several stone pillars erected throughout the kingdom. These pillars, caves walls, and boulders were inscribed with the Edicts of Ashoka. Ashoka allowed Buddhist missionaries to expand the faith into modern-day northwest India, Sri Lanka, and Central Asia.
- The Mauryan administration was vast and efficient but no empire lasts forever. The border kingdoms asserted their independence after Ashoka’s death and the empire shrunk during the rules of Ashoka’s successors. This empire ended when Emperor Brihadratha was overthrown and killed by his commander-in-law Pushyamitra Shunga, the first ruler and founder of the Shunga Empire.