The Administrative System of Mauryan Paramountacy | History

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Mauryan paramountacy which was established by Chandragupta was based on the ideal of enlightened and benevolent despotism.


This idea prevails in the entire text that we know as Arthasastra and which no doubt is the first compendium on India’s statecraft.

Ashoka who was the greatest despot of this dynasty has very explicitly depicted on Dhauli inscription that all of his subjects are his sons and daughters.

His ideal was purely philanthropic and truly altruistic are based on the cardinal principals of welfare of the masses. In this regard also Mauryan Empire can be termed as a welfare state or an ideal monarchy witch aimed amity and harmony in the society. Ashokan inscription very frequently mentions about the Dhamma mission which was not evangentical in spirit rather humanitarian in values and also about the Rajukas and Dhamma Mahamattyas who were appointed from promoting Dhamma and cultivating awareness about its greatest gospel. Kautilya also describes ‘Prajanam Hite Rajyam’ that means the glory of the monarch lies in the upliftment of the people.

Kautilya also mentions the Saptang theory of state that is still considered as a very realistic idea about it. Especially BAL (army), Swami (the ruler), Kshetra (territory), Kosh (treasury) make it clear that the perception which Kautilya had in his mind was that of a sovereign state.


As far as his description is concerned, it is very clear that Mauryan administration was a kind of centralized bureaucracy. All the important ministers and officials were appointed by the ruler and they were directly responsible to him. At the centre of the administration was the king who had the power to enact laws. There was council of minister to assist him in administrative work that was Mantriparishad. Ashokan inscriptions all mention about the Parishad. Arthasastra has mentioned three quality of minister such as birth, integrity and intelligence.

Two of the key offices in administration were that of the Treasurer and Chief Collector who were known as Samidhata and Samahrta. Arthasastra also mentions about 20 Tirthas or departments like Pavata (weights and measure), Sita (crown land), Akar (mines and minerals) etc. All these departments were headed hay Adhyakshas, called superintendents like Pautvadhyaksha, Manadhyaksha. Sutradhyaksha, Suvernadhyksha etc.

Apart from the metropolitan areas which were directly governed, the empire was divided into four provinces, each under a prince or a member of the royal family. Under Ashoka there were four such states: Northern Province with capital at Taxila, western province with capital of Ujjain, eastern province with centre at Tosali and southern province referred to as Suvarnagiri.

Head of these provinces were known as Kumaramatya or Aryaputra. They were assisted by Mahamattya who were directly responsible to the Magadhan ruler. That was an important aspect of the centralized bureaucracy of the Mauryan time.

Ashoka appointed Dhamma Mahamattya who has been very frequently mentioned in his inscriptions. Provinces were sub divided into districts and further into villages. Yuktas were heads of the district administration. Rajukas, especially mentioned in IV pillar inscription were also district officers and local administration was in the hands of Sthanika and Gope. We all also hear about administrative units about Kharvatik and Dronamukha.

Megasthenese has also mentioned the municipal administration of Pataliputra. However, Kautilya has used the word Nagarak for the suprentendent of the city. Arthasastra has given a long list of taxes like Bhag (land tax), Sita (production from the crown land),

Vivit (tax imposed on pasture land, Akar (tax on mines), Akramya and Niskrama (custom duty) etc. The entire Mauryan tax-structure has been called Ayasariram.

The espoinage system had also evolved in Mauryan period. Sanstha and Sanchara were spies who were appointed by the state. Kantak Sodhan and Dharmsthiya were respectively the criminal and civil court of that period which was headed by Pradesta and Vyavharika. The state also maintained a large standing and centralized army which has been mentioned by foreign authors like Justin and Plutarch.

All the important high officials were directly paid by the state. This shows that upper level of administration was highly centralized and at lower level picture was very different and control was far more decentralized.

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