Mauryan Empire after Ashoka
The Maurya Empire was too vast in its extent. While extending to the farthest corners of the Indian sub-continent it also included territories outside the natural frontiers of India.
This vastness was itself a source of weakness rather than of strength because of the lack of communication. Distances were so great that the empire could not remain a closely integrated political unit for a longer time.
The first Maurya Emperors were Chandragupta Maurya, Bindusara and Ashoka the Great. They were men of exceptional abilities. As heroes, conquerors, and administrators, they were indeed great. But, heredity in succession does not guarantee ability in character for all time or all successors to follow. Ashoka’s sons and grandsons did not prove themselves worthy of the Great Mauryas.
Though the Maurya administration from the days of Chandragupta was strong enough to control the distant provinces bound to a centralized system, it was also necessary for the provincial governments to enjoy sufficient power. When the centre declined and its authority became weak, the provinces assumed independent character.
When the Maurya rule was thus weakening and the empire was breaking up within the half century after Asoka’s death, there finally came a death blow to it by an internal revolt. This revolt was led by the chief of the Maurya army, General Pushyamitra Sunga in about 185 or 186 B.C. when the Maurya King Brihadratha ruled in Magadha.
Bana, the famous author of Harsha-Charita describes the incident saying that Pushyamitra held a parade of the army which he invited the King to witness, and thus created an occasion to kill him on the spot with the support of the army.
The king was the head of the state. He had legislative, executive and judicial powers. He was the supreme commander of the army and planned military operations with his senapati. In Kautilyas Arthashastra the king was called Dharma pravartaka. The king issued ordinances called ‘Sasanasad’.
The King appointed Sachivas (ministers or Amatyas). He was advised by the Mantriparishad. There was a full complement of departments with their duties well defined. Mantris were high ministers. The Amatyas performed judicial and administrative functions and monitored the affairs of the state.
Adhyakshas were in charge of various departments. They collected taxes and controlled the dealings connected to the land. The Samharta was the collector-general of revenue of the kingdom. The Sannidhata was an officer in charge of the treasury. The purohitas, Senapatis and Dauvarikas also who helped in administration.
The whole empire was divided into five provinces with their capitals at Taxila, Ujjain, Tosali, Suvarnagiri and Patilaputra. The provinces were subdivided into Vishyas or Aharas. Besides these territories under direct rule there existed some other territories as vassal states.
The Gramika was the head of the village administration. The state revenue was collected from land taxes, excise, tools, forest, water rates, mines etc. A major share of which was spent on the army other official charity works and public works. An important work undertaken during the Mauryan rule was the taking of census, according to the number, caste occupation, slaves, freemen and age.
Industry and trade was well developed and to promote it, there was the regular maintenance of roads and waterways. Metal works was prevalent with copper, lead, tin, bronze, iron etc.
Other industries included ones producing dyes, gums, drugs, perfumes and pottery. Industries were classified into private and public sectors. The state controlled trade to undertake works in their own interest..
The Mauryan Administration
The central government was under the direct control of the Emperor. Though he was an absolute ruler, he was accessible to his subjects. He was the supreme head of the army. He was chief justice of the country. He was assisted by the Yuvaraja, the crown prince and the mantrins or a council of ministers.
There were officials like the Mahamatras who after the day today work of the administration.
The Empire was divided into provinces, districts and villages. A prince or any other member of the royal family looked after the provinces.
Officials called Pradeshikas or Sthanikas were in charge of districts. The Gramanis acted as heads of the villages.
Administration of Pataliputra
Pataliputra was the Capital of the Mauryan Empire. Six boards or departments looked after the Municipal administration of the city. Every board had five members.
These boards looked after subjects like Industries, Census, Trade, Manufactures and their sale, Collection of taxes and welfare of foreigners living in the city.
The Mauryans had a huge army. They had six divisions the Infantry, the Cavalry, Elephants, Chariots, Navy and the sixth section which looked after the movement of goods and weapons for the soldiers and the animals.
The Mauryan kings had spies in all parts of the empire. These spies secretly brought news about officials, ministers and people to the king.
So the king would always get news about the mood and attitude of the people. Women were also appointed as spies.
The principal revenue of the state was the land revenue, faxes from traders, artisans and professional taxes were also collected.
The revenue was spent for the welfare of the people.
The officers of the Government received their salaries in cash. The coins were made of silver. They were called punch coins because tiny symbols or designs were stamped or punched on them.
Administration of Justice
The King’s court at Pataliputra was the highest court of Justice. Judicial courts were set up in all parts of the country. Petty cases were decided by the village panchayats.
Punishments were severe. The judicial officers were known as Rajukas.
Most of the Mauryan Empire was linked by roads. There was one route to Nepal via Visali. Another road linked Pataliputra with Kalinga in Orissa. Traders, travelers, spies and soldiers used these roads. Goods were transported by river boats also.
Relation with the Extreme South
The Mauryan Empire included almost the whole of India except the extreme South. (Present day Kerala and Tamil Nadu).
Asoka’s inscriptions refer to the Cheras as Keralaputras. The Mauryans traded with the Southern Kingdoms.