Society and Economy during Mauryas


  • Society and Culture during the Mauryas were well classified and organized; work of every class was decided accordingly.

Classes of Society

  • Megasthenese mentioned that during this period, the society was comprising seven castes, namely −

    • Philosophers,

    • Farmers,

    • Soldiers,

    • Herdsmen,

    • Artisans,

    • Magistrates, and

    • Councilors

  • Megasthenese, however, failed to comprehend the Indian society properly and confused among the terms jati, Varna, and the occupation.

  • Chaturvarna system continued to govern the society.

  • The urban way of life developed and the craftsmen enjoyed a high place in the society.

  • Teaching continued to be the main job of the Brahmans.

  • Buddhist monasteries were developed as important educational institutions. Taxila, Ujjayini, and Varanasi were famous educational centers.

  • Technical education was generally provided through guilds, where pupils learnt the crafts from the early age.

  • The joint family system was the norm in the domestic life.

  • A married woman had her own property in the form of bride-gift (stree-dhana).

  • The widows had given respect in the society. All stree-dhana (bride-gift and jewelry) belongs to her. Offences against women were severely dealt with.

  • Kautilya also laid down penalties against officials, in charge of workshops and prisons who misbehaved with women.

  • Megasthenese mentioned that slavery did not exist in India.


  • Largely, the population was agriculturists and lived in villages. The state helped people to bring new areas under cultivation by cleaning the forest. But certain types of forests were protected by law.

  • A number of crops like rice, coarse grains (kodrava), sesame, pepper, and saffron, pulses, wheat, linseed, mustard, vegetable and fruits of various kinds and sugarcane were grown.

  • The state also owned agricultural farms, cattle farms, dairy farms, etc.

  • Water reservoirs and dams were built by the state for irrigation. Steps were taken to distribute and measure this water for irrigation.

  • The Mauryan enforced the rules and regulations in respect of agriculture, industry, commerce, animal husbandry, etc.

  • Special measures were deduced for the promotion of the economy gave great impetus to economic development during this period.

  • Megasthenese mentioned about the extraordinary skill of craftsmen.

  • Junagarh inscription of Rudradaman mentions that Pushyagupta (Chandragupta's governors) was responsible for building a dam on Sudarshana Lake near Girnar in Kathiawad.

  • Skandagupta’s inscription of the later period mentioned that the dam (on Sudarshana Lake) was repaired during his reign, almost 800 years after its construction.

  • They had foreign trade with the western countries. The main items of trade were indigo, various medicinal substances, cotton, and silk. The foreign trade was carried on by the land as well as by the sea.

  • Special arrangements were made for facilitation of the trade like security of trade-routes, provisions of warehouses, go-downs, and other means of transport.

  • The trade was regulated by the state and the trader had to get a license to trade.

  • The state also had the machinery to control and regulate the weights and measures.

  • The land tax was one-fourth to one-sixth of the produce. The tax was also levied on all the manufactured goods.

  • The toll tax was levied on all items, which were brought for sale in the market.

  • Strabo mentions that craftsmen, herdsmen, traders, and farmers, all paid taxes. Those who could not pay the tax in cash or kind were to contribute their dues in the form of labor.

  • Revenue was that main subject of Arthashashtra. It describes revenue at great length.

  • Sources of revenue were increased from the income of mines, forests, pasture lands, trade, forts, etc.

  • The income from the king's own land or estate was known as ‘sita.’

  • Brahmans, children, and handicapped people were exempted from paying the taxes.

  • Tax evasion was considered a very serious crime and offenders were severely punished.

  • The artisans and craftsmen were given special protection by the state and offences against them were severely punished.

  • The main industries during this period were textile, mining and metallurgy, ship-building, jewelry making, metal working, pot making, etc.

  • The industries were organized in various guilds. Jesthaka was the chief of a guild.

  • The guilds were powerful institutions. It gave craftsmen great support and protection.

  • The guilds settled the disputes of their members. A few guilds issued their own coins.

  • The Sanchi Stupa inscription mentions that one of the carved gateways was donated by the guilds of ivory workers.

  • Similarly, the Nasik cave inscription mentions that two weaver's guilds gave permanent endowments for the maintenance of a temple.

  • The guilds also made donations to educational institutions and learned Brahmans.

Art and Architecture

  • Art and architecture had developed substantially during the Mauryan period.

  • The main examples of the Mauryan art and architecture are −

    • Remains of the royal palace and the city of Pataliputra;

    • Ashokan pillars and capitals;

    • Rock cut Chaitya caves in the Barabar and Nagarjuni hills;

    • Individual Mauryan sculptures and terracotta figurines; etc.

  • Megasthenese had described in detail about the famous city of Pataliputra (modern Patna). He describes it as it was stretched along the river Ganga in the form of a parallelogram. It was enclosed by a wooden wall and had 64 gates.

  • Excavations have brought to light remains of palaces and the wooden palisade.

  • The Mauryan wooden palace survived for about 700 years.

  • Fa-Hien also saw it at the end of the 4th century A.D.

  • The palace and also the wooden palisade had been destroyed by the fire. The burnt wooden structure and ashes have been found from Kumrahar.

Barabar Caves
  • Seven rock-cut caves in the Barabar and Nagarjuni hills were built during this period.

  • The inscription says that after having received his training in writing, mathematics, law, and finance, Kharavela ascended the throne of Kalinga in his 24th year.

  • Kharavela spent the first year in rebuilding the capital of Kalinga.

  • Kharavela invaded the kingdom of Magadha in the 8th and 12th years of his reign.

  • The inscription mentions the achievements of Kharavela only up to the 13th year of his reign.

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