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The Mauryan economy was an expanding economy and the state took a keen interest in consolidating and promoting its economic gains. Therefore, it not only controlled and coordinated the activities of the peasant manufacturers and traders, but also directly participated in the production and exchange of different commodities. The state, in fact, very strictly regulated the economic activities of the state. The political unification of India, the creation of a strong centralized government, restoration of law and order, opening up the Western trade-routes by Alexander, measures taken by the Mauryan state for the promotion of agriculture, trade, commerce, industries, and crafts gave impetus to economic development during this period. The use of iron facilitated the clearing of the jungles and furrowed the land more deeply so as to exploit fully the potential fertility of the Ganga-Yamuna valley. The spurt in agriculture resulted in the accumulation of the surplus food necessitating its exports which was facilitated by the natural water-way of the Ganga. The resulting trade and commerce led to the rise of gradual urbanization. The famous cities of Saravasti, Saketa, Varanasi, Champa, Rajagriha, Ujjain etc., grew around market places and attracted artisans from far and wide with the allurement of easy availability of raw-material and ready market for the disposal of their handiworks. With the consolidation of the markets, cities multiplied in number and became the storehouse of wealth. These famous cities were so much coveted and prized by the adventuring spirits that they became the capitals of the famous kingdoms of the sixth century B.C. mentioned in the traditional lists of Sixteen Mahajanapadas. These centres of trade, commerce and craft were interlinked by means of trade-routes: The 1st linked Champa with Varanasi via Rajgriha, from then on to Taxila The 2nd linked Varanasi with Sarasvasti via Saketa and Ayodhya The 3rd joined Varanasi with Ujjain via Kausambhi The 4th linked these northern centers with the Deccan via Ujjain. From Champa, the merchants were going to Suvarnabhumi (Arakan in Burma), Tamraparni (Ceylon), and the other islands to the east of India and Taxila became culture cum commercial distributing centre of Indian Wares to Central and Western Asia and further to West Africa and Europe. The background had been fully prepared by these spanning trade routes and expanding agrarian economy resulting in gradual urbanization for the rise of imperial polity manifested by the Mauryas.

The mainstay of economy during this period was agriculture. The Mauryan state founded new agricultural settlements to bring virgin land under cultivation. People from overpopulated areas and prisoners of war were brought to these new settlements to work on the fields. These villages belonged to king and were looked after by government official called sitadhyaksha or superintendent of agriculture. Besides state farms, there were individual land holders who paid a variety of taxes to the state. The bali or land tax was the main item of revenue, levied at the rate of one sixth of the produce. Peasants had to pay many other taxes like pindakara, hiranya, bhaga, bhoga etc. Principal crops were various varieties of rice, barley, millet, wheat, sugarcane and most of the pulses, peas and oilseeds. The importance of irrigation to Indian agricultural conditions was fully recognized. In certain areas water for irrigation was distributed and measured. The Arthashastra refers to a water tax which was regularly collected wherever the state assisted in providing irrigation. One of Chandraguptas governors, Pushyagupta was responsible for building a dam across a river near Girnar in Western India. The construction and maintenance of reservoirs, tanks, canals, and wells were regarded as part of the functions of the government. Cattle breeding in the peasant society had become an adjunct of agriculture, but there were still certain pockets which pursued pastoral economy. Herds were maintained not only by the state but also by wealthy individuals. Fishing and hunting were practiced as a means to livelihood especially by the tribes and practitioners of these occupations had to pay one-tenth of their catch to the royal storehouse. Ashoka stopped the indiscriminate killing of animals and introduced many measures for the welfare of people who practiced it.


Under the Mauryas, the most important industry was that of mining and metallurgy and the state had a monopoly over it. It formed the base of political as well as economic power of the Mauryas. It was looked after by the superintendent of mines who was to be an expert on mining and metallurgy. He was to develop the old mines and discover the new ones. The ores of gold, silver, copper, lead, tin, iron and Bitumen were worked upon. Literary evidence suggests that working of iron was much more expensive than any other metal. Lohadhyaksha was the officer in - charge of iron working. The production of minerals and mining trade was the monopoly of the state. Thus, metals and mining were the most important factors in the Mauryan state policy. Kautilya points out that the origin of treasury is mining, and of force in treasury, and earth is acquired by means of treasury and force. It controlled everything from processing to refining. One of the more notable results of the political unification of the sub-continent was the security provided by a stable and centralized government which patronized expansion of various, craft guilds and trade. The Mauryan state directly employed some of the artisans such as armours, shipbuilders, etc., who were exempted from tax but others who worked in state workshops were liable to tax. Craft activities were also a major source of revenue to the state. Artisans living in towns had to pay taxes either in cash or kind or work free for the king. Traders and artisans were organised in associations called srenis or guilds. The Mauryas were responsible for introduction of iron on a large scale in different parts of the subcontinent. They maintained a

monopoly over production of iron, which was in great demand by the army, industry and agriculture. It was done through the official called loha-adyaksha. The Mauryan Empire regulated trade and industry with the help of a number of superintendents. The superintendent of commerce was in charge of the market The superintendent of weights and measures used to enforce correct weights and measures The superintendent of ships looked after water communications and collected ferry dues The superintendent of tolls collected customs on commodities for internal and external commerce The superintendent of weaving looked after weaving industry mainly run by women laborers The superintendent of liquor managed the state wine shops. State had the complete monopoly over the trade of salt and liquor.

The Mauryan state itself was a vast industrial and trading concern and employed in its service vast numbers of artisans and merchants. Hence, the state had to control its entire trade to safeguard its own interests. Regulating the relations between State concerns and private enterprise was a delicate task and the Arthashastra gives clear evidence that the Mauryan state performed this task with considerable success. Apart from the incomes of the economic undertaking, the state also imposed a large number of customary and new taxes. Economy of Mauryan Empire witnessed a well organised tax system devised by Kautilya. A tax was levied on all manufactured articles and the date was stamped on them. The merchandise goods were strictly supervised. Various factors such as current price, supply and demand, and the expenses of production were considered by the superintendent of commerce, before assessing the goods. Land revenue was the major source of income for the government. Land was subjugated to regular assessments and an appropriate level of tax was levied. Industries and enterprises were also taxed. The main tax was the 1/6 of the production of the peasants as the royal share. The state also received 1/4 and sometimes 1/2 from the share croppers who received land and other agricultural inputs from it. The peasants also paid another tax known as the pindakara, imposed on the groups of villages. The old Vedic Tax bali, perhaps is now regarded as the religious tax. Kara was a tax received from flower and fruit gardens. Senabhakta was a tax received from the villagers in the form of supply of provisions to the army when it passed the villages concerned. Hiranya was known as payment in cash. The peasants had also to pay irrigation cases. There were also customs and ferry dues. Taxes were also imposed on the guilds of urban artisans. Even those numerous taxes could not meet the mounting expenditure of the state. So, Arthasastra provides for large real emergency taxes. One such measure was the imposition of pranaya or the gifts of affection which was to be levied only once on peasants and which amounted to 1/3rd or 1/4th of their produce. Arthasastra also provided for compulsory raising of a second crop by the cultivators, a share of which went to the state. According to Patanjali and Kautilya, the Mauryan emperors also collected money by setting up images of Gods for worship. Jaina tradition also suggests that Kautilya issued 800 million

karsapanas i.e. Kautilya debased silver coins to fill up the treasury. All such emergence measures enormously increased the income of the Mauryan State. Thus the whole Mauryan economy was geared up to meet the financial requirements of the state. Most of these taxes were collected in kind. From the nature of the duties of the superintendent of mints, it appears that money economy under the Mauryas, made considerable progress. But the growth of money economy, at the same time, was retarded due to Mauryan policy of depositing half the amount in treasury, and not investing them for productive purposes. Moreover, taxes levied on all varieties of commodities also retarded the progress of money economy. In spite of such limitations, the Mauryan age, witnessed significant economic progress with giant strides in the expansion of agriculture and mining industry. Development of transport and communications helped in expansion of inland trade and commerce.

A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India Upinder Singh Ashoka and the decline of the Mauryas Romila Thapar Ancient India Vijay Kachroo Indias Ancient Past R. S. Sharma Mauryan India Irfan Habib