Administration of Mauryan Empire

The Mauryas established an elaborate system of administration in which king played the chief role. He was assisted by a council of ministers but the king himself took all final decisions regarding revenue, law and order, war or any other matter related to administration.

He was expected to be agile and accessible to his officials at all times. In the one of his rock edicts Ashoka declared that even common people could meet him any time. He also declared that all his subjects were like his children and he desired their happiness in this and the other world.

The king appointed a council of ministers called mantriparishad. There were various other officials, who helped him perform his duties. These officials were known as amatyas, mahamatras and adhayakshas. Arthasastra gives a list of 27 adhayakshas or superintendents who were responsible for running various economic departments like agriculture, mining, weaving, trade, etc.

Among all the executive officials samaharta was the most important. His responsibility was to supervise collection of taxes from all types of sources. Most of the superintendents functioned on his orders. The Mauryas also employed a large number of spies.

The Mauryans maintained a huge army and according to Greek writer Justin, Chandragupta had 6,00,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalry, 9,000 elephants, 8,000 chariots. Although, it seems to be an exaggerated figure but possession of a large army by the
Mauryas cannot be doubted. Megasthenes reports that administration of different branches of army was carried out through six committees of five members each. An officer called antahpala was responsible for the security of frontier forts.

As far as judicial administration is concerned, the king was the supreme authority, but various civil as well as criminal courts functioned at the local level right from village to province. It seems most of the cases were disposed off at the village level by village elders.

Apart from Magadh with its capital at Patliputra, the Mauryan Empire was divided into four other provinces with capitals at Taxila (northwestern India), Suvarnagiri (southern India), Tosali (eastern India) and Ujjain (western India). These were put under the control of royal princes called kumara.

The city administration of Patliputra, according to Megasthenes, was conducted by six committees of five members each. Each committee was assigned different subjects such as industry, foreigners, birth and death registration, trade and market regulations and tax collection to look after.

However, we are not sure whether the entire Indian subcontinent had similar type of city administration. It seems that while central province of Magadh was under strict supervision of the king, other far-flung areas might have witnessed varied degree of administrative control.