Economic & Social Life of Ancient Age

Economic progress during Mauryan Age

The age of Mauryan Empire witnessed remarkable economic progress. The proc. of economic growth going on from previous ages attained new heights during Mauryan age. The economic progress during Mauryan period was not limited to any particular branch of eco-agriculture, industries & craft all the sphere witnessed all round progress under the able guidance of Mauryan rulers.

Factors responsible for economic progress

The emergence of Magadha Empire created a favorable environment for all round economic progress because almost whole of Indian subcontinent got unified under one authority. The use of a script had increased by 4th century BC the large number of Ashokan edicts discovered from various parts of Indian subcontinent indicate that use of script was quite common during Mauryan age.

The Mauryan rulers respected the autonomy of guilds. These craft organizations created a favorable environment for all round progress. The process of urbanization had also reached new heights during Mauryan Age. A large number of cities emerged. The foreign relations maintained by Mauryan rulers with their contemporary ruler also contributed in big way to economic growth. The friendly relations of Mauryan rulers with the outside world encouraged traders to participate in extended trade.

Megasthenes who lived in court of Chandragupta Maurya was the ambassador of Bactrian king Selucus Nicobar. Damascus the ambassador of Ptolemy Philadelphia of Egyptian & Damascus – ambassador of Antiocus II of Syria lived in court of Bindusara. Ashoka send his ambassador to court of five contemporary rulers. A number of trade routes flourished in India during Mauryan Age Arthashastra provide long list of these routes.

Uttarapatha was the most important trade route of India. It connected to Taxila to Chandraketugarh in Bengal 24 Pargana. Another trade route passed from Sharavasti to Rajgraha. One trade route connected to Sharavasti to Kosambi & from there it went on to Prathishatan (capital of Satvahana). Another trade route passed through desert in Rajasthan. Other trade routes connected Kashi with port of western coast. One trade route passed along foothills of Himalaya from Sharavasti to Taxila.

State maintained trade routes with the help of locals. Villagers were responsible to maintaining route passing through their area. Samasthadhyaksha was in-charge of trade routes during Mauryan Age. Rivers were also used for trade & commerce. Navadhyaksha was in-charge of boats. Monetization of economy also attained new history during Mauryan Age. The state issued large number of coins of silver & copper.

Lakshanadhyaksha was in-charge of Mint & Rupadharshaka was the examiner of coins. The positive role of state in various sphere of economic progress during Mauryan all round progress during Mauryan Age. It benefited the people as well as state immensely.

Progress in Agriculture during Mauryan Age

Agriculture & aligned activity witnessed remarkable progress during age of Mauryan Empire because of positive role of state & the greater demand of agriculture product. Extension of agriculture was encouraged by state during Mauryan Age. According to Arthashastra revenue concession was granted to peasants to bring more land under the cultivation. Assistance was also provided to peasants to dig well to irrigation.

Army was clearly instructed not to damage crops of farmers during movement & in case a farmer suffered damage, he was compensated by state. Steps were taken for development of irrigation facilities. According to Junagarh rock inscription of Shaka king Rudra-Daman, Sudarshana Lake was built during the reign of Chandragupta Maurya & it was repaired during region of Ashoka.

The state maintained crown land, Sitadhyaksha was in-charge of these state farms. Prisoners of wars were used for agriculture activity in crown land. State also paid attention to development of animal wealth. Pastures were maintained by state. Vividadhyaksha was in-charge of pasture land. Sunadhyaksha was in-charge of slaughter house. According to Arthashastra Mitch cattle was not allowed to be slaughter.

Progress in Arts and Crafts during Mauryan Age

A large number of arts & crafts flourished during Mauryan Age. The discovery of number of pillars erected by Ashoka & construction of massive place in stone indicate that stone cutting industry was highly developed. Mathura & Chunar (Mirzapur, UP) were two prominent centers of stone cutting industry. Textile, leather working, iron, copper, gold & silver smiting, pottery making & carpentry were also developed during Maurya Age.

Some of the industries like textile, mining, metallurgy were under state monopoly. According to Arthashastra state workshops were maintained where artisans & craftsmen were hired on age. They were provided tools & implements by state. Artisans & craftsman were guaranteed complete protection to them.

Crimes against them were treated severely. An Arthashastra if person cuts the thumb of craftsman he was awarded capital punishment. Akaradhyakshya was in-charge of mining. Lohadhyakshya was in-charge of iron industry. Suvamika was in-charge of gold industry. Sutradhyakshya was in-charge of weaving.

Progress to trade & commerce

The trade & commercial activity witnessed program during Mauryan Age. Trades not only practiced with various parts of India but also outside world. Land, land routes, rivers as well as sea routes were used for Trade & Commerce. Tamralipti was most important part in east coast & Bharuch – West coast. Panyadhyakshya was the superintendent weights & measures.

Taxation system during Mauryan Age

Taxation system was highly developed during Mauryan Age for 1st time an elaborate taxation came into existence every economy activity was taxed by state. Arthashastra contained long list of taxes collected by state. Land revenue known as Bhaga was main source of state income.

Taxes were also collected from market, road, bridges & fairy. Shulkadhyakshya was superintendent of customs & tolls. Samaharta was a chief tax collector. Sannidhata was in-charge of treasury. The resource mobilized by these through these taxes was used to meet the needs of arm forces, civil administration as well as to issue grants to man of learning & religion. Taxes collected in both cash & kind during Mauryan Age.

Economic progress during post Mauryan Age (200 BC – 300 AD)

The progress of economic growth going on from the Vedic and post Vedic periods reached at its climax during post Mauryan Age. This progress was all round. There was huge amount of agriculture surplus. Industries, arts & crafts were also highly developed but that most remarkable progress was witnessed in field of trade & commerce. This progress was outcome of number of mountain & extended factors.

The arrival of foreign ruling group contributed to progress in field of Trade & commerce. These foreign groups like Indo-Greek, Sakas, and Kushanas patronize Trade & commerce. During their rule India contact with outside world was increased enormously because there empires were covering a large part of Central Asia as well.

Indian control over the important routes of extended trade also helped in growth of Trade & commerce. Silk route was under Indian control during this age. This route was connecting China to Constantinople passing through India & Central Asia. Greater monetization of economic during post Mauryan period also contributed to progress of Trade & commerce.

Indo-Greek was the 1st issue gold coins. The Kushanas issued purest of Gold coins. They issued largest number of copper coin as well. Emergence of Roman Empire gave boost to Indo-Roman trade. Roman was great consumer of Silk & Indian luxury product. Silk was imported by Indian merchant from & exported to Rome at big margin. This intermediate silk trade was highly beneficial because it brought huge amount of Roman wealth to India every time.

The Roman writer Pliny expressed sorrow about the exit of Roman gold in his book “Natural History”. He wrote that Rome was being drained by its gold due to Roman addiction of Indian luxury goods. Discovery of monsoon winds by Hippalus in about 45 AD also gave big boost to Indian extended trade. Because of these knowledge of these seasonal winds benefited sea trade in number of ways, duration of journey got reduced bigger ships could be used & sea journey became safer as well.

According to contemporary source about 20 ships used to leave Indian port every year, before discovery of Monsoon wind. This number had increased more than 300 after knowledge of Monsoon wind. Institutions of guild were also highly evolved during this age. Guild had started performing multiple roles & responsibilities by this time every 2nd & territory economy activity was having its guild. These guilds were like states within state. The kings respected autonomy of Guild. Guild checked qualities of manufactured goods.

Markets were organization by guilds. The prices of various goods being sold on market were also fixed by guild. Guilds maintained troops for the safety of convoys. Sarthavaha was the head of mobile guild. The guilds enjoy judicial legal power as well over its members. The punishment given by head of guild was respected by guild. Guild also looked after education of tis member. They ensured that the vocational knowledge moved from generation to generation. They received money on interest & credit was extended by guilds for various economy activities. Donar used to deposit their money with guild & interest earned was dedicated to support activity like schools & temples etc.

Emergence of Mahayana Buddhism was another positive factor for growth in the field of Trade & commerce. The Mahayana monasteries performed fun of bank. The money received by the way of donation was deposited in economy activities. The Mahayana monasteries were big consumer of fruit, flower, milk as result big market developed around monasteries. The places where monasteries were located got transformed into towns & cities.

Emergence of Han Empire in China also helped in growth of Trade & commerce. The Han rulers favored close economy relation with India. As result of which Indian merchant could import huge amount of silk & was exported to Roman market at big margin.

Impact of Economic progress during Post Mauryan Age

Indian extended trade was highly favorable to India. The balance of extended trade was positive. As result of which huge amount of foreign wealth moved into India. This inflow of foreign wealth reached level of prosperity of the people. The trade & commerce facilitated close relation with outside world. The merchant of traders carried Indian culture too far off areas. Monks used to travel with them. As result of this the concept of greater India emerged.

The closer contact with outside world contributed to in field of Astronomy Indians learned technology of Astronomy from Greek – Roman world. This was only branch of science & technology in which Indians learned from outside world. Romaka Sidhanta was famous Greet Romans book Astronomy. It was exalted into Sanskrit.

Elements of foreign culture were absorbed by India through terms & conditions contact. This cultural impact was more pronounced in coastal regions & urban. The socio economic status of Vaishyas improved significance as result of progress in secondary & territory economy. Remarkable progress in Trade & commerce also helped in growth of exchange networks.

The process of urbanization also got boost due to progress in economy. A large number of urban centers emerged all over India. The process of urbanization reached beyond Vindhyas as well because whole of Indian subcontinent participated in Trade & commerce act during this age.

Mauryan Age (300 BC – 200 BC) Social Life

The reference found in Arthashastra, information provided by Ashokan inscription & quotation available from Indica of Megasthenes through light on social culture life of Mauryan age. The Brahmnical ideals & values were dominating in society Brahmana enjoys highest social status. Family was primary unit of society.

Varnasharma Dharma system was followed. But it must emphasized that if was theoretical model, if was never followed rigidly. Because Arthashastra provide for recruitment of members of all the 4 Varnas in dimmed forces. Hardly anybody from society used to practice Vanaprastha & Sanyashrama. The members of all 4 Varnas were evolved in Trade & Commerce as well as arts & crafts. The Upanayan ceremony was performed for only for few women.

The Varna system gained greater rigidity during this age. The Varnas gradually got converted into caste on basis of their profession. According to Megasthenes there was caste in India. These castes as mentioned by Megasthenes were –

  • Philosophers – Priest / Brahmans
  • Worriers – Kshatriya
  • Herdsman – Shepherd
  • Husbandman – peasant
  • Artisans
  • Superior
  • Counselors & Assessors.

A closer examination of these 7 castes as mentioned by Megasthenes, these were 7 occupational groups. It can be inferred that occupation had started taking forms of casete during Mauryan Age. Artisans & craftsman enjoyed high status in society. They were guaranteed complete protection in society. According to Arthashastra 8 forms of marriages were prevalent. Marriages were cathedral as sacrament but Arthashastra allowed divorce in special circumstance. Monogamy was quite normal practice to be followed. However, polygamy was also known. Inter-Varna marriages were allowed. Caste-endogamy & Gotra. Exogamy were followed

Child marriage was absent according to Arthashastra the normal marriageable age for girl was 12 years & for boy it was 16 years. Widow re-marriage allowed. According divorce was possible was through mutual consent. If husband stay away from home for long time. In case of infertility of wife. In case any of the partners suffers from incurable disease.

Status of Shudras was quite good in society because Shudras were allowed to participate in all economic activity & recruited in mil. Slavery was prevalent though Megasthenes wrote that slavery was absent in India. The condition of Slaves was good in India & perhaps because of this reason Megasthenes failed to differentiate between freeman & slave. According to Arthashastra there are 9 types of slaves in India. Arthashastra mentioned that slaves allowed having property. They can sell / buy property. Improper behavior towards slave was punishable by law.

Ashokan inscription were also asked masters to treat their slave properly. Prisoners of wars were enslaved & they were used in state farms as well as state workshops. The status of women was high in society. The women were employed as Royal body guard as informed by Greek source (Megasthenes). The women enjoyed right to Stridhana. Some elements of decline we also visible in status of women.

Terms like Asuryapashya (not to see the Sun), Avarodhan (obstruction to progess), and Antapur (live within boundaries of home). Anishkashini (not to come out of home) were used for women in contemporary literature. These references suggested that some kind of secularism (isolation) was followed in society.

According to Megasthenes Indians were of high moral character virtue of truth & honesty was respected.

  1. Respected were frugal in general.
  2. Grains, fruits, milk & meat constituted the main food terms.
  3. Both male & female were fond of ornament. The cloths of rich people were stud with Gems & semiprecious stone.
  4. Horse race, chariot race, Bull fight, elephant fight & hunting were imp. Passed time.
  5. Fairs & festivals organized.
  6. Single actors’ acrobats lived in society.

Social Life in Post Mauryan Age (200 BC – 300 AD)

The socio-cultural life in Post Mauryan Age was characterized by number of changes & transformation. Much higher degree of socio rigidity development during this age. This change in social outlook was the outcome of number of challenges faced by Indian socio-cultural life during this age. The repeated foreign invasion posed a serious challenge.

A large number of new professions emerged during this age due to remarkable economy prosperity with these new profession emerged new caste. Each of these castes was looking for higher social status than others. As result of which social crisis developed.

Inter-Varna marriages & assimilation of Aryans into Brahmnical society also created serious challenges. To counter this multiple challenges the scope of lawful & unlawful activities were clearly defined during this age. A large number of law books were written during this age in the form of Smritis & Dharmashastra. Manusmriti was the 1st in this category. The status of Shudras declines. According to Manusmriti, Shudras were expected by earn their livelihood by serving 3 higher Varnas.

Untouchability emerged during this age social exclusion was imposed as punishment for prohibited / deviant social behavior. In the beginning the foreigners were not allowed to enter Brahmnical system because there was no mech. for entry of outsider in Brahmnical system because of this foreign ruling group adopted Buddhism but later on Vratya Stoma sacrifice was developed to facilitate entry of outsiders in Brahmnical fold.

Foreign ruling groups given status of 2nd of Kshatriya (Vratya Kshatriya). Family was still primary unit. Varna Ashrama Dharma system as before no change. Education system as before no change. Status of women declined to some extent during this age because of beginning of child marriage. According to Manusmriti, normal marriageable age for girl was 8-12 years. Divorce was not allowed but widow remarriage was permissible. Great emphasis was placed on chastity & obedience of wife.

Marriage system same as before with above 2 changes. Slavery (9) types of slave mentioned in Manusmriti Though social life was marked by high percentage of rigidity but at same time a liberal, progressive & cosmopolitan culture emerged in coastal region as well as in centers of trade & commerce