Society during Mauryas
- use of slaves in agriculture.
- Actually, there was no slavery in India.
- The shudras were regarded as collective property of the upper three varnas and served them.
- The shudras and war-captives brought from Kalinga were made to serve in massive state-owned farms.
- Shudras also served as artisans, domestic servants and labourers.
Economy during Mauryas
- Well-designed system of roads spreading across the length and breadth of the kingdom.
- Horses played an important part in transport.
- Royal writ was enforced except in the extreme east and south.
- Patliputra’s strategic location allowed officials to quickly travel in all directions.
- Taxation system was a landmark.
- Elaborate system of assessment is mentioned- Arthashastra names many taxes to be collected from everyone.
- Samaharta = highest official in charge of assessment
- Samadhata = chief custodian of state treasury and store house.
- Rural store-houses were present, which means taxes were also collected in kind and then used to help people during famines, drought etc.
- Punch-marked silver coins carrying the symbols of a peacock and the hill and the crescent formed the imperial currency of the Mauryas.
- Uniformity in currency facilitated wider market exchange.
- Impetus to trade and Commerce led to spread of gangetic basin material culture to the periphery of the empire.
- Material culture = iron implements, punch-marked coins, NBP ware pottery, burnt bricks and ring wells, rise of towns.
- Ashok maintained contacts with tribals, exhorted them to follow Dhamma and followed a systematic policy of acculturation.
- Use of steel started in 200 BC and led to better cultivation in Kalinga, paving the way for rise of Cheti kingdom.
Art and culture during mauryas
- Mauryas introduced stone masonry on a wide scale.
- Pillars attest to high technical skills of Mauryan craftsmen.
- Each pillar is made of a single piece of sandstone.
- Capitals containing beautiful sculptures are joined to the pillars at the top.
- Also started carving out caves from rocks (Barabar caves, Gaya).
- This culture spread to Andhra, Karnataka, Orissa and present Bangladesh.
- It is believed that iron technology in Andhra and K’taka was a contribution of Southern megalith builders. Some Ahokan inscriptions have also been found.
Causes of Decline of Mauryas
➢ Mauryan influence declines after the rule of Ashoka. The reasons are:
(i) Brahmanical reaction: Ashokan abhorrence for rituals and cessation of sacrifices affected the social position and financial position of Brahmanas, who wanted status quo to prevail. Ashok did not harass Brahmanas but followed a tolerant policy.
(ii) Financial crisis: Burden of maintaining large bureaucracy and army, combined with huge grants to Buddhist monks, left the kingdom in a lurch.
(iii) Oppressive rule: Lack of due oversight in far-flung provinces led to oppressive rule by wicked bureaucrats (Dushyamatyas). Ashok introduced rotation of officials but this failed to curb misrule.
(iv) Spread of material culture to outlying areas: Magadh owned its rise to material advantages. Spread of this technology and culture to outward areas led to decline in influence of the empire and rise of successor states (Sungas and Kanvas in central India. Chetis in Kalinga and Satvahanas in Deccan.)
(v) Neglect of NW frontier: Scythian nomads were in a constant state of flux. Shih Huang built the great wall of China in 210 BC to protect China from Scythians. Since Mauryas took no such steps, Scythians pushed towards India and forced Parthians, Sakas and Greeks to move towards India. Bactrian Greeks were the first to invade NW in 206 BC. This was followed by two - century long invasions.
(vi) Empire finally destroyed by Pushyamitra Shunga in 185 BC: A Brahmana and ruled over Patliputra and central India. They performed vedic rituals and sacrifices to mark the beginning of Brahmanical way of life. Persecuted Buddhists. Succeeded by Kanvas who were also Brahmanas.