What was the Position of Women in Mauryan Society?


Women occupied a high position and freedom in the Mauryan society. For instance, while divorce is unthinkable in the Smritis, Kautilya has permitted it. Women were employed as personal body-guards of the King, spies and for other diverse jobs. The ruling class was known to have been polygamous.

We know that Asoka had as many as four Queens. Sati, noticed by Greek writers, was rarely practised and would appear to have been limited to the women of the higher classes. There is frequent mention of women of the commonalty moving about with freedom and engaging themselves in gainful oc­cupations.

Offences against women of all kinds were severely punished, and Kautilya lays down penalties against officials in charge of workshops and prisons who misbehaved towards them. Con­cerning ganikas or public women and their role in the palace and in social life, both Kautilya and the Greek writers have a good deal to say. This class included actresses, dancers, musicians and other artists. The profession of courtesans was intended to be regulated by the state.

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