Notes on the administrative achievements of Chandragupta Maurya


Chandragupta Maurya was not only an outstanding conqueror and an able empire builder but also he was one of the strongest administrators. India has ever produced.

He was practical statesman and had well realised that a good administration, is the strong back bone of a kingdom. In the field of administration, he was fortunate to have the assistance of an able Minister in Chanakya. No doubt his Government was monarchical, but it was based on democratic set up.

The contemporary source which highlights Chandragupta’s administration are the Indika of Megasthenes and the Arthasastra of Kautily. Besides these two, the inscriptions of Ashoka and Rudradaman and literary’ sources like Divyavadana and Mudrarakshysa also throw light on Maurya administration.


Chandragupta’s administrative set up can be divided into three branches namely Central administration, Provincial administration and Local administration.

Central Administration :

The king, the council of ministers advisers an other officials constituted the central administration of the Mauryas.

The King :


The king was at the apex of the administration. As head of the state, has the embodiment of the might and majesty of the nation.

Chandragupta ruled over a vast empire. His empire contained many types of people with different social customs and usages.

So he was the fountain source of law for the unity of the administration. He shouldered huge responsibilities and worked as the guardian of law but not as the law-giver himself.

Though the king was very powerful, yet he did not claim divinity. According to Kautilya, “Dharina, contract, custom, and royal decre, are the four legs of law. Of these, each later item is superior validity to the predecessor”.


This means that the kings order or decree was above all other forms of law. So the king ruled according to law, conventions and with the advice of the council of ministers.

He was duly bound to work for the welfare of the people and keep them happy and contented” .In the happiness of his subjects lies the happiness of the king in their good in his own good and not in what is pleasing to him. He must find his pleasure-in the pleasure of his subjects”.

According to Kautilya a king should be man of high birth, should posses intelligence and spiritual prowers. He should be truthful, courageous, of religious disposition courteous etc.

“The king, according to Kautilya, was the Government itself. He appointed his ministers, priests, officers and servants. The king was required to trust nobody and therefore, he was to employ spies to know about the conduct of the officers and of the people. The Maurya intelligence department was thorough and efficient, with its network of secret informers everywhere.


“It is known both from Kautilya and Meghasthenes that the Maurya administration paid highest attention to the safety of the person of the king. Whenever the king went out of the palace, the routes of his journey were guarded by armed forces, Kautilya describes the safety measure which were adopted both inside and outside the palace The king’s food was tasted by a number of persons before it was served to him to avoid the risk of poisoning.

Even the king’s dresses and ornaments were checked and inspected by trusted maid servants before use. Megasthenes informs that Chandragupta Maurya was guarded inside the palace by Women bodyguards. To avoid attacks on life, the king slept in different rooms in different nights.

The king lived in pomp and splendour. He was carried in golden palanquins and used richly decorated elephants while going out on hunting.”

The King’s Palace and the Capital administration :


Chandragupta Maury a had a beautiful palace which symbolised the wealth and power of his empire. There were a number of apartments for the king, members of his family, bodyguards and archers, kinsmen and minister, and the armed soldiers.

The Chinese traveller Fa-hien saw the Maurya palace in excellent condition and wrote? “The King’s palace in the city, with its various halls, all built by spirits who piled up stones, constructed walls and gates, can ed designs, engraved and inland, alter no human fashion, is still in existence”.

The Capital of the Maurya empire, Pataliputra, was the centre of the imperial administration. It was built at the confluence of the two rivers, the Ganges and the lone. The capital city had a very well-knit administrative set up.

The Greek Ambassador Megasthenes wrote “The city of Pataliputra was in charge of a commission with 30 members. They were divided into 6 Boards of 5 members in each Board. Collectively, all the members worked like a Municipal Body to manage the affairs of the capital.

Separately, the 6 Boards were in charge of six separate department, such as, industrial affairs and wages, foreigners, births and deaths, trade and commerce, manufactures and the collection of taxes”.

The king was the head of the administration and was absolute in his powers having to perform military, Judicial legislative as well as executive functions.

He was the Commander-in-chief of the army. He considered military operations with his senapati and usually accompanied the army in times of war. The king was the chief judicial authority of the realm. When he sat in court to a administer justice lie never allowed himself to be interrupted.

According to Kautilya, the king listend to the case according to their urgency and paid particular attention to the business of Gods, brahmans, cattle, sacred places, minors, the aged, the afflicted, the helpless and women. As suprems sovereign of the state.

The king issued Rajasasanas or Edicts, in the light of which his officers had to carry on the administration of his kingdom. Among the executive functions the King looked into the posting of watchmen, appointment of ministers, priests and superintendents, reception of envoys, correspondence with Mantri Parishad, collection of secret information from the Spies.

Though the king was very powerful, still there were many check upon the powers of the king. He had to act in accordance with the religion and conventions. Moreover, it was not possible for the king to carry on the entire administration personally and therefore he appointed a council of ministers and ruled with their help and advice. According to Kautilya, Administration cannot be work of one man, just as one wheel cannot drive a chariot.”

Mantri Parishad :

There was a Mantri Parishad to assist Chandragupta Maurya. The king did all his work with the assistance of his ministers. The size of the council, as recommended by Kautilya, could be only three to four, or as many as the king required according to his need.

autilya has described eighteen official who were also heads of their departments. They are (1) Mantri (2) Purohit (3) Senapati (4) Yuvaraj (5) Douvarik (Protector of the gates) (6) Antarneshik (Head of the interior) (7) Prasathi (Inspector General of Prisons) (8) Samaharta (Collector of revenues) (9) Sannidhata (Officer-in- charge of treasury) (10) Pradestri (Divisional Commissioner) (11) Nayaka (Protector of the City) (12) Paura (Governor of the Capital) (13) Vyavharik (Chief Judge) (14) Karmantik (Chief of the mines) (15) Mantri Parisadahyakshya (President of the Council) (16) Dandapala (Chief of Police) (17) Durgapal (Officer-in-charge of home defences) (18) Antapala (Officer-in-charge of frontier defences).

Besides this there were the heads of certain other departments.

They are:

(1) Koshadhyaksha

(2) Akaradhyaksha

(3) Lauhadhyaksha,

(4) Lachandhyaksha (Officer of the mint)

(5) Lavandhyksha

(6) Swarnadhyaksha

(7) Kosthagaradhyaksha,

(8) Panyadhyaksha (Head of the Government Trade and Commerce)

(9) Kupyadhyasksha (Manager of the Forest works)

(10) Ayadhyaksha (Protector of the Arms)

(11) Pantavadhyaksha (Superintendent of weights and measures)

(12) Mandhyaksha (Decider of time and place)

(13) Shulkadhyaksha

(14) Sutradhyaksha (Superintendent of spinning and weaving)

(15) Sitadhyaksha (Manger of Government Agriculture)

(16) Suradhyaksha (Head of Excise Department)

(17) Sunadhyaksha (Head of Butcher-houses),

(18) Mudradhyaksha (Superintendent of Passport)

(19) Ivitadhyaksha (Head of the meadows)

(20) Dhutadhyaksha (Superintendent of Gambling)

(21) Bandhanagardhyaksha (Officer of the Jail Department)

(22) Nayadhyaksha (Superintendent of Animals)

(23) Nankadhyaksha

(24) Pattandhyaksha (Superintendent of Parts)

(25) Ganikdhyaksha (Officer of the prostitution House)

(26) Padatik, Asva, Ratha and Gaja (Respective heads of different branches of Army)

(27)Sansthadhyaksha (Manager of Commerce and Trades)

These officers were appointed by Chandragupta on the basis of their ability and merit irrespective of their caste or race. Dr. V. A. Smith has praised the administration of Chandragupta.

He writes, “The Mapryan State was oraganised elaborately with full supply of departments and carefully graded officials with well-defined duties.

Administration of Justice:

The administration of Justice under Chandragupta was will regulated. The King’s court was at the top in the Judiciary system. He was the highest authourity to hear the appeals if any from the Higher Courts. Such courts were located in important cities and other convenient centres.

Each such court was constituted by six Judges out of whom three were law specialists called Dharmasthas and three were Amatyas. Usually the courts used to sit in the morning.

Besides the higher courts there were also local courts of three types, named as ‘Janapadha Sandhi’. ‘Sanghaekha’ and ‘Sthaniya” with jurisdiction over two, ten and eight hundred villages respectively.

The Civil Court was called as Dharmasthiya and the Criminal Court was called Kantakaanodhana.

The Judges of the Civil and Criminal Courts were called ‘Vyavaharika’ and ‘Pradesha’ respectively. According to Megasthenese and Kautilya severe punishments such as cutting of limbs and death sentence were awarded.

Thus peace was established in the empire through a strict and severe judicial system, “A person convicted of bearing false witness suffers a multilation of his extremities. He was aims another not only suffer in return the loss of like limb, but his hand or eyes before he is put to death”.

Police Administration:

Another well-organised and efficient branch of the administration was the police department. According to V. A. Smith, ‘The Government relied on highly organised system of espionage, pervading every department of the administration and every class of population”.

There were both stationary and wandering spies. All those who were stationed at particular places were called “Samasteak” or stationary spies and the spies wandering from place to place were called’ Sancharak’ or wandering spies.

Their work was to send secret informations to the king. And they were most dependable in their work.

Military Administration :

This military administration was very elaborate and efficient. The highest officer of the army was the Senapati, who got a salary equal to that of a High Minister.

According to Megasthenes, Chandragupta Maurya had a big and powerful army of 60,000 infantry, 60,000 horsemen, 3,000 chariots and 9,000 elephants.

The army was efficiently organised by a council of thirty members which was further divided into six Boards of five men each. The boards were as follows :

(i)The Navy :

The first board was in charge of the Navy and worked in co-operation with the admiral (Navadhyaksha). Ships were maintained by the state. They navigated the rivers and ventured to the sea. Taxes were also collected from the merchants by this Board.

(ii)Supply and Transport :

The second board was in charge of supply and transport and worked in co -operation with the superintendent of bullock-carts (Go’dhyaksha). The bullock-carts were used for transporting war materials and food for the soldiers.

(iii)The Infantry :

The third board was in charge of infantry under the Pattvadhayaksha. The soldiers were equipped with bows and arrows, swords and also Javelins.

(iv)The Cavalry :

The fourth board was in charge of cavalry whose superintendent appears to have been the Asvadhyaksha.

(v)Elephant :

The fifth board was in charge of war elephants, whose superintendent was probably the Hastyadhyaksha.

(vi)The Chariots :

The sixth board in charge of the war chariots was probably under an officer named Rathadhayaksha

All the soldiers were paid regular salaries which were sufficient to enable them to lead a comfortable life. During the war time the soldiers fought vigorously without caring for their lives, but in peaceful time they were allowed to entertain themselves.

Another significant aspect of in the organisation of the army of Chandragupta was the different types of forts and different strategic places.

Besides this there were several factories for the production of the arms of different kinds while comparing the organisation of the army of Chandragupta Maurya with other kings of India V.A.Smith has observed.

“Chandragupta Maurya maintained a huge standing army directly paid by the crown an instrument of the power infinitely more efficient than Akbar’s militia which failed miserably when confronted with small Portuguese forces, whereas the Maurya’s war more than a match for Salukus.”

Revenue Administration :

Land tax which was one sixth of the production, was the chief means of the revenue of state. There was no private ownership and all the lands were the crown properties. The revenues were also collected from trade, custom, excise tolls, forests and mines.

The water tax, house tax, coinage, birth and death tax also constituted the sources of revenue. Besides those taxes, it was during the time of emergency such as war, that some additional taxes, called benevolence’s were leived on the rich.

The state revenue thus collected was spent on the maintenance of king’s Palace and Court, the army and the officials. Some amount was also spent on Charities religious work and the public works like roads, buildings irrigation besides paying allowances to the artisans. There was an officer to head the revenue department. He was called Samaharta.

Works of Public utility :

Chandragupta Maurya also did many public welfare works to improve the conditions of men. To increase the fertility for the lands he paid his special attention towards irrigation.

The lands were irrigated by means of tank, wells and canals. Then attention was paid for the construction of roads and bridges to connect all the important places of the empire.

The pillars at the interval of one mile were erected to indicate the distance. The shady trees were planted and rest houses were built along the roads for the comfort of the travellers.

The king was also conscious about the education and health of the people. “Educational institutions were set up at the expense of the Government and all those were, supervised by the Purohit or the Priest. Medical facilities at the State’s cost were provided to the people.

Special measures were adopted to control the outbreak of epidemics. The physicians were sent to take care of the affected and distribute medicines.

As such there were standing instructions to report to the Government immediately about the outbreak of such epidemics. Hospitals equipped with Medical stores having adequate medicines were instituted in the towns. Food inspectors were appointed to check cleanliness and examine purity of the food articles.

Sanitary regulations were observed to keep the city and towans clean and healthy”. Besides this many temples were constructed during his reign. For the help and relief of poor and the invalids there were charitable institutions.

Provincial Administration :

Chandragupta had divided his Empire into Provinces to facilitate proper and efficient administration. The exact number of provinces in the time of Chandragupta is not known for certain.

There were probably four provinces Uttarpatha with its capital at Taxila, Avantipath with Ujjain as its capital, Dakshinapatha with Suvarnagiri as capital and Parachya as head quarters. ‘Kumars’ who belonged to royal families, were appointed to Govern these provinces.

The king exercised strict control over these ‘Kumars’. To have control over these rulers of the provinces. Chandragupta had established an efficient organisation of spies.

These spices kept the king fully informed about all the development and details about these provinces. Besides this, there certain provinces whose rulers only paid taxes to Chandragupta and were independent in respect of their administration However, there foreign policy was controlled and Governed by Chandragupta.

Local Administration :

It was for the smooth functioning of the local administration that the province was divide into some Janapadas or. districts, each Janapada into some Ganas or Sthanas and each Sthana into some villages.

The administration in the district was carried out by Sthanikas and Gopas. While the Sthanika was in charge of one quarter of Janapada or district, the Gopa was in charge of five to ten villages. And the Sthanika used to supervise the work of the Gopas.

They were responsible to Samaharta the minister of interior and finance. The village constituted the smallest administrative unit enjoying a lot of freedom in its own affairs each village was found to have been semiautonomous.

In each village there was head man called the Gramika who was assisted by the Grama-Vriddhes or the village elders, corresponding to modern village Panchayatas.


Thus we see that Chandragupta Maurya has the credit of providing a very highly organised system of administration.

Though his system of administration was of a very centralised type having a powerful bureaucracy at the centre, yet much was left for the local self-Government.

The administration paid due attention for trade, commerce, industry, agriculture and public welfare activities. Praising the Maurya administration K.M. Pannikar writes, “If the present India administration is analysed to its bases, the principles and practices of the Mauryan state organisation will be found to be still in force”.

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