The settlement of permanent villages was recognised in the Arthashastra as a method of expanding the agrarian economy, and this process was called janapadanivesha.

Agriculture was the most significant and univer­sal occupation. Husband’s men, cowherds and shep­herds probably formed the bulk of the population in villages. Gramabhritakas or village servants like the potter, blacksmith, carpenter, barber and washer man were paid in cash but could also be called upon to cultivate holdings left fallow.

Besides peasant proprietors, there were karmakaras or day labourers and dasas or serfs to work as labourers in the fields, farms and gardens. The owner of even a small piece of land commanded a higher status than the landless labourer.

The crops that were grown included different varieties of rice, kodrava or coarse grain, millet, sesamum, varieties of pulses, wheat, barley, linseed, mustard, vegetables and tubers and fruits like gourd, plantain, pumpkin, grape, sunflower and sugarcane.


In Sita crown lands the king and the state had rights of possession, cultivation, mortgage, and sale. The Arthashastra mentions a sitadhyaksha or superinten­dent of agriculture who probably supervised culti­vation of the crown lands.

The government had its own farms and gardens and undertook cultivation of commercial crops like kshauma or flax and cotton, and marketed their produce.

On farms, livestock included cows, buffaloes, goats and sheep besides poultry, even camels, asses, dogs and pigs. The state also maintained dairy, cattle and stud-farms.

Hunters and their hounds were engaged to keep pastures clear of wild animals.


The facility of irrigation was provided by the state and there were rules for the benefit of agri­culturists.

Pushyagupta, one of the governors of Chandragupta Maurya, is said to have built a dam for creating a reservoir of water near Girnar in Saurashtra, known as Sudarshana tadaga (water-tank).