Short Notes on the Slavery in Mauryan Society

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Megasthenes has stated that slavery did not exist in India, which is not proved by historical facts. It appears that Megasthenes was thinking of slavery in its full legal sense as it obtained in the West.

The dasas of India were not slaves in that sense; for they could not be employed in unclean work – “servile labour” as Megasthenes puts it – and they could hold and transmit property, and under certain conditions regain their freedom as a matter of right.

It is laid down that no Arya (freeman, including Sudra) could be made a dasa. In times of distress a man might agree to become a dasa of another or provide for his children in that manner; but dasas usually came from the class of mlechchas and captives in war.

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When correctly understood, Megasthenes, it is clear, was neither misled by the mildness of Indian slavery into deny­ing its existence, nor did he idealise Indian condi­tions for the edification of the Greeks, but simply stated a fact as he saw and understood it in the light of his own presuppositions.

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