Economic, Social and Political Conditions in the Post-Mauryan Period

The fruits of opening new regions to trade and agriculture during�Mauryan times came to be realised during the post Mauryan�period. The Mauryan rule was significant for disseminating�knowledge regarding the use of coins and advanced knowledge�of iron making technology in the peripheral areas outside the�pale of Brahmanical culture. This paved the way for the rise of�a large number of towns and popular use of currency, which�in turn, facilitated internal transactions as well as promoted�foreign trade with Central and South-East Asia and also with�Rome. This period is also notable for the formation of large�number of guilds of artisans and merchants, as suggested by�the inscriptions.

The social and religious structure of the post-Maurya�period was characterised by Brahmanism (of the indigenous�ruling houses of the Shungas, Kanavas and Satavahanas) and�the foreign rulers (such as the Indo-Greeks and Kushans) and�Buddhism, which became popular. Land grant had to be made�to both Brahmins and Buddhists. Brahmanism received a major�thrust with the completion of the legal treatise of Manu which�legitimised the wide propagation of the caste system.

Satavhanas and Kushanas were the only two large�kingdoms that established feudatory relations with smaller�kings. Such an organisation was required by the Satavahanas�who were probably improvised brahmins ruling over semi or nonbrahmanised chiefs of the Deccan. For the Scythians who came�from the central Asia, this was all the more natural and the titles�adopted by the Kushana kings indicate the existence of many�lesser kings paying homage and tribute and rendering military�service to the paramount power. A second factor leading to�decentralisation was the grant of fiscal right to the Buddhist and�Brahmin beneficiaries. Villages receiving such grants enjoyed�concessions which included exemption from the entry of royal�agents, policemen and soldiers. To this extent the beneficiaries�were free to manage village affairs and to maintain law and order�there, thus forming semi-independent administrative pockets�in the countryside.

Existence of autonomous governments in at least a�dozen cities of north India was a significant aspect of the�post-Mauryan polity. The native guilds of traders of these cities�issued coins. The business of government was carried on either�by a single corporation or a joint body of corporations of artisans�and merchants in the cities of Taxila and Kaushambi. These�towns lost their autonomous character with the establishment�of the Satavahana and the Kushana kingdoms but their civic life�did not lose its vigour. The rulers had to reckon with merchant�corporations in the towns of the Deccan and with the guilds of�artisans in the Kushana territory, although clear proof of the�participation of merchants in town administration is lacking.

The old centralised system of administration continued�at several points and was even strengthened by the adoption�of new elements. The Satavahanas divided the kingdom into�aharas and placed them under charge of royal officers as was�prevalent during the Ashokan system of administration. The�system of taxation was simple and tax was collected in cash as�the discovery of large number of coins suggests. Militarisation�of government, both in the Satavahana and the Kushana�dominions, was an important development of the period.�An ahara was placed under a mahasenapati and a village under�a gaulmika, head of a small military unit. Divinity in kinship�was a typical feature of the period. Inscriptions show that�the Satavahana rulers were being compared to gods and the�Kushana rulers claimed the status of being devaputras – sons�of the god. They also started the practice of deification of the�dead kings. The coins of some of the tribal republican states�reveal that they were supposed to be headed by their gods�in whose name the coins were issued. The state was no more�treated as an item of property of the king or the ruling class.�This helped in maintaining the old centralised system but there�were fewer officials to promote it, like the Mauryas had. Most�economic activities now carried on by guilds. A good part of�the administration was handled by these guilds of merchants in�the urban areas and religious beneficiaries in the villages. Several�elements of decentralisation were seen in the Shaka-Satavahana�polity which paved the way for the feudalism during the Gupta�period.

Written by princy

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