Social and economical life in Mauryan Empire
Social LifeThere was a well developed Caste system as per the accounts of Megasthenes and this caste system was based upon occupation rather than birth. The institutions of marriage and polygamy, both were present. Polygamy continued to royal classes. Women enjoyed high status.
There was no slavery in the sense that people used to work as dasa, out of their own compulsions. There were proper hospitals and bheshajas (doctors) appointed along with a team of midwives and nurses etc.
Economic ConditionThe mainstay of the economy under the Mauryas was agriculture, though trade was becoming increasingly, more important. It would seem that cultivators formed a majority of the population and taxes on agriculture were the main source of revenue.
AgricultureIn some parts of the empire, the Gana Sangha System with communal ownership of land continued. There are also references to state-owned lands called Sita lands. Which were worked under the supervision of the Sitadhyaksha either directly by hired labourers or they were leased out to individual cultivators. In the fertile Gangetic plain, a variety of taxes are mentioned such as Bali, Bhaga, Shukla, Kara etc.
The arthashastra states that the amount of tax would also depend on the nature of irrigation facilities and would range from 1/5th to 1/3rd. The Rummindei inscription is the only Ashokan inscription which makes a precise reference to taxation. Here, Ashoka says that he had reduced the amount of bhaga (produce of the soil) to 1/8th (atthabhagiya) as a concession to the people of the holy birth-place of the Buddha.
Trade and NavigationThe man exports were different spices, pearls, diamonds, cotton, textiles, ivory works, conch shells etc. The main imports consisted of horses, gold, glass, lines etc. The eighteen chief handicrafts of the time were organized in guilds called srenis, each under its president called Pramukha and the alderman called Jetthaka. Trade was organized in merchant-guilds (Sanghas and srenis). The sale of merchandise was strictly regulated by the state and a toll tax of 1/5th of the value of the commodity was levied.
Trade RoutsThe important internal trade routes were the north to south-west route (from Saravasti to Prathisthana), the north to South-East route (from Saravasti to Rajagriha) and the East-West route, which followed the river courses of the Ganges and the Yamuna.
The royal Highway from the North-west (in the region of Taxila) to Pataliputra was considered the most important route. This route extended eastwards along the Ganges to the port of Tamralipti. Tamluk on the east coast, Broach and Soparaon on the west coast were the most important sea-ports on India in those times.