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CONCERNING the condition and organisation of the vast Maurya empire the Greeks have provided us with a considerable body of valuable information : and, as the Arthashastra furnishes the means of describing the complete polity existing at the time, its land system, its fiscal system, its administrative system, its law, its social system, with some view of literature and religion, we shall not forgo the opportunity, so rare in Indian history - we must wait for the time of Akbar and the Aini Akbari - of dwelling a little on the picture.

As regards the land itself, we may distinguish the forest, the pasture or grazing-ground, and the cultivated area. The forests must have been much more extensive than at present, and they clearly comprised both relatively inaccessible tracts inhabited by wild unsubdued tribes and others which were within the reach of the administration, visited by trappers and hunters, utilized for raw material, reserved for elephant-grounds, state hunting-grounds, parks, and Brahman settlements. The pasture must have included both large spaces (vivita) occupied by the nomad, tent-dwelling ranchers, who were the direct descendants of the old Vedic tribes, and also more restricted areas in the neighborhood of the villages. The latter, which then as now were the main feature of the country, had their definite boundaries, their village halls, no doubt representing the forts of ancient times, and their independent internal economy. Less, if at all, organised were the stations (ghosha), or hamlets which formed the headquarters of the ranching class.

Apart from the royal domains, which must have been considerable, the ultimate property in the land appertained, in the sense which has since prevailed, to the king : that is to say, the king was entitled to his revenues therefrom, and in default could replace the cultivator in his holding. This does not preclude alienation or subdivision by the occupier, the royal title persisting through each change. It was the king's business to organize the agricultural productivity by encouraging the surplus population to settle new or abandoned tracts. Irrigation was an object of great solicitude and naturally under the charge of the state, which regulated the supply of water and derived revenue therefrom.

The bulk of the population consisted of actual cultivators, and Megasthenes remarks that their avocation was to such a degree defined (by the rule of caste) that they might be seen peacefully pursuing it in the sight of contending armies. The higher classes in the country had not a landowning, but an official, qualification, being entitled for their maintenance to a defined portion of the revenue. This corresponds to the jagir system of Musalman times. The assignment might be the revenue of an estate, a village, a town, or according to circumstances. On a minor scale the same principle was applied to the ranching class, which received for maintenance a proportion of the stock.

Roads were constructed by the royal officers, and at intervals of 'ten stades' were sign-boards noting turnings and distances. The Greeks make special mention of the 'royal route' from the N.W. frontier to Pataliputra. Communications were maintained by couriers, while in the woods roamed trappers and forest-rangers. Towns were numerous, in so much that the Greeks report as many as two thousand placed under the rule of Porus, and Megasthenes ascribes some thirty to the Andhra country alone. They ranged from the market town (samgrahana), serving the uses of ten villages, through the county towns (kharvataka and dronamukha at a river's mouth) for 200 or 400 villages, the provincial capital (sthaniya, or Thana), the great city (nagara, pura) or port (pattana) to the royal capital (rajadhani), all provided with defences of varying solidity. There were also forts on the frontiers or in special situations, such as in the middle of lakes or swamps, hidden in forests, or perched on heights.

The art of fortification was well understood. As we can learn from the Greek and native descriptions, and as we can see depicted on the monuments of Sanchi and Bharhut, the great cities were provided with ditches, ramparts, and walls of earth, wood or brick, having battlements, towers, covered ways, salient angles, water-gates, and portcullises, with a wide street running round the interior face. There were guard-houses for troops (gulma) in the different quarters. In principle the towns were of rectangular shape and divided into four regions, each under a special official and composed of wards. The houses were generally of wood, and of two or three storeys, the more splendid ones including several courts, one behind the other. There were royal palaces, workshops, storehouses, arsenals, and prisons. The streets were provided with watercourses draining the houses and issuing into the moat : against misuse of them, or of the cemeteries outside, by deposit of rubbish or dead bodies, by loosing animals, by conveyances not under proper charge, by funerals conducted through irregular ways or at unlawful hours, penalties are laid down. The houses were forbidden to have windows overlooking each other, except across the street. The precautions against fire included the provision of vessels of water 'in thousands' in the streets : every householder must sleep in the forepart of his dwelling, and he is under the obligation of rendering assistance in case of fire, while arson is punished by burning alive. The trumpet sounds the beginning and end of the nocturnal interval, during which, except on special occasions, none must stir abroad. Approach to the guard-houses and palaces is prohibited, as also is music at unseasonable times. The city chief reports all incidents, and takes charge of lost and ownerless property.


The imperial capital Pataliputra or Kusumapura, the Palibothra of the Greeks, which was situated on the south side of the Ganges, to the east of its confluence with the Son, is described by Megasthenes. Its ruins lie for the most part under the modern city of Patna-Bankipore; and part of its ancient rampart has been found in situ.

The population, as we learn from Megasthenes in agreement with the indications of the Arthashastra, consisted of seven classes, which have been already particularised : there was no transference from one class to another (except that the philosophers, i.e. the Brahmans, might in case of adversity adopt any profession), nor was marriage between them allowed. These distinctions of function correspond only partially to those of caste, which in fact must have been already much more complicated : and they take no note of special cases, such as riverine and maritime populations.

In the country, except where undertakings such as mines and other works created exceptional conditions, the second and third classes, the husbandmen and the neatherds and shepherds, must have predominated : the village servants, such as the potter, the blacksmith, the carpenter, the barber, would belong to the third. In the towns we hear of labourers, craftsmen, traders, inspectors, and officials. The crafts are numerous, especially those dealing with the precious metals and with textiles. The professions include the doctor, the actor, singer and rhapsodist, the dancer, and the soothsayer. The traders are partly state officials in charge of royal merchandise, or in superintendence of matters connected with prices and sales, partly actual shopkeepers or travelling merchants; and not rare among both classes was the rich shreshthin, or seth, who was an important social factor, and, if a leader in his guild, received official recognition. In the workshops and the prisons (the latter periodically emptied) artisans were engaged on contract or in penal tasks; and there is a ‘spinning house’ for the labour of widows and other helpless or unfortunate women.

Permanent associations in civil life include trader and merchant guilds (shreni) and clubs (puga). I but there were also temporary combinations of workmen and others engaged under corporate responsibility for the execution of contracts. Collective obstruction was known and penalised.

Trade was active, various, and minutely regulated. The precious wares comprise many species of gold, silver, spices, and cosmetics from all parts of India; jewels, including pearls from Southern India, Ceylon, and beyond the sea; skins from Central Asia and China; muslin, cotton, and silk from China and Further India. The best horses came, as now, from the Indus countries and beyond. The merchant was mulcted in dues at the frontier, by road-taxes and tolls, and by octroi at the gates of the cities, where the royal officials maintained a douane and watch-house : he was required to be armed with a passport, and severe penalties were attached to malpractices in connection therewith. The officials record in writing 'who the merchants are, whence they come, with what merchandise, and where it has been vised'. The country produce also was subject to octroi upon entry, and, to ensure that nothing might escape, there were prohibitions of purchase in part or in bulk at the place of origin in farms, orchards, and gardens. The amount and price of all goods was declared, and the sale was by auction, any enhancement accruing to the treasury. Combinations to affect prices were punishable; an army of spies was engaged on the routes in order to detect false declarations. The prices of ordinary goods were fixed and proclaimed daily by the officials. Similarly all weights and measures were subject to inspection. There were export, as well as import duties and octrois, and certain classes of goods were forbidden to be introduced or sent abroad respectively. The king himself was a great trader, disposing of the output of his factories, workshops, and prisons, and the produce of his lands, forests, and mines, for which he maintained store-houses (koshthdgdra) through the country. In particular he reserved the right of coining and other work in silver and gold, which was executed by his officials on behalf of those who brought their raw metal.

The state of society corresponding to this activity of trade, to the traffic on high roads (rajapatha 'routes royales') and by-roads (banikpatha 'merchant roads'), the bustle at frontiers, ferries, tolls, and city-gates, and to the minute regulation of all these, must have been one of considerable complexity. Nor do we lack the means, literary or illustrative, of becoming in part acquainted with it. Beside the statements of the Greek writers, we may gather abundant material from the Pali books of the Buddhist canon, from the Arthashastra and the code of Manu, from Patanjali's commentary upon the grammar of Panini, and from the Ramayana and Mahabharata; while the Buddhist stupas of Sanchi and Bharhut supply ocular demonstrations of much that is recorded in the literature. But from this material large deductions must be made : the Sanskrit Epics, and in a less degree the books of the Pali canon, reflect the circumstances of an earlier period irrespective of the actual dates of composition and we run the risk of confusing conditions as widely different as those of the Homeric, the Solonian, and the Periclean age in Greece. If we seek to elicit the special features of the Maurya epoch, we shall mark first of all the growth of luxury consequent upon the rise of the great Magadha empire in the east : in the Punjab, no doubt, in spite of the effeminacy which the Greeks observed in the court of Porus, the old tribal system was still prevalent. There the actual cultivator would still be a man of the three upper classes, while in the east he was generally a Shudra. It is to this period, no doubt, that we must ascribe the great complexity of the caste system, and the beginning of the association of caste with craft. It seems not doubtful that a number of castes did arise, according to the Brahman theory, by intermixtures of the old four divisions, which still formed the basis : a process natural in itself, when intermarriage between the different classes was still licit, and certain to be specifically noted, while it is evidenced not only by the testimony of theological works, but also by so worldly a treatise as the Arthashastra. But it is only in a few cases that we find a particular occupation assigned to a particular caste.

In another respect the old system of caste had received a shock. To the contemporaries of Buddha and Mahavira the conception of a king who was not of the Kshatriya order would have seemed preposterous. But the Mauryas were of low extraction, as were the Nandas whom they succeeded. Henceforth the spectacle of the low-born man in power was never a rarity in India; and soon it was the foreigner. The vast empire, with its army of officials and spies, introduced a bureaucratic rule in place of the old quasifeudal system.

Foreign influences also begin to assert themselves. In the stone architecture, which replaces wood in public monuments, as also in the style of the edicts of Ashoka we have clear evidence of intercourse with Persia, which must necessarily have begun well before the fourth century. And this advance in art affected religion also by its encouragement of image-worship.

As regards daily life, we find the public side of it sufficiently gay. The people were frugal in their diet, and sober, except on occasion of festivals. The chief display of luxury was in dress. The inns, hostelries, eating-houses, serais, and gaming-houses are evidently numerous; sects and crafts have perhaps their meeting places and the latter their public dinners. The business of entertainment provides a livelihood for various classes of dancers, singers, and actors. Even the villages are visited by them, and the author of the Arthashastra is inclined to discourage the existence of a common hall used for their shows as too great a distraction from the life of the home and the fields. At the same time there are penalties for refusal to assist in organising public entertainment. The king provides in amphitheatres constructed for the occasion dramatic, boxing, and other contests of men and animals, and also spectacles with displays of pictured objects of curiosity no doubt the private showman with his pictures of Hades, etc., was also active; and not seldom the streets were lighted up for festivals and it was not penal to stir abroad. Then there were also the royal processions, when His Majesty went forth to view his city or to hunt.

Domestic Life

In domestic life the joint-family system prevails : but it can be dissolved. Boy and girl attain their majority at the age of sixteen and of twelve respectively. Adoption legitimated by the king is common. There are the four regular and four irregular forms of marriage, which is dissoluble by mutual consent or prolonged absence. The wife has her dowry and her ornaments, sometimes also her bride-gift, which are her private property and to a certain extent at her disposal in case of widowhood. Ill-usage on either side is punishable. Upon failure of male issue the husband may after a certain period take other wives (of any class); but he is required to render justice to all : on the other hand, a widow is at liberty to marry again. Orphans are under the guardianship of their relatives. The poor and helpless old, and in particular the families of soldiers and workmen dying during their employment, are regarded as deserving the king's care. Concerning the ganikas, or public women, who were the king's servants, and whose practice and rights were subject to minute regulation, the Greek writers- have told us enough. Offences against women of all kinds are severely visited, including the actions of officials in charge of workshops and prisons; and their various imprudences and lapses are subject to a gradation of fines and penalties. Refractory wives may be beaten (Manu, vin, 299).

In totally denying slavery Megasthenes went too far : in fact seven kinds of slaves are enumerated : but it is laid down that no Arya ('freeman', here including the Shudra) could be enslaved. A man might sell himself into slavery, and in times of distress children might be so provided for : also there were captives in war. In all cases the slave may purchase his freedom by any earnings acquired irrespective of his master's service, and ransom from outside cannot be refused. The slave woman who is taken to her master's bed thereby acquires freedom, as also do her children.

The progress of literature during the Maurya period is unfortunately for the most part matter for inference. Only three works, all in their way important, can with certainty be dated in or near it : these are the Arthashastra of Chanakya, the Mahabhashya, Patanjali's commentary on the grammatical Sutras of Panini, and the Pali Kathavatthu. The Vedic period, including the Brahmanas and the early Upanishads, was prior to Buddha, and the same may be said in principle of the Sutras, or manuals of rites, public and domestic, the Vedangas, treatises on grammar, phonetics, prosody, astronomy, etymology, ritual, whatever may be the date of the treatises which have come down to us. Nor can the like be denied regarding the various forms of quasi-secular literature which are named in works of about this period, the Purana, or myth, the Itivritta, or legend, Akhyayika, or tale, Vakovakya, or dialogue. Some form of the Mahabharata and Ramayana, the former of which we infer from Megasthenes to have been current during this period, belongs also to an earlier epoch. One philosophical system, the Sankhya, seems to be prior to Buddhism : a second, the Vaiheshika, may have arisen in our period. Finally, the canon of the Pali Buddhism and also that of the Jains, which is said to have been fixed at Pataliputra in 313 (312) BC, and the system of the Lokayatas or Ajivikas, are also in substance pre-Maurya.

If we may conjecturally assign to this period any definite literary forms, these would be the shastra and the artificial poetry, or kavya. The former, the most characteristic product of the Indian mind, is the formal exposition of a particular science in dogmatic enunciations accompanied by a discussion (bhashya). Such are the grammatical work of Patanjali, the Arthashastra of Chanakya, the Kamashastra of Vatsyayana : the Dharma Shastra, or Law, followed an older model, that of the metrical treatise, and the Nyaya Shastra, or Logic, is a later creation. We cannot doubt also that many of the minor sciences (vidyas) and arts (kalas), which were from earlier times a subject of instruction, had already attained some systematic literary form. As regards the artificial epic, it is true that we have no positive evidence of its existence in Maurya times. But the Buddhacharita of Ashvaghosha, which dates from the first century A.D., presents a perfect and stereotyped form, indicating a long preparation.

Writing: Language

That writing was in common use not only for literary purposes, but also in public business, the edicts of Ashoka exist to prove. But this is by no means all. Epistolary correspondence was perfectly usual, and written documents were employed in the courts of law : moreover, the administration was versed in bookkeeping and registration on a large scale and systematically arranged. And we have already the beginnings of a study of style and a vocabulary of exegesis.

Sanskrit remained the language of the Brahman schools, of public and private ritual, and also of secular literature, except perhaps in the case of folk poesy. In the life of every day and also in administration, furthermore in the sectarian books of the Buddhists and Jains, a vernacular was employed; and from the Edicts of As oka three such vernaculars are known, one of which, that of Magadha, probably profited by its central position at the headquarters of the empire to encroach upon the others. The Sanskrit was perhaps favored in cultured circles, and especially in the cities; and social ambition, hampered by insufficient training, began to foster a hybrid form of speech, now known as 'mixed Sanskrit', which subsequently established itself as a literary medium in certain Buddhist schools, when the canonical vernaculars, themselves by no means dialectically pure, had already become stereotyped.

We shall not trespass further on the province of the historian of language and literature. Nor need we dwell at length upon the likewise special topics of religion and law. Nevertheless there is an aspect of these which appertains to general history. There can be little doubt that the Maurya empire began witha Brahman, as well as a national, reaction. The age of Buddha was one in which religious speculation was rife. Originally a product of the Brahman hermitages, it had offered irresistible attractions to a people wearied of ritual formality. Innumerable sects arose; it became a common understanding that from any class a man could go forth, abandoning his home, and found or join a sect of wandering disputants or ascetics. The Greek writers combine with the Buddhist and Jain books and the edicts of Ashoka in testifying to the ubiquity of the pravrajitas or shramanas. We cannot doubt that this would in the end constitute a danger to the established order and an offence to the Brahman caste. The Brahman, in the Vedic age a priest, had long ceased to be primarily so. It is true that in public and private ritual the priestly function was his, and he was entitled to the emoluments thereof: also the Purohita, or king’s spiritual adviser, was one of the highest and most indispensable officers of state. It was, moreover, customary to consult the forest-dwelling Brahmans upon high political matters, and in the law-courts the sacred law was stated by Brahman assessors.

Nevertheless, as has been well said, the Brahman was not a person who fulfilled a sacred function in particular, the service of a temple has always been regarded as demeaning him but a person who was sacred. He was exempt from taxation and confiscation, from corporal chastisement and the death penalty, branding and banishment being in his case the ultima ratio. His true office was study and teaching, and his proper abode was the forest hermitage, where he maintained the sacred fires and lived for another world. An order such as this, established in customary respect and daily observance, was obviously threatened by the intervention of proselitising sects of impromptu origin, making claims upon the livelihood of the people, and interposing in formal and informal gatherings with fundamental problems. We can therefore well understand why the Arthashastra (Chap. 19) forbids the practice of abandoning domestic life without formal sanction and without provision for wife and family; and we look forward with confidence to the great doctrine of the Bhagavadgita, that grand pillar of Brahmanism, that salvation is attainable not by the rejection of civil duty, but in and above the performance of it. Accordingly we see in the Maurya age the beginning of a stage of concentration, in which only a few great sects could maintain themselves by the side of a settled Brahman orthodoxy. And this was a natural corollary of a great empire.

Religion: Law

Among the Brahman deities the greatest share of popular adoration accrued to Shiva and Vishnu (under the form of Krishna), whom the Greeks report to us as Dionysus and Heracles respectively. With the former was associated Skanda or Vishakha, the god of war. The Buddhist books and sculptures, which give the preference to Brahma and Indra, are in this respect archaising.

Shiva was specially worshipped in the hill regions; of the Vishnu cult the great centre was Mathura, the second home of the Krishna legend, which first arose in Western India. The Jains were probably still mostly to be found in Bihar and Ujjain, while the Buddhist expansion had perhaps even in the lifetime of the founder attained a far wider range.

Of law the bases are defined as, in ascending order of validity, sacred precept (dharma), agreement (vyavahara), custom (charitra), and royal edicts (rajashasana), and the subject is expounded rationally, not theologically. Civil law is treated under the heads of marriage and dowry, inheritance, housing and neighborhood (including trespass), debt, deposit, slaves, labor and contract, sale, violence and abuse, gaming, and miscellanea.

Cases were heard in the morning before a triad of officials together with three Brahman exponents of law; and there were rules as to the circumstances in which agreements were valid, and as to procedure in court, with plea, counterplea, and rejoinder. We learn from various sources that cases were commonly disposed of locally by reference to a body of arbitrators (paƱchayat), permanent or constituted ad hoc, or by the officials of various grades; and there was a system of appeals as far as the king, who was regularly present in court or represented by a minister (pradvivaka). Offences against caste or religion were tried by committees entitled parishads. Trials by wager or ordeal were also common. The penalties, reasonably graduated and executed by royal authority, include fines (these, and also debts, often cornmutable for forced labor), whipping, mutilation, and death with or without torture. In cases of assault the principle familiar in the modern proverb 'first at the Thana' is already known, but disputed.

Under the title 'clearing of thorns' are included criminal law, political offences, in particular misconduct on the part of officials, and the general business of police. Among the cases contemplated we may cite theft, murder, burglary or forcible entry, poisoning, coining, injury to property, criminal negligence, contumelious violation of caste rules, boycott and other acts of employees, combinations to affect prices, fraud in regard to weights and measures. In all these matters the magistrates (pradeshtri, revenue and police officers) were assisted by an army of spies and agents-provocateurs, who in times of fiscal difficulty were also empowered to adopt the most reprehensible expedients for squeezing the well-to-do. If the Greek writers are to be trusted when they report a rarity of offences among the Indians, this was plainly not due to a state of innocence even as regards elaborate criminal acts.


We now come to the matter of government and administration, which we may treat with a little more system. Beginning with the civil administration and at its base, we find already in operation that system of village autonomy under the headman (gramani, an official nominee), which has prevailed in India at all periods. Through him, no doubt, there was a joint responsibility for the assignment and payment of the land revenue, and consequently for the proper cultivation of the fields, which failing, the occupier might be replaced by the village servants. In consultation with the elders, the village panchayat, he would also decide all questions relating to the customary rights and duties of the village barber, washerman, potter, blacksmith, and so on. His superiors were the gopa in charge of five or ten villages and sthanika theoretically ruling one quarter of the realm, each attended by executive, revenue, and police officials. By some texts further official gradations are recognised, and in the edicts of Ashoka the highest local officials, set over hundreds of thousands of persons, are termed rajukas, a designation pointing, no doubt, to functions connected with survey, land settlement, and irrigation. The superior of all these, to whom they reported successively, was one of the great ministers of state, the samahartri, or Minister of the Interior and Chancellor of the Exchequer.

This important official dealt with the whole income of the state, including that of the Royal domains. The main heads are (1) the proportion of the produce of land, which in India accrues immemorially to the king in lieu of rent, (2) the minor dues and cesses connected therewith, (3) the special income from irrigated land, and that from pastures, forests, mines, and other works, (4) the customs at the frontiers, the transport dues at ferries, etc., the road dues and tolls, the octroi at the city gates, the profits of coinage, and the various profits consequent upon the methods of sale, (5) the fees exacted as licences from workmen, craftsmen, traders and professionals, gaming houses and passports, (6) the fines derived from the law courts, also ownerless property, and (7) special taxes, as it were tithes, for religious objects. In times of straitness there were also 'benevolences' exacted, but in theory only once, from the well-to-do. Under expenditure we understand without difficulty the maintenance of the sovereign and his court, the salaries which the Arthashastra (Chap. 91) carefully defines of the ministry and the vast army of minor officials and spies, religious provisions, the demands of the army and its equipment, including forts, the expense of mines, forests, etc., and of public works such as roads, irrigation, etc., which was regarded as the function of the state, the maintenance of the families of slain soldiers, officials dying during employment, and finally of helpless persons. We have here matter for the work of a large establishment and an elaborate clerical system; and we learn in fact from the Arthashastra (Chaps. 25-7) that the business of the Treasury was carefully and minutely organized, with distinctions of current, recurrent, occasional, and other expenditure and various checks. Moreover, both in town and country the various grades of officials maintained full registers both of property and of the population. Thus the bifurcating roots of a vast administration no doubt more eifective in theory than in practice connected the individual taxpayer with the crown.

Another important minister was the sannidhatri, or Minister of Works, who had charge of storehouses, treasuries, prisons, armouries, warehouses and the like. An interesting item in his duties was the maintenance of a rain-gauge. We shall not dwell upon the pradeshtri, or head of the executive revenue and judicial service, or the prashastri, or Minister of Correspondence, who was responsible for the drafting of decrees and royal letters, nor, of course, upon the numerous adhyakshas, or superintendents, the Episcopi of the Greek writers, in charge of minor departments.

The other great officers of state were the dauvarika, Chamberlain or Master of the Ceremonies, the antarvamshika or Head of the Bodyguard, and the four indispensable chiefs who formed the inner cabinet, namely the mantrin, i.e. Diwan or Prime Minister, the purohita, or religious adviser, the senapati, or Commanderin-Chief, and the yuvaraja, or Heir Apparent. In the provinces were the various antapalas, or Guardians of Frontiers, and durgapalas, or Commanders of Forts, while the great empire of the Mauryas found a place also for the Viceroy (uparaja), no doubt attended by his own, minor, court.

The functions of ambassadors are clearly recognised, with distinctions of plenipotentiary, envoy, and instructed emissary, and rules for their behaviour are enunciated. The chief ministers were in many cases hereditary and, except in the instance of the Purohita, they would be more often of Kshatriya, than of Brahman, caste (Manu, VII, 54).

As regards the government of cities, we hear of the mayor (nagaraka), under whom as in the country districts are sthanikas and gopas, whose duties similarly include the keeping of registers of persons and property. All inns, hostels, serais, and places of entertainment are under surveillance, and reports are received concerning strangers and frequenters. Then there are the various superintendents of works and dues, of sales, weights and measures, of store-houses and so forth. According to Strabo many of these duties were discharged by boards of five (panchayats), and he enumerates six such boards, whose respective functions have already been described in Chapter XVI. No doubt the system varied from place to place, and it may have differed according as the city was capital or provincial, subject to a sovereign or independent (as according to Megasthenes most of them had at one time been). We may think of the difference between a royal borough and free town in our own middle ages.

The Military

Coming now to the military, we find that the native Indian accounts present a view of the case rather less simple than does Megasthenes. According to these accounts the military might consist of troops of different kinds, namely hereditary or feudatory troops, hired troops, gild levies, and forest tribes. In the first named, which were regarded as the most trustworthy, we may doubtless recognize the old Kshatriya division of society, connected by caste, and ultimately by race, with the king himself, such as in later times we find them in the quasi-feudal states of Rajputana.

In the second class also the Kshatriya element would probably predominate, though here there would be, no doubt, a career for any bold adventurer with a strong arm and a soldierly bent As concerns the gild troops, which are plainly regarded as having a chiefly defensive character, there is some room for doubt : were they merely the ordinary trade gilds, as an organization for calling out the people for service in time of invasion, a sort of militia or landwehr? Or were they quasi-military corporations, such as the modern Brinjaras, whose business was to supply merchants and others with armed protection of a quasi-professional character? While refraining from a decisive pronunciation, we cannot but incline in the circumstances to the former alternative, for which the gilds of medieval Europe supply a fair analogy, and which is supported by the defensive character of the force. In any case the gild troops were regarded as in military value inferior to the men-at-arms. The forest tribes, employed like the Red Indians in the French and English wars of North America, or like other untrained auxiliaries in the armies of Greece and Rome, were destined for the service of distracting or detaining the enemy rather than for the actual crises of campaigns.

The main divisions of the army were the elephant corps, the cavalry, and the foot : to which should be added the foragers and camp-followers. There was a scientific distinction of vanguard, centre, rear, wings, reserve, and camp, with elaborate discussions of formations on the march and in battle, attack and defence, and the value and employment of the several arms. Equipment was in considerable variety, including fixed and mobile engines, such as 'hundred-slayers'. Such instruments were, of course, familiar even to the early nations of Mesopotamia, as were also the construction and siege of forts.

The Indian forts were, as we have seen, systematically designed, with ditches, ramparts, battlements, covered ways, portcullises, and water-gates; and in the assault the arts of mining, countermining, flooding mines were employed no less than the devices of diplomacy. In short, the Indians possessed the art of war. If all their science failed them against Alexander, and against subsequent invaders, we may conjecture, in accordance with other aspects of Indian thought, the reason that there was too much of it. In the formation adopted by Porus, the elephants and chariots in front and the infantry in the rear, we may perhaps detect an agreement with the precepts of the books. As regards the ethics of fighting, the Greeks received an impression of something not unchivalrous; and here too we may recall the written precepts as to fair fighting, not attacking the wounded or those already engaged or the disarmed, and sparing those who surrendered.


It is in foreign policy that we find the culmination of the Indian genius for systematic exposition, the principles being those of Machiavelli. Policy has not large aims; the mainspring is the rivalry of kings and the much applauded desire for glory and imperial rule. Already we find worked out in pedantic detail the not unreasonable principle that the neighboring state is the enemy and the alternate one the ally. The varying circumstances decide in which of the six gunas, or situations, the monarch finds himself, whether aggressor, defender, or tertius gaudens, and to which of the four expedients, war, conciliation, bribery, or dissension, he must have recourse. Here the arts of treachery and overreaching attain a climax : even in war there is a whole science of sowing suspicion among allies, treason in armies, disaffection or revolt in kingdoms.

Of the polity which we have outlined, the only polity approved by Indian science, the keystone was the sovereign. Even in the Vedic age the prevailing system was monarchical. Nevertheless the Vedas afford evidence of tribes in which the chief authority was exercised by a family, or even, as in the case of the German nations described in the work of Tacitus, by a whole body of nobles, who are actually designated kings. Of such ruling oligarchies the age of Buddha furnishes, as is well known, a number of examples : such were the Mallas of Kusinara and the Licchavis of Vesali. To these oligarchical communities the growth of the great kingdoms proved destructive : at the time of Alexander's invasion they had largely disappeared from eastern Hindustan, and in the Punjab also Porus was working for their subjugation. The Arthashastra (Chaps. 160-1) has even a policy of compassing their overthrow by internal dissension. Nevertheless, a number of them survived through and after the Maurya empire, and one of them, that of the Malavas, handed down to later India its first persistent era, the so-called Vikrama era, which is still the common era of northern India.

In the monarchies the king controls the whole administration, and by his spies keeps watch upon every part of it. He is recommended to check his officials by division and frequent change of functions. Nevertheless, the Indian king is no sultan with the sole obligation of satisfying his personal caprice. The origin of royalty is the growth of wickedness and the necessity of chastisement, the virtue of which the Indian writers celebrate with a real enthusiasm. It is as guardian of the social (including domestic and religious) order and defence against anarchical oppression that the king is entitled to his revenue; failing to perform this duty, he takes upon himself a corresponding share of the national sin. Educated in these precepts among a moralizing people, he would have been more than human had he escaped the obsession of this conception of his duties. Hence we not seldom hear on royal, as well as on priestly, lips the expression that the king should be the father of his people.

His education is in philosophy, Vedic lore, business, and the science of polity : he is also to receive the ordinary instruction in mathematics and literature. He must attain to complete control of his passions by consideration of the errors of famous men in the past. He must never be off his guard or lacking in force.

His occupations are mapped out with a minuteness which in the literature is a subject of humorous comment. The day and the night are divided by sundial or water-clock each into eight portions. Aroused by music at the end of the sixth nocturnal hour, he receives the salutations of his Purohita and others, and interviews the doctors and kitchen officials : then he reflects upon the principles of polity and forms his plans, after which he sends out his secret emissaries, and hears reports of his military and financial advisers. Next comes the hour for appearing in the Audience Hall or in the Law Courts, and considering the affairs of the public, which has free admission. After this the king retires for his bath and repast; and this is also the time for religious devotions. The interval passed, he receives those who bring gifts, interviews his inspectors, corresponds by letter with his ministers, and makes plans of espionage. The sixth hour having now arrived, he takes his ease and reconsiders his policy. In the seventh and eighth hours, the cool of the day, he inspects his horses, elephants, and arsenal, and consults with the Commander in-Chief : at sunset he performs the usual religious ceremony. The first hour of night brings in the reports of spies. Then come the second bath and meal, followed by religious meditation. To the sound of music His Majesty retires for rest.

The Palace

The palace is a walled building, with the women's apartments, gardens, and tanks in the rear. In front of these is the innermost court, where the king on awakening is saluted by the various domestic officials, and, according to Aelian also by an elephant. The next is the station of a sham body-guard of dwarfs, hunchbacks, wild men, etc.; while the outermost of all, communicating with the exterior, is occupied by an armed retinue, and by ministers and connexions.

Everything bespeaks precaution. The structure of the palace itself includes mazes, secret and underground passages, hollow pillars, hidden staircases, collapsible floors. Against fire, poisonous animals, and other poisons there is diverse provision, including trees which snakes avoid, parrots and sharika birds which cry out on seeing a serpent, other birds which are variously affected by the sight of poison. Everyone has his own apartments, and none of the interior officials are allowed to communicate with the outside. The women are carefully watched by attendants, male and female; not even their relatives are admitted to them, except in time of childbirth or illness. All employees coming from without, such as nautch women, undergo bath and massage and change their dress before admission. Material objects, as they pass in and out, are placed on record and under seal. According to Megasthenes, the king changes his apartment every night.

The kitchen is in a secret place, and there is a multitude of tasters. The signs of poison in the viands and in the demeanour of the persons are carefully noted. Medicaments must pass similar tests. The instruments of the shampooer and others must be handled by the body-guard, and the persons themselves bathed, etc. : articles of ornament and apparel are inspected by female slaves; cosmetics, etc., are first tried on those who apply them. If actors are admitted, the orchestra and other appurtenances separate them from the spectator. The king rides or drives in the company of high officials. When he embarks upon a ship, the same is the case; no other vessel must be near, and troops are stationed on the shore. Similar precautions attend the hunt. Foreign emissaries are received in durbar, and the king inspects his troops armed and mounted on elephant or horse. In his progresses the roads are lined on both sides by police who keep away all armed persons, ascetics, and cripples : he never enters a crowd. Should he take part in a procession, banquet, festival, or wedding, it is in full retinue.

The question of grown-up princes that problem of polygamous sovereignties receives careful consideration : for princes, like crabs, devour their parents. Shall they be kept at hand, or aloof? if the latter, shall it be in a specified locality, in a frontier fort, in a foreign country, in rustic seclusion? or finally, shall they be put out of the way? In any case, they are to be under surveillance, and at need betrayed by agents-provocateurs. The good son is to be made Commander-in-Chief or Heir Apparent, and in general the eldest is to be preferred. But a single son, if misbehaving, must by some expedient be replaced. The Arthashastra even contemplates a joint-family sovereignty, as exempt from the difficulties attending succession.

It would seem that the states contemplated by the Indian science of Polity are of moderate extent. With the great empires, and in particular with that of the Mauryas, comes in the institution of Viceroys, or uparajas, for example at Ujjain and Taxila. It has been suggested that it was the Alexandrian invasion that gave the impetus to the foundation of a single sovereignty embracing the greater part of India. This is sufficiently refuted by the facts : and indeed the conception of a Universal Emperor is quite familiar in the Vedic period : we may even believe that the conception was brought into India by the Aryans, who must have known of the great Mesopotamian powers. If we must seek for any foreign influence in Maurya times, we should think rather of the Achaemenids, whose dominions extended to the Indus. As is well known, the architecture of the period, and also the style of Ashoka's edicts, show definite traces of Persian influence; and the expressions ‘the king’s eye’ and ‘the king’s ear’, occurring in the Arthashastra, seem to furnish literary indications pointing in the same direction.