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Cultural India
This page on ancient India government traces various aspects of government in ancient India and law and government in ancient India.


Ancient India Government

In the beginning of the Vedic age people did not have a settled life and were nomads but with development in agriculture people started to settle down in groups. The organization was mainly tribal and the head of the tribe was supposed to be the raja or the King, though the concept of King had yet not developed. With the passage of time large kingdoms started to grow and by the 6th century BC there were 16 Mahajanapadas (Kingdoms).

There were many small republics also in ancient India. These republics had some elements of democracy in their administration. The king (raja) was the supreme head of the legislative, executive and judiciary branches. He was assisted in administration by a number of officials. The members of the council of minister could give advice to the king, but final decisions were left to the king. The ministers and other officials were directly appointed by the king.

During the Mauryan period there existed both civil and military officials. They were paid a salary in cash. The highest official was paid the salary of 48000 panas (Unit of money) per year. The soldiers were paid 500 panas per year. There were officials who maintained the records of population, income and expenditure of government. We find reference to officials and clerks who collected income tax and custom duties. Spy system was an important feature of Mauryan administration.

The royal agents and the spies could contact the king at any time and they reported to the king about various developments in his kingdom. The empire was divided into many provinces and each one of these provinces was governed by a governor and council of ministers. In the provinces there were local officials called rajukas, who became more powerful during the reign of Ashoka. There were certain departments which decided certain important matters of administration. There existed a standing army which was again controlled by certain committees.

Administration structure during the Gupta period was exceptionally good in spite of large empire. During the Gupta period also the administration was more or less like the Mauryas. The most important difference between the Gupta and Mauryan administration was centralization and decentralization of administration. In the Gupta administration, the governors of the provinces were more independent as compared to the Mauryans, where the administration was highly centralized.