A good deal of the economic life of the country, as has been already apparent, was controlled by the State. The State was the largest employer of labour. It controlled and organised the agriculture, industry and the trade of the country. The State had a large part of the agriculture of the country directly in its own hands in its vast Crown estates.
No doubt, it did not interfere in the actual work of cultivation, provided its established share of the produce was paid in as the land revenue demand, but it was specially the State’s business to organise and extend the agricultural productivity of the country by schemes of colonization, encouraging the surplus population to settle new or abandoned tracts, and also by assisting the emigration of foreigners to settle in the country.
The Villages of Maurya Empire:
Each village, besides its area under houses (vastu), had its full apparatus or agricultural life in its:
(1) Kedara or fields sown with crops,
(2) Pushpa-Vata, horticultural gardens
(3) Phala-vata, orchards
(4) Shanda, plantations of bananas, sugar-cane and the like; and
(5) Mulavapa, fields for growing roots like ginger, turmeric and the like (ardrakdharidradi).
Thus grains, flowers, fruits, vegetables, spices, sugar-cane and bananas were all grown in the village.
The recorded and registered (nibandha) area of the village, after deducting from it the area covered by boundaries (simavarodhena), was made up of the following parts:
(1) Cultivated (krishta) area
(2) Uncultivated (akrishta) wastes,
(3) High and dry ground (Sthala),
(5) Arama (grove, upavana),
(6) Shanda (kadalyadi kshetram, plantations of fruits like plantains),
(7) Vata (ikshvadibhumih, sugarcane plantations),
(8) Vana (as source of firewood for the village and other requisites),
(9) Vastu (area under houses),
(10) Chaitya (sacred trees),
(11) Devagriha (temples)
(12) Setubandha (embankments),
(13) Smasana (cremation grounds),
(14) Sattra (almshouse),
(15) Prapa (store-house of drinking water),
(16) Punyasthana (holy places),
(17) Vivita (grazing ground for village cattle), and
(18) Pathi (area covered by roads).
The Pali texts of the times also throw light on village planning on similar lines. First was the arable land of the village, beyond which lay its common grazing grounds or pastures (Jataka, I.388) for its herds of cattle (III. 149; IV. 326) or goats (in. 401), whether belongings to the king (I. 240) or the commoner (I. 194, 388), the villages employed a common neat-herd whose duty was to pen the flocks at night or to return them to their owners by counting heads (I. 388; III. 149), he was called Gopalaka, the protector of the flocks (V. 350).
The pasturage was changed from day to day (Anguttara Nikaya, I. 20), beyond the pastures lay the groves at the outskirts, like the Veluvana at Rajagriha, the Anjanavana at Saketa, or the Jetavana at Sravasti. Lastly came the uncleared jungles upon which the village could draw for its supply of fire-wood and litter (Jataka I. 317; V. 10). Examples of such forests were the Andhavana of Kosala, Sitavana of Magadha, or the Prachina Vamsadaya of Sakya country, which are described as the haunts of wild beasts and brigands preying on caravan traffic passing through them (I. 99).
Villages are also described from the fiscal point of view as:
(1) Pariharaka, rendered revenue-free by royal favour as a gift,
(2) Ayudhiya, paying revenue in the form of military service,
(3) Dhanya- pratikara, paying land revenue in the form of grain,
(6) Kupyapratikara and
(7) Vishti-pratikara, paying revenue in cattle (e.g., cows for milk, bullocks for carrying load, sheep and goats for their wool); in gold, silver or copper; in forest produce and in labour, respectively (II. 35).
Among the crops grown in the villages are mentioned rice of different varieties; coarse grain (kodrava), sesamum (tila), pepper and saffron (priyangu); pulses like mudga, masha, masura, kulutha, yava, godhuma (wheat),’ kalaya, atasi (linseed), sarshapa (mustard); vegetables called Saka, Mula; fruits like plantains, pumpkins, gourds, grapes (mrridvika); sugar-cane (II. 24).
Government Agricultural Farms of Maurya Empire:
These model farms were of great use for the improvement of agriculture in the country. Seeds of various crops to be grown were collected here. Government had its own flower, fruit, and vegetable-gardens and undertook cultivation of commercial crops like cotton (karpasa) and jute (kshauma).
There were landless agricultural labourers (vishti) who worked as domestic servants on the basis of free food and a little of wages in cash. There were also ordinary labourers (Karmakara) who worked for wages, and those who sold themselves into slavery (Dasas). There were, lastly, agriculturists proper, or peasant proprietors, who worked on the basis of sharing of produce with the State, the State charging a sixth of the produce as its share or land-revenue demand.
It may be noted that the Buddhist literature of the times holds up the ideal of the landlord cultivating his own land from which he should not divorce himself. It attaches a social stigma to the agricultural labourer or hireling who is ranked below the slave (Digha Nikaya, I, 51; Anguttara Nikaya, I, 145, 206; Milinda Panha, 147, 331). The Jatakas (e.g., I. 339) deplore as a sign of social decadence the distressing sight of sturdy peasants leaving at home their own empty barns, and swelling the ranks of landless agricultural labourers to toil as hirelings on the estates of royal capitalists.
The village cattle comprised cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep, asses, camels, pigs, and dogs (Sunakah in XIV. 3) (V. 2). The State maintain cattle-farms, stud-farms, and daily farms, and employed the necessary staff comprising the Gopalaka (cowherd), Pindaraka (for buffaloes), Dohaka (milker), Manthaka (chuorer), together with the hunters (Lubdhakas) and keepers of hunting hounds (Svaganinah (II. 29, II. 34)) to keep the pasture grounds clear of wild animals. The cattle-farms reared calves, steers, draught oxen, stud-bulls, and buffaloes. It also undertook the taming of wild cattle. There was also poultry-farming (V. 2).
Irrigation was the concern of the State as an important source of revenue derived from the water-rates levied in accordance with the means of irrigation employed. It controlled the distribution of water by sluicegates. It was also responsible for constructing new sources of water supply by excavating tanks and canals.
The Pali texts of the times (specially the Jatakas) refer to the arable land of the village divided into individual holdings which are separated from one another by channels dug for co-operative irrigation (I, 336, IV. 167; V. 412 (Fausboll ed.)). The cultivated fields of Magadha, which were thus divided by ditches, rectangular and curvilinear, are described by the Buddha as resembling his monks’ uniform, a patch-work of torn pieces of cast-off clothing (Vinaya Texts, II, 207-9).
Village Public Works and Services during Maurya Empire:
A village had its full complement of public works of utility and social institutions. It had its aramas (rest-houses), prapa, (tanks), sattras (alms-houses), punyasthanas (holy spots), chaityas (trees tor worship), deva-grihas (temples), and its halls of public amusements such as music, dancing, theatrical performances (preksha) and also for public dinners (Pravahana, III. 10).
There were also some structures for decoration of the village (gramasobhah). These public works, as we have seen, were carried out by the joint enterprise and collective agreement (samaya) of co-operation among the villagers (sambhuya). Any one not making his contribution to such agreed communal undertakings would be fined.
There were paid workmen in the service of the village. These were called Gramabhritakas and included workers like the carpenter (Kuttaka), the blacksmith (Karmara, Ayaskara), the potter, the inevitable barber (Napita) (II. 1; V. 2), and the washerman (V. 3), A village had also its diggers (Medaka) and rope-makers (Rajjuvartaka).
Grants of land without right of alienation were made to the following rural officers:
(1) Adhyaksha (such as Suvarnaidhyaksha)
(2) Samkhyayaka (the village accountant),
(5) Anikastha (trainer of elephants),
(6) Chikitsaka (physician proper),
(7) Asvadamaka (trainer of horses),
(8) Jamghakarika (courier) (II. 1).
Village Amusements of Maurya Empire:
There were other workers to minister to the public amusements of the day, both in towns and villages.
These were artists of various classes enumerated as follows:
(1) Nata, (actor),
(2) Nartaka (dancer),
(3) Gayaka (musician),
(4) Vadaka (instrumentalist), playing on instruments like vina, venu, and mridanga,
(5) Vagjivana (rhapsodist),
(6) Kusilava (dancing expert),
(7) Plavaka (gymnast),
(8) Saubhika (magician),
(9) Charana (bard),
(10) Pathaka (reciter),
(11) Gandha-samyuhaka (perfumer),
(12) Malya-sampadaka (garland-maker),
(13) Samvahaka (shampooer),
(14) Chitra-kara (painter),
(15) Vaisika (teacher of erotic) and
(16) Parachitta-jnanavid (thought-reader) (II. 27).
Duties of State towards Welfare of People during the Maurya Rule:
The duties of the State towards the village and its welfare are summed up to include:
(1) Demarcation of properties (Setu),
(2) Opening up of inaccessible tracts of roads (pathi-samkramat),
(3) Works of rural development (grama-sobhah) and protection (raksha).
The protection of the village was in the hands of the rural police recruited from the classes called:
(1) Vagurikas (trappers),
(2) Sabaras (Bhils),
(3) Pulindas (Kirata),
(4) Chandalas and
(5) Aranyacharas (foresters) (II. 1).
There was also a provision for the protection of a village by constructing a palisade (upasalam) of pillars built of stone or wood round it. The Jatakas also tell of the village being enclosed by a wall or stockade with gates, (gramadvara) (I. 239; II. 76, 135; III. 9). The arable land of the village (gramakshetra) was protected from pests, beasts and birds by fences (I. 215), snares (I. 143, 154), and field-watchmen (II, 110; IV. 277) about whom Kautilya gives full details. Thus village life was built up on the basis of private property, security of life and property, communications, and public works.
Forest Staff during the Mauryan Rule:
The forests were under the Conservator called Vanapala. There were also -in the forest service persons known for their special knowledge of the properties of trees and the economic value of each of their parts (vrksha-marimajna) (II.17), Then there were also the artisans who would work up the various forest products into their finished forms in the village factories (dravyavanakarmantah). They manufactured such necessary articles as plough, pestle, mortar, implements, weapons, and carts.
Uncultivated Wastes- Forestry:
While cultivated lands were thus disposed of, the vast stretches of waste lands lying beyond the village (akrishya bhumih) were utilized fully by the plantation of pastures (vivita) for the grazing of the village cattle and of forests of different kinds.
First came these grazing grounds, and then the woodland retreats for Brahmanas for their study of the Veda and performance of Soma sacrifices (Brahma-Somaranya) and for hermits for doing penance in their tapovana. Beyond these lay the belt of forests.
The first was the forest reserved for the king’s hunt (vihara) followed by the ordinary forests. These were of various kinds and were distinguished by their products such as Daru, (timber), Venu (bamboo), Valli (cane), Valka (bark), Rajju (fibres for rope-works); Patra (material for writing such as palm—leaves or bark of birch, tala-bhurjapatra); Pushpa (flowers for dyeing like Kimsuka, Kusumbha or Kunkuma); Aushadha (medicinal herbs), Visha (poisons) (II. 17), firewood, and fodder (Kastha-yavasa).
Specially favoured were the forests of elephants so necessary for war and of timber as building materials for towns and fortifications. Elephant forests were in the keeping of the Conservator called Nagavanadhyaksha (II.2). The forests also yielded various animal products of economic value such as hides, skins, sinews, bones, teeth, horns, hoofs, and tails of creatures like leopard, tiger, lion, elephant, buffalo, yak, crocodile, tortoise, snake, and birds.
Industries during the Mauryan Rule:
The State had a monopoly in many industries which depended on pioneering and costly enterprise. Mining industry was nationalised for its supreme importance to the State as primary source of its wealth (akara-prabhavah kosah).
The mines worked by government are mentioned as those of gold, silver, diamond, gems, precious stones and of other inferior metals like copper, lead (sisa), tin (trapu), iron (tikshna or ayas) and bitumen (silajatu). The State also explored the ocean mines in search of mukta (pearls), sukti (mother of pearl), sankha (conch- shell) and pravala (coral).
The State also worked the oilfields (yielding rasa like mercury). Minerals were also extracted from the earthy. The manufacture of salt was also a government monopoly worked under a system of licenses granted to private lessees of salt- fields. There was a special officer called Khunyadhyaksha to look after the government business in pearls, conch-shells, corals, diamonds and precious stones. There was another special officer called Sauvarnika in charge of gold and silver turned out in the State workshop called Akshasala (II.13).
The State also had its cotton, oil, sugar, and dairy industries (II.6), The State reserved to itself the manufacture of wines and liquors and their sale. It also had a monopoly in armament industry and the building of boats and ships. The right of coining belonged to the State whose officers received from the public bullion to be shaped into coins on the basis of seignorage charges.
The Mint Master was called Lakshanadhyaksha. The prisons had factories which employed penal labour. The State Spinning House was both a Spinning and Weaving Mill which manufactured yarns of cotton, silk, and jute; clothing; mail armour (varma); ropes; blankets (astarana); and curtains (pravarana). It employed the labour of women who were helpless and even supplied purdali women with orders for spinning yarn through its women-employees.
Otherwise labour was employed on contract at the State factories. It was penal to hold back wages. Thus the State had to run its own factories and workshops for the utilization of the products of its own agricultural lands, forests, and mines, which were received and accumulated in the State ware-houses (Koshthagara). These accumulations were due to the system by which the dues of the State, its revenue demands, were paid not in cash (hiranya) but in kind, and called for a network of warehouses distributed throughout the country to receive these -goods. Thus the Factory came in the wake of the Warehouse.
Private Industrial Enterprise:
The entire Industry of the country was, however, not in the hands of the State. A large field was occupied by individual private industry. While Kautilya naturally pays more attention to the former, other texts throw light on the part played by private enterprise in industry.
The most important of these texts are the Jatakas on which craftsmen drew so largely for their themes treated in the early sculptures of Bharhut or Sanchi in the third and second century B.C. The Jatakas are documents of older history, as pointed out by Rhys Davids.
They speak of eighteen chief handicrafts of the times, such as those of wood-workers, smiths, leather-dressers, painters, workers in stone, ivory-workers, weavers, confectioners, jewelers, workers in precious metals, potters, makers of bow and arrow.
These handicrafts were also organised in guilds or craft- guilds called Srenis, each under its President or Foreman called Pamukha, and the Alderman called Jetthaka. We are also told of federations of guilds under a common Head called Bhandagarika. Like Industry, Trade also was organised in Merchant-Guilds whose chief was called Setthi.
Anathapindika of Savatthi was a Mahasetthi, chief of a commercial federation controlling 500 Setthis, the heads of its constituent guilds. Caravan-traffic for its risks was carried on as a co-operative enterprise in which different traders with their carts, goods, and men formed themselves into a Company under a captain called Satthavaha to give directions as to halts, watering, routes, fords, and danger-spots, and also other common officers or land- pilots called Thalaniyyamaka who acted as guides and escorts against the dangers to travel from “drought, famine, wild beasts, robbers and demons.”
We are similarly told of sea-going merchants chartering a common vessel, or concerted action in freights between dealers, and of partnership concerns in business such as export of birds to Babylon, or of import of horses from the ‘north’ to Benares.
There was also localisation in Industry. We read of villages of potters, of wood-wrights, iron-smiths, or even trappers; while within the town were ivory-workers’ street (vithi), dyers’ street, Vessas’ streets or the weavers’ quarter (thana). There were also the hina-sippas or despised callings which were segregated- those of hunters and trappers, fishermen, butchers, tanners; or snake-charmers, actors, dancers, musicians, rush-weavers, and chariot-makers who were mostly the aboriginal folks (Hindu Civilisation, pp. 301, 307, 308).