Ashoka The Great

Ruling the Empire:

Ruling the Capital City: The capital city was under direct control of the emperor. Taxes were collected by officials. Farmers, herders, traders and craftsperson had had to pay taxes. The officials punished those who disobeyed the rules. Many officials were paid salaries. Messengers worked as channels of communication between the emperor and the officials. Spies kept a close eye on the officials. They were supervised by the emperor. In this task, the emperor was helped by close members of the royal family and by senior ministers.

Ruling the Provinces: Other areas were ruled from provincial capitals. Taxila and Ujjain are examples of provincial capital. The emperor kept some amount of control from Pataliputra. Princes were usually made the governors of these provinces. But local customs and rules were followed in the provinces.

Controlling the Transport Channels: There were vast areas between these centres. These areas were controlled in a different way. Roads and rivers were controlled by the Mauryans. Roads and rivers served as important channels for transport. These channels were also utilized to collect taxes and tributes. Tax was mandatory. But tributes were given according to the wish of the person who gave them. According to Arthashastra; the north-west was important for blankets. Similarly; south was important for gold and precious stones. There is a possibility that these items were collected as tributes.

Forest Dwellers: The forest dwellers were more or less independent. But forest dwellers were supposed to provide, elephants, honey, wax and timber to the Mauryan officials.

Megasthenes' Account of the Emperor and Capital City

Megasthenes was an ambassador to the court of Chandragupta. He was sent by the Greek Ruler Selucus. Megasthenes has written rich accounts which show the importance of the emperor. He had also written about the grandeur and beauty of the capital city of Pataliputra.

As per Megasthenes; Pataliputra was a big city. There were 570 towers and 64 gates in the city. Houses were made of wood and mud-bricks. The houses were either single storeyed or two storeyed. The emperor’s palace was also made of wood and mud-bricks. The palace was decorated with carved stones. A beautiful garden was around the palace. There were enclosures for keeping several birds.

Megasthenes has also written about one of the processions of the emperor. The emperor was carried in a golden palanquin. His guards travelled ahead of him. They were on elephants. The elephants were decorated with gold and silver. Some guards carried trees. Live birds; especially trained parrots flew around those trees. Some parrots encircled the emperor’s head. The king was surrounded by female bodyguards. There were special servants who tasted the food before it was served to the emperor.

Let us try to understand the meaning of what was written by Megasthenes. The emperor was given the highest prestige befitting his status. His life must have been under constant threat. Hence there was a need of bodyguards. Internal palace intrigues must have been the norm. Hence, emperor’s food was tasted before being served to him.

Copyright © excellup 2014