By Shri Sudheer Birodkar
The Maurya empire was established by Chandragupta Maurya soon after Alexander's departure. Chandragupta, guided by his shrewd mentor, Chanakya, overthrew Dhana Nanda, the last Nanda king and crowned himself king of Magadha. He started off the first known political unification of India. His armies conquered virtually the whole of India. The Maurya Empire, under him stretched from Karnataka to Afghanistan and from the river Indus to Bengal. He even attacked the Greek Governor of Punjab, Seleucus Nikator and defeated him. There was subsequently a treaty between Chandragupta and Seleucus whereby, Seleucus ceded Punjab and Sindh to Chandragupta and also gave his daughter in marriage to Chandragupta.
But now we had an empire that stretched all across India. Revenue collection was now to be a qualitatively different task than what it had been under the small pre-Mauryan kingdoms of the Ganges valley. What made this task more difficult was the fact that dense forests separated the isolated pockets of settled agriculture and as against the dense forests there existed a surplus population in the Ganges valley. This apart the aboriginal tribes that roamed in the forests practiced shifting agriculture. Thus to bring the vast empire under a dependable revenue collection system, the state had to undertake more fundamental tasks beyond simple revenue collection to ensure proper and systematic collection of revenue.
Now we move on to examine the change which the first Pan-Indian empire of the Mauryas brought about in the Landholding Patterns and consequently on the Political Set up in ancient India.
- Sudheer Birodkar, "A Hindu History: A Search for our Present History". Reprinted with permission.