centralisation. The Maurya empire may not have been unitary in character
and was neither a welfare state; but in spite of the evidence of unevenness
and imbalances in the realm, the inclination towards centripetality cannot be
lost sight of. The centripetal tendencies no doubt, appear to have been
favourable to the metropolitan area of the realm.
Nature of Land Ownership There is the possibility of five forms of land
ownership in the Mauryan state:
1. Cultivators—but there is no hint of it in the sources.
2. Community ownership—however, it was a much later development.
3. Large scale land owners—there is evidence of the existence of a class
of entrepreneurs (gahapatis), but they acted mainly as financiers to
the cultivators rather than a class of landowners.
4. King—statement of Megasthenes that all the land was owned by the
king himself is open to debate; and
5. State—there is no distinction between the king and the state in the
Hence the king besides having some personal lands, also received taxes
of the state lands. Therefore, Megasthenes got the impression that the king
was the owner of all the lands. Despite this theoretical land ownership of the
state/king, the cultivators enjoyed certain hereditary or customary rights of
cultivation in practice.
Land Revenue It was the main source of income for the State, but varied
from one-fourth to one-sixth of the produce. It was directly collected by the
king’s officials from the individual cultivators without bringing in
intermediaries. Tax exemption or reduction was done by the king, whenever
The revenue being assessed at one-fourth was perhaps a general estimate
or was applicable only in very fertile areas, such as the region around
Pataliputra with which Megasthenes was most familiar. The precise amount