The two principal characteristic institutions of the Hindu society (of social polity), namely Verna (caste) and Dharma (stages of religious discipline), secured a definite stage in the era of Mauryan Imperialism (324 BC-AD 320).

According to some Greek writers of importance no one was permitted to marry out of his own caste or to practice any calling or art except his own. For example a soldier could not become an artisan or an artisan a soldier or philosopher. However some writers of the day have claimed that sophists could be free from any caste.

Philosophers, who led their lives in simple style, devoted their existence to serious study and discourses. Some of the philosophers claimed by the Greek authors, became hylobioi (wood-swellers) who lived on leaves and fruits and wore attires made from the bark of trees. This feature resembles very much to the Vanprastha of the Hindu anchorites. Ashoka’s inscriptions also mention householders and ascetics.

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Caste Rules

The influx of foreigners, the rise of heterodox creeds along with many other causes had to an extent affected the rigidity of caste rules. One can come across many instances of matrimonial unions between Indian monarchs and foreign emperors or princess. According to a Satvahena record a king had to take great pain to prevent the mingling of the four castes; the same king was commended as a promoter of the households of Brahmanas and the lowly orders-the Vaisyas  and the Sudras.

According to the Kautilya Arthasastra agriculture, cattle breeding and trade were the common occupation of Vaisyas and Sudras.

According to some of the Greek writers the old difference between the Vaisyas and the Sudras was gradually erased and replaced, with the time, by a new distinction between herdsmen; husbandmen and traders, who formed distinct castes.

The growth of the two official catses, the overseas and the councilors, was a remarkable characteristics of the period; the councilors, undoubtedly, resemble to the amatya (or amacca) or kula described in the Pali texts.

In the days of Megasthenes the population of India was separated into seven castes that consisted of the philosophers, the busbandmen, the herdsmen and the hunters, the traders and the artisans, the soldiers, the overseas and the councilors. The Greek writer ipso facto, described the actual conditions as he witnessed as opposed to the theory of the law-books of the Mauryan Imperialism.

Revival of fourfold division of caste

It was the great Satvahana king, Gautamiputra Satakarni, who earnestly tried to restore the fourfold division of caste (Chaturvahana). He referred to dvijas  (Brahmanas) and  avaras (the lower orders), as object of his special attention. He treated kshatriyas as a conceited class and did much to repress them. It is imperative here to inform that although Satvahanas ruled in the different areas, their rule is  falls in the era of the Mauryan Imperialism.

Although it is not clear why Gautamiputra was so much hostile to the kshtriyas, it seems that the ranks of the kshtriyas were being inflated by Yavanas, Sakas and Pallavas who according to author of Manava-dharmasastra (institutes of Manu) were degraded kshtriyas. It is well recorded in the history, of course by the contemporary writers, that the wrath of the great Satvahana king was particularly directed against the kshtriyas. However, caste rules could not be rigidly enforced during the entire period covering the era of the Mauryan Imperialism. It may appear ironic to some persons but it is a fact that Satvahanas themselves inter-married with Sakas and Brahmanas became generals and king like Drona of old.

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Position of Women in Mauryan Imperialism

According to some details provided by Greek writers and contemporary epigraphs, representing the era of the Mauryan Imperialism,  on the position of women ‘some of women pursued philosophy and lived a life of abstinence. However married women were not permitted to share a knowledge of the sacred lore with their husbands.

Polygamy was a common practice among rulers and noblemen. The practice of seclusion of women was prevelant as it is hinted at by the expression like Olodhana occurring in inscriptions.

The wife took a prominent share in religious activities by the side of her husband; it is in the record of the fine-factions of Karuvaki ; the second wife of Asoka himself.

According to the low-giver of the period, ‘Women though deserving of honour should not have independence”. However, history has recorded instances of royal ladies who guided the affairs of a kingdom on behalf of their children.

Manners and Customs

About the manners and customs of the Indian, Greek Latin writers said that Indians lived frugally and observed good order. Cultivators were mild and gentle. Theft occurred very rarely and normally no Indians were accused of lying. The people never took wine except at sacrificial ceremonies and their food was primarily a rice pottage.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. First time I am seeing a word called a ” Maurayan Imperialism” heard read about “Mauryan Empire” what it implies and what does it mean. Pleas dont degrade the greatest empires.

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