Society and Culture

Megasthenese speaks of Mauryan society as comprising seven castes-philosophers, farmers, soldiers, herdsmen, artisans, magistrates and councillors. He could not properly comprehend the Indian society and failed to distinguish between jati, Varna and the occupation. The chaturvana system continued to govern the society. But the craftsmen irrespective of jati enjoyed a high place in the society. The material growth mellowed the jati restrictions and gave people prosperity and respectability. The urban way of life developed. The residential accommodation and its wealth etc were entered into official records and rules and regulation were well defined and strictly implemented. The education is fairly wide spread. Teaching continued to be the main job of the Brahmans. But Buddhist monasteries also acted as educational institutions. Taxila, Ujjayini and Varanasi were famous educational institutions. The technical education was generally provided through guilds, where pupils learnt the crafts from the early age. In the domestic life the joint family system was the norm. A married woman had her own properly in the form of bride gift and jewels.

These were at her disposal in case of widowhood. The widows had a very honourable place in the society. There are frequent references to women enjoying freedom and engaged in many occupations. Offences against women were severely dealt with. Kautilya laid down penalties against officials in charge of workshops and prisons who misbehaved with women. Megasthenese have stated that slavery did not exist in India. However forced labour and bonded labour did exist on a limited scale but were not treated so harshly as the slaves in the western world. About one and half century of Mauryan rule witnessed the growth of economy, art and architecture, education.