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Ancient India Government

Ancient India

Ancient India government

Updated on 17-05-2020

Ancient India government: It is believed that ancient Indian period was very peaceful and calm. People were very understanding and cooperative among each other. However with the growth of civilisation and increase in population there arose the need of a government. When people started to settle at one place for agriculture and livelihood then government came into formation.

People settled were mostly tribes. The head of the tribe was the king or the ruler of the group.  The main aim for the formation of government at that time was for distribution of responsibilities and work. The model and the structure of the government was very simple and interesting. 

It is not clear the way people did governance during Indus valley civilisations. From 6th century BC to 5th BC it is considered as most important period in ancient India. Beginning of 6th BC northern part of India consisted of large number of independent kingdoms which was monarchy in nature. During this period there were 16 Mahajanpadas or kingdoms who ruled during the Vedic period. 

Mahajanpadas were the 16 kingdoms that came into existence in ancient India between 6th to 4th centuries BC. It gave rise to major large cities after the fall of Indus Valley Civilisation. They started to collect taxes, maintain the army and started to build new cities and conquer new places. The sixteen Mahajanpada include Anga, Assaka, Avanti, Chedi, Gandhara, Kashi, Kamboja, Kosala, Kuru, Magadha, Malta, Matsya, Panchala, Surasena, Vriji and Vatsa.

During the Vedic period caste system which started to rise gave more power to Brahmin. He acted as a decision maker. 

In Rig Vedic period government was mostly monarchical. King was ascended through hereditary system. To assist king various ministers were appointed. The administrative units were known as Kul, Gram and Vish. Gram is the village and Vish is group of villages. One can also see a mention of Sabha and Samithi which were the two democratic bodies which controlled King. The head of the judiciary was the king himself.


There was lot of chaos and foreign invasions before the arrival of Mauryan Empire. In the year 326 BC Alexander invaded India by crossing the river Indus. After one year he had defeated the Achaemenid Empire and firmly kept his foot on Indian soil.

The Mauryan Empire was the first largest Empire to be established on Indian soil and ruled ancient India for nearly 139 years from 323 BC to 184 BC. Chandragupta Maurya founded the vast Mauryan Empire with the help of Chanakya at Taxila.


With the birth of Mauryan Empire and other empire the governance became more complicated and interesting. The king became the supreme head and the governance was divided into legislative, executive and judiciary. Everyone had to accept his decision which was the final one. The ministers advised the king about their respective jobs. All the minsters were paid salary for their work. With the increase in population all the concerned ministers started to maintain the records about the development of work in the society. 

They were answerable to kings. The society was guarded by well developed military system. The soldiers were well equipped and trained for war. Financial department played crucial and important role. Every rupee spent was notified to the king. The finance minster was accountable for the loss and profit in the governance. 

Judiciary played another important role in maintaining law and order in the society. It kept a check on the thefts and robberies and punished the guilt. The entire empire was further divided into provinces and each province was given the power to make some decisions. They were called as Rajukas. They were present during the Mauryan period. They became more powerful during Asoka period.  The ancient Indian governance was very disciplined and interesting. There were regular updates of death, birth and population to the king. 

The king himself disguised some times as a spy and spied the state to know about the welfare of his citizens. Spy system was an important feature during Mauryan period.  The governance was further improved during the Gupta period. The provinces were given more power in Gupta period than in Mauryan period. Slowly but steadily governance became an important part in maintaining peace and growth of society. Arthshastra is one the most important source to know the governance in ancient India.  

ChanakyaImage credit-- en.wikipedia.org

Detailed information on the administration of Mauryan empire can be found in Arthashastra. It was written by Kautilya also known as Chanakya. Arthashastra is a Sanskrit word which is translated as science of politics. The book explores about social welfare, ethics, and explains how to keep a society together. The book offers a list of seven components of the state. They include King, the ministers, population, treasury, army and allies.

The Gupta period is known as the golden age of Indian History. The administrative system of Gupta period was somewhat similar to that of Mauryan period. But however the governors of the provinces were more independent as compared to during the Mauryan period. The empire was divided into 26 provinces which were known as Bhukti, Pradesha and Bhoga. Each province was further divided into Vishayas. Each Vishayas had four representatives Nagarasreshesthi, Sarthavaha, Prathamakulika and Prathama Kayastha.


Indeed it is very interesting to read about the ancient Indian government system and also to understand some of the famous Indian dynasties.

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