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Topic: Polity and administration

Q. What are the salient features of the administrative system
of the Guptas?
Answer : Contemporary inscriptions and literary sources throw lightt on the polity and
administrative system of the Gupta period. Land and land relations acquired central stage in the
economic life of the period and flourishing trade of the post Mauryanpre-Gupta period declined
sharply in this period. The period was also marked by the growing significance of land grants
which led to decentralization of political authority of the king and finally gave birth to feudalism
in Indian history.
The law of the primogeniture was not firmly established, and sometimes elder sons were passed
over in favour of younger sons. The king appointed ministers, commanders, governors etc. He
received the obeisance of his vassals and princes. His pompous titles Paramesvara,
Maharajadhiraja. Paramabhattaraka indicate the existence of lesser princes and chiefs with whom
he had to come to terms in his empire. The maintenance of the Vamasrama Dharma appear as an
important royal duty in Gupta inscription imposed upon the king, who is described as the giver
of thousands of gold coins. The second change noticeable in the Gupta kingship is not qualitative
but quantitative and relates to its divine associations. They are compared to Vishnu as regards
their function of preserving and protecting the people, and Laxmi, wife of Vishnu and goddess of
prosperity appears on many Gupta coins.
Ministers called by different names such as Mantrin, Amatya or sachiva may have restrained the
despotic activities of the king, although inscriptions give very little idea of their functions and
no idea of their corporate existence. Undoubtedly some individual ministers such as Harisena
were powerful because of having combined posts of the Mahadandanayaka, Kumaramatya.
Sanhivigrahika in the same person. And then the post became hereditary in the same family for
several generations. Such families must have played an important part in politics. Ministers or
advisers formed part of the higher bureaucracy of the Guptas. Among the other high officers we
may take special notice of the Sandhivigrahika, who are not known to earlier inscription. Like
the Mahamatras under Ashoka and the Amatyas under the Satavahanas. the Kumaramatyas
formed the chief' cadre for recruiting high functionaries under the Guptas. Literally translated as
the minister of peace and war, the Sandhivigrahika first appears under Samudragupta whose
Amatya Harisena holds this title. We have the famous example of Harisena, who held the several
important portfolios. We hear of Kumaramatya who held the offices of the Mahasvapti and
Mahadanayka. We have no precise idea about the mode of
payment to the officers under the Gupta Empire. The discovery of numerous Gupta's gold coins
and their use in land transaction in Bengal coupled with the prevalence of the tax known as
Hiranya would suggest that at least higher officers were paid in cash. Three grades of military
commands came into existence, namely those of Mahabaladhikrta, Mahadanayaka and Senapati.
The cavalry, the elephant corps and perhaps also the infantry
were organized under separate commands. Civil officials such as Amatyas, Kumaramatyas, etc.
performed military functions or were promoted to the rank of high military officers. A ministers

Jamui. It is a pity that we have no information regarding the functions of the head of the Bhukti. The visayas of Rajgriha. In Pundravardhan bhukti. In Tirabhukti. The core. The exact connotation of this high officer is obscure. and in one case we have full information about the composition of the committee which took part in its government. The Visaya was in charge of the Kumaramatya in early times. the Visaya of Kotivarsa was a famous administrative unit. now in Bangladesh. They also paid hiranya or gold. whose number is not known. mahattaka or mahattara. probably in origin it had something to do with the collection of Uparikara. Uttar Pradesh. Ordinarily in Bengal. Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. where this . A Gupta province was smaller than a Mauryai province. and traders were subjected to customs on commodities of trade. Bihar.Similarly military officers may have performed civil functions. whose headquarters lay 2 miles to the northwest of Surajgarha in South Munger. of the empire directly controlled by the Guptas was divided -into a number of provinces. Lakhisarai. although it is mentioned as such in only one seal and here to the reading is doubtful. We have some idea of the way the district governor maintained his power in the Visaya of Kotivarsa. He based his authority on the force consisting if elephants. Khagria and Begusarai districts and extending over both the north and south of the Ganges. if we believe the geographical details in the Spurious Nalanda grant of Samudragupta. Shekhpura. But several vithis are known from Bengal. The taxation system of the Guptas was not so elaborate and organised like that of the Arthasastra of Kautilya. an additional impost on the peasants in addition to the fixed annual share of the produce. The leading part in managing the affairs of the village was taken by its gramika and elders known as the mahattama. also included Krimila Visaya. It was placed in charge of an Uparika. but later it came to be placed under the Visayapati. In Bihar we know of Nandivithi. cavalry and infantry. Vaisali was the headquarter of a Visaya. But in one case in western U. perhaps in western India. The Bhukti was divided into Visayas or districts. but the literal meaning of the term Bhukti suggests that the territory placed under his charge was intended to be enjoyed rather than governed by him in its own interest. roughly corresponding to Munger. Pataliputra and Gaya were included in Megadhbhukti which. This was primarily concerned with the collection of revenues and maintenance of law and order. The term Gramadhipati and Gramasyadhipati used in contemporary texts would suggest that the village headman was treated as the lord of the village. The villagers paid in kind certain customary miscellaneous dues. which could he measured but these are not specified.P. Jharkhand and Bihar the Visayapati was the head of the local office or Adhikarna. The officer was undoubtedly a governor appointed by the Gupta King. but much larger than a modern division. If we rely on a passage from the Kamasutra of Vatsyayana. Perhaps every district had a strong military contingent to back civil authority in times of need.hailing from Pataliputra accompanied Chandragupta II on his campaign to Western India. The vithi consisted of villages which formed the lowest unit of administration. he was placed in charge of a district called Bhoga. but what it actually meant cannot be said. The artisans also had to pay some imposts. Guptas evolved the first systematic provincial and local administration. The Visaya was divided into Vithis. Jharkhand. The Bhukti was the largest administrative unit under the Guptas and there were at least six such divisions over Bengal. which were levied and collected by the custom officer. several of these are mentioned in Gupta inscriptions and seals. whose cost was defrayed probably out of the revenues supplied by the district.

The expanding scope of the village administration is a significant aspect of the Gupta polity. Naturally many of the functions once performed by the central government devolved on the village administration. This did not come to happen because the state raised too many taxes to maintain a large official apparatus nor had too many copper coins to pay minor employees. the village headman called Gramadhipati Ayuktaka tended to become all powerful.text was composed. which was dominated by feudal and influential elements. .

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