(Last Updated on : 30-09-2011)
Administration under the Gupta Empire
was carried out in a systematic way. The pattern of administration was based on hierarchy from top to bottom. The king was the supreme head of the state. The administration was carried on with the advice of his ministers. Some of them combined civil and military functions. There was an efficient organized bureaucracy. Criminal law was however mild. The basis of finance was land revenue. As the royal officers were paid servants they did not had to depend on the on the people. Kingship was also based on hereditary.
Role of King in Administration
The king was considered as an incarnation of Vishnu. He was the chief head of all administrative machinery. His main task was to defend the country against foreign invasions. He administered justice, led troops and had the largest share in the formulation of state policy. He was assisted by a council of Ministers that ranged from (a) Mantrin (the confidential adviser), (b) Sandhivigrahika (Minister incharge of war and peace), (c) Akshapatala-dhikrita (Minister in charge of records), (d) Mahaba-ladhikrita and (e) Mahadandanayak. There was a special class of officials known as Kumaramatyas.
Justice was administered by the king and his officials. In the district headquarter, the Judges were helped by Seths and Kayasthas and other representatives. The village council was responsible for the judicial administration in the villages. The principal source of king's revenue was one-sixth of the land produce. Taxes were often collected in kind. Forced labour was also practiced. Extra taxes were also levied for special purposes.
Role of Government in Administration
For administrative convenience the empire was divided into several provinces also known as Desa or Bhukti. They were placed under the governor or the princes of royal blood. The provinces were divided into districts. The local and provincial governments were carried on by regular bureaucracy. Tirabhukti was one of the important administrative centres.
The excavations at Basarh give a glimpse of the system of provincial administration as carried on in Tirabhukti, which was the provincial capital of Vaishali
. As per the excavations it is presumed that Govindagupta was the governor of the province during the lifetime of his father. From a seal of a general belonging to the establishment of the heir-apparent, it is seen that the Yuvaraja had his separate military establishment; The guilds commanded respect and were autonomous bodies. They had their own rules and they looked to the management of the temple. It is evident from the Basarh seals in Tirabhukti, Kumaramatyif were entrusted with the district administration in subordination to the provincial governor called Uparika. Various treatises on law were written and the most important were Yajnavalkya and Narada Smritis.
Yajnavalkya paid more attention to the legal matters and improved his views regarding the rights of women whom he permitted to inherit equally with men. He elaborated the subject of trade and ownership and recognised the written documents in evidence.
From the above discussion it is clear that the district administration was carried on by the Kuma-ramatyas. According to Damodarpur copper plates and Basarh seals, the district officers were responsible to the provincial governors. The district officers were assisted by a council comprising of representative of the principal local interest, viz., bankers, the chief merchants, artisans and the chief scribe. The important functionaries were the record-keepers. Village was the lowest unit of administration and it was carried on by a village Panchayat. The village headman maintained peace and security within his jurisdiction.