Impact of Vedic Culture on Society

by Kaushik Acharya | 2020 | 120,081 words

This page relates ‘Provincial and District Administration’ of the study on the Impact of Vedic Culture on Society as Reflected in Select Sanskrit Inscriptions found in Northern India (4th Century CE to 12th Century CE). These pages discuss the ancient Indian tradition of Dana (making gifts, donation). They further study the migration, rituals and religious activities of Brahmanas and reveal how kings of northern India granted lands for the purpose of austerities and Vedic education.

Provincial and District Administration

The kingdoms were divided into several small provinces for administrative convenience, as discussed earlier. Different royal officers were appointed in various branches of administration, as mentioned in the charters. In those charters, Mahāsāmanta, Maharāja, Rājasthānīya, Rājaputra, Pratīhāra, Antaraṇga, Kumārāmatya, Uparika, Daṇḍapāśika, Vallabha, Viṣayapati, Viṣayika, Āyuktaka,Viniyuktaka, Draṅgika, Pramātri, Balādhikṛta, Saulkika, Prātisāraka, Gamāgamika, Mahattara, Cāṭa, and Bhaṭa are mentioned to discharge the provincial administration.

No specific status was given many other officials like Deśādhipati, Dussādhasādhanika, Daṇḍanāyaka, chāroddharaṇika, Vaikṣepika, Mahākṣapatalika, Rāṇaka, Kulaputtraka, Bhogika and among others in the central, provincial and district administration. Thus we get a long list of officials in provincial and district administration that mentioned in north Indian Sanskrit inscriptions. However, the exact nature of their powers and functions of many of them is not known correctly. Despite that, it will enable us to form a general idea of several inferior administrative departments at that period under discussion. Some of these have already been discussed; the ones that have not been reviewed will be presented this time.

In most of the land grant charters, the issuer-king is stated to have addressed his order concerning the grant to a list of persons of whom some are understandable as those concerned with the administration of the locality in which the granted land or the granted village was situated obviously to ensure that they took note that the granted land or community was no more under their authority and that the intentions of the king were to be given effect to by them. It is not sure if the list of such addressees was a conventional one. It is not possible to specify in what way each one was connected with the land or its administration. In administration, the position and function of each one of them as surmised by scholars are as follows:


Mahāsāmantas were high dignitaries in charge of the frontier provinces.[1] Probably the kings had appointed Mahāsāmantas as the administrative officers in the border provinces. Perhaps at the time of peace, they acted as officers of the center.[2] Again, another ordinary meaning of Sāmanta is feudal king, and Mahāsāmanta indicates to the senior feudatories. However, some kings bore this title Mahāsāmanta before their names as well such as Mahāsāmanta Mahārāja Dhruvasena (c. 525 CE),[3] Mahāsāmanta Jāika (c. 832 CE),[4] and Mahāsāmanta Śrī-Rāṇaka (c. 874-76 CE).[5] Otherwise, the royal order regarding the grant was addressed to the Mahāsāmantas, who was the officer in charge of frontier provinces.


The nature of the work of this officer is challenging to determine. Usually, Rājaputra or prince means “son of the king.” It is believed that the Rājaputras of land grants was probably not a prince of royal blood, but an ordinary rājput (royal) soldier. In some records of northern India and Odisha, Rājaputras enjoyed the same status as the Mahāsāmantas. Those Rājaputras took possession of the land from the king in exchange for military services.[6] However, scholars like B. Sarma[7] describes that the prince is the favorite little boy of the king and the Chief of the village, respectively. According to B. Misra, Rājaputras were the heirs of a decaying ruling family who were entrusted with specific responsibilities based on their previous administrative experiences.[8] This explanation of Mr. Misra sounds reasonable to me.


There is a good deal of controversy among the scholars about Uparika. In the early period, especially during the administration of the Guptas and Harṣa, Uparikas played an essential role as the governor of a province. In some inscription,he, too, appears as the head of a province.[9] R.C. Mazumdar also opines that he was the provincial governor or a Superior officer.[10] Dr. H.K. Mahatab mentioned in his book ‘History of Odisha’ that Uparika may be ranked with a modern commissioner or a revenue divisional commissioner of a district.[11]

In Pāla administration, Uparika occupied the position of a governor of a province. This is the fact that he is invariably mentioned in the charters of northern India along with other officers and is directed not to interfere with the rent free holdings of the donee. Probably the Uparikas enjoyed no autonomy and remained entirely subservient for the king in the period under discussion. Uparika is much similar to the word uparikara. The term uparikara was Minor taxes or taxes on temporary tenants. From this word uparikara, it is understood that they were most probably the tax collectors of the king.

Daṇḍapāśika and Sthānāntarika:

The term means the head of a group of policemen. The Daṇḍapāśika was in charge of punishment, and he was involved with the provincial police administration to deter criminals during the period under review. Daṇḍa means punishment, army, arson, or punishment rod and so he may have been used for the purposes of military, judicial, or police administration.

It is known from historical sources thatduring the Gupta rule, he resigned from military and police duties. The rest must have followed the Guptas. But, during the medieval period, he discharged military functions at the time of war andpolice duties at the time of Peace, which is evidenced by the inscriptional evidences of Odishan dynasties.[12] He must have assisted by other subordinate officers, but inscriptions are silent about them. It can be said without a doubt that the Daṇḍapāśikas must have served as a police officer in the provincial, district, and village administration.

Sthānāntarika was a provincial officer had been mentioned next to Daṇḍapāśika. He was probably in charge of the criminal department like Daṇḍapāśika. However, he was perhaps a spy who used to give time to time reports to the king about the latest development in the kingdom, according to D.C. Sircar.[13] But we hardly find him in the other parts of the country except Odishan administration during the period under discussion.

Āyuktaka and Viniyuktaka:

Probably Āyuktaka was the designation of the agent of the king stationed by him in the localities to regulate the administration and be in overall charge of the particular territorial division of the kingdom.[14]

As per the designation, Viniyuktaka indicates that hemust have been another appointee of the king in the locality for its administration. Possibly he arranged for the collection of the taxes and levies due to the king. He could not have been a subordinate of Āyuktaka as it would have been inappropriate for the king to direct the superior officer as also the subordinate officer.[15]

Cāṭa and Bhaṭa:

The term Cāṭa means “Chief of a group of Pāiks,” and Bhaṭa denotes “Pāik.” The Cāṭa and Bhaṭas were low-level police officers who have enjoyed the same status as constables in recent times. A.S. Altekar[16] has described them as ordinary members of the police force. They were junior police officers who qualified for military duties as well. Although they were intended for provincial administration, they were posted mainly in the districts to maintain law and order.[17] Most probably, these two enjoyed rent freeholdings.

At the end of any record, in almost every dynasty of northern India, where the statement of the grant was given that ‘the receiver of the grant should not be obstructed or molested by any means,’ both were often mentioned there to not to disturb the donee. It is noteworthy that these terms are referring to particular types of persons who, in many charters, are stated as those who have barred entry into the granted village.[18] According to D.C. Sircar,[19] they were regular and irregular inferior police officers, respectively, who were barred from entering agrahāra villages for their evil and harsh behavior. But from the fact that the king thought it fit to address them along with several others connected with the administration of land, it can be presumed that they were responsible persons or bodies concerned with the land administration.

Possibly they were two types of armed groups that had the responsibility of maintaining peace in the localities. There is also an opinion that the Cāṭas were irregular troops or even vagabonds. They can be expected to have been employed by the king to roam about in various areas of his kingdom to report about any treasonable activity. Bhaṭas evidently referred to military groups stationed in the localities to ensure protection to the interests of the king.100,101


The officer in charge of the royal stable was called Vallabha, who was primarily meant for military functions. Vallabha had to work under the Vallabhapāla. However, in the provinces under his jurisdiction, he performed policefunctions in the time of peace. But rarely do we find such officers in records.

Other royal officials:

Apart from the above-mentioned officers, there were few other royal officials appointed for both provincial and district administration at that period under discussion.

Balādhikṛta-Commander of forces.
Chauroddharanika-Police Officer who dealt with cases of theft.
Saulkika-Collector of customs-duties.
Prātisāraka-A gate-keeper or a collector of tolls.
Mahāksapataladhikrita or Mahāksapataladhyaksa -The chief accounts general.

Footnotes and references:


EI, vol. XXIV, p. 133.


Journal of Royal Asiatic Society, pp. 21-37.


USVAE, vol. III, pp. 370-373.


Ibid., vol. VI, pp. 161-175.


Ibid., pp. 279-284.


Journal of department of Letters, vol. XVI, p. 30.


B. Sarma, Somavaṃsi rule in Orissa, p. 46.


B. Mishra, op. cit., p. 97.


CII, vol. IV, p. 11.


R.C. Majumdar, The History of Bengal, p. 285.


H.K.. Mahatab, History of Odisha, vol. I, p. 260.


B. Das, The Bhaumakara and their times, p. 129.


D.C. Sircar, Political and Administrative System of Ancient and Medieval India, p. 179.


D.C. Sircar, Indian Epigraphical Glossary, p. 42.


D.C. Sircar, op. cit., p. 375.


A.S. Altekar, New History of Indian People, vol. VI, p. 277.


B. Das, op. cit., pp. 130-131.


D.C. Sircar, op. cit., pp. 51, 68.


D.C. Sircar, Political and Administrative System of Ancient and Medieval India, p. 179.

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