Post Mauryan Period
During the post-Mauryan period some changes took place in the social structure of the country. In place of four Varnas, some new mixed Varnas came into existence. Two factors were responsible for it:
First, some foreign elements or invaders entered India. After sometime they were absorbed into the vast Hindu society. This brought important changes to the social structure.
Secondly, some non-Aryan elements like Lichchavi, Malla etc. adopted Hinduism. Because of their courage and valor, they became Kshatriyas.
But after taking everything in consideration perhaps it can be said that the appearance of these new sub-castes made no fundamental change in the Hindu society. The incorporation of foreign elements, however, gave new vigor to Indian civilization and culture. This is evident in the areas of art, literature and religion of the period. During this period women lost many of the privileges which they enjoy before. In the Dharmasastras and the Smritisastras, the women were considered inferior to men.
Polygamy was practiced then. According to Greek sources, burning of widow or sati was in vogue. Smritisastras say that a woman would always be guided by a male member of the family – by her father during her childhood, by husband in the middle ages and by her son in case she became a widow.
One of the most important elements in the society was the village community. To a certain extent the village community was independent of outside control as far as its internal affairs were concerned. In spite of preponderance of villages, some towns, big and small, came into existence. The emergence of towns made some impact on both the social and economic life.
Agriculture still played a major role in the economic life of the people. Abundance of rainfall ensured production of adequate crops. Irrigation facilities were also provided.
From the Junagarh inscription we come to know that even the remotes areas of the Mauryan Empire enjoyed irrigation facilities.
Trade and commerce thrived in this period. The unification of a large part of India under the Mauryas into a closely-knitted empire and opening of new trade routes led to a great expansion of both trade and commerce. Establishment of Indo-Greek rule and the emergence of Kushan Empire gave new phillip to these trends.
From the Mauryan period state took upon itself the responsibility of minting coins. That helped in the development of monetary economy which promoted trade. At first copper, silver or lead coins were used.
Craftsmanship in different spheres like weaving, metal-working and jeweller, etc. achieved a high level of proficiency. The Greek writers praised the extra-ordinary skill of the Indian craftsmen. Among Indian industries textile manufacture was the most important. The finest fabrics were woven in Bengal, Karnataka, Kasi and Konkan. Large quantities of fabrics were exported India, muslin had a good market in the Roman Empire.