The economy of Mauryan Empire was sound. The Mauryas established a centralized government which contributed to the economic progress of the country. Agriculture was the principal backbone of Mauryan Economy. The cultivators were the most numerous classes. Land revenue was the principal source of state income.
Agriculture: The basic economy of Mauryan Empire was based on agriculture. Rice, pulse, vegetables, fruits, spices, wheat, sugar cane etc. were grown. Land was intensively tilled with iron-sheared plough drawn by oxen. Irrigation tank and lakes were excavated by the state. Hunters were particularly employed to clear the jungle areas of wild animals so that such areas could be brought under cultivation.
Land Tax: The economy of Mauryan Government depended on the tax collected from the lands. Historians have suggested that one quarter of the produce was collected from fertile areas and tax at a lower rate was collected from less fertile areas. Arthasastra recommends that in the time of emergency, the land tax might be enhanced up to 1/3rd of the produce of the soil.
Water tax: Apart from tax on land, the Mauryan empire depended collected several other items of taxes from land. They were water or irrigation tax from the area where water was supplied from rivers.
Industries: Mauryan made a bid in industrial growth. Megasthenes has pointed out that city boards tried to promote manufacture of industrial goods. The Jatakas mention 18 types of industries. Lower Bengal was famous for production of fine muslin and silk textiles. Gandhara was famous for wooden industry. Magadha specialized in iron and Rajputana for copper. Salt was produced in coastal Bengal and in the salt range of Punjab. Gold was produced in South India. Kautilya was aware of the importance of mines and he regarded the iron mines as one of the chief source of Magadha power.
The state controlled the mining and other industries. The state promoted industrial arts and the mines were brought under state ownership.
Private industries were too controlled, taxed and their prices were fixed. Some basic industries were state owned while others were left to private producer. There were capitalist producers too.
Artisan tax: The Mauryan government collected revenue from artisans, traders and laborers.
Trade Duty: The state revenue was also derived from tolls, octroi, etc. The city magistrates checked weights and measures and the sale of goods. Arthasastra also confirms the existence of such officers. They collected considerable revenue by taxing the traders.
Agriculture: The Arthasastra states that the king shall make pasture grounds from waste. Elephants were particularly reared with great care, as they were useful for warfare. Cow was the most important among the domestic animals. It was useful for dairy products and hide.
Craft and industry and guild system: The artisans and craftsmen paid tribute to the government. The artisans and craftsmen also used to form guilds. It was better to work in a body than to work individually. protected social status of the workers and gave them general security. It protected individual traders from competition.
Rise of big traders and capitalist class: In the Mauryan period the rise of big traders and merchants can be noticed. Money lending was a good business. The big traders used to borrow money for trade and paid interest.
Trade routes: Inland trade was carried by river route as well as by land route. The Ganges was a great trade route. Road transport greatly improved under the Mauryas. Pataliputra was linked by road to different parts of India even up to Taxila in the North-West. Taxila was a great centre of trade wherefrom goods were transported to Central Asia.