In the simple terms, Tax is a predetermined charge mostly in form of cash or kind imposed by the authority on its subjects. The story of taxes goes hand in hand with the story of the civilization. Since the civilization, taxes were collected for social welfare and security. .

In the ancient period, the taxes were mostly applied on Agriculture and related activities, Industrial goods, Business activities etc. and collected throughout the dynasty.

EGYPT (3000 BC-2800BC) :
Egyptian peasants seized for non-payment of taxes(Pyramid Age) Wells, H. G.(1920).
The Outline of History. Garden City, New York: Garden City Publishing Co., Inc. taken from

The earliest record found in the history of taxes seems to be from Egypt. The Pharaoh used to conduct a biennial tour of their Kingdom and collect taxes from the people.

As per Genesis (Chapter 47, Verse 24 in new version) the taxes were 1/5th of the crop produced. Joseph in Hebrew Bible describes the method of dividing the farm produce to give the portion to Pharaoh.

The people who did not complied were arrested and punished.


In the Indian subcontinent, we come across a very comprehensive and detailed description of tax system, its rate and its administration in the writings of Arya Chanakya. (around 320BC) as prevalent in the Maurya Dynasty. On the theory of how a state and king formed in a previously uncontrolled and unregulated groups Arya Chanakya (around 320 BC) in his ‘Kautiliya Arthashastra’ has written,

When the society was distraught due to anarchy, people came together and decided unanimously to expel the wrong doers.
But the decision could not be uphold for long, therefore people made Vaivasvat Manu the king to look after the well being of the
subjects and agreed to give him 1/6th of the produce from field and 1/10th of the profit from trade.

The book is almost like a ready-reckoner for tax administration in a Kingdom. Particularly on the subject of Taxation it gives instructions in a manual like precision. For example, it describes Customs duty on the goods imported from a foreign country to be levied at the rate of 1/15th of the value. Wherever, value is not determinable, it is to be estimated from the cost of labour, time and efforts required for the goods based on the guidance from a expert in the subject.

Fine or Coarse Silk fabric, Cotton fabric, Spices, Metals, Colours, Sandal, Chemicals, Cloths, Liquor, Ivory, Animal skin, coarse and fine fabric, mats, wool and silk material attracted Customs duty of 1/10th or 1/25th value of the material. Fabric, four legged animals, two legged creatures, cotton yarn, medicines, scents, wood, grain, oil ghee, sugar, salt, Liquor etc. attracted 1/10th or 1/25th per cent extra duty. There are also references to services, which were taxable. Curiously, we learn that there was a ban on sale of the goods where they were produced. The person who bought flowers or fruits from their fields was fined 54 Paanas. One who bought metal from its quarry was fined 600 Paanas. Fine was in proportion to the crime.

The book elaborates the place of the check-post, procedure of auction and penalties for mis-declaration, under-valuation. It suggests King to send his intelligence officers to check whether duty officers are doing their duty correctly and vigilantly. If any officer is misinforming then he should be penalized with 8 times duty amount. It also suggests sending some officers in by-lanes and lee-lanes of the town to check if any merchant is escaping the check-post. Just as goods and services that were taxed, there were also exemptions in place. The good brought for marriage purpose, or the goods brought by a married woman from her father’s house to her husbands house, goods brought to gift to King, goods for worship, religious ceremony were totally exempted.


The exciting chapter of the History of India, (and particularly relevant to the area in and around Maharashtra)  is of Satavahanas. The word Maharashtra is derived from rattas, Maharatta / maharathi means great warriors with Chariots, who were overlords or chieftans of the major part of the region. The language of maharathi was prakrit. Its popular name ‘marathi’ is the derivation from ‘Maharathi’s, denoting the people who spoke it. The name of the state Maharashtra is also derived from sanskritisation of word Maharatthas now symbolizing a ‘big state’.

Paithan in Aurangabad district, known as Pratisthan in the ancient period, was a Capital of Satavahanas for many centuries. Old archaeological finds, earthenware, terracotta, coins, inscriptions, sculptures and jewelry articles excavated in and around Paithan and exhibited in the Museums at Paithan, Ter and Aurangabad support the fact. Another important archaeological site is at Ter, near Osmanabad. It was on the cross roads of the Daksinapath and Paschimpath. The West-East Paschimpath consisted of Machhalipattam–Bhaganagar (Hyderabad) Ter-Paithan-Sopara/Kalyan/Bharoch (east-west). The North-South Daksinapath joined Shravasti-Ujjain-Mahishmati-Pratisthan–Kolhapur-Vanavasi-Kanyakumari. Temples, rock-cut caves and archeological finds line the route.

  Rock-cut caves of western India...
(Click to enlarge)

The goods coming into and going out of the Kingdom were marked with seals. The elephant seal shown here, which was found at Paithan, seems to be of a Buddhist trader, who used to stamp it on export articles. It is rectangular burned clay seal belonging to 1st /2nd Century AD. Such seals of different motifs are reported to be found from number of Satavahana sites. It is interesting to note that local people even today show a stone pot at Nangeghat (near Junnar, Pune) that was said to be used for collection of coins collected as taxes from the Merchants passing the ghat.

Although, actual rates of duty on various items of production and export / import are not known, the rates are not suspected to be varied much beyond those laid down by Chanakya. We, however certainly learn about well - established administrative setup with the Kings to look after the revenue.

 The Revenue Minister was called “Rajjuk”. He was responsible for fair and judicial collection of taxes in the Kingdom. Farm produce, business, production and exports and imports were taxable. An idea of the turnover can be had from the fact that several wars were fought between Kshatraps and Satavahanas over control of the key ports and trade centres. The cultural and religious differences did not seem to have outlived the economical and business rivalry since we find mention of marriages, large donations to religious and social institutions.

It is mentioned in the book ‘Satavahankalin Maharashtra’ by Dr. R.S. Morwanchikar, a renowned authority on the subject, that ‘the trade between Rome and India was so favourable for India that a contemporary Roman writer Plinny the Elder was worried about the extravagance of the Romans on imports. He estimated that around 50 Million ‘sesterces’ (roman coins), equivalent to roughly 800,000 Pounds, were going to India per year. Roman politicians are on record to be worried by the outflow of money to pamper Roman wives. It was a fashion among Romans to use Indian spices in their Kitchen. Indian silk with rich zari work (gold embroidery) was popular among the rich Roman brides. Suitable measures were taken by the Roman authorities to curb imports to save the foreign exchange. India had established monopoly in the Silk and spice trade. As a result there was overall prosperity throughout the kingdom. There was cultural give and take due to these interactions.

The story of Roman trade with India is associated with the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. On the other hand, the rise and fall of Satavahan dynasty can be linked with the rise and fall in the Roman Trade. Around 150 BC northern Arabic traders were using strings of camels and donkeys and established great caravan routes called Incense Route.

Arabian frankincense were traded for spices from Indian subcontinents and sold to Greco-Roman world. Romans had to depend on caravan route going through Anatolia and Persia. The route was long and dangerous and also passing through non-friendly nations.

The sea route was pioneered by Axumite kingdom, but soon learned and used to great advantage by Romans. Advantages of Monsoon winds for sea-fare was discovered in 45-46AD by a Greek sailor, Hippolas. Earlier sailors preferred to sail close to the shore and landing at nightfall. Hippolas used monsoon winds (south-westerlies) for faster and direct access to India in summer season and return in winters with North-easterlies. This short route came to be known as the ‘Spice route’. Till the times of Emperor Augustus around 120 ships per year sailed to India.

The ships would arrive in Indian Ports in around August to October months and would leave in October to February period. The business through these trade link flourished so much that there is mention of a delegation sent by Satavahan King Pulumavi, having his Capital at Paithan to congratulate Roman Emperor Augustus on his coronation.

Peryplus of the Erythraean sea (Ist century CE)
(Click to enlarge) Courtesy :

Roman traders visited southern India i.e. present day Maharashtra, Andhra, Karnataka, Kerala regions. There are stone inscriptions mentioning donations by Greek traders in Caves of Western region. Many of the traders settled permanently in India. The excavations at Ter (mentioned as Tagara in above map)- has shown signs of large Greco-Roman settlements. Greek geographer and astronomer, Ptolemy (200 AD) has referred to it as an important trading town. ‘Periplus of the Erythraean Sea’ (Periplus, a Latin word coming from ancient Greek, means sailing around) is a first century AD travelogue.

Some 23,852 artifacts painstakingly collected by Shri. Ramlingappa Lamture a local merchant of Ter, stand witness to the mute fact of the importance Ter achieved in the field of contemporary trade and commerce of the period. The Periplus mentions details of exported and imported items from Indian ports like Bharoch, Kalyan, Sopara among others.


It mentions silk, cotton cloths, fine muslin, figured linens, agate, precious stones, jewelry, ivory, black pepper, spices, butter, ghee, honey, indigo and sandal as items exported from the port. While Italian Copper, zinc, glass, topaz, coral, storax, frankincense, vessels of glass, silver and gold plates, wines, and  

cosmetic materials etc were imported. There was a quite advanced bead making industry. Some type of chemical etching work required to be done on beads to embellish them.

The bead making forms a bridge between very ancient Sumerian and Indian culture. Terracotta statues and Earthen Ware : Large amount of earthenware like pots, dishes, glasses, amphoraes, idols, dolls and sculptures are found in excavations at Paithan and Ter. Stone die of a roman woman figure is found at Paithan.

3 4 5 6
Coins found in Ter area are another indicators of technological give and take of the Satavahan period. The coins are of Roman Kings. The influence of design of the roman coin of King Augustus is clearly visible on the Indian coin of the same period, like Nahapa Kshatrap.
Emperor Augustus found at Pudukottai
Indian king Kshatrap

Recently, according to news-reports iron smelting site belonging to Satavahan period was found in Haglure village, on Solapur-Tuljapure road. The place has iron slags and vestiges of iron smelting activities. Large scale red polished ware indicate mass occurrence of production and trade. There are signs of Roman settlement near Ter. There are inscriptions in the Naneghat Caves (near Junnar) indicating donations were received from the Roman Traders for its construction. These finds do underline the fact that India has been on the Trade Map of the world from the time immemorial and also it had a well-established tax system in place.

Ivory doll fouund at  Bhokardhan   River Goddess at Ellora   Poseidon Roman Sea-God at Kolhapur

An Indian Ivory having distinct features of an Indian woman is found at Pompeii, Italy. It is in the museum of Naples Archaeological Museum.

Its Indian origin and carving is supported by a find of a similar ivory figurine at Bhokardhan excavations near Aurangabad. The abundance of ivory objects both finished and unfinished indicate that Bhogvardhana as it was called in those days, must be the ivory making centre in the Satavahana period. Though the ivory figurine is incomplete, it is of considerable interest as it pre-dates similar figurine at Pompeii.


Indian ivory is also found in Begram, Afghanistan. The web site of Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative ( has some beautiful information and pictures on the subject. The National Museum, Kabul has quite a few ivory figurines of Indian river goddess Ganga. The beautiful Goddess is shown standing on a Makara. (A mythical composite beast consisting of part of a crocodile, elephant and fish). And yes, it should surprise no one, to find the same figure depicted with all the grace and splendor at Cave No.21 of Ellora, Aurangabad. In fact the exquisite beauty of the carving makes it, one of the master pieces of the Caves. This Ellora sculpture (6-7AD) is of much later date than the Begram ivories; still it is sufficient for showing the origins of the workmanship due to the use of its Indian symbolisms.


The influence of the cultural exchange between the trading partners was mutual. As the Indian art was appreciated abroad, so was the Western art and technical craftsmanship prized here. We find coins, grinding wheel, lamps, vessels, pottery of distinct western techniques in vogue here. A handsome sculptor of Poseidon Roman Sea-God is found at Kolhapur. 


Perhaps the most remarkable symbol of the trade and cultural exchange between the Indian and the Western World is the Ivory figurine found at Ter, Osmanabad. The maiden is beautiful, well-proportioned lady with a lot of jewelry. Her blue eyes markedly represent western aesthetics. The figurine can be dated between 150-170 AD.

 In essence, the picture that emerges significantly of the period is that many of the Greek, Roman traders who came to India, afterwards, got settled in the country. They did fight wars for supremacy in trading and revenue interests. But, they also adopted the Indian languages, culture and religion. Eventually, they became one with the social fabric of the era. Inscriptions regarding donations for excavating caves, building water tanks on the trade route, donations for Hindu - Buddhist monks, building temples and monasteries, stories about marriage relations and religious conversions, all denote exchange of cultures. We can compare it with the collision of celestial galaxies, extremely violent at some parts to peaceful reorganizations at some other.

The archeological relics that we find in and around Marathwada area are remnant of this union of different social structures, denoting violent history at some parts to cunningly political, diplomatic, loving and peaceful period at others. The role of the massive force of the gravity was played without doubt by the trade and revenue in bringing the different societies together. The result of this amalgamation is the unique culture of India that we see today with its characteristic unity in diversity.

Ivory figurine found at Ter


Some interesting photographs of artifacts used in the roman trade from Museum at Ter, Dist. Osmanabad, Maharashtra are shown to emphasize the facts.
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Mythological Female Figurine   Playing Dice   Toy
14   15   16
Roman Hand Grinder   Pendent   Stone Die for Pendents
By S. R. Rajurkar , Supdt., Central Excise.

1. "Satavahan Kalin Maharashtra" by Dr. R.S. Morwanchikar, Pratima Prakashan, Pune, First Edition 1993 & Second Edition 2009.

2. "Kautiliya Arthashastra" by Arya Chanakya, Translated in Marathi by Late B.R. Hiwargaonkar, re-written by H.A.Bhave fourth edition Sept 2002.

3. Personal collection of artifacts with Shri. Revansiddha Lamture, Ter, Dist Osmanabad. (No. 3,6,10,15,16)

4. Artifacts in Late Shri. Ramlingappa Lamture, Government Museum at Ter Dist. Osmanabad. (No. 1,2,4,5,11,12,13,14)

5. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia particularly, 

6. A site about Celtic gods, Celtic tribes, recipes, legends and folk tales and translations of the Ancient Welsh texts on  particularly the page 

7.Maharashtra’ edited and compiled by Dr. Saryu Doshi, by Marg Publications 1985 and particularly articles and photographs contained in the articles
    A) ‘Antiquity’ by M.K. Dhavalikar,
    B) ‘Metal Images’ by S. Gorakshakar,
    C) ‘Coins’ by B.V. Shetti,
    D) ‘Textiles’ by R.S.Morwanchikar,
    E) ‘Rock Cut Temples’ by Karl Khandalawala.

8. News Paper Article dated Jan 14, 2009, in Indian Express, Pune Edition, dated 15.1.2009 by Bakhtiyar Tangsal and Article by Vinita Deshmukh dated Sept 24, 2008 in the same news paper.

Acknowledgement :
This article would not have been possible without extensive and generous help of Dr. R.S.Morwanchikar, former HOD of History Department in Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University, Aurangabad and an internationally acclaimed authority on the subject. The writer is grateful to Shri. Revansiddha Lamture (grand son of Late Shri. Ramlingappa Lamture) for allowing access to the rare and precious artifacts in his personal possession. The permission given by Shri. B.S.Gajbhiye, Director, Directorate of Archeology and Museums, Maharashtra State, Mumbai, to photograph and to use photos of the artifacts in the Government owned Museums particularly the Late Ramlingappa Lamture Museum, Ter is highly appreciated. The credit & copyrights of the ivory figurine found at Bhokardan rests with Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University, Aurangabad and author is indebted for permitting to use the same here. The encouragement to take up the subject and the wholehearted support received from Shri. Arun Sahu, Commissioner, Aurangabad for the article is also deeply acknowledged.

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