"The land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendor and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genii and giants and Aladdin lamps, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of hundred nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of traditions, whose yesterday's bear date with the moldering antiquities for the rest of nations-the one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable interest for alien prince and alien peasant, for lettered and ignorant, wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the world combined".
- Mark Twain
Any civilization, as it progresses inevitably needs a system of government. The stability and security of the social system is assured by the political system of every society. The first society that needs to be referred while tracing ancient Indian history is the Harappan civilization. This civilization is otherwise also known as the Indus Valley civilization.
We do not know whether the people of Indus Valley civilization had a definite system of governance. It is assumed that probably they might have had a monarchical form of government. In this, the king ruled over his subjects. The same was the case with the Vedic period. Not many resources are available on the political system of both these periods. We know that evolution of social inequality began with the Vedic age.
The Brahmins were supposed to conduct priestly activities. On the other hand, the Kshatriyas were supposedly brave and were the kings. In epics like Mahabharata, what is referred to is the monarchical form of government.
From around 300 BC, empires began to be formed in India. The government of ancient India took a more complex and elaborate form by this time. Chandra Gupta Mauryan Empire is called the first great empire in the Indian subcontinent. During the 6th century B.C., 16 Mahajanapadas or 16 great kingdoms were established in India. Ashoka the great belongs to the Mauryan Empire. Until 200 BC, the Mauryan Empire sustained its glory.
Arthsastra of Chanakya is one of the most important literary sources on state, government and diplomacy in ancient India. In 319 AD, the Guptan Empire was formed by Chandragupta II. Both these empires were characterized by the greatest emperors and statesmen in Indian history.
Chola kingdom ruled in the south and east coast of the country. By this period, provinces began to be created. In these provinces, administrators were appointed to supervise them. Here a certain form of decentralization of power was experienced. Later, with the advent of Muslim invaders, India saw the emergence of Delhi sultanate and the Mughal Empire. This period saw the rule of absolute monarchy.