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Mudradhyaksha – Official In Ancient India

Mudradhyaksha was a state official in ancient Indian polity. He is the superintendent of the department authorized to issue licenses to travel for trade and grant permission for foreigners to enter and live in a city. The word mudra means seal, stamp or coin for fiscal exchange. The term is first mentioned in Arthashastra of Kautilya.

In Arthasastra, the function of a mudradhyaksha is to examine goods that come and go from the palace and to stamp them with a seal. The caravan of merchants who bring goods from outside have to see permission for trade, have an identity pass and a seal on the goods from him. The stamp was used on the collection of duties, to identify authorized traders and the quality of goods.

The office of Mudradhyaksha was maintained at the gates of the fortified or walled cities, sanctuaries and temples, where valuables and money were safely kept in bags and sealed for visitors and monks. Mudradhyaksha accorded permission to people to move at night in an emergency, called by factors such as death, illness, childbirth, and outbreak of fire, or at the call of the authorities.

The Bagh Cave plate inscription indicates that the functions of a Mudradhyaksha, including the issuing of passports for egress or ingress, were performed by an officer called gamagamika in the 5th-6th centuries CE. Visakhadatta based the theme of his play Mudrarakshasa on the importance of the use of Rakshasa’s seal, who was the minister of a Nanda king. The play was written in the latter half of the 6th century CE.