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Sitadhyaksha – Official In Charge Of Agriculture In Ancient India

Sitadhyaksha is an official in charge of agriculture in ancient India mentioned in Arthashastra of Kautilya. Sita means furrow or plough, and adhyaksha (head) means the person in charge of the plough or agriculture.

The official was expected to possess knowledge about agricultural operations. His duties included storage all kinds of grains, seeds, flowers, fruits, vegetables, flax and cotton.

Sitadhyaksha was entrusted with the task of supervising the processes of sowing and cultivation and would go about the task with the help of hired laborers, slaves and prisoners. He would supply ploughing implements, bullocks and other necessary equipments.

In case of loss or delay in the work, he had the right to fine. He was expected to keep a watch on the seasonal rainfall in dry lands as well as wetlands, sixteen dronas (measurement of rain) of the dry lands and half of that for wetlands. He was also expected to anticipate weather conditions in the light of his knowledge of planetary movements, in particular Sun, Jupiter and Venus. Depending on the season and rainfall, the fields would be manured using cow dung and other materials, according to the need of a particular crop.

Sitadhyaksha has to give first priority to paddy, followed by pulses, cereals and vegetables. He was responsible for collecting a water tax from farmers, one-fifth of the total harvest in case of water set in motion, and one-third when set flowing in channels by using any mechanical device, and one-fourth of a pana (a currency) when lifted from rivers, lakes, tanks, and common wells.

He had the right to decide about the crops to be grown, depending on the availability and should grow the groves on suitable dry lands and wet lands. He would see whether seed-dressing was done in proper time; seeds of grains were exposed to dew for seven nights and dried in the sun for seven days, seeds of pulses for five days and nights. In case of grafting, shoots had to be smeared at the edges of the cutting with honey or with animal fats. In case the seeds were hard, they had to be smeared with cow dung.

To waterman guarding orchards and gardens, cowherds, serfs and laborers, he had to supply food and fix salaries according to their work. He would allow ascetics and wise people in Vedas to pick up the fallen flowers and fruits for worship. He had to bring the harvested crop to the treasury in time and preserve it for the future.