Science & Tech

The Inscription of Uthirameur: An Ancient Tamil Proof of Democratic Provisions

PM Modi highlighted to an almost 1,100-year-old inscription discovered in Uthirameur, Tamil Nadu, that discusses local body regulations, including procedures for dismissing a member.

What exactly are the Uthiramerur inscriptions?

  • The Uthiramerur inscriptions are a collection of ancient Tamil inscriptions discovered in Uthiramerur, a town in Tamil Nadu’s Kanchipuram region.
  • These inscriptions were created during the time of the Chola dynasty, which ruled over a wide portion of South India in the 10th century CE.
  • It was created during the reign of Parantaka Chola I. (907 – 956 AD.)

What does the inscription say?

The temple inscriptions of Uthiramerur provide historical descriptions of rural self-governance.

(1) Sabha and Ur

  • Gram Sabha and Ur were the two village assemblies in Uthiramerur.
  • The Sabha was a Brahmin-only assembly, but the Ur included individuals from all classes.
  • Sabha oversaw property sales, established an endowment fund for dredging a tank, and delegated management of desolate land to the Ur.
  • Sabha gathered in the hall of the local temple after being summoned by the banging of drums.
  • Variyars, the executive officers who report to the Sabha, were mentioned in the inscriptions.

(2) Administrative System

  • During the reign of Chola king Parantaka I, executive functions were delegated to committees known as Variyams. (907–955).
  • Depending on the importance of its tasks, each variyam had 6 to 12 members.
  • The first inscription (dating from 919 CE) outlined the procedures for selecting committee members.
  • The second inscription (dating from 921 CE) described certain changes to these regulations in order to make them more practical.

(3) Committees and Qualifications

  • The village had 30 kudumbus or wards, from which the members of various Committees were appointed on an annual basis.
  • The inscription specifies the conditions for a candidate, which include owning tax-paying land, residing on self-owned land, being between the ages of 35 and 70, knowing mantras and the Brahmanas, and not being linked with particular offences or activities.
  • Candidates were chosen using the Kudavoloi (pot of palm leaf tickets) procedure.
  • A committee member served for 360 days.
  • Anyone found to be in violation of the law was promptly dismissed from the office.

(4) Punishments

  • According to the Uthiramerur inscriptions, parading on a donkey was a penalty for crimes such as incest, adultery, robbery, and fraud.
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