Prime Minister, on December 10, performed the ‘Bhumi Pujan’ in Delhi to mark the symbolic launch of the new Parliament building at an estimated cost of Rs.1,000 crore as part of the ambitious Rs 20,000 crore Central Vista redevelopment project. He said “the new building to be a testament to ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ .Democracy is a culture in India. Democracy is a life value, a way of life and the soul of the life of the nation for India. Democracy of India is a system developed with the experience of centuries.
In his address PM Modi said “Friends, why democracy is successful in India, why it is successful and why democracy can never be affected, it is very important for every generation to know and understand it. We see and hear, there are lots of discussions in the world about the Magna Carta composed in the 13th century, and some scholars also call it the foundation of democracy. But it is equally true that Lord Basaveshwara’s ‘Anubhav Mantapam’ had come into existence in India in the 12th century itself before Magna Carta.”
He mentioned that there were historical evidence to prove the successful implementation of self-governance system in Uthiramerur village in Tamil Nadu. He talked about the conduct of election to select their representatives to govern themselves. Thousand years ago, there was Grama Sabha or people court in this village. There stone inscriptions to vouch for the same.
The Uthiramerur temple inscriptions are significant for their historical descriptions of the rural self-governance. It says there were two village assemblies. Sabha and Ur. The Sabha was an exclusive Brahmin (Vedic pandits) assembly while the Ur (Yoor) consisted of the members of other classes. The temple inscriptions of Uthiramerur are notable for their historical descriptions of the rural self-governance. They indicate that Uthiramerur had two village assemblies: Sabha and Ur. The Sabha an exclusively Brahmin (priestly class) assembly, while the Ur was made up of people belonging to all the classes.
According to historians, “The earliest surviving inscriptions from Uthiramerur dates to the reign of the Pallava king Dantivarman (795-846 CE). These inscriptions indicate that the Sabha was already a well-established and mature institution by this time. It managed land sales and an endowment fund for desalting or dredging a tank. It also assigned some duties to the Ur for managing the land deserted by tenants who could not afford to pay the taxes. A later inscription from the reign of Dantivarman’s successor Nandivarman III (846-869), describes the qualifications and tenure of archaka (priest) in a local temple. According to these early inscriptions, the Sabha assembled in the hall of the local temple. The meetings were summoned through beating of the drums. The inscriptions also contain several references to variyars, the executive officers subordinate to the Sabha. Two later inscriptions of the Chola king Parantaka I (907–955) indicate the evolution of the administrative system. Instead of variyars (who were individuals), the executive powers were given to committees called variyams (ward or zones).
Each variyam constituted of 6 to 12 members, depending on the importance of its functions. The first inscription, dated to 919 CE, describes the rules for electing the committee members. The second inscription, dated to 921 CE, describes some amendments to these rules to make them more practical. A 921 CE inscription says, the village had 30 Kudumbus or wards, from which members of the five committees were elected annually. Samvatsara Variyam with 12 members (annual committee or garden and Tank committee), Totta Variyar with 12 members (Garden committee), Eri Variyaram with 6 members (tank committee) Panchavara Variyam (standing committee) and Pon Variyam ( Gold committee) ”. The inscriptions set out qualifications of the committee members like ownership of taxpaying land sized at least one-fourth of a Veli ( an acre and a half) , residence in a house built on self-owned land, aged between 35 and 70 years, knowledge of Mantras and the Brahmanas (Vedic literature) and so on.
The village, according to them, was originally a brahmin settlement. The Pallava king Nandivarman II (720-796 CE) formally created this as a Brahmadeya village around 750CE. He donated the village to Vedic Brahmins from Sri Vaishnava (devotees of Vishnu) community. A 10th century inscriptions says the name of the village as “Uthiramerur Chaturvedi Mangalam”. Over 25 inscriptions, spanning rules of four Pallava Kings, have been found at Uthiramerur. Chola kings captured it in the 9th century. There are inscriptions from the period of Paradanga Chola (907-950), Rajaraja Chola (985-1014), Rajendra Chola (1012-1044) and Kulothunga Chola (1070-1120) informing various gifts to the temples. The village came under the Pandya kingdom during the 13th century.
According to inscriptions “No consecutive second term is allowed for anyone and people had the right to remove anyone who is found guilty of misconduct. The Chola emperors, in those days of absolute monarchy allowed the flourishing of an independent local self-government with powers to collect taxes and maintain water bodies. The inscriptions also explain the selection of representatives through Kudavolai system. In this transparent system, names of qualified candidates were written on palm leaf tickets, the tickets were put into a pot and shuffled.
A young boy was asked to take out as many tickets as the number of positions available. The stone inscription is found on the walls of the village panchayat hall, a rectangular structure of granite slabs. The inscription belonging to the reign of Parantaka Chola, says the candidate must have at least a quarter veli ( yard) of land and a house of his own.