Uttaramerur Model of democracy

Context: The Prime Minister of India made reference to the Uttaramerur inscription located in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu during a discussion on India’s democratic history.


  • Situated in present-day Kanchipuram district, southeast of Chennai, Tamil Nadu. It was established during the reign of Nandivarman II, a Pallava king who ruled around 750 A.D.
  • Over the years, Uttaramerur was successively governed by the Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas, Sambuvarayars, Vijayanagara Rayas, and Nayaks.
  • Historical temples: The village boasts three significant temples: the Sundara Varadaraja Perumal temple, the Subramanya temple, and the Kailasanatha temple.

Significance of Uttaramerur Inscription (920 A.D.)

  • Uttaramerur contains multiple inscriptions, with the most important one dating back to the rule of Parantaka I (907-953 AD). 
  • This particular inscription on the walls of the village assembly (mandapa), provides comprehensive information about the functioning of the elected village assembly.
  • According to scholars, village assemblies might have existed before the time of Parantaka Chola, but it was during his rule that the village administration underwent significant refinement and became a well-operating system through the implementation of elections.

Local Elections

A comprehensive account of the operations of the Sabha (village assembly) is provided in the inscription The Sabha consisted exclusively of brahmans and comprised specialized committees responsible for various tasks. It also outlines the process of selecting members, qualifications, responsibilities and basis of disqualifications. 

Constituting Sabha: There would be 30 wards, and individuals residing in these wards would gather to choose a representative for the village assembly.


  • Age group: Male, above 35 but below 75
  • Possession of Land and a house
  • Knowledge of mantras and Brahmanas from the Vedic corpus.
  • Exception: If the person had learned at least one Veda and four Bhashyas, exception was made regarding land ownership. 


  • Not submitting accounts while previously serving in a committee, 
  • Committing any of the first four of the five ‘great sins’ (killing a brahman, drinking alcohol, theft, and adultery), associating with outcastes, and consuming ‘forbidden’ dishes.

Election Process 

  • The entire selection process, under the guidance of priests was conducted through an elaborated lottery draw in the inner hall of the assembly building (mandapa).
  • The names of qualified candidates from each ward were written on Palm leaf tickets and placed in a pot (Kudavolai). 
  • The oldest member of the assembly assigned a boy to randomly select a slip. 


  • There were several important committees within the Sabha, each with its specific functions, which included:
  • Annual committee (an executive committee that required prior experience and knowledge)
  • Committee for supervision of justice (overseeing appointments and addressing wrongdoings)
  • Gold committee (responsible for the village temple’s gold)
  • The assignments of the committees lasted for 360 days, after which the members retired.
  • It was important for the member to maintain accurate accounts, as any discrepancies could disqualify Sabha members. 

Right to recall:

  • The villagers had the right to recall elected representatives who failed in their duties. 
  • The committee for Supervision of Justice was responsible for this duty and with the assistance of an arbitrator, it conducted another selection following the prescribed process. 

Imperial Cholas (c. 850 – 1200 CE)

  • According to the records, after the Sangam age, the Cholas remained as the subordinates of the Pallavas in the Kaveri region. 
  • Vijayalaya (850-871 CE), conquered the Kaveri delta from the Muttariyar Dynasty. He founded the city of Thanjavur and established the Kingdom. 
  • The copper plate inscriptions of Vijayalaya’s successors trace the Cholas’ lineage back to Karikala (most renowned Chola ruler during the Sangam age). 

Successors of Vijayalaya

  • Parantaka Chola was instrumental in territorial expansion of the kingdom and also is credited with strengthening the governance of the Chola empire.
  • As dominant kingdom:
  • Rajaraja I (985–1014) (credited for Brihadeeswara temple in Thanjavur) and his son Rajendra I (1012–1044), conducted successful naval expeditions reaching Sri Vijaya (in maritime Southeast Asia).
  • They solidified the achievements of their predecessors and established Chola dominance throughout peninsular India.

Chola Administration 

  • Monarchy: The governance during that period was led by a hereditary monarchy.
  • Addressed with titles: Peruman or Perumagan (great man), Chakkaravarti (emperor) and Tiribhuvana Chakkaravarti (emperor of three worlds). 
  • Legitimacy: The kings established their legitimacy by asserting that they were comrades of the gods (thambiran thozhar).
  • Patronised Brahmins: The rulers appointed Brahmins as spiritual mentors or rajagurus. Patronizing Brahmins was seen as a means to enhance their prestige and legitimacy. 
  • Land Grants: As a result, the Chola kings granted vast land estates to Brahmins known as brahmadeyams and chaturvedimangalams.
  • Provinces: The Chola state had been experiencing a continuous expansion of its territories since the reign of Vijayalaya. 
  • These regions were under the rule of local chiefs commonly referred to as Feudatories. 
  • Rajaraja I undertook the integration of these territories and appointed Viceroys to govern these regions. 
  • Examples: Chola-Lankeswara in Sri Lanka and Chola-Ganga in the Gangavadi region of southern Karnataka.

The End of Chola Rule

  • Weakened central authority: 
  • From the ninth to the thirteenth centuries, the Chola dynasty held a position of paramount importance in South India. 
  • By the end of the twelfth century, local chiefs began to rise in power.


  • The frequent invasions from the Pandyas eroded its once formidable strength.
  • In 1264, Sundara Pandyan I, the ruler of the Pandyan kingdom, sacked the Chola capital of Gangaikondacholapuram. 
  • The Cholas lost Kanchipuram earlier to the Telugu Cholas and with the capture of Gangaikondacholapuram, the remaining Chola territories fell into the hands of the Pandyan king.
  • In 1279, Kulasekara Pandyan I defeated the last Chola king, Rajendra Chola III, establishing Pandyan rule.

Mains Practice Question

Q. Discuss the significance and functioning of local self-government under the imperial cholas during the medieval period in South India.

Practice MCQ

Q. With reference to the medieval Indian history, consider the following statements:

1. During the reign of Parantaka Chola, elections were implemented in the village assemblies.

2.The village assemblies had committees which functioned for six months, after which its members retired.

3.The membership of village assemblies was open to persons from all castes.

Which of the statements given above is/are incorrect?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 3 only

Scroll down for answer










Answer: (c)


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