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About The Uttaramerur Inscription

Context:

Prime Minister referred to the Uttaramerur inscription in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, while discussing India’s democratic history.

Relevance:

GS I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Where is Uttaramerur?
  2. What does the inscription say?
  3. Is this an example of a democracy?

Where is Uttaramerur?

  • Uttaramerur lies in present-day Kanchipuram district, approximately 90 km southeast of Chennai.
  • Today, it is a small town and had a population of roughly 25,000 in the census of 2011.
  • It is known for its historic temples built during Pallava and Chola rule.
  • The famous inscription from Parantaka I’s reign is found on the walls of the Vaikunda Perumal Temple.

What does the inscription say?

  • The Uttaramerur inscription provides details on the functioning of the local sabha or village assembly.
  • A sabha was an assembly exclusively of brahmans and had specialised committees tasked with different things.
  • The inscription lists the process for appointing representatives to the sabha and the qualifications required for the position.
  • Factors that disqualify someone and their family from consideration are also listed.
  • The representative would be chosen on the basis of an elaborate draw of lots, conducted by priests in the inner hall of the building where the assembly meets.

Responsibilities of the Sabha

  • The inscription describes a number of important committees within the sabha with their own distinct functions.
  • These committees include the garden committee, the tank committee, the annual committee, the committee for supervision of justice, the gold committee, and the five-fold committee.
  • The committee assignments would last for 360 days after which the members would have to retire.
  • Any member implicated in any wrongdoing, such as forgery or having ridden a donkey (i.e. being punished for a crime), was removed instantly.
  • The inscription emphasises upon the keeping of accounts as any discrepancy can also disqualify members of the sabha.

Is this an example of a democracy?

  • The Uttaramerur inscription describes a system of local self-government, but it is not a truly democratic system due to restrictions on membership to only land-owning brahmans and lack of true elections.
  • However, it can be seen as a precedent for democratic functioning and as a constitution-like document detailing responsibilities and limitations to authority.
  • While the idea of a modern democracy is a recent phenomenon, the inscription’s emphasis on the rule of law aligns with essential components of a democracy.

-Source: Indian Express


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