History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 2004: Q.6
Q.6 The Cholas are said to have established a strong and well organized administration with an element of self-government at the local level. Do you agree? Give reasons.
The Cholas established a strong and well organized administration:
The emperor was at the top of the administration. The extent and resources of the Chola Empire increased the power and prestige of monarchy. The big capital cities like Tanjore and Gangaikondacholapuram, the large royal courts and extensive grants to the temples reveal the authority of the king. They undertook royal tours to increase the efficiency of the administration. There was elaborate administrative machinery comprising various officials called perundanam and sirudanam.
The land revenue department was well organized. It was called as puravuvarithinaikkalam. All lands were carefully surveyed and classified for assessment of revenue. The residential portion of the village was called ur nattam. These and other lands such as the lands belonging to temples were exempted from tax. Besides land revenue, there were tolls and customs on goods taken from one place to another, various kinds of professional taxes, dues levied on ceremonial occasions like marriages and judicial fines. During the hard times, there were remission of taxes and Kulottunga I became famous by abolishing tolls and earned the title – Sungam Tavirtta Cholan. The main items of government expenditure were
the king and his court, army and navy, roads, irrigation tanks and canals.
The Cholas maintained a regular standing army consisting of elephants, cavalry, infantry and navy. About seventy regiments were mentioned in the inscriptions. The royal troops were called Kaikkolaperumpadai. Within this there was a personal troop to defend the king known as Velaikkarar. Attention was given to the training of the army and military cantonments called kadagams existed.
The naval achievements of the Tamils reached its climax under the Cholas. They controlled the Malabar and Coromandal coasts. In fact, the Bay of Bengal became a Chola lake.
The Chola Empire was divided into mandalams and each mandalam into valanadus and nadus. In each nadu there were a number of autonomous villages. The royal princes or officers were in charge of mandalams. The valanadu was under periyanattar and nadu under nattar.
Local government in the Chola period was in the hands of corporate assemblies at various levels. The working of these assemblies has been described as democratic and self governing. Sabha, Ur and Nagaram were major types of local assemblies which had several elements of self-governance.
The Nagaram was local bodies comprised of traders of the nadu. They controlled market centres with their own functionaries like the nagarakkanakku (accountant of the nagaram), levied cesses on shops and organized commerce within the market centers.
The Sabha was assembly of Brahmanas which governed Brahmdeya villages. Uttaramerur inscriptions give an idea of how Sabha of Uttaramerur village consisted of elected members. Several works like maintenance of temples, agriculture, irrigation, collection of taxes, road construction etc was looked after by the local assembly through several committees (Variyam).
The Ur was assembly of the Velalas (farmers) in non-brahmdeya villages. It had its own Tandal (tax collector) and niyayattar (armed group of protectors). Policing was also a part of the duties of these assemblies usually carried out through Padikappar (area police).
Each assembly functioned autonomously in accordance with its own constitution based on custom and usage, and took care of the problems of its members at the local level. In matters affecting people of more than one assembly, decision was taken by mutual deliberation.
The temple was the major brahmanical institution in brahmdeya and non-brahmdeya villages under the general supervision of the Sabha and Ur respectively through their committees (variyams).
But local assemblies were not absolutely self-governing. The central government through its officers exercised general supervision and had right to intervene in the matter of assemblies under emergency situations. The assemblies had to take into account the policies of central government. Uttaramerur inscriptions state that the resolution of the Sabha was made in the presence of an official especially deputed by the King.