Q. Write an essay on Chola administration throwing light on the local self-government. चोल प्रशासन पर उनके स्थानीय स्वायत्त प्रशासन के बारे में प्रकाश डालते हुए एक निबन्ध लिखिए। [BPSC, 2002]

Q. Write an essay on Chola administration throwing light on the local self-government. चोल प्रशासन पर उनके स्थानीय स्वायत्त प्रशासन के बारे में प्रकाश डालते हुए एक निबन्ध लिखिए। [BPSC, 2002] ©


During the Chola period, a strong and well organized administrative system evolved.

(a) Central 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.

(b) Revenue administration: The land revenue department was well organized. All lands were carefully surveyed and classified for assessment of revenue. 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 remissions of taxes. The main items of government expenditure were the king and his court, army and navy, roads, irrigation tanks and canals.

(c) Military administration: The Cholas maintained a regular standing army consisting of elephants, cavalry, infantry and navy. 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.

(d) Provincial Administration

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.

(e) Local Government

The Chola’s greatest achievement lies in the development of the institution of local self-government. 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 in nature. 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 centers with their own functionaries, 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), niyayattar (armed group of protectors) and 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. Local government gave a chance to population to air its grievances and to solve the problems.

But Chola village assemblies had only some political practices as democratic. The Chola polity was absolute monarchy. The central government through its officers exercised general supervision and had right to intervene in the matter of village under emergency situations. The village assemblies had to take into account the policies of central government. Other factors which indicate lack of proper democracy were:

    • Candidates were elected through lot system instead of voting system.
    • The members of the Ur (village assembly of non-Brahmins) consisted of the taxpaying land owners of the village. Whereas in case of Sabha (village assembly of Brahmans), membership was governed by criterion such as property ownership, family antecedents, learning and good conduct.
    • There were many people, who were debarred from contesting election, for ex: relatives of criminals, those who had been on any committee for past three years.
    • In actual functioning of the assemblies, no reference is found regarding quorum or decision by voting.
    • Water supplies determined to a large extent that which villages would have their assemblies and which would not. Those villages which were in the central region of Kaveri river basin were under direct Royal control, while those regions which were far away and located in drier region were autonomous and contained the self governing institution. ©

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