Category Archives: अंग्रेजी

भारत – Oldest democracy : Various Evidences

By Avantiputra7 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

No study has so potent an influence in forming a nation’s mind and a nation’s character as a critical and careful study of its past history.
R. C. Dutt (Indian civil servant, economic historian, writer, and translator of Ramayana and Mahabharata.) 1848-1909

We are taught in schools that most ancient origins of democracy are Greek. The term ‘democracy’ first appeared in ancient Greek political and philosophical thought, notably in the city-state of Athens. And what Bharat has, was nothing but barbaric and primitive tribes until Aryans invaded the place.
Humbug. Aryan invasion is not our topic. There are many resources for the same. Let us discuss  Scriptural,  Archeological & Foreign accounts evidences of strongest people’s power on this land.

Kings were elected by people [0.1] [0.2].  A very strong evidence of गण-राज्य Success prevails in ancient Bharat, across different ages. Let us talk more about administrative procedures in गण-राज्य.

The spirit of co-operation is a social instinct in human. From the most primitive period of which we possess any record, it has been manifest in human society in some form or other. The nature of these circumstances dictates the form of such organization, but the character- of its development depends to a great degree upon the peculiar genius of the society in which it is fostered.

The early administrative assemblies of India take us several centuries back. They have been explored by current knowledge gathered in terms of scriptures and archeological evidences. The Vedas, the Upanishads, the Mahabharata, the Sutra literature and works like the Arthshashtra of Kautalya have a special value to the person who sets out to understand the scope and development of the political institutions of India. The statements made in these authorities are well reflected in the epigraphical monuments of the land. Even foreign travelers and historians did not miss to mention democratic Nations on this land (Though they mentioned negatively as they had limited base to understand rich culture). Democratic administration was strength and absence of it was destruction, is quite visible from evidences. The weak and imbecile monarchs in whose hands the ancient kingdom of the Chera, Chola, Pandya and the Pallava, fell, parceled out the dominion into portions and entrusted them to petty viceroys and chieftains without retaining in their hands the local administration, for hereditary management as their whims and fancies dictated and these in their own turn created, a number of smaller principalities which they gave away to some of their subordinates in return for military service to be rendered at a time of need or danger. These changes appear to have happened in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was during this period that the old democratic/semi democratic/People’s power systems vanished or lost much of their usefulness. But happily we have thousands of inscriptions belonging to earlier times to indicate clearly what the systems then in vogue were. Generally, the social and political institutions of India are judged from the later environments and this is a mistake. Though it might have been excusable so to judge at a time when the early inscriptions had not been secured and their proper import ascertained, to do so now is to persist in the mistake once committed.

The ancients recognized the necessity of opening by common consent, certain institutions in which the interests of all classes of people were strongly represented. They are mainly intended to control, the actions of men, to protect the weak from the attacks of the strong and to devise a code of laws for guidance. The Government of a country by the king and his council is the natural outcome of the obedience paid by the common folk to the elders and the strong in primitive ages. The thinker and the athlete were held in high esteem for the help they rendered to the community. Almost all the political institutions of the world had grown out of these first principles of societies.

Scriptural evidences for Democracy, Right to Recall,  Jury 

Whether you like or not, roots of democracy can be discussed by understanding वर्णाश्रम. Skill based वर्णाश्रम and not by birth वर्णाश्रम – is pillar of strong democracy.

Individuals cannot thrive for long. Your body’s single lever cell is useless as an individual. Lever’s skills of generating energy must be supported by Brain and other organ’s energy consuming habits. They all as a group of cells together, with proper administrative procedures can survive as a organism. As a larger organism known as Society or State or Nation, we too should live by collective co-operative efforts.

Skills based वर्णाश्रम is simplest example of existence of co-operative living. When we read Brihadaranyaka Upanishad along with Sankracharya’s comments thereon, we are told that on the analogy of the Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras in human society, Brahma created similar classes among the gods. But he was not content by bringing into existence the first two classes alone because they could not acquire wealth [Marut’s Note: It appears from scriptural reading that, to become & remain prosperous society, is important reason for existence,for citizens, as Nation/Society]. Hence were created the Vaisyas who were called for owing to the circumstance that it was by co-operation and not by individual effort that they as a Nation/Society could acquire wealth. [1]

The passage thus clearly refers to a fairly developed form of group activity in as early as the later Vedic period.

Since time immemorial, men following similar means of livelihood (=culture of the land), usually formed themselves in a co-operative organization/union with definite rules to guide themselves.

Kautalya, Gautam, or Manu, everyone has written extensively on rules and regulations of  co-operative organization formed for various purposes like, judiciary purpose, political purpose, administrative purpose, skill management purpose, business management (Chamber of Commerce) etc. If they (committee, assembly, corporation, Panchayat) are found guilty of breaking rules, they were recalled from their positions and were severely punished.

For example, Manu prescribes King to know laws of all associations and appoint jury to resolve issues based on rules decided by people.

जातिजानपदान्धर्मान्श्रेणीधर्मांश्च धर्मवित्।
समीक्ष्य कुलधर्मांश्च स्वधर्मं प्रतिपादयेत् ॥ ८.४१ ॥

8.41. (A king) who knows the sacred law, must inquire  into the laws of castes (jati), of districts, of guilds, and of families, and (thus) settle the peculiar law of each.

**Guilds were formed by traders, merchants, administrators, militaries to run their collective task efficiently. (Separate article require for formation of Guilds)

Request is made here to read Manu’s references without any bias. Same principles are repeated in all Dharma-shashtra(s) which may be cross-verified.

Right to Recall described by Manu, Vishnu, Gautam, Yajnavalkya and Kautalya

Further Manu (Kautalya and Gautam describe the same in their treatise):

यो ग्रामदेशसंघानां कृत्वा सत्येन संविदम् ।
विसंवदेन्नरो लोभात्तं राष्ट्राद्विप्रवासयेत् ॥ ८.२१९ ॥
निगृह्य दापयेच्चैनं समयव्यभिचारिणम् ।
चतुःसुवर्णान्षण्निष्कांश्छतमानं च राजकम् ॥ ८.२२० ॥
एतद्दण्डविधिं कुर्याद्धार्मिकः पृथिवीपतिः ।
ग्रामजातिसमूहेषु समयव्यभिचारिणाम् ॥ ८.२२१ ॥

8.219. If a man belonging to a corporation inhabiting a village or a district, after swearing to an agreement, breaks it through avarice, (the king) shall banish him from his realm,

8.220. And having imprisoned such a breaker of an agreement, he shall compel him to pay six Nishkas, (each of) four Suvarnas, and one Satamana of silver.

8.221. A righteous king shall apply this law of fines in villages and castes (Jati) to those who break an agreement.

Properties of Corporations (held at Village/Taluka/District/City level) were considered public property and those who hamper them, were punished too, be him/her part of elected Corporations or ordinary citizens.

The Yajnavalkya-samhita prescribes that if a man steals the property of a guild or any other corporation, or breaks any agreement with it, he shall be banished from the realm and all his property, confiscated. Similar injunction also occurs in the Vishnu-smriti.

Functions of Citizen Committee (Citizen Guilds) as per Yajnavalkya Samhita

निजधर्माविरोधेन यस्तु समयिको भवेत् ।
सोऽपि यत्नेन संरक्ष्यो धर्मो राजकृतश्च यः ॥ २.१८६ ॥
गणद्रव्यं हरेद्यस्तु संविदं लङ्घयेच्च यः ।
सर्वस्वहरणं कृत्वा तं राष्ट्राद्विप्रवासयेत् ॥ २.१८७ ॥ [
Right to Recall]
कर्तव्यं वचनं सर्वैः समूहहितवादिनाम् ।

यस्तत्र विपरीतः स्यात्स दाप्यः प्रथमं दमम् ॥ २.१८८ ॥
समूहकार्य आयातान्कृतकार्यान्विसर्जयेत् ।
स दानमानसत्कारैः पूजयित्वा महीपतिः ॥ २.१८९ ॥
समूहकार्यप्रहितो यल्लभेत तदर्पयेत् ।
एकादशगुणं दाप्यो यद्यसौ नार्पयेत्स्वयम् ॥ २.१९० ॥
धर्मज्ञाः शुचयोऽलुब्धा भवेयुः कार्यचिन्तकाः ।
कर्तव्यं वचनं तेषां समूहहितवादिनाम् ॥ २.१९१ ॥
श्रेणिनैगमपाखण्ड गणानां अप्ययं विधिः ।
भेदं चैषां नृपो रक्षेत्पूर्ववृत्तिं च पालयेत् ॥ २.१९२ ॥
For translation: Check reference [2]

Looking at the translation of above guidelines, it is clear that Executive Officers (Collector, Dy. Collector, Mamlatdar, DEO, DHO, DFO, Talati, Bank manager etc of ancient times) were not by any means autocrats. These officers possessed executive authority over the members of the corporation, and could visit with punishment for anyone who disobeyed their decision. They were bound, however, by the laws and usages of the corporation, and if they violated them in the exercise of their authority, and there was dissension between -them and the general members, the king had to step in and make both parties conform to the established usage. Their ultimate responsibility to the law and custom was assured by the Instrumentality of the assembly. This was even supported by मित्रमिश्रा in his law treatise वीरमित्रोदय, written as commentary on Yajnavalkya samhita as per his times.

The corporate spirit of a guild is most strikingly manifested in verse Yajnavalkya [2] 190 which lays down that everything acquired by a man while engaged in the business of the guild (including gifts/awards from king or other persons), must be paid to the guild itself, and anyone failing to do this of his own accord, will have -to pay a fine amounting to eleven times its value.

So, the violation of agreements entered into with the corporation’s (Sarhvid-vyatikrama) , Right to Recall in modern parlance, is already recorded in Yajnavalkya and Manu as one of the recognized titles of law. (Manu VIII, 5 | Y II, 15)

Yajnavalkya lays -down the general maxim ([2] see verse 186) that the duties arising from the Rules and Regulations of the corporation (Simayikal) not inconsistent with the injunctions of the sacred texts as well as the regulations laid down by the king (gazette), must be observed with care, thus placing the duty towards the guild almost on an equal footing with that towards the State.

Reference of democratic corporations in Mahabharata

A few passages occurring in the Mahabharata indicate the high importance that the corporations enjoyed in general estimation. Thus corporations are described as one of the principal supports of the royal power and sowing dissensions among the heads of corporations, or inciting them to treason, is locked upon as a recognized means of injuring the enemy’s kingdom.

Duryodhana, after his defeat by the Gandharvas, refuses to go back to his capital, for, humiliated as he was, he dared not face and said, “What will the heads of corporations(and others ), say to me and what shall I tell them in reply ?” [4] – Even Duryodhana was frightened by PEOPLE’s power.

Another one from Mahabharata, is the verse in Shanti-Parva which lays down that no amount of expiation can remove the sins of those who forsake their duties to the guild/ corporation to which they belong. [5]

Constitution of Corporations

Who should be selected? [6]

  • Honest
  • Able
  • Self-controlled
  • Noble family background
  • Skilled in every business
  • Acquainted with Vedas and duties

Jury assists elected associations: [7]

2, 3 or 5 persona advisory should be appointed, who shall advise villagers, corporations, and others on judiciary matters.

City/Village corporations with Right to Recall in later Dharma Shastra period

These elected officers, seem to have exercised considerable authority over individual members in their official capacity. Thus, according to Brihaspati, if an individual failed to perform his share of the agreement though able to do the same, he was punished by confiscation of his entire property and by banishment from the town. For the man who falls out with his associates or neglects his work, a fine is ordained, amounting to fine and banishment from the town is also the punishment of the one who injures joint stock of village or breaks the mutual agreement.

Narad Smriti promotes corporations to administer cities and villages. Following injunction is crystal clear prescription for Right to Recall. [8]

Brihaspati Smriti also suggests the same. [9]

As we see so far, democratic element at each corporation level was quite a distinguishing feature of the guild organisations of this period. There was a house of assembly![10] where the members of the guild assembled to transact public business from time to time. According to Narada, regular rules were laid down for the, attendance of members, and the king had to approve of them, whatever they might be.[11] [This suggests that king was mere instrumental position and all powers resides with corporation of city or Guilds of Villages]

Regular speeches seem to have been made in the assembly, and the idea of ‘liberty of speech’ was probably not unknown, Thus Chandesvara quotes the following passage from Katyayana in his Vivadratnakara.

“If the executive officer injures another member for having said reasonable things in interests of citizens, interrupts a speaker (lit. gives no opportunity to the speaker to continue as we generally see in our parliamentary sessions), or speaks something improper, is to be punished with ‘Purva Sahasa (पूर्वसाहस)’ i.e. heaviest fine or punishment.

युक्तियुक्तं च यो हन्याद्वक्तुर्योऽनवकाशदः ।
अयुक्तं चैव यो ब्रूते स दाप्यः पूर्वसाहसम् ।। ६७१ ।।

Several minor regulations also clearly bring out the democratic feeling that pervaded these village/city governing councils. Thus it is ordained by Brihaspati with regard to the executive officers or other persons deputed to manage village/city affairs on behalf of the guild, that whatever is acquired (such as a field or a garden acquired in course of a boundary dispute in a law court), or preserved (from a thief) by them, and whatever debt is incurred by them (for the purpose of the guild), or whatever is bestowed upon the community as a mark of royal favor, all this is to be divided equally among all the members. If however -the money borrowed by the executive officers was spent by them for their own individual ends and not for the interest of the guild; they were liable to make good the amount.

But the most characteristic democratic element in the whole system was the ultimate responsibility of the executive officers to the assembly. This point is fully treated by Mitra Misra. He takes verse 187 of the second chapter of Yajnavalkya to refer to the Mukhyas, and recites the following text from KATYAYANA as an illustration of the doctrine (the right of the assembly to punish its chiefs)

साहसी भेदकारी च गणद्रव्यविनाशकः ।
उच्छेद्याः सर्व एवैते विख्याप्यैवं नृपे भृगुः ॥६७२॥

“Thus any of the executive officers who was guilty of any heinous criminal act who created dissensions, or who destroyed the property of the association could be removed and the removal was only to be notified to, but not necessarily sanctioned by, the king.[King is mere instrumental post, power to people].”

As the executive officers possessed great powers it might not always have proved an easy affair to remove them if they assumed a defiant attitude. In such cases the matter was to be brought to the notice of the king as appears from the following verse in Brihaspati-Sarahita:

मुख्यैः सह समूहानां विसंवादो यदा भवेत् ।
तदा विचारयेत्राजा स्वमार्गे स्थापयेच्च तान् ।। १,१७.२० ।।

Mitramisra is quite explicit on this point. He says that the removal of the executive officers was the proper function of the assembly (samuha) , and that the king would step in to punish these men only when the assembly found itself unable to do so. The king would hear both sides and, of course, decide in such cases according to the special rule of the corporation he would then give his decision and enforce his decree. To take decision, he appoints Jury as described by Chanakya, Narada & Sukra.

According to Manu, Chief Justice or King should be accompanied by 3 Jurors.

सोस्य कार्याणि संपश्येत्सभ्यैरेव त्रिभिर्वृत:।
सभामेव प्रविश्याग्रयामासीन: स्थित एंव वा॥ 10। अ. 8॥

Chanakya prescribes Jury of , 3 officers of state and 3 learned persons from citizens. According to Sukra Niti, number of jury members should be uneven i.e. 3, 5 or 7 

From scriptural evidences, it is clear that, those States/Nations who were abided by these Dharma-shashtra(s), had people’s power in governing Nation. King was mere appointed entity. Whenever, dharma-shashtra(s) with strong democratic flavor were forgotten (धर्मस्य ग्लानि), mass-movement becomes inevitable for धर्म संस्थापनाय.

Now let us talk about South Indian temple inscriptions:

Southern Bharat and local governments

Every country in the Deccan was divided in ancient times into large divisitions called mandalam, these again into Valanadu or districts, nadu or talukas., chaturvedin , constituting a number of villages, and उर villages. The king was recognized as the head of the government and his authority was held supreme. He was respected by all bodies of men who were entrusted with distinct and independent functions. He took a keen interest in all matters concerning the-State, though his chief attention was directed towards the military and foreign departments.

According to ancient Hindu political thinkers the State consisted of seven elements of which the king was the one. All 7 elements working together, as per people’s power, were deemed as powerful Nation. [13] The well-being of the State depended largely on the harmonious working of these elements and on their joint effort for the common weal. It is common modern Indian perception that, in ancient India, Kings were always selected from Royal families by King himself. But the fact says something else. The ministers appear to have had an important voice in the selection of the king and as such they took an important part in his anointment. Nay, we have the testimony of inscriptions to show that it was the ministers that had the coronation performed. Saluva Timma who had a partiality for Krsna Raya played the role of chief minister and crowned him king on the death of Vira Narasirnha. A lithic record from the Nagamangalam taluka in the Mysore district supplies us with the interesting information that Sadasiva Maharaya was anointed king by Rama Raja, the Prime Minister, and the other chief ministers, (amatya tilakaih}[14]

The coronation had an important constitutional significance. The assumption of royalty implied recognition of his responsibility by the king. Here there is a close similarity between the idea of ancient Hindu kingship and medieval monarchy. In the Vedic period the king took an oath that he would rule his people justly and according to the rules of Dharma. Similarly the kings of Vijayanagar took the oath, the spirit of which was the same. The occasion was one of mirth and joy and the kings then made large grants to temples and Brahmans. In this selection process, there was also process of apprenticeship by appointing successor, i.e. Yuvraja. The eldest prince was generally chosen as the successor and failing him the choice fell upon some other member worthy of the distinction and responsibility. In the Vijayanagar empire also the kings appointed their successors and anointed them as Yuvraja during their own life-time.

Generally it was celebrated when the Crown Prince had gained all theoretical knowledge of administration. But under certain circumstances the Crown Prince was anointed Yuvaraja though he happened to be very young. That was due perhaps to the fact that the reigning kings feared that succession to the throne would be disputed after their death. It was so when Krsna Riiya appointed his son Tirumala as Yuvaraja in A.D. 1524 when he was but six years old!

During the period of his training the Yuvaraja was placed under the tutelage of able teachers who taught him the Sastras,the knowledge of which was necessary for a king. He also acquired knowledge in the science of weapons such as sara, asi (sword), astra (missile, bow, arrow), and in horse-riding and other similar arts necessary for princes. He also learnt the fine arts. Prince Raghunatha of Tanjore, for instance, was a master in the art of music and was a great composer, himself designing several ragas.

Mere theory cannot sufficiently equip a ruler for the arduous task of administration and a period of practical training was considered necessary. Therefore when the prince had reached the maturity of age to be placed in charge of the administration, he was appointed the viceroy or governor of one of the provinces, an office which helped him to come into contact with the problems of state and acquire training in the administration.

In this connection we can examine the so called system of Co-rulership that is said to have prevailed in the Vijayanagar court. This is a question of some constitutional importance.

It seems that the leading people in the empire had a voice in the choice of the heir. On the death of Sri Ranga-I and his brother Rama, Venkata II ascended the Vijayanagar throne in 1586, to the exclusion of Tirumala, the son of Rama, and with the “unanimous vote of all the classes.” A Jesuit letter says: “After the demise of this Prince’s father the kingdom was given by the unanimous vote of all the classes to the brother of the deceased (Rama III), i.e., the one that is ruling at present, rejecting the rights of the deceased’s children who on account of their age were not able to rule over a kingdom.”[15] This is foreign account describing presence of democracy in 16th century.

King had about him five great assemblies which consisted of ministers, scholars, generals, envoys and spies; as well as eight great bodies of men »ie., accountants, artisans, royal relations, guards, members of commerce and commanders of elephant forces, infantry and cavalry. A different authority states that the five great assemblies of the king are the Mahajanas, Brahmanas, medical men, astrologers, and ministers. Epigraphs reveal the fact that ancient kings had at their command all the paraphernalia mentioned by the two authorities.

Checks on Royal Authority

Though King was important organ in political body, he was not autocrat. The powers of King were limited by certain codes and institutions like assemblies at various levels. Ancient Kings in Bharat, like Vijaynagar king mentioned in inscriptions, were not law makers. Laws were already in existence and King has to obey. Protection of Dharma was their main task. Such was the lofty conception of King about dharma and royal duties. Sources of laws were Vedas, smrtis and dharma-shastras. Of course, there is divine claim evidences in Kingdoms but this claim is not in any way analogous to divine right claimed by princes in England. 17th century British sovereigns claimed divine right to rule, to support their absolutism. But the Hindu theory was propounded not as a claim for autocracy but for people’s power, decided by dharma-shastra(s) written by keeping people’s power in center. This apart there were more visible checks on the king. One of them was the organized community itself. It is said that one of the characteristics of the present day political theory is its reaction against the State and a salient political fact is the increasing amount and power of group life, trade unions, and professional societies, citizens’ leagues, and neighborhood associations. Such leagues and guilds were not unknown in ancient and mediaeval India. There were the associations of the nand-desis, the nads, the ayyavoles, craft guilds, the groups of ninety-eight sects, each of which had a definite organization. Even when Krishna and Balram were fighting against bouncers appointed by Kamsa, in stadium, there were different provincial govt. heads with their assemblies were seated, supporting Krishna & Balram, despite being part of Kamsa’s Nation.(Read Harivamsa for this). They made rules and regulations for themselves and the State did not interfere with their functions except when there arose misunderstandings among them. The Central government was content with the exercise of a supervisory control over them. It is the quasi-instinctive postulates and conventions of group-life which come to be formulated as law and not the mandate, command or decree of a single central authority in the state. Law, under these conditions, is not an arte-fact but a natural growth of consensus and communal life. For example, ancient version of anti-dowry act is available as an interesting inscription from Viricipuram in the North Arcot district which describes a regulation made by a few communities for themselves. The representatives of the Brahmans of the kinadom of Padaividu among whom Karnata, Tamil, Telugu and Lata Brahmans are mentioned, signed an agreement to the effect that henceforth marriages among their families had only to be concluded by Kanyadana, i.e., that the father had to give his daughter to the bridegroom gratuitously, and that both the father who accepted money and the bridegroom who paid money for the bride should be punished by the king and excommunicated from their caste.[16] Thus the communities made regulations for themselves and the king’s duty was only to enforce them.

Another equally important factor that acted as a check on royal authority was public opinion. Even the most autocratic government cannot set public opinion at naught. Any new venture or policy undertaken even by the most powerful of kings should have the moral Support either implied or expressed of the people over whom he ruled. In India this opinion was expressed by the people not by placing any constitutional obstruction in the way of the smooth working of the government, but by their peaceful and silent evacuation of the occupied territories.

Note: Evacuation was mass protest tool.

Examples of Public checks on Kings:

  1. An incomplete record coming from Tiruvennainallur in the South Arcot district states that as the shepherds in charge of the temple cattle in Tiruvadi sirmai were unable to pay the sadakkadaimai tax and migrated to other places, their tax was reduced by Aramvalartta Nayanar, the agent of Narasa Nayaka, to 1 & 1/2 pamama per year per payir, a particular unit.
  2. Finding that public opinion was not in favor of the continuation of the marriage tax payable by the bride and bridegroom at the time of marriage of a virgin, the enlightened sovereign Krsna Raya remitted it.
  3. There are many records which praise not only the king but also the local influential people for this remission.[17]

These local bodies had great influence over the revenue policy of the government. In places where these assemblies existed, the government could not impose new taxes or remit old ones without their consent since they carefully guarded the interests of the community. Thus Abbaraja Tirumalaraja granted for instance the mulavisa of certain villages for the offerings to the God TiruvengaJanatha with the consent of the Mahanadu (general assembly).[17]

Some of the special traits or characteristics of South Indian लोकनेता as we find them in literature and lithic records way be noted here:

  • They were highly renowned for their estimate of the learned, for the munificent scholarships which they made to scholars and for patronizing arts and crafts.
  • They lavished their wealth by building temples and other pious works with the object of securing merit, by making rich presents to them; by digging tanks and wells; and by opening canals, feeding houses and the like.
  • Hospitality is an ingrained quality in them. They were ever ready to provide men of any nationality with food, clothing and residence and met all their comforts by gifts of lauds, villages, revenues and even parts of their dominion.
  • They were warlike people and they properly valued the martial spirit of others.
  • There is no parallel in any history for the religious tolerance which they always evinced.

Though the king had about him for counsel the above said groups of men, he does not appear to have concerned him at all times with the direct administration of the country. (Main objectives of King -> Foreign affairs and Military). The latter was vested in the hands of the following assemblies:-

  • District assembly.
  • Members of Commerce.
  • Village assembly
  • Assembly consisting of the principal residents of a village (Jury).

From the inscriptions we get some idea or the strength of the village assemblies in the Vijayanagar days. An epigraph at Tiruvandarkoyil in Pondichery territory records that Tribhuvanamahadevi caturvedimangalam had an assembly consisting of 4000 men.

The assembly was divided into a number of bodies which shared among themselves the various functions connected with the administration. All the members of it were highly learned in the scriptures, science, arts and laws of the land. Among them there were persons who studied the four Vedas, चतुर्वेदी as they were called; men who knew two Of three Vedas त्रिवेदी and द्विवेदी; those who had learnt the Karmapatha and acquired the title of kramavits; those who were familiar with the six branches of study and known by the designation of Shadangavids ; and others who had understood the rules regulating the conduct of yajnas and performed them, such as the Somayajins, Vajpeyeen etc. Besides being learned, they had a permanent and abiding interest in the village in whose assembly they served.

Particular care was taken to see that they were sound in body and mind and possessed sufficient vigour and energy to turn out good work, that they loved just methods (Focus on law-drafts) and that they were well behaved and of good morals. The minimum qualification required for membership, the method of election and the formation of committees are given at length in a uttara-mallur stone inscriptions. [20]

Uttara-mallur stone inscriptions

The minimum qualification required for membership, the method of election and the formation of Committees are given at some length in stone document of the 10th century A.D:

The following qualifications must be possessed by a candidate who stands for membership in the village assembly:-

  1. He must own more than a quarter veli of tax-paying land.
  2. He must have a house buil t on his own site.
  3. His age must be below 70 and above 35.
  4. He must know the Mantrabrahmana in such a way as to be able to teach it to others.
  5. Even if he owns only one-eighth veli of land, he shall be considered a fit candidate, in case he has learnt one Veda and one of the four Bhashya and can explain the same to others.
  6. Among those possessing the foregoing qualifications,
    • only such as are well conversant with business and conduct themselves according to sacred rules shall be elected, and
    • those who have acquired their wealth by honest means, whose minds are pure, and who have not been on any of the committees for the last three years shall also be chosen. (This provision clearly points out that members, who had served once on the committee and retired, can stand for membership after a period of 3 years.)


  • Those who have been on any of the committees but have not submitted their accounts and their relations specified below are not fit for election as members,

The sons of the younger and elder sisters of their mother.
The sons of their paternal aunts and maternal uncles.
The brothers of their mothers.
The brothers of their fathers.
Their brothers.
Their fathers-in-law.
The brothers of their wives .
The husbands of their sisters.
The sons of their sisters.
The sons-in-law who have married the daughters of disqualified persons,
Their fathers and Their sons.

  • Those against whom illicit sexual intercourse or the first four of the five great sins [viz. killing a Brahmana, drinking intoxicating liquors, theft, committing adultery with the wife of a spiritual teacher and associating with any one guilty of these crimes] are recorded ; and
  • all their various relations above specified are not fit for membership.
  • Those who have been outcasts for association with low people are not eligible until they perform the expiatory ceremonies.
  • Those who are fool-hardy.
  • Those who have stolen or plundered the property of others.
  • Those who have taken forbidden dishes of any kind and who have become pure by reason of having performed the expiatory ceremonies, are not eligible to the end of their lives
  • Those who had been village pests and have become pure by reason of having performed expiatory ceremonies and those who had been guilty of illicit sexual intercourse and have become pure by performing expiatory ceremonies, are not eligible to the end of their lives.

Note:  These rules are powerful enough to keep wicked, criminals, family members away from administration.

Selection process of any assembly/Jury was random. Very same stone inscription described election process:

Election process – Nature of randomness:

It was be noted now how the election of members took place, At various centers or wards of the village,pots were kept,probably with their mouths covered and provided with a small hole just sufficient to allow a voting card i.e. a palm-leaf ticket containing the name of the person nominated, to drop in. When all the voters had written on their tickets the names of persons whom they wished to elect and put them into the pots, the latter were taken to a place where the tickets were drawn. This place is stated to be the assembly hall, Here on the day of election, all the people of the village, the young and the old inclusive, gathered together with the temple priests then present in the village and the arbitrators. The contents of each pot were made into a bundle, provided with a cover and the whole emptied into a vacant pot and well shaken. A boy who knew nothing about what these pot tickets indicated was then asked to take out a card from the pot.It was received by the arbitrator on the palm of his hand who did so with his five fingers wide apart; the precaution being to avoid any mischief.He then read out the name written on the ticket. The ticket read out by him was also read out by all the priests, this precaution being to detect immediately the mischievous and willful wrong reading of names. The name thus read out was declared elected.[20]

Similarly one man was chosen for each of the wards. The number of wards of a village depended upon its size. Thus Uttaramallur in the Chinglepet district had 30 wards and Sendalai in the Tanjore district counted nearly double the number. When the required number of members had been selected in the manner described above, they were divided into several committees. Each of these committees was en trusted with the duty of supervising some administrative departments.

The following are a few of the committees mentioned in epigraphs:

  1. Annual Supervision Committee
  2. Garden Supervision Committee
  3. Tank Supervision Committee
  4. Field Supervision Committee
  5. Gold Supervision Committee
  6. Ward Supervision Committee
  7. The Panohavara Committee and
  8. The Committee for the Administration of Justice. (Jury)

Of these, the first counted among its members those who had previously been On the second and third and those who were advanced in learning and in age. This shows that members are eligible to stand as candidates after the expiry of their first election.The second and third committees (Garden Supervision Committee & Tank Supervision Committee ) were chosen after an oral expression of opinion and the mmembers of all the three committees held office for full three-hundred and sixty days and then retired. The Panchavara committee and the gold committee for the year served only a few of the wards. In the succeeding year the remaining wards came under the control of newly elected members of these committees.

As regards the appointments of accountants, it is said that only arbitrators and those who had earned their wealth by honest means should be chosen to write the accounts. It was incumbent on those to submit, at the end of their term of office, the accounts which they had been maintaining to the satisfaction of the committee in charge of the accounts and must be declared to have been honest in their dealings. The accounts maintained by one should not be closed by another and the re-appointment of accountants rested on proving their honesty in the past year.

Any accountant, who was probably suspected of professional misconduct, was required to undergo the ordeal of holding in his hand a red hot iron piece and to prove his innocence. If he came cut unhurt and established his purity thereby; he was honored by being presented with sacred water and flower from the feet of the God. [18]

An important principle which was observed in forming these rules is that the members comprising the committees should change every year. After the expiry of 3 years since one last held office, he became eligible for re-election and, if selected, he was made to serve in some other committee than the one in which he was before. The annual change of office bearers gave every qualified and deserving men an opportunity to get acquainted with the details of village administration, and this acquaintance led him to take a keen interest in the affairs of the village. One of the finest examples of participatory democracy!

In course of time, the village assembly which consisted of all the residents of the village, both young and old, became possessed of sufficient knowledge regarding every detail of the village administration and watched zealously their own interest as citizens and exercised a wholesome control over the doings of the various committees, which were freed, by the wise rules devised for their formation, from incompetent, ignorant, unscrupulous or undesirable members.

Justice by Jury

It may be worth knowing the punishments accorded for some of the criminal offenses which we noted in early epigraphs references.[19] They are:-

  1. A village officer demanded taxes from a woman who declared she was not liable. The former seems to have put her through an ordeal. The woman took poison and died. A meeting of the people from the four quarters (All castes), eighteen districts and the various countries (International Jury) was held and it was decided that the man was liable. In order to expiate his sin, he paid ,32 kasu for burning a lamp at the temple (A.D. 1054).
  2. A man pushed his wife and she fell down and died in consequence. The 1,500 men of the four quarters assembled and declared the husband guilty. He was required to provide 4 lamps to the temple (12th century A.D).
  3. A laborer went out hunting, missed his aim and shot a person. The agriculturists from the seventy-nine (79) districts assembled together and declared the person guilty. He was required to present 64 cows for burning two lamps in the temple.

Above southern Bharat administrative examples matches with what Greek ambassador Meghasthenes records as being followed at Patna, during the time of Chandragupta’s rule. He says that there was a commission consisting of 30 members which was divided into six departmental boards with five members each and that the war office was similarly under the supervision of another commission of 30 members also divided into six boards which had to look after the admiralty, transport and commissariat, infantry, cavalry, war chariots and elephants.

Besides, there was an irrigation committee which controlled the distribution of water for agricultural purposes. Thus it looks as if the management of state business by committee system was a very ancient one and the south & north both have borrowed it from scriptures, and used it with great elaboration. Though the names of committees indicate in a general way what their functions were, they do not appear to have been so completely restricted, because we find in records that gifts to temples had been left in the hands of more than one committee. The exact nature of their transaction of business is yet to be made out.

IMPORTANT for future:

In my humble opinion, we have ample evidences in support of People’s power. There is positive wave going on in Indian media & peopl, about going organic in agriculture, adapting indigenous living, swadesi etc.If organic farming based on Vedas is possible, why not Vedic rajya vyavastha? How long will we remain silent on Vedic Rajya-Vyavastha?

In dharma-shashtra, there is one nyaya -> “ardha-kukkuṭī-nyāya” or “the logic of half a hen” by which a fool wishes to profit from the egg-laying half portion of the hen without having to feed the front half. The hen is giving egg and, by the backside, by the rectum, and eating by the mouth. So one man is considering that “This mouthpiece is expensive because I have to give to eat. Better cut it.” So if the mouth is cut, then there will be no egg because it’s a dead body. So this is not good logic. It is in fact, no logic at all! Greedy sentiments! We must our raise our bards for Rajya-Vyavastha at same time when we are working on Swadesi!

“I accept things which are very favorable to my understanding, and other things I reject.” ->>> This is called ardha-kukkuṭī-nyāya. So people accept śāstras in that way, the Māyāvādīs. The hypocrites. Don’t be one.

If you want to accept Bharatiya Culture, accept her in totality. If you fail to understand something like vedic RTR,TCP, you raise your intellect (actually these drafts are common sense and doesn’t require any high intellect) but don’t reject. If you reject, you are like that man who like egg-laying hen partially. Apply your creativity to find innovative solutions to implement Right to Recall, Transperant Complain procedure!

You, being citizen of Bharat, have mighty power to govern the Nation, only if you act according to rich people friendly dharm-shashtra(s). No Avatar will come at your disposal without efforts. If you want Avatar to take birth, you must work hard to awake fellow citizens, make them aware about their rights and demand the same, of course for धर्म संस्थापनाय!

Don’t beg by अनशन, spread the drafts, amend drafts and demand! अस्तु.


[0.1] भारतीय इतिहास 101 – When Kings were elected by Citizens (प्रजा आधीन राजा) – Part 1
[0.2] भारतीय इतिहास 101 – When Kings were elected by Citizens (प्रजा आधीन राजा) – Part 2

स जैव व्यभवसू स विशमसूजत यषयेदानि देवजातानि गणश आख्यायन्ते वसवो क्या आशिया विसेदेवा मरत इति | Brihadaranyaka Upanishad Chapter 1.4.12

[2] Yajnavalkya Smriti References:

Chapter 2: Verse 185-192: Communities and guilds, laws as to their constitution and conduct
185. The National Leader (King) shall erect in the city a mansion and shall settle therein bráhmaṇs learned in the three Vedas, and endow them, giving them injunction to discharge their duties. [2.1]
186. They shall diligently practise all observances stipulated for [2.2] [in the endowment] which do not interfere with their personal duties, also whatever other observances the National Leader(King) may enjoin.[2.3]
187. Whoso appropriates what belongs to the community or violates his engagement [with the community], shall forfeit his property and be banished the realm.[2.4]
188. The word of those who [are appointed to]  superintend the affairs[2.5] of the community must be obeyed by all [the members]: he who acts in violation thereof shall be amerced in the first [i. e. lowest] fine.
189. Those who have come [from other parts] upon the affairs of the community shall, upon completion of the business, be dismissed by the National Leader(King), with gifts, with honour, and with hospitable entertainment.
190. An emissary upon the business of the community shall deliver up whatever he has received [on their account]: if he fail to deliver voluntarily, he shall be amerced eleven times the value [of what he withholds].
191. They who have direction of the affairs of the community should be such as know their duties, are pure minded, and not covetous; their word for the welfare of the community is to be followed.
192. What has just been enjoined is obligatory in like manner upon communities of craftsmen, of traders, and of páshaṇḍas. The National Leader(King)  should preserve their distinctive character, and make them respectively adhere to their original callings.

[2.1] duties prescribed by the Śruti and Smriti, according to their cast and grade.
[2.2] such as, tending cattle, conservation of water, care of temple
[2.3] to entertain travellers, or injunction to see that horses or other provision be not furnished to the enemies of the State.
[2.4] for a heinous offence: for minor offences, fines, as declared by Manu, shall be imposed. (M.) Manu, ch. 8, sl. 220, is probably here referred to.
[2.5] The term used hitavádi signifies, who speak for the welfare of; which we assume to have the sense we have given to it.

[4] Vana Parva – Chapter 238

[5] Shanti Parva – Chapter 36
जातिश्रेण्य अधिवासानां कुलधर्मांश च सर्वतः      वर्जयेन न हि तं धर्मं येषां धर्मॊ न विद्यते
“There is expiation for most heinous crime but there is really no, absolutely no expiation for them that cast off the duties and practices of their order and class, country, and family, and that abandon their very creed. “

[6] Brihaspti Sutra Chapter 17.9 (17.8 explains RTR conditions)

[7] Brihaspti Sutra Chapter 17.10



[10] Brih XVII 11

[11] Narada Smriti Chapter 10.3

[13] The seven elements of the State are: (1) Swami (King), (2) Amatya (minister), (3) Janapada (territory), (4) Durqa (fort), (5) Kosa (treasury) (6) Dando. (army) and (7) Mitra (ally). See, for instance, Matsya Purana Ch. 220, v. 19.


[15] Letter from Fr. N. Pimenta, quoted by Rev. H. Heras in the Aravidu Dynasty, I, p, 301.


[17] Epigraphia Carnatica volumes 20-22

[18] Annual Report on Epigraphy for 1916. pp. 115-6.

[19] S. Subrmaniyam Iyer , Annual report on epigraphy 1915-20

[20] Uttara-mallur ASI report


  • The Sacred Books Of The East(The Minor Law Books) Vol-Xxxiii for Narad Smriti, Brihspti  Smriti
  • Aravidu dynasty of vijayanagara by Henry Heras
  • Historical Sketches Of Ancient Dekhan by Subramaniyam Aiyer
  • Manu Smriti
  • Mahabharata
  • Public Administration In Ancient India A Tesis Approved by Pramathanath Banerji
  • Vishnu Smriti
  • Archeological Survey of India, Annual reports 1904-1920


Holaka Krida(होलाका क्रीड़ा) : Annual Deva Yajna(देव यज्ञ) for Masses

ग्राफिक्स चित्र संदर्भ:

From the references of Sabara and Jaimini bhashya on Purvamimasa-sutra, it appears that the original word is होलाका. [1]

होलाका is a festival of unmixed gaiety and frolics throughout India. Although, all parts of India don’t celebrate it same way, but one element is common across India i.e. element of fire. In fact, all colors represent one or another state of fire. (What we perceive using eyes, very much relies upon the healthy state of आलोचक पित्त and आलोचक पित्त works works in tandem with all other four pitta sub-dosha-s that govern our body: पाचक पित्त  in the stomach, रंजक पित्त  in the liver, साधक पित्त  in the heart, and भ्राजक पित्त in the skin.).

Further, होलाका is considered as one of the 20 public/community Krida(s) found and observed in different regions of the Bharata. These 20 क्रीड़ा(s) are mentioned in Vatsayayan’s Kama-sutra (1.4.12) [2]

समूह क्रीड़ा होलाका is explained by Kama-sutra commentator Jayamangala as comprising the sprinkling of colored water on each other on Phalgun full moon. (Please note: Sprinkling of water or colored powder. It will help to connect the dots later in the reading.)

होलाका – क्रीड़ा of Sprinkling of Water.

Why समूह क्रीड़ा on certain day? Why समूह क्रीड़ा during Vasant?

To answer above questions, we must understand word क्रीड़ा and to understand word क्रीड़ा, we must start from the word यज्ञ. So, how many types of यज्ञ one is prescribed to perform by Dharma Śāstra?

If one is living life (or trying to live) as per वैदिक धर्म, following verse is well known about यज्ञ.
अध्यापनं ब्रह्म यज्ञः पित्र यज्ञस्तु तर्पणं। 
होमोदैवो बलिर्भौतो न्रयज्ञो अतिथि पूजनं॥
(मनु स्मृति 3.70)
There are many types of यज्ञ but one must perform at least पंच महायज्ञ as prescribed by मनु स्मृति and शतपथ ब्राह्मण of यजुर्वेद.

What consists of पंच महायज्ञ?
(1) ब्रह्मयज्ञ – Intellectual nourishment of self by reading and deciphering Nature/God with the help of Vedas.
(2) देवयज्ञ – To nourish Dev-s by the Dev-s work for us
(3) पितृयज्ञ – Selfless work to protect कुल/परंपरा since परंपरा are blueprints for living in certain environmental conditions based on geography of the land.
(4) भूतयज्ञ – Selfless love and nourishment towards rest of the living world(animals, trees, plants, birds). Unlike those who consider COW as mother just because she is economically helpful.
(5) मनुष्ययज्ञ – Selfless love and nourishment of fellow human beings. Nurture their humanity. Ignite their humanity by your selfless यज्ञ in which you give आहुति of their ignorance. Help others to realize their divine potential!

Here, our focus is होलाका, so let us understand देवयज्ञ in details.

देवयज्ञ means selfless nourishment of देव within so that they can work with their full efficiency and देवत्व can reflect as culmination effect. If you don’t take care of देव(s) within, they will not work effectively and hence you remain in shoddy human state, full of despair, anger and pain, wasting precious life time.

To understand meaning of any Sanskrit word, it is necessary to understand context in which word is used and different synonyms to strengthen the meaning of the word.Let us see some references to understand meaning of word देव.

देव is derived form of दिवु धातु. So देव’s characteristics are tapped in meanings of दिवु dhatu. As per Panini’s grammar, दिवु is क्रीड़ाविजिगीषाव्यवहारद्युतिस्तुतिमोदमदस्वप्नकान्तिगतिषु

(1) क्रीड़ा – The one who consider life as a play is DEVA
(2) विजिगीषा – The one who has winning attitude is DEVA
(3) व्यवहार – The one who is excelled in communication, conducts, commerce, customs, civility is DEVA
(4) द्युति – The one whose life is bright is DEVA
(5) स्तुति – The one who can praise others(humans, animals, nature) genuinely is DEVA (Genuine praise is very vital part of positive psychology! Those who have studied HR subjects, must be knowing this)
(6) मोद – The one who is constantly working for establishing delight in society/ecosystem
(7) मद – The one who is able to take pride of self and at the same time can sacrifice it.
(8) स्वप्न – The one who has dream/a lofty selfless goal to be meditated on for betterment of mankind
(9) कान्ति – The one from whose life, spiritual splendor is constantly radiating.
(10) गति – The one who is constantly changing, गमनशील.

So, क्रीड़ा is important aspect of vedic life. Life must feel like play and play must be played like यज्ञ, selflessly. To prepare our intellect for selfless living, rigorous physical क्रीड़ा under active team sport is very essential. Krishna was not fool who inspired Gokul youth to play Hockey on the banks of Yamuna. He created army to fight against mighty कंस, out of simple cowherds’ youth of Gokul, on playground, by playing Hockey – a simulation of sacrifice and war.

क्रीड़ा is code of life. Inevitable necessity.

What sport can fit best as क्रीड़ा?
– The one which instill विजिगीषाव्यवहारद्युतिस्तुतिमोदमदस्वप्नकान्तिगति in player
– The one which nourishes Dev-s inside in totality (Elements, Energy and Catalysts who created our body and maintaining it since birth)
– The one which inspire selfless living
– The one which is efficient in terms of Time spent vs nourishment gained.
– The one which won’t promote one directional growth
– Most important, क्रीड़ा should best simulate Dev-s working in our body
i.e. as electrifying as signals propagates between two neurons, as energetic as digestive fire, as vigilant as retina

क्रीड़ा is emulation of universe within. To realize it, one must perform क्रीड़ा daily. क्रीड़ा is one mandatory way of self-realization. Without it, one cannot attain self-realization.

Now, go back to Holaka. Understand and realize entire ritual and festivity in terms of Krida. Connect it with the elemental fire.

अग्नि – देव – यज्ञ – क्रीड़ा – फाल्गुन – पूर्णिमा

सहयज्ञाः प्रजाः सृष्ट्वा पुरोवाच प्रजापतिः।
अनेन प्रसविष्यध्वमेष वोऽस्त्विष्टकामधुक्॥3.10॥ 
The Creator, having in the beginning (of creation) created mankind together with sacrifice, said, “By this shall ye propagate; let this be the milch cow of your desires (the cow which yields all the desired objects).

I interpret this verse as: Mankind was created along with sacrifices or mankind was created by sacrifice. यज्ञ word has depth but for the simple understanding, in chapter 3 context, it means selfless work for others (fellow travelers on earth) wellbeing. Only way to fulfill all desires/wishes is to perform यज्ञ and let यज्ञ be our ista-kama-dhuk i.e. The way of living.

In next verse, Krishna prescribes:
देवान्भावयतानेन ते देवा भावयन्तु वः।
परस्परं भावयन्तः श्रेयः परमवाप्स्यथ॥3.11॥ 
With this (यज्ञ) you must gratify the Dev-s and let the Dev-s gratify you; thus gratifying one another, you shall attain the highest good.

I understand: यज्ञ or selfless living is the way to nourish Dev-s in our body. Who are Dev-s in our body? For me, they are primary elements (8 वसु), energy forces (11 रूद्र), and catalysts (12 आदित्य) as mentioned in Ved-s and Brāhman-s who made and maintained different organs and senses for me so far. Since all Dev-s in our body perform selfless work for our existence, it is our duty to nourish them, take care of them without fail, of course for better living.

Why nourish Dev-s in the body?
इष्टान्भोगान्हि वो देवा दास्यन्ते यज्ञभाविताः।
तैर्दत्तानप्रदायैभ्यो यो भुङक्ते स्तेन एव सः॥3.12॥
The Dev-s, gratified with necessary action will grant you the things sacrificed. Hence, whosoever enjoys their gifts without offering them to these Dev-s, he is surely a thief. 

If you don’t take care of your body, you are THIEF. We don’t want to be a thief. Hence, Holaka celebration. Let the gaiety of phalgun and full moon, be experienced by Dev-s! Participate in देव यज्ञ!

Oh, btw, did you understand the motive behind water/color sprinkling on each other? No spoon feeding. Experience first :). Realize it as a part of स्व-अध्ययन.

[1] History of Dharma Śāstra by P V Kane Vol V – Part I
[2] History of Dharma Śāstra by P V Kane Vol V – Part I

Article by:
Nisarg Joshi

A computer engineer, farmer, Gaupālak, teacher and student,
Vadodara, Gujarat