In South India, the Chola Empire ruled from the ninth to the thirteenth centuries CE. Although they had a very centralized administration, they also gave local governments a lot of power.
The village was the smallest unit of local government. There was a meeting called the ur or sabha in every village. The sabha was a gathering of influential villagers, including the headman, elders, and priests, while the ur included all of the village’s adult male residents.
The day-to-day management of the village fell under the purview of the ur or sabha. They were in charge of tax collection, upkeep of public facilities, and dispute resolution. They also contributed to the village’s religious and cultural life.
The villagers selected the ur or sabha. Although the requirements for voting and holding office varied from village to village, they typically included being an adult male, paying taxes, and having good morals.
In towns and cities, the Cholas also had a system of local government. These settlements and cities were referred to as “nagarams.” The nagarattar was the body that oversaw the nagaram. The top traders and merchants of the town or city made up the nagarattar.
The nagarattar was in charge of handling all aspects of town or city administration, including tax collection, upkeep of public facilities, and dispute resolution. They contributed to the town or city’s economy as well.
The nagaram’s participants chose the nagarattar. Although the requirements for voting and holding office varied from town to town and city to city, they typically included being an adult male, paying taxes, and belonging to the business or trading community.
The Cholas’ system of local self-government was a very efficient one for running the country. This gave the people a voice in their own affairs while still enabling the Cholas to maintain a powerful central government. This system of local self-governance played a role in the Chola Empire’s prosperity and stability.
The following are some characteristics of local self-government during the Chola period:
- It was decentralized, with decision-making authority resting with the local assemblies, and it was democratic, with the villagers electing their own representatives.
- It worked well, enabling the local assemblies to effectively run the affairs of their respective villages and towns.
- The local assemblies could raise their own funds and manage their own resources, so it was sustainable.
- The Chola local self-government was characterized by autonomy and citizen participation in administration, with assemblies overseeing welfare and public works. The Cholas also promoted trade and commerce, fostering urban growth.
A notable accomplishment that is still being studied by academics today is the local self-government system established by the Cholas. At the time, it was regarded as one of the most cutting-edge local government systems in existence.