Uthiramerur in TN practiced democracy in 920 A.D.

Chennai, April 8 (IANS) The system of electing people’s representative originated in Uthiramerur, about 90 km from here, in the Kancheepuram district of Tamil Nadu, claimed R. Seshadri, Hereditary Trustee of the temple.
As per the inscriptions in the temple, way back in 920 A.D. during the rule of Paranthaka Chola, the Uthiramerur village had a system to elect people’s representatives with candidates’ qualifications well-defined.
The people also had right to recall the representatives.
“Inscriptions on the Shri Vaikuntavasa Perumal Temple’s walls talk about the method of electing people’s representatives, how the people should lead their life, and assets belonging to the temple,” R. Seshadri, Hereditary Trustee of the temple, told IANS.
In those days, the village assembly drafted and finalised election rules and also guidelines on the public servant’s personal and social life. There were committees/boards to look after irrigation tanks, roads and other subjects.
As per the rules, the village was divided into 30 wards with one representative elected from each ward.
The qualification prescribed for contestants was that they should be between 35 years and 70 years of age, paid taxes on farm land and had homes built on a legally owned land.
A person, already a member of a committee, was ineligible to contest for three years. An elected members could be disqualified on the grounds of incest, bribery, illegal grabbing of someone’s property and acting against the public interest, read the inscriptions.
Murderers, liars, drunkards, swindlers and those having extra marital affairs with married women were not allowed to contest.
In case of an elected member proven guilty, he, his family members and blood relatives could not contest polls for seven generations.
According to the inscriptions, the public servants were elected through the system called Kudavolai. As per the system, voters were expected to write the name of preferred candidate on a palm leaf (pannai olai in Tamil) and put that in a huge mud pot (kudam in Tamil), placed at a central place.
Winners were announced after counting each palm leaf. Only the sick and those on a pilgrimage were exempt from voting.
Seshadri recalled the visit of late Rajiv Gandhi and his wife Sonia Gandhi to the temple several years ago and how “Sonia explained the electoral system to Rajiv in just ten minutes.”
According to him, college students visit the temple to know about the electoral system.
–IANS
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