What were the features of Local Government during the Chola dynasty?

The Cholas divided their empire into convenient units for administration. Mandalam, kurram, nadu, perur, sirur were some of the local administration units. The provinces were governed by viceroy's usually senior members of the royal family.

It is the village administration which is mentioned specially and in great detail by Chola epigraphs. The two Uttaramerur inscriptions of the days of Parantaka I give detailed information regarding the functioning of the sabha, a Brahmin village.

There were two kinds of autonomous villages known to Chola times. One was the village exclusively inhabited by Brahmins and called a sabha and the other was either mixed village or a completely non-brahmanical village. That was called an Ur.

Our information relates only to sabhas. It may be pure accident that all the inscriptions speaking of village autonomous institutions happen to be Brahmin villages; it may be that the Brahmins alone were interested in leaving permanent record of their public activities; or it may be that the Ur also was governed exactly like the sabha.

The details of village administration one gets in the Uttaramerur inscriptions are anticipated in an earlier record found in the Pandyan country and known as the Manur inscription. The Brahmin settlements were called agraharas or chaturvedimangalams and they were ruled by a general assembly called the sabha. The Uttaramerur inscriptions record the resolutions of the sabha regarding the constitution of the Variyams or the committees.

The village was divided into wards known as kudumbus. In a certain case the village consisted of 30 wards. Representatives of kudumbus made up the assembly. Several qualifications were prescribed for membership of the committees. The qualifications related to ownership of property, residence in the locality, age between 35 and 70 and knowledge of the Vedas.

If one had served previously on a committee during three preceding years it was a disqualification. Officials who had not submitted their accounts, sinners guilty of incest, theft, taking bribes etc., were disqualified from office.

The names of persons nominated for selection out of the eligible list were written on strips of cudgeon leaves and these were put into a pot from out of which one would be extracted by a young boy.

This was not election by ballot but selection by lot. The strip was called kudavolai. After the committees were so formed duties were assigned to them. Different committees were called the variyapperumakkal.