Notes on Administration system of the cholas

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Nilakanta Sastry gives Rajaraja the credit for creating a strong and centralised bureaucracy for the admin­istration of the empire and for posting representative officers in important localities in the provinces. A very effective system of audit and control was introduced by Rajaraja through which village assem­blies and other autonomous bodies were held in account without curtailing their freedom and discre­tionary powers in any manner. Men of character, initiative and learning found a lot of careers to pursue in the administration as also in the large army and navy the Cholas possessed. A most original and impressive administrative work carried out by the regime in 1001 and the years following was a survey of the land along with a record of the land holdings. “

From the inscriptions we can gather full details of the total extent of a village, the extent of its residential quarter, the area of cultivated and cul­tivable land and the total annual assessment on the village, and of land which could not be taxed for one reason or other because it was taken up for building roads, canals, tanks, cremation grounds and so on. The officer who carried out this great survey was honoured with the title ulagalandan, ‘he who measured the world’, with a subtle suggestion of similarity to the Vamana-Avatara of Vishnu.” (K.A. Nilakanta Sastry, A Comprehensive History of India.)

It is an indication of the sophistication of the administration that there was even a chief vigilance officer. Responsible and trustworthy feudatories close to the Chola monarch were also given official positions.

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Romila Thapar says [A History of India) that among the dynasties in the Deccan only the Cholas had a centralised administration, because they were strong enough to ignore their feudatories. In the Chola political system, contact with the agriculturists was maintained on a wide scale which contributed to a centrally controlled administration. “The political status of Rajaraja I was certainly different from that of Amoghavarsha the Rashtrakuta ruler or Vishnuvardhana the Hoysala.

The unobtrusive titles of the early Chola kings were replaced with high- sounding titles… The cult of the god-king was encouraged through the worship of images of the deceased rulers and the building of temples which were also monuments to dead kings. The royal household was run on an elaborate scale and royal. The purohita (priest) as known to northern Indian politics underwent a modification in the Chola system. The raja-guru (priest of the royal family) became a confidant and confessor in addition to being the in all sacred. For further advice, there was an assembly of officers whom the king could consult, but there was no record of a regular ministerial council.” (Romila Thapar, A History of India, Volume 1)

A well-co-ordinated body of officials carried out the administration. Not much is known about the system of recruitment which apparently was no different from the North Indian system. Birth and caste were important factors, but connections and qualifications were also taken into account. Nor­mally, the king passed the orders orally which were then recorded. In the event of contracts and grants, such orders were attested by a series of officers. Eight or nine provinces known as mandalam constituted the Chola kingdom; each of them was divided into valanadus or districts. The districts were formed out of groups of villages, variously known as kurram, nadu or kottam. Sometimes a large village called a Taniyar would form a single administrative unit.

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