Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Election Commission 750 A.D

Street Campaigns… Public meetings… Manifestos (Manipulatos rather!?), Rally… Hoardings… Crores of Rupees… Freebies, Goondas… Rivalry… Booth Capture… Biryani Potlams… Bit notice… Liquor supply…

If these are what you experienced in today’s election scenario, here’s a look at how election systems and rules were constituted and implemented as early as 1250 years ago. Not somewhere in Washington or New York or London, but here in Uthiramerur, a small village, just 85 kms from Chennai.

Uthiramerur, which was under Thondai Naadu territory, today stands testimony to our culture and heritage.

Many sculptures and stone inscriptions are seen here in this place on Sri Sundara Varadhar Temple as well as Lord Shiva temple which is situated near the Bus Stand.

Along the walls of this Shiva Temple, many inscriptions were found which belongs to early centuries. It is now preserved by Archeological Society of India.

According to historians and inscriptions the election (Ballot) system followed here is the fore-runner of today’s election systems in India. These inscriptions have been placed on stone as records, during the reign of Parantaka Chola 1 on the 14th year and 16th day of his tenure.

As per the inscriptions, a huge mud pot (Kudam) would be placed at an important location of the town or village, which will serve as the ballot box. The voters have to write the name of their desired candidate on the palm leaf (Panai Olai) and drop it in the pot. End of which, the leaves would be taken out from the pot and counted candidate wise. Whoever gets the highest number of votes would be selected as the member of village assembly.

This was called as Kudavolai (குடவோலை) system of elections by the people. Kudam means Pot and Olai means leaf in Tamil. The elections were held fair and free with strict terms conditions.

Uthiramerur inscriptions also reveal the conditions for eligibility to contest the elections. The conditions laid by them over 1200 years back (in the pic below) shows how transparent and fair the elections were held.

Contents of the above pic translated :

Eligibility criteria for Candidates:

  • He should own at least Kaal Veli land (Kaal means Quarter and Veli is the unit measured for lands those days)

  • He should live on his own land (means own house)

  • Should be over 35 years of age and below 70

  • Should have mastered in Vedhas and basic studies

  • Shouldn’t have possessed the same position in the past 3 years
  • He, who hasn’t shown his income to Government during his tenure

  • If one has been proved corrupt during his tenure, he, his family members and even his blood relatives cannot contest elections for next 7 generations

  • He, who hasn’t paid taxes

  • Who has extra marital affairs with married women

  • Murderers, Liars, Drunkards

  • Who swindled other’s money in the past

  • He who eats the uneatable by humans

It also says that the tenure is only of 360 days (1 year, those days), after which he will have to voluntarily withdraw from the capacity. If he is found guilty during the tenure, he will be removed by force.

These inscriptions not only showcase the brilliance of our ancestors in administration and politics but also show the world how a public servant should be in his personal and social life.

A 10th Century record also reveals how the fines imposed on the wrong doers of the village were administered. Those who were fined for wrong deeds were called “Dhushtargal” (means criminals). The fines were imposed on them by the village assembly and the sitting elected members.

The assembly also decides that the said fines imposed should be collected from the “Dhushtargal” and settled by the village administrators through the assembly, within the same financial year, failing which the assembly would interfere and get the matter settled.

Delayed payment of penalties also had late fees attached to them. What a judiciary? That too 1000 years back?

It also clearly states that, even the elected members of village assembly cannot escape fines or punishment, using their powers. They will be dealt severely if found guilty.

There are many more such inscriptions talking about testing of gold and its quality for trading. It seems there was a 10 member committee in every territory for gold testing and certifying for trading etc. Once in 3 months the members of gold committee have to appear in front of the assembly and swear in open that they did not commit any fraud while testing. They were ready to sacrifice their lives than breaking their sworn statements.

Similarly there were committees like Tank committee (for water storage and distribution), Field committee, Garden committee etc., under the governance of Annual Administrative committee.

Those who framed the above laws, weren’t from any college or they didn’t graduate in Sociology or Political administration.

Watch out beloved Vattams, Vattaaram, MLAs, MPs and Ministers of today!!!

Are you ready for such an election or administration????

(Sources: Uthiramerur inscriptions & The Hindu)


  1. Brilliant post Saravanan. Thanks for highlighting this interesting historical find. Quite amazing.
    - Sukumar (http://www.sastwingees.org) came here via psenthilraja.wordpress.com

  2. Beautiful post. I appear to have read this in the Frontline (magazine) and also in Hindu.
    Your presentation is great.

  3. that is an awesome set of rules. I am sad that our constitution makers didn't get a clue from these.

    I could only wish we implement them now in the interest of the country and our own people.

  4. Saravanan Ji, Namaskar,
    A superb post... Lovely write up coupled with excellent images and information... Wonderful stuff...

    Keep roaring...

    God Bless...


  5. jayavijayan123@yahoo.co.inApril 28, 2009 at 3:19 AM

    very glad to know this, but very sad because now it is not implemented. why cant we put it in front of the election committee?
    let us try.

  6. Hi Saravanan,
    Nice post indeed.. Will read ur other posts whenever I get time..
    By the way, thanks for commenting in my blog..
    Keep blogging..

  7. It was very good.... Thank you for showing us one of the spectacular milestone achieved in tamilnadu centuries back... :)

  8. hi Saravana,
    good post,most of us,would forget this after reading abt this in our school days,but u remember this with lot of informaation.thnx

  9. That was a honest, sincere and brilliant set of people.
    They don't make people like them these days.


  10. Great Post Saravana....Swami



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