Uttaramerur Inscription: Elections & Local Governance | UPSC

LocationVaikunda Perumal Temple, Uttaramerur, Tamil Nadu, India
DateReign of Chola king Parantaka I (907-953 AD)
ContentDescribes village self-governance and administrative processes
Qualification of MembersLand ownership, age between 35 and 70, knowledge and skills
Disqualification CriteriaFailure to submit accounts, major sins, association with outcasts, forbidden dishes
Representative Selection ProcessDrawing lots by priests
CommitteesGarden, Tank, Annual, Justice, Gold, Five-fold
Term of Committee AssignmentsLasted 360 days
ImportanceProvides insights into ancient village governance

In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of the Uttaramerur Inscription—a remarkable historical artifact that offers a captivating glimpse into the governance system of ancient South India. Exploring the Uttaramerur Inscription: A glimpse into ancient governance Significance of the Uttaramerur Inscription in understanding early South Indian administration.

What is Uttaramerur Inscription?

The Uttaramerur Inscription is a valuable historical artifact that provides us with a fascinating insight into the governance system of ancient South India. Discovered in the village of Uttaramerur in the Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu, this inscription offers a window into the administrative structure, judicial processes, and social dynamics of the time.

Dating back to the 10th century CE, this stone inscription, discovered in the village of Uttaramerur in Tamil Nadu, unveils a wealth of information about the administrative structure, judicial processes, social dynamics, and economic aspects of the time.

Important Points

  • The Uttaramerur inscription is approximately 1,100 years old.
  • It was created during the reign of Chola king Parantaka I.
  • Uttaramerur is located in the present-day Kanchipuram district in Tamil Nadu, India.
  • The inscription is significant as it describes the processes of village self-governance.
  • It serves as a local constitution for the gram sabha (village assembly).
  • The inscription provides guidelines on how the assembly should be run.
  • It specifies the qualifications required for the members of the assembly.
  • The inscription explains the procedures for electing members to the assembly.
  • It details the conditions under which a member can be disqualified.
  • Uttaramerur has multiple inscriptions spanning several centuries.
  • The most famous inscription from Uttaramerur is from the reign of Parantaka I (907-953 AD).
  • This inscription holds historical significance and can be observed on the walls of the Vaikunda Perumal Temple.

Context of the Uttaramerur Inscription

1. Formation of Sabhas

According to the Uttaramerur inscription, here are the details mentioned regarding the functioning of the local sabha (village assembly):

  • The sabha was an assembly consisting exclusively of Brahmans.
  • The sabha had specialized committees assigned with different tasks.
  • The village was divided into 30 wards.
  • All residents living in these 30 wards would gather to select one representative for the village assembly.
  • Eligible individuals who were willing to become representatives would write their names on palm-leaf tickets.
  • The selection of the representative was done through an elaborate draw of lots.
  • The draw of lots was conducted by priests in the inner hall of the building where the assembly meets.

These details shed light on the process of selecting representatives and the functioning of the sabha as outlined in the Uttaramerur inscription.

2. Qualification of Members

The qualification criteria for representatives outlined in the Uttaramerur inscription are as follows:

  1. Ownership of land and a house: Individuals aspiring to be representatives were required to possess the land and a house.
  2. Age requirement: The inscription specified that candidates should be between the ages of 35 and 70.
  3. Knowledge of mantras and Brahmanas: Prospective representatives were expected to have knowledge of mantras and Brahmanas from the Vedic corpus.
  4. Business skills: Being skilled in business was also considered a qualification for individuals aspiring to be representatives.
  5. Emphasis on moral behavior: The inscription highlighted the significance of moral behavior as a desirable attribute for representatives.

3. Disqualification

The Uttaramerur inscription provides specific disqualification criteria for individuals and their families in the context of representative selection. These disqualifications include:

  1. Failure to submit accounts: Individuals who did not submit proper accounts during their prior committee service were disqualified.
  2. Committing the first four of the five ‘great sins’: Those who were found guilty of committing any of the first four ‘great sins,’ which are killing a Brahman, drinking alcohol, theft, and adultery, were ineligible for consideration.
  3. Association with outcasts: Being associated with outcasts, who were considered socially marginalized, also resulted in disqualification.
  4. Consumption of ‘forbidden’ dishes: Those who consumed ‘forbidden’ dishes, likely referring to food or substances that were considered impure or prohibited, were also disqualified.

4. Selection Process

The selection process for representatives, as described in the Uttaramerur inscription, involves the following steps:

  1. Eligibility and willingness: All eligible individuals who are willing to become representatives inscribe their names on palm leaf tickets.
  2. Drawing of lots: The selection of a representative is done through an elaborate drawing of lots. This process involves randomly choosing a ticket from the inscribed palm leaves.
  3. Conducted by priests: The drawing of lots is conducted by priests in the inner hall of the assembly building. The priests oversee and facilitate the selection process.
Election Method of Uttaramerur
1. Formation of the village assembly
2. Nomination of candidates
3. Random selection through an elaborate draw of lots
4. Conducted by priests
Election Method of Uttaramerur

Responsibilities & Committees in the Uttaramerur Inscription

  1. Committee Structure: The inscription outlines various committees within the sabha (village assembly) with distinct functions.
  2. Garden Committee: Responsible for the management and upkeep of the village gardens.
  3. Tank Committee: Tasked with the maintenance and supervision of the village tanks or reservoirs.
  4. Annual Committee: An executive committee requiring prior experience and knowledge, responsible for overseeing important annual events and activities.
  5. Committee for Supervision of Justice: Responsible for monitoring appointments and addressing any wrongdoings within the village administration.
  6. Gold Committee: In charge of the management and safeguarding of the gold assets within the village temple.
  7. Five-fold Committee: Its specific role in the inscription is unclear, but it likely had important responsibilities within the village administration.
  8. Committee Term: Committee assignments lasted for 360 days, after which the members were required to retire.
  9. Removal for Wrongdoing: Any committee member implicated in forgery or punished for a crime, such as riding a donkey, was instantly removed from their position.
  10. Emphasis on Accountability: The inscription emphasizes the importance of maintaining accurate accounts, as any discrepancies could result in the disqualification of sabha members.
Name   Number of membersMeaning
Samvatsara-Variyam12Annual Committee
Totta-Variyam12Garden Committee
Eri-Variyam6Tank Committee
Panchavara-VariyamNumber of MembersStanding Committee
Pon-VariyamUnknownGold Committee
Committees in the Uttaramerur Inscription

These points highlight the responsibilities assigned to different committees within the sabha and the emphasis on accountability in the Uttaramerur inscription.

Significance & Legacy of Uttaramerur Inscription

Historical Importance of the Uttaramerur Inscription: The Uttaramerur Inscription holds immense historical importance as it provides detailed information about the governance system and social structure of early South India. It serves as a valuable primary source for understanding the political, administrative, and socio-cultural aspects of the time.

Influence on Subsequent Governance Systems: The governance system revealed in the Uttaramerur Inscription had a profound impact on subsequent governance models in South India. The principles of local self-government, representation, and dispute resolution reflected in the inscription can be traced to later periods and continue to influence contemporary governance systems.

Preservation and Research Efforts: Efforts have been made to preserve the Uttaramerur Inscription, ensuring its longevity for future generations. Scholars and researchers continue to study the inscription, unraveling its complexities and gaining deeper insights into ancient Indian governance and society.


The legacy of the Uttaramerur Inscription extends beyond its historical importance. The principles and practices revealed in the inscription have had a lasting impact on subsequent governance systems in South India. Elements such as local self-government, representation, and dispute-resolution mechanisms can be traced back to the governance model outlined in the inscription.

Efforts have been made to preserve and study the Uttaramerur Inscription, ensuring its availability for future research and exploration. Scholars and archaeologists continue to delve into its intricacies, expanding our understanding of early Indian society and governance.

In conclusion, the Uttaramerur Inscription provides us with a rare and invaluable glimpse into the governance system of ancient South India. With its detailed contents on administrative structure, judicial processes, social dynamics, and economic aspects, it remains a significant historical artifact.

As we decipher its messages and unravel its complexities, we gain a deeper appreciation for the governance practices of Uttaramerur and their enduring impact on subsequent systems. The inscription stands as a testament to the ingenuity and organization of ancient Indian societies, leaving an indelible mark on the study of history and governance.

Thank You!

Where is the Uttaramerur inscription located?

The Uttaramerur inscription is located on the walls of the Vaikunda Perumal Temple in Uttaramerur, which is in the present-day Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu, India.

During which reign was the Uttaramerur inscription created?

The Uttaramerur inscription was created during the reign of Chola king Parantaka I. He ruled from 907 to 953 AD.

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