Vaikunta perumal temple inscriptions, Uttiramerur, TN and democratic election practices 1000 years ago

Uttiramerur inscription,

About 90 km from Chennai city lies a small town of Utteramerur, where  there are a few Hindu temples dedicated to Gods Vishnu and Shiva. Scholars and archaeologists make a beeline to a particular temple dedicated to God Vishnu - Vaikunta Perumal Koil, a declared monument, being managed by the ASI. It has a spacious assembly hall including the sanctum governing 2500 square feet.  Originally,  built by Pallavas, in the later period  the Chola dynasty (part of the 9th century)  patronized this temple and made additions. 

A unique and an engrossing feature of this  temple is the presence a large number of stone inscriptions on the walls of the assembly hall. Carved   in  Granth (or grantham) and Tamil Brahmi scripts  apparently during the  regime of Parantaka Chola  (907–955 CE), grand father of king Rajaraja  of Chola dynasty. 

Uttiramerur, Vaikunta perumal temple, TN.

Historical records describe him as an  effective military strategist and ruler of wisdom and valor. His land in south India extended  over vast  area including Madurai kingdom in the south and  Nellore in the north.  Historical records further point out that he was  a good administrator and  a reformist, giving serious consideration to people's  direct participation in the administration of the kingdom. His perception of monarchy  differed from his predecessors and  he diluted the management of the kingdom  to the extend of delegating certain powers to the elected local members ensuring  equal participation of people in the local- self-governance  at the village level. The Vaikunta Perumal Temple 's assembly hall served as the venue for the local election, deliberation, etc., - in the presence of divinity.

The innumerable stone inscriptions in the temple bear testimony to the fact that  Uthiramerur in Kanchipuram of Tamil Nadu is the birth place of democracy in India.   They describe the elaborate election system that was set in motion centuries ago. Descriptions  include  how the constitutions were laid for proper democratic process,  how elections are run by voting system, nomination,  qualification of the candidate and also his dis- qualification in case of misdeed while on duty.    

People followed what was called  Kuduvolai, an election system almost  similar to the one now being followed  for electing their favorite and able leaders in local elections. No doubt these rules and  regulations  may be the precursor of  today’s electoral systems.

So, it is obvious the the Tamil rulers knew the basics of democracy and the importance of participation of people to elect their representatives through a democratic process. It means the elected member  will be the voice of the people in the king's court. 

The British colonists who ruled India for 200 long years until August 1947 were boasting  that besides railways, etc., their main contribution in the subcontinent was democracy, meaning  that they were the ones to have introduced democracy in the subcontinent if not anarchy  would have persisted in their absence. This reminds me of  famous historian and parliamentarian Dr. Shashi Tharoor's speech at the Oxford union in 2015 that went viral. Talking about Britain's purported contribution of democracy in India, he said, ''You can't be rich to oppress, enslave, torture, kill and  maim people for 200 years and celebrate the fact that it is  democratic at the end of it'' 

Historical evidences in the form of stone inscriptions bear testimony that democracy has been around India since the year 920 CE.  Because of change of political scenarios  after the end of Chola dynasty in the 13th century, the  institution of democracy - village assemblies  of Uttiramenur and other places became unpopular and soon crumbled.  

Athens is often regarded as the birthplace of democracy and it refers to the system of democratic government in force  in Athens, Greece from the 5th to 4th century BCE.  All male citizens - the dÄ“mos - had equal political rights, freedom of speech, and the opportunity to participate directly in the political arena. As far as India is concerned for the first time next to Greece, the institution of democracy in the 10th century  was popularized out side of Europe by the  Hindu Chola rulers of Tamizh Desam. 

Though some Hindu, Buddhist and Jain texts of the 5th to 7th CE mention about the implementation of republics comprising  administration, legislation and judiciary in managing a kingdom, no details of democratic processes at the local level are as clearly explained  as in the case of inscriptions at Vaikuntha Perumal temple, Utteramerur. 

On 26 November 1949 India became a democratic country and officially a sovereign democratic republic  with written constitution  came into effect on 26 January 1950.