Uthiramerur - Democracy in Worship


Long before our Constitution was written - Democratic exercise was in vogue in our country 1300 years ago !!! 

While the rest of the World must have been living in caves or hunting, WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA can take pride in ourselves that we have had a well-defined DEMOCRACY 


About an hour's drive from Madras is this 8th Century temple of Sri Vaikunda Perumal. 

The temple is known for the inscriptions indicating the democratic practises of electing representatives for the village bodies during the regime of Parantaka Chola approx 907-55 CE. 


Uthiramerur was originally a settlement established by Nandhivarma Pallavan-II ( 720-796 AD ) it was known as Uthiramerur Chaturvedhi Mangalam. 


Ruled by the Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas, Sambuvaraya, Vijayanagara Rayas and Nayaks. The inscriptions in the temple, the Pallava king Nandivarman II (Pallavamalla) 730–795 CE established the village around 750 A.D. It is believed that he donated the village to 1200 Vedic Brahmins from Srivaishanva community. The temples, and the streets formed according to Agamic traditions. 


They read that the villagers requested the rulers to allow them to choose their own representatives. The ruler at the time Parantaka Chola accepted request and the Kudavolai system or ballot system of democratically electing the village representatives was established. 

It reads as follows : 

ON THIS THE sixteenth day of the fourteenth year of Royal order 

"Whereas a royal letter of His Majesty, our lord, the glorious Viranarayana, the illustrious Parantekadeva. the prosperous Parkesari Varman, was received and was shown to us, of the King Parakesarivarman, who conquered Madurai.” 


“We, the members of the assembly of Uttaramerurchaturvedimangalam in its own sub-division of Kaliyurkottam, Officer present Karanjai Kondaya-Krarnavitta bhattan alias Somasiperuman of Srivanganagar in Purangarambainadu, a district of the Chola country, Settlement Sitting with us and convening the committee in accordance with the royal command, made a settlement as follows according to the royal letter for choosing once every year from this year forward members for the "Annual Committee", "Garden Committee", and 'Tank Committee". 


“There shall be thirty wards, in these thirty wards, those that live in each ward shall assemble and shall choose for ( kudam olai ) Kudavolai .” 



(a) "lie must own more than a quarter veli of tax-paying land: (h) He must live in a house built on his own site 


His age must be below 70 and above 35: 


He must know the Mantrabrahmana i.e. he must know it by teaching others: 

Even if one owns only one-eight veli of land, he should have his name written on the pot-ticket to be put into the pot, in ease he has learnt one Veda and one of the four by explaining it to others. Among those possessing the foregoing qualifications: 


Only such as are well conversant with business and are virtuous he taken and  one who possesses honest earnings, whose mind is pure, and who has not been any of the committees for the last three years shall also be chosen 

(a) “One who has been on any of the committees but has not submitted his accounts, and all his relations, specified below, shall not have their names written on the pot-tickets and put into the pot.” 

(b) “The sons of the younger and elder sisters of his mother, 

The sons of his paternal aunt and maternal uncle, 

The uterine brother of his mother, 

The uterine brother of his father' ...is uterine brother.” 

The voters had the right to call back their candidate for failing their duties. 


The inscriptions also specified strict punishments for the corrupt like disallowing their next seven generations to contest if found guilty. 


The qualified persons names of the 30 families are written in palm leaf (olai) and dropped in a pot (Kudam). The names of 12 சேரி - cheri should be dropped in separate pots.* 


During this process, all the young and old mahasabha members should be present. The priests of the temple also to be present. The oldest priest should take the pot and show to those assembled. A small boy, who does not know what is inside to be asked to take a ticket. The election official should receive the ticket with open hand with palms up and keeping the fingers apart. 

The election officer, then should read the name and after that the priests also should read the same. 


Such a detailed writing of the Democratic Process inscribed on the wall this as early as 1,300 years ago - when the rest of the Civilizations were still taking that baby crawl !!! 



Particularly, the Bus Terminus near the heritage. For Heaven's what on Earth is ASI doing. The smoke fumes noise and traffic are playing major havoc in the place. 

* Incidentally contrary to popular belief சேரி is not a place where the lower or poor folks reside but rather denotes Sernthu irukkum Idam = சேரி ). 

V. Srimathi is a lawyer at Madras High Court, and a passionate heritage enthusiast. She is a freelance writer who writes about Indian culture and various other interesting and unknown facts about the country and Santana Dharma.


Adios Sardar of Spin

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