As we celebrate today the 72nd Republic Day, marking the coming into force of the Constitution of India 72 years before on this day, we should be grateful to the foundations of democracy laid down by ancient India with a treatise and practiced an elaborate system of self-governance 1220 years ago in Uthiramerur, Tamil Nadu. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, proud of his identity as a Hindu nationalist, rich heritage of Bharat, made an reference to Uthiramerur’s model of democracy on the day he performed the Bhumi Pujan of the new Parliament complex in New Delhi.

Magna Carta, “The Charter Of Freedoms” of 1215 is regarded world over as publicised by the western intelligentsia as the oldest and greatest written constitutional document of all times perhaps due to ignorance deliberate or real about a better treatise on formulation of freedom of the individual and self-governance a good 450 odd years before the advent of the Magna Carta and nearly1000 years before the Constitution of United States Of America came into being in 1788.

Yet we have the western world and the communist-Nehruvian infested academia preaching to us that America is the mother of democracy in the world! This article aims to give a brief description of the earliest written proof of elaborate democracy which thrived in Bharat at Uthiramerur in Tamil Nadu.

Uthiramerur is today a Panchayat town located in the Kancheepuram district of Tamil Nadu, about 90 km from Chennai. Utiramerur was founded by Pallava King Nandivaranam II (720-796 CE). It was formally established as Bhramadeya village around 750 CE. It is noted for its temple inscriptions that describe a self-governance system existing around 7th to 9th century CE. A 10th century inscription states the name of the village as “Uttaramerur Chaturvedi Mangalam”.

There are three major temples in Uthiramerur having large number of inscriptions, are notably from the reigns of Raja Raja Chola (985-1014 AD), his son Rajendra Chola and the Krishnadeveraya.

The earliest surviving inscriptions from Uthiramerur date to the reign of the Pallava king Dantivarman (795-846 CE). These inscriptions indicate that village administration was refined into a perfect system through elections.

The inscriptions on temple walls in several temples of Tamil Nadu refer to existence of village assemblies. R. Sivasundaram, epigraphist at the Tamil Nadu Department of Archeology states that, “ But it is at Uthiramerur on the walls of the village assembly (mandapa) itself that we have the earliest inscriptions with complete information about how the elected village assembly functioned”.


The village assembly had a two tier system one called the Sabha, which consisted of the elected priestly or the learned class akin to the Rajya Sabha and the other called the Ur which constituted an assembly of elected members from all classes of people in the village.

The inscriptions also gives astonishing details about the constitution of wards, the qualification of candidates to be nominated for the elections, the disqualification norms, the mode of election, the constitution of committees with elected members, the functions of these committees etc.

The tenure of the elected committees was for 360 days. It even incorporated the right to recall the elected representatives in case of commitment of offences or failed in their duties. It also stipulated that a person who is a member of the committee successively for three years would be disqualified from being nominated for elections.

The whole village was divided into 30 wards or kudumbus, with one elected representative elected for each ward. The rules also stipulated that the candidates for election must be 35 to 70 years of age.

Many Committees were formed with executive members or variyam which are given as follows: 1) Smavatsara Variyam consisting of 12 members of Garden and Tank Committee whose membership was restricted to elders. 2) Totta Variyam consisting of 12 member Garden committee. 3) Eri Variyam, a 6 member Tank committee. 4) Panchavaram which was the Standing Committee. 5) Pon-Variyam a Gold Committee essentially which managed the treasury.

The conditions for candidacy included that only those who held land that attracted tax could contest in the elections for the Sabha, that is the upper house. It further stated that such owners should possess a house built on a legally owned site not on public promboke, i.e. land owned by government.

Any member who indulged in bribery, misappropriated other’s property, committed incest, adultery, theft, forgery or acted against the public interest suffered disqualification.

The entire village had to be assembled in the mandapa, including infants, when the elections are held. Only the sick and people on pilgrimage were exempt from attending the election procedure. The whole procedure and system was perfected over a period of years to bring in more reforms to suit practical purposes.


This elaborate system of electoral democracy is not taught in our school curriculum nor is it subject of research in any of our higher academics. A very few of us are aware of these systems of refined and mature electoral democracy in a book written by Paramacharya of Kancheepuram Shankara Matham, which contain his teachings.

TN Seshan Electoral Reforms Inspired by Uthirmerur

There is an interesting anecdote regarding TN Seshan’s inspiration for electoral reforms. It is said that TN Seshan was dejected when he was appointed as the Chief Election Commissioner. He met the 97 year old Paramacharya of Kanchi, the Paramacharya could sense Seshan’s disappointment and counselled him to treat it as an opportunity from God to serve the Indian citizens by reforming the electoral process. The Paramacharya suggested Seshan to visit the Uthiramerur temple and study in detail the electoral regulation systems prevalent in India more than 1,000 years ago including the qualifications and disqualifications of candidates to contest elections.

Seshan himself credited the reforms to the Mahaswami by stating, “The credit for electoral reforms must go to Kanchi Mahaswami, but for who this would not have been possible. At 97, he had such clarity and described minute details of the electoral rules embossed on the northern walls of the Uthiramerur temple. And mentioned to me that even implementing a tenth of these reforms, would be a great service to India.”

Thus, Seshan ushered in the seminal electoral reforms and made history. TN Sheshan served as the Chief Election Commissioner from 1990-1996. He was most effective bureaucrat who ruthlessly enforced the model code of conduct in Indian elections that won him the Magsay Award in 1996. As columnist TJS George puts it, “Seshan showed what one man could do to ensure that democracy did not become a hydra-headed monster. In time Seshan retired and the monster was set free”.


Thus, it was very heartening that Prime Minister Modi reminisced about the exalted democratic electoral system of our ancestors in Uhiramerur who set a benchmark for clean and efficient governance more than 1,200 years ago. It is time PM Modi includes these exemplary facts from history in school and academic curriculum which would instill a sense of pride in the identity of our future generations as being inheritors of a highly evolved civilization as also set standards of righteousness and probity to be maintained in public life to serve Ma Bharati.

Jai Hind! Vande Mataram!

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