A Local Cess in Chola Times
A Local Cess in Chola Times
A 10th Century Record, referring to the levy of the local cess, for the betterment of the village of Thiruverumbur, near Trichy, is of interest to the students of rural economy in ancient times. The record is dated in the 7th year of the Chola ruler Rajakesari (Rajaraja I). The data furnished by the record corresponds to Saturday, in the month of Avani, 12th August, 993 CE.
Thiruverumbur had a Brahmin colony called Srikanta Caturvedi Mangalam. The local assembly of this village met at the Brahmasthana, the central part of the village during the day time on that day, deliberated and passed certain resolutions, which are the purport of the record.
A certain Sembiyan vedivalan, who constructed the stone temple of Siva on the hill, came forward with a sum of forty five Kalanju of gold, to deepen the village tank. The village assembly agreed to sell the local levy - called Kilnadai, in lieu of the amount. The local cess consisted of one Kuruni of paddy (eight measures) per each crop, per maa of land from among the cultivated lands of the village and its dependent hamlets. The village assembly agreed to collect the levy from the cultivating tenents. The epigraph records in detail the resolutions of the assembly in this record. The following is the text of the resolutions and deed.
We the members of the village assembly agree hereby to sell the Kilnadi levy of one Kuruni of paddy per crop per maa of land to Sembiyan Vedivalan, for depening our village tank, in lieu of the amount forty five Kalanju of gold offered by him. The tank should be deepened annually so long as the sun and moon last.
The gold so given is tested for purity in standard by the village Standard touch-stone.
We hereby record that we have received this day the full sale price from the above Velar at the 'village Sales-Registration office'.
This record is the written agreement for the above sale.
This record itself is the final sale deed and also the receipt for the payment received in full, inclusive of all expenses.
We agree not to demand any further amount towards any charges.
We agree to levy this cess from the cultivating tenants and promise not to demand more than what has been stipulated here.
We agree not to utilise this amount for any purpose other than deepening this tank.
We agree to impose a total social boycot on any amongst us, who orders in the assembly, the diversion of this amount for any other purpose.
The Mahesvaras of the temple, will levy a fine of twenty five Kalanju of gold each, from the one who orders in the assembly, further levy for the same purpose or the diversion of this fund for any other purpose.
The fine will be imposed on all the members of the assembly,who without opposing, pass such a resolution either to increase the levy or divert the funds.
The village accountant, who makes such an illegal demand, is also liable for fine.
Even after the collection of such fines, this amount should be utilised annually only for deepening the tank .
We agree to have these resolutions engraved on the stone wall of the temple.
Thus we, the members of this village assembly have sold the local cess for the purpose of deepening our village tank, having received the full amount and having issued the sale deed in full settlement of the sale to Sembiyan Vedi Velar.
These are the signatures of the members of the village assembly.
This deed was drafted by Tarunendu sekhara, the madhyastha of the village, under the orders of Sridhara, (obviously)a representative official of the assembly."
A few points of interest in this record deserve mention. The village assemblies were empowered to levy local cess, in Chola times. Such cess were also saleable, subject to the condition, they were utilised for the betterment of the village itself. Once sold the levy should not be increased under any circumstance. The amount ear-marked for one purpose should not be diverted for any other purpose. Anyone who violates this agreement is punishable with a heavy fine. Even after the collection of the fine, the amount should be utilised only for the specific purpose for which it was collected.
Each village in Chola time had "Sales-Registration Office "called Avanak-kalari in inscription; where accurate ownership records were maintained. Sale deeds were accurately drafted in Chola times keeping all legal demands in view.
The village assemblies had full freedom to pass such resolutions as required, and once passed it was incumbant on the successors to faithfully carry out the resolution and honour the commitments. Hundreds of such records found inscribed on stone walls, show the vitality of the Tamil society of the Chola age.
This is a fine example of one thousand year old record of a village assembly resolution and deed.
The most important point is the attention paid to the annual maintenance of the village tanks. Noblemen came forward make endowment for the purpose and the village assemblies took the responsibility for the regular maintenance, failing which the members of the assembly were liable for fine and punishment. Not only those who were members at the time of the endowment but all those who got subsequently elected to the membership were also held responsible in perpetuity.
Hundreds of such records for deepening village tanks are available. Had our village assemblies retained their individuality independence and the democratic set up after the fall of the Chola Empire in the 13th century, the story of Tamilnad, would have been different. With the advent of the Vijayanagar empire, the village assemblies lost their democratic set up, due to various factors. The sense of responsibility and participation dwindled and with it deterioration set in, to be revived with flickering hopes in recent times.