An impressive history of local governments in Ancient India
Indus Valley Civilization – organized urban life
Vedic Age : Organized Local Self-Government
Proofs of people assembling and performing administrative functions
Popular Assembly called as Samiti ; Council of Elders known as Sabha in Maurya and Gupta period
Strong Mauryan empire having tendency for strong central government gave paid attention to provincial and local administration
Sabhas were the popular platforms where village people participated for decision making
Sabhas and Samitis were not only elected but also with full voting rights to women; power to probe the conduct of king. Vedic King – Janaya
Village – self dependent unit and generated its own resources, functionaries and functional domain.
State functions only supplementary and rarely conflicted
With the passage of time, Sabhas were called Panchayats (Council of five person)
Panchayat functional institution at grassroots level in every village
Village headman known as Gramani
Assemblies acted as checks on the power of king and mouthpiece of peoples
Local bodies comprised of Gramyavadin(Village Judge), Dasagrami, Vimasapati, Satgrami etc
Prominence of Nagaradhyaksha or City Perfects to deal with the affairs of urban administration.
Assemblies represented kings authority in civil and military administration and collected dues on behalf of king
Local Governments during Vedic period
Lord Buddha extolls the virtues of the Lichchavi system, saying that no harm would come to a realm where decisions were unanimous, consultation was the order of the day, and women were honoured.
The king was the ruler and ruled in consultation with various tiers of local government.
The day-to-day decisions of governance were taken in village assemblies.
Prior to the lifetime of the great Gautama Buddha we had a Videhan republic, Vajjian republic etc
Decisions of village assemblies were respected by the king.
Example of the sixteen Maha-janapadas (republics) according to the Buddhist text Anguttara Nikkaya and the Jain texts
A Lichchavi confederacy republic according to Jataka stories had as much as 7707 chiefs or counsels (Rajans as they called them).
Republics during Lichhavi Period
Every village under Chandragupta’s tenure independent. Every village had Sabha or Samiti
Local Governments during Mauryan Period
Village Assembly consisted of family representatives, elders and experienced persons
Gramik or Gramapati –Village head ruled the village with the help of village council of which Elders were the members
Chalukya period – smallest unit was the village assembly. Gamas or Nigamas and Bhojka.
Considerable autonomy given to local governments