Hava Nagila!

Everything does pass, and we can endure and we can survive!! – Rahul Dravid

Governance and Administration in Tamil Sangam Heritage

The ancient Tamil Administration was primarily a Monarchy. The King was equated with God. It was indicated by the fact that both the Temple and the Royal Palace was known by the Terminology “Koil”.

However the subjects looked up to the state for very little. The ruler was expected to uphold the existing social order and protect it from internal troubles and foreign invasion, and receive as his wage the taxes paid by the people, usually a sixth part of the produce of the land. Civil society was not dependent for its efficient functioning on State Structure or formal statutes. The social order itself had its roots elsewhere – in revelation (sruti), tradition (smriti), and the practice of the elite (acara). Decision by majority of votes was not unknown, but usually the aim was to reach unanimous and integrated decisions by reconciling the interest and points of view. Guilds of merchants like the Nanadesis, the Manigramam and the Five Hundred of Ayyavole, associations of craftsmen, artisans and manufacturers like the braziers, oil-mongers and weavers, and of students, ascetics, temple servants, priests, and so on, besides the territorial assemblies of the village and higher divisions – all functioned more or less independently of the government of the ruler.

Later, rural administration grew to more elaborate and complicated machinery of committees and officials that we find described in the Cola inscriptions of the tenth and eleventh centuries. In this evolution, the Tamil country appears to have been more progressive than the rest of the South India. The village had a headman, called mutuda, kilan, etc. who was its leader and mediator with the royal government.

The first well-lighted epoch in the history of South India is seen in the literature of Sangam Age, which probably extended from 4th Century B.C. to 4th Century A.D. There is a striking correspondence between the evidence of these poems on the trade and other relations of the Tamil States in this period and that of the classical writers on the same subject, particularly Strabo, Pliny and Ptolemy”19.

From the eighth and ninth centuries A.D., three types of village assemblies are seen in the Tamil inscription, namely the ur, the sabha and the nagaram They refer to the general assembly, to the elite or the Brahmans and or the locality of the traders or merchants respectively, it was seen that there was mutual consultation among different assemblies20 There were compulsory taxes and levies like land tax, taxes on house, on profession and on merchandise, professional duties etc. Besides these compulsory levies, there were local levies for particular purposes like maintenance of tank, temple, choultry, college or hospital. The taxation was not severe and whenever the King tenders to levy heavy tax, the Scholars advised the King to be more temperate. Apart from the basic unit of gramam, there were large divisions called Valanadu or Mandalam21. Sangam Texts describe the Council of five (Aimperumkuzhu) and the eight groups of retinues (EnPerayam). There were numerous officials below them, engaged in several governmental functions. Silappadhikaram (20: 205) mentions about tax-collectors and palace-Secretariat (6:153).

In the long poem of Pattinappalai on the Cola Capital of Poompuhar, the poet gives a vivid idea of the state of industry and commerce at that time (Circa AD 190). Pattinappalai as well as other Sangam Works speak about the presence of foreigners (Yavanas) in great numbers. In the ports on the sea-coast like Tondi, Musiri and Puhar which they visited for trade; the air in these ports was thick with the cacophony of several tongues.

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Abstract | Introduction | Important Heritage Texts | Organizational concepts in Indian Heritage | Conceptual Model of Management | Governance and Administration | Governance and Administration in Tamil Sangam Heritage | Duties of a ruler as in Tamil Heritage Text | Fiscal Administration in Tamil Heritage Texts | SWOT Analysis | Knowledge Management | The learning of attitudes | Leader’s role in learning culture | Learning Models | The need for holistic knowledge | Conclusion | References

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