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Friday, April 06, 2012

Uthiramerur edicts.

A Brahmin settlement in Uttaramerur, ten centuries ago, prepared this constitution for themselves.  
Uthiramerur (Tamil: உத்திரமேரூர்) is a panchayat town in Kancheepuram district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

An inscription from the temple wall at Uttaramerur (a village of Brahmins) gives details of how the local              Sabha functioned.  The edict dates back to the tenth century AD and reads.
…   There shall be thirty wards 
 In those thirty wards those that live in each ward shall assemble and shall select each person   possessing the following qualifications for inclusion for selection by lot:
   He must own more than one quarter of the tax-paying land
  He must live in a house built on his own site
  His age must be below seventy and above thirty five
   He must know the mantras and braahmanaas.
Even if he owns one-eighth of the land his name shall be included provided he has learnt on Veda and one of   the`four Bhashyas.

Among those possessing these qualifications only such as are well conversant with business and are virtuous shall be taken, and one who possess honest earnings whose mind is pure and who has not been on any of the committees for the last three years shall also be chosen.  One who has been  on any of the committees but has not submitted his accounts, and his relations specified below cannot have their names written on the tickets  .
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
His uterine brother
His father in law
The uterine brother of his wife
The husband of his uterine sister
The sons of his uterine sister
His son-in-law
His father
His son
One against whom incest or the first four of the five great sins are recorded (The five great sins being killing a Brahman, drinking alcohol, theft, adultery, and associating with criminals).  All his relations specified above shall not be eligible to be chosen by lot.  One who has been outcaste for association with low people shall not have his name chosen until he performs the expiatory ceremonies.
One who is foolhardy..
One who has stolen the property of others..
One who has taken forbidden dishes..
One who has committed sins and has had to perform ceremonies of purification..

Excluding all these names shall be written on tickets for thirty wards and each of the wards in the twelve streets shall prepare a separate covering ticket for thirty wards bundled separately. These packets shall be put into a pot.  When the tickets have to be drawn a full meeting of the great assembly including the young and old members shall be convened.  All the temple priests who happen to be in the village on that day, shall, without exception whatever, be caused to be seated in the inner hall where the great assembly meets. In the midst of the temple priests, one of them who happens to be the eldest shall stand up and lift that pot, looking upwards so as to be seen by all the people.  Papers for one ward shall be taken out by any young boy standing close who does not know what is inside and shall be transferred to another empty pot and shaken loose.  From this pot one ticket shall be drawn and made over to the arbitrator.  While taking charge of the ticket thus given to him, the arbitrator shall receive it on the palm of his right hand with five fingers open.  He shall read out the ticket thus received.  The ticket shall be read by all the priests present in the inner hall. The name thus read shall be put down and accepted.  Similarly one man shall be chosen for each of the thirty wards.

Of the thirty men thus chosen those who had previously been on the Garden Committee, and on the Tank Committee, twelve of those who are advanced in learning and those who are advanced in age shall be chosen for the Annual Committee.  Of the rest, twelve shall be taken for the Garden Committee (Garden means the arable common lands) and the remaining six shall form the tank committee.  The great men of these three committees shall hold office for full 360 days and then retire. Anyone on a committee found guilty of an offence shall be removed  at once.  For appointing the committees after these have retired, the members of the committee for supervision of Justice in the twelve streets shall convene an assembly with the help of the arbitrator.  The committees shall be appointed by drawing pot-tickets..

For the Five-fold committee( Panchayat?) and the Gold committee names shall be written for pot-tickets in the thirty wards (and the same procedure followed).  One who has ridden an ass (ie been punished) or who has committed  a forgery shall not be included.

Any arbitrator who possesses honest earnings shall write the accounts of the village.  No accountant shall be appointed to that office again before he submits his accounts to the great men of the chief committee and is declared to have been honest.  The accounts which he has been writing  he shall submit himself, and no other accountant shall be chosen to close the accounts. Thus from this year onwards as long as the moon and sun endure, committees shall be appointed by lot..
We, the assembly of Uttaramerur- chathurvedimangalam made this settlement for the prosperity of our village and in order that wicked men may perish and the rest may prosper.  At the order of the great men sitting in the assembly, I , the arbitrator Kadaipottan Shivakkuri Rajamallamangalapriyan, thus wrote the settlement.

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