in this article the following topics will be covered:
- the royal duty of the king and queen
- administration of the royal court
- provincial administration
- town administration
- village administration
- revenue administration
the royal duty of the king and queen
Kingship was established for the maintenance of the whole system of traditional laws, religious and civil, which governed society.the sovereign’s duty was to promote the highest well-being of the people and the most important purpose of all political institutions was the satisfaction of material wants and the moral elevation of the entire community.The Ganga sovereigns like others displayed great anxiety in being remembered by posterity as those who strictly adhered to and carried out the precepts laid down by Manu, Dharmasastras, and Niti Shastras. The king’s responsibility for the maintenance of social and moral order was the outcome of the sacerdotal conception of the origin of the state, the early rise of the priest hood in the history of the country and the very early division of the people by Varnas.The King received his share of the revenues of the state, as well as, a corresponding portion of the increase in spiritual merit among the people, in return for the protection that he gave to the subjects.
The Ganga state was not theocratic because the priestly class had no organisation fitting them to act together for common purposes under acknowledged leaders, and also because the kings never allowed themselves to be swayed by any sect or fettered by any priestly organisation.The royal authority was by no means despotic, for the constitution itself was designed not in the interest of the king or one class, but to secure for all classes as full a measure of liberty and of spiritual and material possessions as their respective capacities and considerations for the common weal permitted.The subjects while they acquiesced in the divine nature of kingly authority, at the same time sought to impose a check on the autocracy of kings by holding that laws were also divine and incapable of being changed. The kings had thus no legislative power, and their main duty was to administer justice and to maintain peace and tranquility by suppression of evil doers.The despotism of the king was also to a great extent regulated by the wholesome check imposed on him by his own ministers and counsellors whose advice he always sought.Though kingship was usually hereditary, the right of succession to the throne was not vested in the family of the reigning monarch absolutely; it was contingent on the approval of the state council, whose power was nominal, the king having the right to choose and dismiss his own ministers.
The Queen not only enjoyed equality of status with the king and often appeared by his side at durbars as is manifest from the interesting friezes in front of the Belur temple, but also exercised considerable political power along with other children of the royal family, and assisted the king in the maintenance of equality and justice and humane administration. The queen not only participated in the public functions of the king, regulated temple administration and interested herself in the distribution of religious endowments, construction of temples and tanks, but also took part in the king’s expeditions.
administration of the royal court
The court consisted of Samantas, court officials, the queen, the chowrie bearers, royal gurus, and other dignitaries. There were many poets and scholars who not only listened to creations and discussions in the durbars but sometimes but also took part in philosophical disputations not only for the sake of the intellectual recreation that they afforded, but also for understanding the deeper truths of religion that they revealed.
The ministers were appointed by the king and consisted of ministers, military commanders, men of the priestly class and poets. The ministers constituted a powerful body and administered the state during the minority of its sovereign.The number of ministers required for the council was regulated by the needs of the state, there being no hard and fast rule about it. The officers of the state were differentiated from those of the palace. Ministers like Dandanayaka, commander, Sarvadhikari (the prime minister), the Mannevergadde (the royal steward), Hiriya Bhandari, Yuvaraja and Sandhi vigrahi minister of peace and war, spoken of also as Mallavijaya Sutradhari, Maha Pradhana (the chief minister and spokesman of the Council) assisted the sovereign not only in the task of government, displaying the intelligence of Brhaspati and Mandhata in their skill and politics and administration of justice, but also accompanied the king on his tours and expeditions. The Council of ministers was recruit ed entirely by merit, and membership was some times hereditary.
The kingdom was divided for purposes of efficient administration into a number of provinces which were sub-divided into Nadus and Vishayas, Ventyas, Khampanas comprising of groups of villages and towns, the village constituting the lowest administrative unit. (Rashtra-pati, Vishayapati, Gramakuta Kayuktaka Niyukta kadhikara).Each province was held by a viceroy who was either a prince of the royal family or a powerful noble of the state, or some representative of the old ruling dynasties. Ministers of the king were often appointed as governors. The government of every province was a replica of the central government, and the viceroy kept his own army, held his own court, made charitable grants and behaved like an autocrat within his own jurisdiction. The governors of provinces variously known as Senadhipati Hiriya Heddavala, Maha Prachan da Dandanayaka, Dannayaka Sarvadhikari, were responsible for the collection of taxes and for the administration of justice. But the governor could neither make remissions of revenue nor increase the revenue by levying tolls and other imposts without the consent of the king.
The towns were well fortified with several lines of forts intercepted by deep and impassable moats.’ The town was required to construct good roads, wells and reservoirs, public parks, and orchards, taverns, temples and garden tanks filled with lotus and groves and chatrams for travelers to rest in.The administration of the towns was usually in the hands of merchant guilds, Nigama Sabhas sometimes expanding themselves into an assembly of the citizens of which the Pattana Swami was the head.The town organisation was predominantly mercantile, comprising of guilds “Srenis” of oil-mongers, potters, bankers, day labourers, bamboo workers, and panchalas or five guilds of artisans. The guilds received deposits and paid interest on them. The assembly of the town imposed taxes on houses, oil mills, potters, washermen, masons, basket makers, shop keepers, and customs on import and exports, giving exemption to brahmins from payment of chief taxes, and ad ministered law and order through the Nagarika or the Totigara, the magistrate and head of the city police.
Administration of a local village
The village or the grama formed the back bone of the country and its administration. The villages remain ed undisturbed during internecine wars and self-contained in their administration, having their hereditary headman and account ants. The policy of the Central government was one of developing local self-governing institutions so efficiently that they should call for little interference from central power. Each village had an Assembly which usually met in the Mandapams of the village temple. The assembly had both deliberative and executive functions. Custodians of all charitable endowments themselves, they often provided endowments for temples and other religious institutions free of all taxes, by selling village lands and after making provision for royal dues. The assembly not only collected some part of the revenue of villages including labour contributed by artisans in lieu of taxes but also ordered that the temple authorities should take over judicial jurisdiction themselves and punish any offence committed against the land by villagers. The Assembly through committees collected taxes such as Bittu Vatta, Talarike, Bala Pana and granted exemption chiefly to temples. There was confiscation of lands in default of payment of taxes. The Committee of the Assembly attended to public wells, reservoirs and irrigation works. They also kept the accounts of transfers of land and revenue receipts.It was also responsible for the division of agraharas into equal parts, the regulation of the amount of taxes payable by each division, as well as the relation between divisions, with regard to the introduction of improvements and use of roads, gardens and water.
The principal source of government revenue was the land tax, the normal rate according to immemorial tradition, being one sixth of the gross produce. For the assessment of this tax a very careful survey of cultivable land was made of which a register was kept so that every cultivator knew the exact amount for which he was liable. Though all cultivable lands were not measured according to one uniform measurement but according to different methods of measurement, the soil was divided into classes according to its fertility; and the method of calculation of assessment was not arbitrary, for a moderate assessment was made for the first two years making due allowances for vagaries of the seasons and nature of the soil, and assessment after, was definitely fixed in the third year. Remissions however were granted when lands were actually uncultivated, and when they suffered from too little water or from inundations, in case, the crops raised were such as required irrigation.