Evolution of Local Self-Government in India

  • Dhirendra K. Vajpeyi
  • Jenifer M. Arnold
Part of the Urban Research International book series (URI, volume 3)


Scholars of Indian local self-government maintain that autonomous local governance units have existed in India throughout its long history. Mahabharat,Kautilya’s Arthashastra (4th century B.C.) and pre-Buddhist Jatakas provide valuable information about life and social-political cultural institutions in ancient India. Village assemblies (Panchayats) enjoyed a measure of autonomy and played a very crucial role in the village life. “The political and economic structure was built up from these village communities which were the basic units of self governing villages” (Nehru 1959: 66). The details about the nature of their functions and structural composition are not very well documented. It seems that these Panchayats supervised almost all the affairs of the village, decided disputes and collected taxes. They were conservative bodies, often ‘dilatory, unenterprizing and far from impartial’ but they gave dignity and order to village life, and their deliberations had the great weight of religion and custom- “In the Panchayat is God” (Tinker 1968: 19). These bodies were “only rarely representative of the village as a whole,” they “might be drawn from the members of the founding families, or from the Brahman and Superior Cultivators. The menials and the landless men had almost no say in their affairs” (Tinker 1968: 19).


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© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dhirendra K. Vajpeyi
  • Jenifer M. Arnold

There are no affiliations available

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