Democracy can be traced back from the present day to classical Athens in the 6th century B.C.E. Democracy is a type of political system, or a system of decision-making within an institution, organization, etc., in which all members have the equal share to power. In modern representative democracy, this formal equality is embodied primarily in the right to vote.
Although it is generally believed that the concepts of democracy and constitution were created in one particular place and time – identified as Ancient Athens circa 508 BCi[›] — there is evidence to suggest that democratic forms of government, in a broad sense, may have existed in several areas of the world well before the turn of the 5th century. Within that broad sense it is plausible to assume that democracy in one form or another arises naturally in any well-bonded group, such as a tribe. This is tribalism or primitive democracy. A primitive democracy is identified in small communities or villages when the following take place: face-to-face discussion in the village council or a headman whose decisions are supported by village elders or other cooperative modes of government. Nevertheless, on a larger scale sharper contrasts arise when the village and the city are examined as political communities. In urban governments, all other forms of rule – monarchy, tyranny, aristocracy, and oligarchy – have flourished.
History of Democracy in India
A serious claim for early democratic institutions comes from the independent "republics" of India, sanghas and ganas, which existed as early as the sixth century BC and persisted in some areas until the fourth century BC. The evidence is scattered and no pure historical source exists for that period. In addition, Diodorus (a Greek historian writing two centuries after the time of Alexander the Great's invasion of India), without offering any detail, mentions that independent and democratic states existed in India. However, modern scholars note that the word democracy at the third century BC and later had been degraded and could mean any autonomous state no matter how oligarchic it was.
The main characteristics of the gana seem to be a monarch, usually called raja, and a deliberative assembly. The assembly met regularly. It discussed all major state decisions and at least in some states attendance was open to all free men. It had also full financial, administrative, and judicial authority. Other officers, who are rarely mentioned, obeyed the decisions of the assembly. The monarch was elected by the gana and apparently he always belonged to a family of the noble K'satriya Varna. The monarch coordinated his activities with the assembly and in some states along with a council of other nobles. The Licchavis had a primary governing body of 7,077 rajas, the heads of the most important families. On the other hand, the Shakyas, the Gautama Buddha's people, had the assembly open to all men, rich and poor.
Scholars differ over how to describe these governments, and the vague, sporadic quality of the evidence allows for wide disagreements. Some emphasize the central role of the assemblies and thus tout them as democracies; other scholars focus on the upper-class domination of the leadership and possible control of the assembly and see an oligarchy or an aristocracy. Despite the obvious power of the assembly, it has not yet been established whether the composition and participation was truly popular. The first main obstacle is the lack of evidence describing the popular power of the assembly. This is reflected in the Artha' shastra, an ancient handbook for monarchs on how to rule efficiently. It contains a chapter on dealing with the sangas, which includes injunctions on manipulating the noble leaders, yet it does not mention how to influence the mass of the citizens—a surprising omission if democratic bodies, not the aristocratic families, actively controlled the republican governments. Another issue is the persistence of the four-tiered Varna class system. The duties and privileges on the members of each particular caste—which were rigid enough to prohibit someone sharing a meal with those of another order—might have affected the role members were expected to play in the state, regardless of the formal institutions. The lack of the concept of citizen equality across caste system boundaries leads many scholars to believe that the true nature of ganas and sanghas would not be comparable to that of truly democratic institution.
Uttaramerur inscriptions talk about Kudavolai system. This system was a very notable and unique feature of the village administration of the Cholas. There were 30 wards in each village. A representative for each ward was elected through Kudavolai system. Names of the contestants from whom one could be chosen were written on palm leaf tickets. These palm leaves were put into a pot and shuffled. A small boy picked up palm leaves one by one from the pot. Persons whose name tickets were picked up by the boy were declared elected. Like that 30 members for thirty wards were elected. This kind of peculiar election system was called kudavolai system. Out of the thirty elected members, twelve members were appointed to the Annual committee, twelve members were appointed as the members of the Garden committee and six members to the Tank committee.
Members of the standing committee and a Gold committee were also elected. Qualification of the members was given. A person who could be chosen through Kudavolai system must have age from 35 to 70. He should possess one veli land and of a house built in a taxable land on his own site. He should have knowledge about vedas and mantras. Persons who killed brahmins or women or cow or children were disqualified. Thieves, drunkards and people who had undergone punishments were also disqualified from contesting election from kudavolai system.
The people of the Chola Empire were more benefited by the Chola administration. Historians like K.A.Neelakanda Sastri appreciates the administrative efficiency of the Chola kings. The best aspects of the Chola administration were followed by the rulers of the later period.