The rulers of Vijayanagar give due importance to the provincial administration. The administration that existed in the provinces was called the “Nayankara system“. It was similar to that of feudalism in Europe. Under the Nayankara system, all land was owned by the rulers. He distributed the lands to his generals. They functioned under his control and acted as feudal lords.
This administrative system flourished during the period of the Vijayanagar rulers. Under the system, most of the land was distributed among the Nayaks (landowners). They lived with pomp and ostentation and built forts for their protection. They accepted the supremacy of the Vijayanagar rulers and acted as their protectors.
The Nayaks who received the lands from the ruler, distributed them to the tenants for cultivation. In turn, the Nayaks regularly collected land taxes from tenants. The amount of the tax was very high. Nuniz, in his account mentioned that the Nayaks collected a tenth of the total income as land tax.
They collected the tax by an arbitrary method. No sympathy was shown to them. The Nayaks gave half of the revenue to the central government. The Nayaks used the remainder of the amount for administration, the military, and other charities. Consequently, the rulers of Vijayanagar received seventy lakhs of Varagans from the Nayaks. The rulers of Vijayanagar spent most of the income on their luxurious life.
Benefits of Nayankara System
Under this system, the maintenance of the army was entrusted to the Nayaks. Nayaks maintained a standing army. The army consisted of the traditional divisions of infantry, cavalry and elephant. They assisted the Vijayanagar rulers with the army at the time of the external threat. In particular, the success and failure of the Vijayanagar ruler depended on the efficiency of the army sent by the Nayaks. Using the army, the Vijayanagar rulers defeated the Muslims in various battles, for example, the Vijayanagar ruler, Krishnadevaraya, invaded the Raichur fort with the help of the Nayak army.
This system maintained cordial relations between the Rais and the Nayaks
This system maintained cordial relations between the Rays and the Nayaks. The Nayaks helped the rulers of Vijayanagar when they were in danger. They presented gold ornaments and expensive items as gifts to the ruler at the time of temple festivities and the birth day functions of members of the royal family. They used to present gold coins worth fifteen lakhs Varagans to the Vijayanagar ruler at an ordinary Deepavali function. They also provided all the necessary items for the royal family.
The Nayaks who enjoyed enormous powers maintained law and order in their territories. Criminals were severely punished. Separate force was used to deal with criminals. Due attention was paid to the development of agriculture. Irrigation facilities were improved. Various eries, kulams, and wells were built throughout the kingdom. They were regularly maintained. With a view to expanding irrigated forests they were destroyed. Generally, the Nayaks rendered meritorious services to gain the appreciation of the ruler. On certain occasions, they were honored by the rulers.
Although the Nayaks acted independently, political and administrative relations existed between the center and the province. The Nayaks enjoyed the rights to send two representatives to the court of the Vijayanagar ruler. Among them, one person administered the Nayak army stationed in the capital. The other person involved in activities related to Nayaks.
As the system worked effectively, the Vijayanagar ruler spread the Nayankara system throughout the empire. As a result, the number of Nayaks increased considerably, Nuniz, in his account mentioned that there were more than two hundred Nayaks in the Vijayanagar Empire. Literary inscriptions and evidence showed that the Nayaks system flourished under the Vijayanagar rule. Particularly, Chinnappa Nayaka from Thiruvannamala, Palayya Nayaka from Pooviruthavally, Mirunthiyachey Nayaka from Ponneric Ariyadeva Nayaka from Thirukovallur, Thimmappa Nayak from Tanjore, Perhappa Nayaka from Trichy, Madghava Nayaka from Trichy, Madghava Nayaka were prominent among them.
Unlike the governors, the Nayaks functioned independently. They did various constructive works for the welfare of the people. Irrigation facilities were increased to promote cultivation. Law and order were enforced. Art and architecture developed. Numerous attractive temples were built. New cities were founded. In short, they protected the Hindu religion and culture.
The Nayankara system flourished until the decline of the Vijayanagar Empire. They were attributed vvarious reasons for its decline. Mainly due to internal rivalry and foreign invasion, the Nayankara system fell apart.
Local Management in Nayankara System
For the convenience of the administration, the Vijayanagar Empire was divided into provinces or Rajyas. The provinces were subdivided into Valanadu or Kottam. Kottams were again divided into Nadu or Chimai. Nadu contained certain traditional peoples or Gramams. Village was known as Isthalam. Traditional administration flourished in the villages. The central government did not interfere in the internal administration of the villages. Nattavar took care of his administration.
Local bodies flourished during the reigns of Kumarakampana, Harihara II, and Devaraya II. Among the local bodies “Sabha” occupied an important place. Sabhas administered the Brahmadhana and Devadhana villages donated to the Brahmins. So most of the Sabha members were Brahmins. The local body in charge of the administration of ordinary towns was Urs. Another local body was Nadu. He looked after the general Sabha and Ur administration. In addition to the aforementioned local bodies, there were separate committees. They looked after the general interest of the people of the villages.
The members of the local organs were elected by the Kudavolai system as it existed in the Chola period. They were democratically elected. The village was divided into several wards or Variyams or Kudambu for the effective implementation of the schemes. Each neighborhood contained a considerable number of houses. Neighborhoods and elected representatives vary from town to town based on size and population.
Election inNayankara System
According to the Kudavolai election system, the names of eligible candidates were written on palm leaves and placed in a pot (Kudam) and shuffled. A small boy was ordered to take out the palm blades. The people whose palm leaves were collected by the boy were declared elected. Typically, this system elected thirty candidates. The elected representatives dealt with the administration of various Variyam such as Eri Variyam, Thotta Variyam, Pancha Variyam, Ponvariyam, and Kezhani Variyam. The members of the Variyams were called Vriyapperumakkal.
These sabhas were occasionally found in the gallery of a village temple, or under the shade of a tree or on the edge of a tank. They passed resolutions regarding the development of the villages. These resolutions were recorded on the walls of the temples. These Sabhas had certain powers and duties. He regularized tenant land rights, improved irrigation facilities, maintained law and order, protected the people, held festivals, and collected taxes. The Sabhas rendered meritorious services to the people in times of famine and invasion. He awarded rewards to those who rendered meritorious service. Members of the Sabhas were not paid for their services. The people gave them due respect.
Decline of local agencies
Local administration flourished in the Chola period and began to decline during the reign of the Vijayanagar rulers. It lost its importance in the 16th century. Various reasons were attributed for its decline. The introduction of the Nayankara system in the province and the Ayyangar system in the villages by the Vijayanagar rulers were the fundamental reasons for the decline of local bodies in Tamil Nadu.
What is Ayyangar system?
The rulers of Vijayanagar during their administration in the Ayyangar system rather than the traditional local administration in the villages. Under the new system, the village administration was in the hands of a twelve-member committee. The members of the committee were called Ayyangars. They were Karnam, Chieftain, Talaiyari, Prohita, Goldsmith, nearby Kanchi Blacksmith, Carpenter, Kuyavan, Vanna, Navithan, and Chakilee. Among them, Karnam, the chieftain and Talaiyari were important. The ruler appointed them. Karnam took care of the land revenue account.
He kept a record. It contained all the details related to the village, including grazing lands, wells, eries, canals, etc. He kept in close contact with the boss. The chief collected taxes from the people and remitted them to the government. Thalaiyari was entrusted with the duty of kaval. The Tamils called Talaiyari as Vetti. The common took care of the duties of the Sabha village. Land was donated to them as wages. The government was very interested in the development of the Ayyangar system. Therefore, the traditional local bodies were weakened.
Irrecoverable loss for temples and local agencies
The Tamil rulers and temple authorities kept gold, precious stones, pearls, etc. in palaces and temples. Due to frequent Muslim invasions, the Tamil rulers were defeated and the temples looted. They also destroyed temples, palaces, and madams. Therefore, they lost their importance. It was a irrecoverable loss for temples and local agencies. With its decline, local bodies such as Sabha, Ur and Nadu lost their economic importance. Faced with this situation, no one stepped forward to protect the interests of local organizations.
Vijayan administration changes
In the ancient period, traditional local bodies and temples enjoyed enormous powers. He donated land to the Brahmins and collected taxes from the people. This system came to an end during the Vijayan administration of agar. They introduced radical changes in the local administration. Thalayari and the village chief were appointed to take care of the work of the local agencies. The ruler of Vijayanagar took the necessary measures to popularize the new system (Ayyangar System). Therefore, traditional local organisms such as Sabha, Ur and Nadu lost their importance.