Role of Temples in Revenue Collection
When such revenue collectors were to be appointed for the first time, the
opposition of the tax paying tillers was smothered by making religious
institutions like temples, Ashrams, Viharas, Chaityas, etc., perform the
function of collecting revenue. Hence the practice of generous land grants to
temples, ashrams. individual Brahmins, etc. Along with the right to collect
revenue there was an obligation to pass on a part of the proceeds to the king
who had given the land grant. Only in rare cases was the obligation to pass on
part of the revenue to the donor-king was waived. Thus these temples and
monasteries served both as the institutional and ideological arms for
establishing this new mode of revenue collection. Thus the administrative costs
of overcoming the opposition to this new revenue system was also reduced by
making ecclesiastical institutions as intermediaries.
Brahmadeya, Devadana and Agrahara Land Grants
These land grants were to religious institutions were called Brahmadeya,
(i.e. donated to Brahmins) Devadana (donated to Gods) and Agrahara (Settlement -
of priests) These lands donated to the temples and monasteries apart from being
used as normal tenancy also carried a right vested with the temple authorities
to call for unpaid labour (called Vishti) as a religious service to the temple
from the tillers on the donated land.
The Madurai Temple Complex
is one of the most awesome of Medieval Hindu temples.
The Raj Gopurams (temple spires)
soar to a height above 180 feet.
This unpaid labour, became an important method of enrichment of the
intermediary revenue collectors, which the temples were, apart from having the
rights of revenue collection.
Right to carry arms for the Nobility 'Samants'
But the physical muscle of this method of revenue collection through
intermediaries, was the right to bear arms which was given to the feudal lords
and the petty local chieftains. These armed feudal lords could be called upon by
the king to render military service to quell a rebellion to defend the kingdom
from attack or to launch an attack on neighbouring kingdoms.
A frieze from the rock-cut temples
at Mahabalipuram near Chennai.
These temples were created by the Pallava Kings in the 8th century.
The armed retinue of every feudal revenue collector-administrator was
maintained out of the revenue collected locally. Thus the local feudal lord was
the paymaster of this armed soldierly, and not the king whose kingdom they might
be called on to defend. This undermined the power of the king and we hear of
rebellious nobles in this period. This was unthinkable during the centralized
administration of Mauryan times.