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Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 4, p. 278.


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CHAPTER IX
LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT
Villages and Cities in A ncient India
General AMrONG the phenomena which India presents to the student
character- of social institutions none are more interesting and important
istics of the
Indian than its village communities. The constitution and form of
village these have not been exempt from the general laws of progress
nity. and decay, but the characteristic features of Indian village life
have been handed down with extraordinary pertinacity from a
distant past. This persistence has riveted the attention, and
impressed itself on the imagination, of many observers of the
Indian social structure. Writing of the village communities in
1830, Sir Charles (afterwards Lord) Metcalfe said:-
They seem to last where nothing else lasts. Dynasty after
dynasty tumbles down; revolution succeeds revolution; Hindu,
Pathan, Mughal, Maratha, Sikh, English, are all masters in
turn; but the village communities remain the same. In times
of trouble they arm and fortify themselves: a hostile army
passes through the country: the village communities collect
their cattle within their walls, and let the enemy pass un-
provoked. If plunder and devastation be directed against
themselves, and the force employed be irresistible, they flee
to friendly villages at a distance; but when the storm has
passed over, they return and resume their occupations. If a
country remain for a series of years the scene of continued
pillage and massacre, so that the villages cannot be inhabited,
the scattered villagers nevertheless return whenever the power
of peaceable possession revives. A generation may pass away,
but the succeeding generation will return. The sons will take
the places of their fathers; the same site for the village, the
same positions for the houses, the same lands will be reoccupied
by the descendants of those who were driven out when the
village was depopulated; and it is not a trifling matter that will
drive them out, for they will often maintain their post through
times of disturbance and convulsion, and acquire strength
sufficient to resist pillage and oppression with success. This
union of the village communities, each one forming a separate
little state in itself, has, I conceive, contributed more than any
other cause to the preservation of the people of India through



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