3 : SALVAGE : EXPLORING DECENTRALISATION
Like every generation that preceded us, we have been endowed with a weak Messianic power, a power to which the past has a claim. This claim cannot be settled cheaply. Walter Benjamin, Theses on the philosophy of History The oldest well in Karnataka, which is over a thousand years old is located in a temple in Kolar district. The group of temples called the Ramalingeshwara Temples were, according to Archaeological Survey of India, dated to 399AD. It was later renovated by the Chola Dynasty, perhaps the most prominent of South Indian empires. We were visiting villages around Kolar district to look at tank restoration efforts undertaken by communities. Most of these tanks, that were being renovated primarily for irrigation, date from the Chola period. With careful observation, ancient embellishments can be seen around these tanks. A carved elephant on a tank Madagu (irrigation gate) transports one back a thousand years when the grand vision of an emperor found resonance among local communities. Naively, you can imagine a time when the objectives of the state were aligned to those of rural communities. To a cynic, a state is always a hegemonic entity â€“ bent on imposing its world view â€“ economically, culturally and spiritually. Yet in India, a narrative of of the self-sufficient village persists to this day. There is a sense that kings and emperors were satisfied with a transactional relationship with the villages. The state would invest in village infrastructure and the village would in-turn pay taxes in the form of produce to the king. We were curious about myths the way we were about History. In the Indian myth, villages were allowed to retain their organisational and economic structure, which was primarily driven by the caste based occupational system. The exploitation, that is deeply rooted in the caste system has been well understood for
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