What were the representative bodies in ancient India?

 The origin of a parliamentary democracy set up seems to have its origin in the representative bodies and democratic self governing communities in ancient India as early as the Vedic period (3000-1000BC). In the Rigveda, we have references to the institutions Sabha and Samiti, which seem to have the elements of the modern parliament. The Sabha acted as the national judicature, consisting of a small group of selected elderly people, and the Samiti was the general assembly or house of people. Its members were called Visha.

Historical evidence of the existence of a number of functioning republics can be seen in Panini’s Ashtad-hyayi, Kautilya’s Arthasastra the Mahabharata, inscriptions on Ashoka’s pillars, writings of historians etc. Sovereignty in these republics known as Samgha Ganarjya was vested in a large assembly which elected not only the executive members, but also military leaders. The assembly had even a Speaker called the Vinayadhara.

Slips of wood of different colours to represent different opinions were used for casting votes. A special committee was formed from among the members of assembly to discuss serious matters. The roots of democracy can be found in the existence and functioning of regional councils or Janapadas, city councils or Paura Sabhas and village assemblies or Grama Sabhas.