Panchayats or village assemblies existed in ancient India as self-governing institutions which had distinct and well-defined functions. The institution of Panchayat represented not only the collective will, but also the collective wisdom of the entire rural community. As in other parts of the country, village Panchayats also existed in all over India. British rule introduced a highly decentralized system of administering justice, which changed the situation and the system of village Panchayats suffered a setback. During the time of Viceroy Lord Ripon, there was an attempt to establish local bodies. In India, the princely states of Jodhpur, Maysore, Kolhapur, Kalinga, Bharatpur, Vidarbha, Jaipur, Patiyala, Kashmir, Sirohi, Bundelkhand, Ballarpur, Udaipur, Trivandrum, Chitradurg, Darbhanga, Manakapur, Chinar, and Karauli enacted legislations on Panchayats. Bikaner state had its own Gram Panchayat Act much earlier in 1928.
Thus, at the time of independence, Panchayats were functioning in some of the erstwhile princely states, while in other states no such institutions existed.
India came into existence as a result of the process of integration of about two dozen princely states and chief ships in successive stages starting from the inauguration of the Matsya Union (comprising of the former princely states of Alwar and Bharatpur) and culminating with the merger of Sirohi state in the Rajasthan union. The final stage in the formation of the present India was completed in 1956 with the merger of the Part-C state of Ajmer and parts of Bombay and Madhya Pradesh into Rajasthan as a result of the recommendations of the State’s Reorganization Commission, giving the state its present geographical and political identity. In 1953, the National Panchayat Act was enacted and village Panchayats were established throughout the Country. Many States has the distinction of being a pioneer in accepting the scheme of democratic decentralization envisaging a three-tier system of representative bodies at the village, block, and district levels. Th e system later came to be known as Panchayati Raj, which was inaugurated by the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on 2 October 1959. The first elections under the National Panchayat Samitis and Zilla Parishads Act, 1959 were held in September-October 1959. With the already existing Panchayats at the village level under the Panchayat Act, 1953, the three-tier scheme of Panchayati Raj began functioning on 2 October 1959.