During an announcement on May 24th, Union Home Minister Amit Shah revealed that a significant golden sceptre would be placed beside the Lok Sabha Speaker’s seat in the new Parliament building. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to inaugurate the structure on May 28th, Sunday, and subsequently place the historic sceptre. The Home Minister clarified that the sceptre, referred to as “sengol,” originates from the Tamil word “semmai or dharma danda,” which signifies “righteousness.”
Interestingly, this very sacred sengol was presented to India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, over 75 years ago on the eve of the country’s independence. The deputy chief priest of the Thiruvadutharai Adheenam, a Shaivite mutt located in present-day Tamil Nadu, handed it to Nehru after briefly passing it to Lord Mountbatten and then reclaiming it.
Shah elaborated that the sengol symbolizes the transfer of power from the Britishers to India on August 14th, 1947. He further emphasized that it embodies the principles of fair and just governance, reflecting the values of the nation.
A ‘Symbolic Reminder’ of a King’s Dharma
The sengol holds a deep significance as a symbolic reminder of a ruler’s duty and responsibility towards good governance. It serves as a reminder to the king that his actions are observed by society and that he should prioritize the welfare of his people.
The practice of passing on the sengol has been a part of Tamil society for over 2000 years, with references found in Sangam literature. It is not limited to Tamil society alone, as even the kings of Mysore received the sengol. In contemporary times, we see similar practices where High Court or Supreme Court justices are accompanied by bearers carrying sceptres, symbolizing the observation of society and the need for impartiality.
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari also acknowledged the significance of installing the sengol, emphasizing the importance of upholding righteous governance for the nation. It serves as a constant reminder of the responsibility we have to ensure fair and just governance.
The History Behind the ‘Sengol’
The prestigious sengol, a symbol of power transfer, was intricately crafted by Vummidi Bangaru Chetty & Sons, a renowned jeweler in Chennai (formerly Madras).
It all began when Thiruvaduthurai Atheenam, a prominent religious institution in present-day Tamil Nadu, approached the Vummidi Bangaru Chetty & Sons store in the Parry’s Corner area of Madras. Sensing the historical importance, they took on the task of creating the sengol.
During the time of India’s impending independence, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru sought guidance from Rajaji (C. Rajagopalachari) on the transfer of power. Rajaji connected with Adheenam, who then engaged Vummidi Bangaru Chetty & Sons to craft the sengol. The sengol, a finely handcrafted piece called nagasu, featured a symbolic “nandi” bull on top, representing justice and strength.
Crafting the sengol took about 15-20 days, after which it was carefully transported to Delhi in a specially commissioned box. The deputy chief priest carried holy water and was accompanied by musicians.
The original sengol, made of gold, stood approximately 5 feet tall, with a top width of around 3 inches and a bottom width of 1 inch. To ensure stability, a wooden rod was inserted, a customary practice.
If crafted today, the original sengol would cost around Rs 70 to Rs 75 lakh.
The sengol, once lost to history, gained attention when Vummidi Bangaru Chetty created a video showcasing its significance and location. This caught the Central Government’s attention, leading to efforts to restore the sengol to its rightful glory. It now finds its place in a museum in Prayagraj.
How the Sengol was handed over to Nehru
On the historic night of 14 August 1947, just before Jawaharlal Nehru delivered his memorable inaugural address, “Tryst with Destiny,” a symbolic act took place at Nehru’s residence to mark the transfer of power from the British Emperor to India.
Kumaraswamy Thamburan, the deputy high priest of Thiruvadutharai Adheenam, received the sceptre from Lord Mountbatten and purified it with holy Ganga Jal. As devotional hymns known as Thevaram were sung by an oduvar (singer) and the melodious Nadaswaram played by Rajarathinam Pillai, the sceptre was passed on to Jawaharlal Nehru.
During the handover to Nehru, the oduvar sang the Kolaru Pathigam, hymns praising Lord Shiva, with the last line recited as the sengol was presented. It proclaimed, “Adiyaarkal vaanil Arasaalvar aanai namadhe,” meaning “The followers (referring to the King) will rule as in the heavens, as per our order.”
Prime Minister Nehru, adorned with the pithambaram, received the sengol, symbolizing the momentous transfer of power from the United Kingdom to India.
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