Historic Sengol To Find A Place Inside The New Parliament
On May 28, 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to inaugurate the
New Parliament Building at Sansad Marg, New Delhi. Spread over 64,500 square
metres,the newly constructed building reflects various architectural influences
from important heritage buildings in India.
While speaking to the media, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that the
upcoming inauguration of the new parliament building will also see Prime
Minister Narendra Modi install a historic sceptre known as "Sengol" from Tamil
Nadu next to the Lok Sabha Speaker's seat.
Sengol is derived from the Tamil word "Semmai," meaning "righteousness." The
sceptre, 'sengol," is a "significant historical" symbol of independence,
signifying the transfer of power from the British to the Indians.
According to historical accounts and news reports, just before the transfer of
power that was about to happen on August 15, 2021, Lord Mountbatten reportedly
asked Mr. Nehru, "What sort of ritual is appropriate to represent the handover
of power from British to Indian hands?"
PM Nehru then turned to C. Rajagopalachari, the country's last Governor General,
for advice, who informed him about a ceremony held during the Chola dynasty in
which the handing over of the "Sengol" from one king to his successor served as
a symbol for the transfer of power, and the entire ceremony was sanctified and
blessed by high priests.
After Nehru agreed to conduct the proposed event, Rajagopalachari was given the
assignment of setting up a sceptre. He then requested assistance from
Thiruvaduthurai Atheenam, a well-known mutt in Tamil Nadu's Tanjore region.
Further, the task of crafting the commissioned Sengol, five feet in length,
incorporating intricate details and symbolism with the Nandi (bull) positioned
on top of the Sengol representing the concept of 'Nyaya', was handed over to the
renowned jewellers Vummidi Bangaru Chetty in Chennai.
Finally, on the day of independence, the deputy high priest of the
Thiruvavaduthurai Adheenam, Nadaswaram player Rajarathinam Pillai, and the
oduvar (singer) were flown in from Tamil Nadu to participate in the ceremony of
transfer, and they carried the Sengol with them. The ceremony was conducted as
per Tamil traditions, and the sengol was handed over to Nehru.
Notably, in their book Freedom at Midnight, Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre
give a thorough depiction of the event.
"The two holy men in the car behind him stared straight ahead with celestial
indifference. They were sannyasin, men dwelling in the highest state of
exaltation a Brahmin could attain, a state so sublime that, according to Hindu
belief, it conferred on those who had reached it more spiritual blessings in one
lifetime than an ordinary man might hope to attain in ten million
"With their bare chests and foreheads streaked with ashes and their matted,
uncut hair tumbling in black strands to their shoulders, they were pilgrims from
an ancient, timeless India. Beside each were the three possessions they were
allowed in their life of renunciation: a seven-jointed bamboo stave, a water
gourd, and an antelope skin. One of the two bore a massive silver platter upon
which was folded a swathe of white silk streaked in gold, the Pitambaram, the
Cloth of God.
"The other carried a five-foot sceptre, a flask of holy water from the Tanjore
River, a pouch of sacred ash, and a pouch of boiled rice, which had been offered
at dawn at the feet of Nataraja, the dancing God, in his temple in Madras.
"Their procession moved through the streets of the capital until it came to a
stop in front of a simple bungalow at 17 York Road. As once Hindu holy men had
conferred upon ancient India's kings their symbols of power, so the sannyasin
had come to York Road to bestow their antique emblems of authority on the man
about to assume the leadership of a modern Indian nation.
"They sprinkled Jawaharlal Nehru with holy water, smeared his forehead with
sacred ash, laid their sceptre on his arms, and draped him in the Cloth of
God... In military cantonments, at official residences, naval stations, and
government offices; at Fort William in Calcutta, where Clive had started it all;
at Fort Saint George in Madras; at Viceregal Lodge in Simla; in Kashmir,
Nagaland, Sikkim, and the jungles of Assam, thousands of Union Jacks slid down
their flagstaffs for the last time. The Union Jack came down from those
thousands of flagstaffs at sunset on August 14 to go quiet and unprotesting into
Indian history. At sunrise on August 15, its place would be taken by the banner
of an independent India."
Sengol's installation in the new parliament is an attempt to link our cultural
traditions with modernity. It should not be linked to politics, as it is a
symbol of justice and fairness, and installing it right inside the parliament
will remind the administration to run by the rule of law.
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