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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 reincarnations.

"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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