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Sengol, what is the big controversy all about

Sengol will be placed next to the Chair of the Lok Sabha in the new Parliament building on Sunday

Sengol, what is the big controversy all about

The Sengol. PTI

Tribune News Service

Vibha Sharma

Chandigarh, May 27

Apart from the controversy over who should inaugurate the new Parliament building, what has added to the ongoing war of words between the ruling BJP and the opposition, especially the Congress, is the Sengol—a sceptre/staff/wand signifying authority and power.

The word Sengol first surfaced after “unofficial” reports in the media that a “historical and sacred” symbol received by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was lying unheard of in the Allahabad museum along with his other items and that it will be given its due place of pride in the new Parliament building on May 28.

Dating back in Tamil history, this particular Sengol “symboliosed transfer of power from the British to India in 1947”, according to reports officially confirmed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah on May 24.

Speaking to the media, Shah said the historical sceptre from Tamil Nadu, which was received by Nehru to represent transfer of power from the British and was kept in a museum in Allahabad, will be installed in the new Parliament building to be inaugurated by PM Modi on May 28. 

It will be placed next to the Chair of the Lok Sabha following a proper religious ceremony in which religious heads from across India are participating. They include representatives of the Thiruvavaduthurai Adheenam that was given the task of getting the Sengol ready for the transfer of power.

According to the Thiruvavaduthurai Aadeenam, it was a “matter of pride” for Tamil Nadu that Sengol is being installed in the new Parliament building. Thiruvavaduthurai Aadeenam Ambalavana Desika Paramacharya Swami has underlined the BJP’s assertion that India’s last Viceroy Lord Mountbatten had given the Sengol, which will be presented to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday, to Nehru in 1947.

So what is the big controversy?

Basically it was the way the journey/history of this particular Sengol is being depicted—as “another one of Nehru’s failures to safeguard India's history”.   

According to the BJP leaders, the gifting of the sceptre by the mutt’s pontiffs was a part of multiple rituals that took place during the transfer of power in 1947.

The claim is that “Mountbatten asked Nehru how the reins of India be handed over, who subsequently asked Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, who said that it should be done in the way it was done centuries ago by south India's Chera, Chola and Pandya dynasties. The suggestion was accepted and he was given the responsibility of making complete arrangements. The ceremony was organised before midnight and a special song was also sung when Nehru accepted the Sengol”.

Sceptics say there is not enough evidence to prove that.

The Congress termed the entire story “bogus” with senior leader Jairam Ramesh claiming “lack of documented evidence”.

“Is it any surprise that the new Parliament is being consecrated with typically false narratives from WhatsApp University?

“A majestic sceptre conceived of by a religious establishment in then Madras province and crafted in Madras city was indeed presented to Nehru in August 1947. However there is No documented evidence whatsoever of Lord Mountbatten, Rajaji & Nehru describing this sceptre as a symbol of transfer of British power to India. All claims to this effect are plain and simple — BOGUS,” Ramesh said.

“Two of the finest Rajaji scholars with impeccable credentials have expressed surprise.

“The sceptre was later kept for display at the Allahabad Museum and what Nehru said there on December 14, 1947 is a matter of public record despite whatever labels may say,” he added.

His observations were met with strong objections from Shah who called it a “shameful insult”.     

“Now, Congress has heaped another shameful insult. The Thiruvaduthurai Adheenam, a holy Saivite Mutt, itself spoke about the importance of the Sengol at the time of India’s freedom. Congress is calling the Adheenam’s history as BOGUS! Congress needs to reflect on their behaviour,” Shah said.

Singol and Tamil Nadu connection

Meanwhile, opposition leaders are linking the “overdrive” on Sengol to the elections in Tamil Nadu—the southern state that has been out of reach of the BJP so far.   

Ramesh claimed that PM Modi and his “drum-beaters” are using the sceptre for their political ends in Tamil Nadu in a way “typical of this brigade that embroiders facts to suit its twisted objectives”.

Leaders from the BJP say the Congress should listen to Thiruvavaduthurai Aadeenam and that religious heads from not just Tamil Nadu but many other parts of the country are also participating in the ceremony on Sunday.   

What is a ‘Sengol’

Basically, it is a sceptre/staff/wand with a royal or imperial insignia signifying sovereign authority, justice, power and good governance, etc. Sengol is the Tamil word for sceptre.

A king's dharma is to run the kingdom well and Sengol is the reminder of that dharma.

Incidentally, a sceptre has been a part of monarchy and ruling dynasties across the world including in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, Greco-Roman and post-Christianity. “With the advent of Christianity, the sceptre was often tipped with a cross instead of an eagle. However, during the Middle Ages, the finials on the top of the sceptre varied considerably,” according to reports.


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