The Sengol Saga: Rediscovering historic sceptre, symbol of India’s transfer of power

The journey of the Sengol, a symbol of India’s transfer of power in 1947, from its origin in the Chola empire to its recent revival and installation in the new Parliament building.

The remarkable story of the Sengol, which represented the transfer of power to Indians during the country’s independence in 1947, has come full circle. From being presented to Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of Independent India, to its temporary obscurity as Nehru’s “golden walking stick,” the historic sceptre has now regained prominence after 75 years.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is preparing to install the Sengol, a powerful symbol of the transfer of power, in the new Parliament building during an event scheduled for May 28. The sceptre’s journey is captivating, tracing its origins back to the Chola empire and enduring a mislabeling incident in a museum before finally being recognized once again.

Advertisement

The Sengol, a 5-foot-long golden staff, was handed over to Jawaharlal Nehru on August 14, 1947, symbolizing the transfer of power from the British to the Indian people. This exquisite sceptre exemplifies rich craftsmanship, featuring a carved orb representing the world and surmounted by Nandi, Lord Shiva’s sacred bull. Its roots can be traced back to the Chola empire, where a Sengol was traditionally used to symbolize the transition of power from one king to another, representing justice.


During the deliberations on the transfer of power, Jawaharlal Nehru sought the assistance of C. Rajagopalachari, a veteran freedom fighter from Tamil Nadu. Rajaji looked to India’s past and the traditions of the Chola kingdom to find a suitable symbolism for the transfer of power. Thus, the concept of using the Sengol to represent this significant transition was born.

In 1947, Rajaji approached the Thiruvavaduthurai Adheenam, a prominent Dharmic Math, to help find a symbol to mark the transfer of power. The Adheenam commissioned the renowned jewellers Vummidi Bangaru in Madras to craft the Sengol. A team of 10 skilled gold craftsmen meticulously worked for 10-15 days to complete the sceptre.

The responsibility of presenting the Sengol to Nehru fell upon Sri La Sri Kumaraswamy Thambiran, the deputy of the Adheenam’s seer. Thambiran handed over the Sengol to Lord Mountbatten, who returned it after performing rituals and sprinkling holy water on it. Finally, the Sengol was taken to Nehru’s residence for the official ceremony, marking a momentous occasion in India’s history.

Unfortunately, the historic significance of the Sengol was temporarily forgotten when it was stored in the Allahabad Museum, mislabeled as “the golden walking stick gifted to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.” It was not until 1978 when the Maha Periava of the Kanchi Math narrated the story of Nehru and the Sengol to a disciple, who subsequently published it, that its true importance resurfaced.

Last year, during the celebration of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav (India@75), media reports revived the significance of the sceptre. An article on the Sengol was translated from Tamil to English by renowned dancer Padma Subrahmanyam and sent to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), catching the attention of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. As a result, Prime Minister Modi decided to honor the historic Sengol by installing it within a glass case next to the Speaker’s seat in the new Parliament building.

In recognition of their contributions, the priests from Shaivite mutts in Tamil Nadu known as “Adheenams,” Vummidi Bangaru Jewellers, and those involved in the construction of the new Parliament building will be honored during the installation ceremony on May 28. Additionally, twenty Adheenam pontiffs from Tamil Nadu have been invited, and devotional hymns known as Thevaram will be recited during the event.

The Sengol saga embodies the resilience and significance of historical artifacts in preserving and recounting a nation’s heritage. As the Sengol takes its rightful place of prominence, it serves as a powerful reminder of the pivotal moment when India gained its independence and the subsequent journey towards progress and democracy.