In true Nehruvian spirit, Congress has tried to sap Sengol’s significance, but Jairam Ramesh will have to eat his words

Congress’ Jairam Ramesh, as always, has shot his mouth without much thought. And, again, he has gone way too wrong.
He has tried to undercut the history of the scared Sengol as “BOGUS”. Well, he is a true blue Nehruvian, after all. When Nehru cast Sengol to obscurity, despite having received it as a symbol of India’s power, in a museum glass box as a “walking stick”, no more could be expected of his die-hard acolytes.
But shooting from the hip, Ramesh will find himself exposed when faced with facts.
Let’s see who all and what facts Ramesh is stacked against.
TIME Magazine
The Time Magazine noted the role of the Sengol back then. On August 25, 1947, Time reported this in an article under Foreign News section:
“Even such an agnostic as Jawaharlal Nehru, in the eve of becoming India’s first Prime Minister fell into the religious spirit. From Tanjore in South India came two emissaries of Sri Amblavana Desigar, head of a sannyasi order of Hindu ascetics. Sri Amblavana thought that Nehru, as first Indian head of a really Indian Government ought, like ancient Hindu kings, to receive the symbol of power and authority from Hindu holy men.
With the emissaries came south India’s most famous player of the nagasaram, a special kind of Indian flute. Like other sannyasis, who abstain from hair-cutting and hair-combing, the two emissaries wore their long hair properly matted and wound round their heads. Their naked chests and foreheads were streaked with sacred ash, blessed by Sri Amblavana.
They entered the house (Nehru’s) in dignity, fanned by two boys with special fans of deer hair. One sannyasi carried a scepter of gold, five feet long, two inches thick. He sprinkled Nehru with holy water from Tanjore and drew a streak in sacred ash across Nehru’s forehead. Then he wrapped Nehru in the pithambaram and handed him the golden scepter.”
Babasaheb Ambedkar
In a book published by the Maharashtra Education Department in 1979 about the writings and speeches of BR Ambedkar, the stalwart noted thus: “Did not Prime Minister Nehru on the 15th of August, 1947, sit at the Yajna performed by the Brahmins of Benaras to celebrate the event of a Brahmin becoming the first Prime Minister of free and independent India and wear the Raja Danda given to him by these Brahmins and drink the water of the Ganges brought by them?”
Babasaheb said this in the context of the linguistic reorganisation of the Indian states. The abovementioned reference to the Sengo has been noted on page 149 of Chapter 5 of this book.
First Reference
DF Karaka, a well-known journalist in his book that was published in 1950 was the first to describe the Sengol ceremony.
On pages 38-39, Karaka describes the Sengol Ceremony thus:
“Even Pandit Nehru, who had never been known to frequent the temples or to indulge in much religious ceremony, consented to have the blessings of the religious pandits. From Tanjore there came emissaries of the head priest of the Sanyasis, an order of Hindu ascetics. It was traditional in ancient India to derive power and authority from the holy men. Pandit Nehru yielded to all this religious ceremony because it was said of old of the kings of India that this was the traditional way of assuming power. The mood of New Delhi had become almost superstitious.
In the evening the priests walked ahead of these religious processions. They carried the sceptre, the holy water which they had brought with them from Tanjore, and rice. They laid their gifts at the feet of the Prime Minister. Holy ash was marked on the Pandit’s forehead and the priests gave him their blessings.”
Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins in Freedom at Midnight
This highly-acclaimed book by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins, first published in 1975 under the chapter titled, ‘While the World Slept’ mentions the Sengol Ceremony in great detail.
“They set out at sundown. Like an ungainly crane, a player of the nagaswaram, a kind of Indian flute, walked alone before their car, guiding it down New Delhi’s crowded streets. Every hundred yards the flautist stopped, squatted on the asphalt, and sent an eerie shaft of sound shivering through the dusk.
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’d reached it more spiritual blessings in one lifetime than an ordinary man might hope to attain in ten million reincarnations.
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.
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 Sengol on his arms and draped him in the Cloth of God. To the man who had never ceased to proclaim the horror the word ‘religion’ inspired in him, their rite was a tiresome manifestation of all he deplored in his nation. Yet he submitted to it with almost cheerful humility. It was as if that proud rationalist had instinctively understood that in the awesome tasks awaiting him no possible source of aid, not even the occult he so scornfully dismissed, was to be totally ignored.”
Perry Anderson in After Nehru
In Perry Anderson’s work published in the London Review of Books, we find yet another reference to the Sengol ceremony.
“To hallow the solemn occasion, Nehru and his colleagues sat cross-legged around a sacred fire in Delhi while Hindu priests – arrived posthaste from Tanjore for the ritual – chanted hymns and sprinkled holy water over them, and women imprinted their foreheads with vermilion. Three hours later, on the stroke of midnight, 14 August 1947, a date and time stipulated by Hindu astrologers, Nehru – in defiance of any earthly notion of time, announcing that the rest of the world was asleep: London and New York were wide awake – assured his broadcast listeners that their ‘tryst with destiny’ was consummated, and had given birth to the Indian Republic.”
The Hindu, Madras, 11 August, 1947
An article in the Madras edition of The Hindu noted this:
“In connection with the Independence Day celebration, His Holiness Sri-la-Sri Ambalavana Pandarasannadhi of Tiruvaduthurai has arranged to perform special puja to Shiva and to confer the lord’s blessings on Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The puja prasadams and a Sengolmade of gold will be presented to Pandit Nehru at his residence in New Delhi at 11 p.m. on August 14. The gold Sengolwas made by Vummidi Bangaru Chetti and Sons, Jewellers and Diamond merchants of the City.
Indian Express, Madras, 13 August 1947
An article titled, Golden Sengolfor Pandit Nehru: Presentation by Head of Thiruvaduthurai Mutt, noted
“It is officially announced that His Holiness Sri La Sri Ambalavana Desika Swamigal, the Mahasannidanam of the Thiruvaduthurai Adheenam, Tanjore District has decided to present Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister to the Indian Dominion with a Golden Sengol studded with jewels and worth Rs. 15,000 and that Pandit Nehru has accepted to receive the present of His Holiness at exactly 11.5 p.m. on Aug. 14.
To represent His Holiness at the function Sri-La-Sri Kumaraswami Thambiran of Thiruvathigal and Mr. R. Ramalingam Pillai, Dakshinam Superintendent left for New Delhi yesterday.
The Golden Sengolwill be taken to the Constituent Assembly Hall in procession to the accompaniment of the Nathaswaram of Mr. T.N. Rajaratnam Pillai the Adinam Vidwan.”
Hindustan Times, 13 August 1947
A news report said: “A gold Sengol made of sixty sovereigns, it is learnt, will be presented to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru at his residence by representatives of Sri Pandarasannadhi of Thiruvaduthurai Adhinam (Tanjore, Madras Presidency) on the morning of August 15.
The ceremony will be preceded by a procession from the South India Boarding House, Cannaught Circus with nadaswaram (pipe music) by T.N. Rajarathnam Pillai, the renowned nadaswaram vidwan.”
Statesman, 15 August 1947
Independence Eve in Delhi: Special Offerings at Temples. This news report noted:
“Representatives of the Pandarasannadhi of Thiruvaduthurai Adhinam (Tanjore) presented Pandit Nehru with a golden Sengol at his residence on Thursday night. A large number of South Indians watched the ceremony.”
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