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In a momentous and historic event, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated India's new Parliament building, dedicating it to the nation's whopping 144 crore citizens. The inauguration marked a new chapter in the country's democratic journey, reasserting India's strong belief in its rich democratic traditions.
Sengol: Unveiling the Emblem of Virtue and Justice
Embodied within the grand narratives of Tamil epics and traditions, the Sengol or sceptre serves not just as a symbol of authority but as a beacon of virtue and justice. This article dives deep into its rich history, its symbolism, and its modern-day implications.
The Eloquent Legacy of Sengol in Tamil Epics
In the eloquent lines of Silapathikaram, the oldest Tamil epic, the significance of the Sengol comes alive. Cheran Senguttuvan, the Chera King, famously exclaimed about the restoration of Sengol’s uprightness through the sacrifice of Pandiyan Nedunchezhian, the King of Madurai. Haunted by his unjust decree of capital punishment to Kovalan, Pandiyan’s fall from his throne was a poignant reminder of justice’s cost. His last words, “Am I a king? I am a thief,” encapsulate the heartrending impact of justice gone awry.
Sengol: A Symbol of Power and the Essence of Righteousness
Historically, sceptres, ornately crafted from gold and adorned with precious gems, have been wielded by monarchs as an emblem of power. Recently, King Charles III of the U.K. was presented with a golden sceptre during his coronation, underscoring this tradition. However, the Sengol in Tamil tradition transcends material representations. It resonates as a philosophy of righteousness and fairness, underpinning the basis of governance. The ebb and flow of the Cauvery river was attributed to the Sengol of the Chola king in the Kanal Vari songs of Silapathikaram, signifying the profound connection between nature and righteous rule. In Tamil, the dichotomy of a just rule (Sengol) and authoritarianism (Kodungol) is clearly portrayed. As explained by R. Kalaikovan, founder of the Rajamanickanar Institute of Historical Research, Sengol finds its roots in the earliest treatise on Tamil grammar, Tholkappiyam.
Sengol: One of the Tenets of a Kingdom
In the Tamil tradition, a kingdom comprises ten essential constituents, with Sengol being one of them. The other elements include the white umbrella (venkottra kudai), drum (murasu), flag (kodi), army (thanai), river (aaru), mountain (malai), garland (thar), elephant (yaanai), and horse (kuthirai). These represent the diverse facets of power and authority within the kingdom. The Tirukkural, an ancient Tamil text, delves into the essence of Sengol or the Right Sceptre. A noteworthy couplet translates as: “All earth looks up to heav’n whence raindrops fall; All subjects look to king that ruleth all.” This embodies the fundamental principle of Sengol – the virtue of a just and fair rule.
Sengol: From Symbol to Concept
According to Tamil scholar D. Gnanasundaram, while Sengol is conceptual, it would not exist without a physical representation. He asserts that Sengol should emerge from an upright object and should remain unbent, reflecting the unyielding spirit of justice. However, historical references of kings bearing the Sengol are sparse. Notably, it is absent from accounts of kings bringing back spoils of war. Instead, there are instances of kings returning with wealth, breaking the venkottra kudai, murasu, and more.
In contemporary Tamil Nadu, the tradition of presenting a sceptre to leaders as a token of respect persists. Yet, it has been argued that Sengol, steeped in the period of kings, may not have a significant role in a democratic government.
Sengol – An Enduring Beacon of Justice and Virtue
Sengol, deeply entrenched in Tamil history and tradition, continues to resonate as an enduring symbol of justice and virtue. Its journey from the ancient Tamil epics to the corridors of modern governance underscores the timeless nature of its core principles. Even as the world evolves, the essence of Sengol – a fair and just rule – remains a guiding light in our pursuit of a better tomorrow.