The Significance of Sengol : Nothing portrays the essence of Sengol or sceptre more profoundly than the words spoken by Chera King Cheran Senguttuvan in Silapathikaram, the first Tamil epic that celebrates the heroism of common men and women.
The Significance of Sengol : Nothing portrays the essence of Sengol or sceptre more profoundly than the words spoken by Chera King Cheran Senguttuvan in Silapathikaram, the first Tamil epic that celebrates the heroism of common men and women. These words resonate with the profound impact and importance of Sengol in upholding justice and rectifying injustice. This article delves into the historical and cultural significance of Sengol, examining its role as a symbol of authority, the concept of fair governance it embodies, and its relevance in today’s democratic society.
The Majesty of Sengol: Symbolizing Authority
Sengol, often associated with sceptres in Western countries, holds a unique place in Tamil tradition. While sceptres are decorated rods of gold adorned with precious stones, in Tamil culture, Sengol represents more than just a physical object. It epitomizes the idea of righteousness and embodies the concept of fair governance. Unlike the Western understanding of sceptres, Sengol carries a deeper meaning and serves as a moral compass for the kings who wielded it.
Sengol in Tamil Tradition and Literature
The Kanal Vari songs in Silapathikaram shed light on the significance of Sengol. Kovalan, the protagonist, attributes the beauty and abundance of the Cauvery river to the uprightness of the Sengol wielded by the Chola king. This portrayal reflects the belief that Sengol symbolizes just and fair governance by a king. In Tholkappiyam, the earliest treatise on Tamil grammar, Sengol finds mention as one of the ten constituents of a kingdom. These constituents include white umbrellas (venkottra kudai), drums (murasu), flags (kodi), armies (thanai), rivers (aaru), mountains (malai), garlands (thar), elephants (yaanai), and horses (kuthirai).
The concept of Sengol is further elucidated in the chapter on Sengonmai, or the Right Sceptre, in Tirukkural. Missionary scholar G.U. Pope’s translation captures its essence: “All earth looks up to heav’n whence raindrops fall; All subjects look to king that ruleth all.” Another couplet emphasizes that kings attain victory not through the lance but through a sceptre wielded with equity. Thus, Sengol represents not only a physical object but also a virtue that ancient Tamil kings diligently adhered to in their pursuit of just and righteous governance.
Sengol: Concept or Physical Object?
While some argue that Sengol is merely a concept, others maintain that it cannot exist without a physical object. Tamil scholar D. Gnanasundaram suggests that, like the word “wheel” that refers to a tangible object, the term Sengol should also be associated with a physical representation. Mr. Kalaikovan, however, points out that despite references to Sengol in inscriptions, there is no concrete evidence that kings always carried the sceptre. Historical accounts mention kings returning with various spoils of war, such as wealth and women, but not specifically with Sengol from conquered lands. The imagery of kings with sceptres seems to have emerged at a later stage. Presently, in Tamil Nadu, politicians follow the tradition of presenting sceptres to their leaders as a gesture of respect and authority.
To substantiate the claims surrounding the Sengol, supporters often circulate a sculpture depicting Lord Siva holding a rod with a Nandi atop, resembling the one presented to Jawaharlal Nehru. However, Mr Kalaikovan clarifies that the sculpture in question actually represents a Kodithandu (flagstaff) and not a Sengol. He emphasizes that Sengol was a concept prevalent during the era of kings and may not hold relevance in a democratic government elected by the people.
The Role of Sengol in Contemporary Society
Considering the transition from monarchies to democratic systems, it is essential to reflect on the role of Sengol in modern times. While the physical object itself may not have a place in democratic governance, the underlying principles it represents are timeless. The ideals of righteousness, fairness, and just governance embodied by Sengol can serve as guiding principles for leaders in democratic societies. Upholding these principles fosters trust, accountability, and integrity, which are crucial in ensuring a well-functioning democratic system.
Sengol, although historically associated with the sceptre, transcends its physical representation and embodies the concept of righteousness and fair governance. Its significance in Tamil tradition, literature, and historical accounts highlights the ideals that kings strived to uphold. While the physical presence of Sengol may have diminished over time, its underlying principles continue to hold relevance. Today, in democratic societies, the essence of Sengol can inspire leaders to govern with justice, integrity, and the welfare of their people at heart. By embracing these principles, we can build societies that prioritize fairness, accountability, and the common good, ensuring a brighter and more just future for all.