June 04, 2023

The Golden Sceptre: An Appeal

CN Annadurai (Translated into English by Kavitha Muralidharan)

(On May 26, 2023, Viduthalai, the Tamil daily edited by K Veeramani, president of the Dravida Kazhagam, reproduced an interesting and revealing essay in literary journalism published in the Tamil weekly, Dravida Nadu, on August 24, 1947. The subject was the significance of the presentation of the Sengol (‘Golden Sceptre’) by emissaries of the pontiff of the Thiruvaduthurai Adheenam, a Saivite mutt in Tamil Nadu, to the incoming prime minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, at his home on August 14, 1947. The author of the article was CN Annadurai, founder-editor of the weekly and the founder of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in September 1949 and future chief minister of Tamil Nadu.  Strongly anticlerical Annadurai detested religious mutts, especially the Saivite adheenams, considered them exploiters of the minds and lives of the people, and deeply distrusted the motives behind their actions – and this comes through in this essay in the author’s trademark style, infused with irony, satire, allusion, alliteration, and the use of archaic words for effect. Annadurai cautions the new government, and especially Nehru, about the motives behind, and the socio-political implications of, the ‘gift’ of the Sengol, which he characterises as a self-serving appeal for protection by the exploiters of the people. Here are excerpts from the essay)

THE Adheenakarthaar of Thiruvaduthurai Mutt has sent a Sengol (‘Golden Sceptre’) to Pandit Nehru, who has taken over as the prime minister of the new government.

It is said to be five feet high! And made of pure gold! It is also said to be exquisite! Why has the Sengol been given? Is it a gift? An offering? A share? Or a licence fee? Nothing is clear.

It is unexpected. But is that all? It is unnecessary! Never mind if it is only unnecessary! If you think of the deeper significance hidden within, the danger slowly becomes evident.

What would Pandit Nehru have thought when he saw the Sengol? We don’t know. Did the Adheenakarthaar send any message along with it? That too is not known.

But we do have a few words to say to Pandit Nehru who received that Sengol.

You are familiar with the history of countries across the world. The crowned king and the retinue of nobles who make the subjects around them toil, and fatten on the fruits of their labour. You very well know that they had religion, which was privileged to roam freely in their golden fortress, as their capital (invested wealth). You are also aware of the historical necessity that for democracy­– people’s rule– to flourish, these elements must be eliminated. Fearing that you would put this wisdom to work in governance, the Adheenakarthaar would come forward to offer not just a golden Sengol, but also one studded with navaratnas to safeguard their own interests! The Sengol has not been wrought miraculously by someone who sang a pathikam (a poem in praise of a deity) to seek the grace of God! Nor was the golden Sengol forged out of a piece of iron on which some sacred ash was sprinkled, as in the story of a Saivite devotee turning foxes into horses. The labour of others has been turned into his gift of the Sengol! Is that right?

It has been presented by no ordinary person. Does he belong to a royal family? No, he’s far superior. Does he belong to a hoary lineage? It is least important whether the lineage is ancient or it sprang up yesterday. The lineage is not that of earthly beings. It is the lineage of the great Kailasa!


Annan (elder brother): What is this suddenly with our Adheenam (Adheenam can denote either a mutt or its pontiff, who is also known as the Adheenakarthar)

Are you asking me, thambi (younger brother), about how our Adheenam is suddenly overflowing with patriotism!

For the gaze of the Adheenam to be directed towards the new government– is that for the good? That is my question. It is also my apprehension. It is a wondrous Sengol, crafted exquisitely. But to hold it and run the government…

Thambi! The gold in this – the one who doesn’t even care about his poverty, the one who starves day and night, the one who robs others, the one who works himself to the bone, the one who cuts wages, the one who oppresses the toiler in the field, the one who profiteers, the one who borrows and cheats the lender – these are the ones making offerings to cover up their deeds, to reduce their sins, to deceive God himself. Isn’t that the case here? And for a government that starts out on a new path, will its governance be good if it gets a Sengol from those who have made a business out of exploiting the mind and subsequently the lives of the people?

You are being funny, annan.

It’s not much fun, thambi. It’s more that I am deeply worried. The ones who made the Sengol may not have spoken like this. But surely, they could not have avoided entertaining such thoughts.


Look at that Sengol once again, this time with a sharper eye.

It is not just the bull that is evident– you can also see the poor people, toiling like cattle.

What you will see is not just the glossy craft, but also the sheen on the skin of those who exploit the labour of others.

You will see the thousand velis (an old Tamil measure) of land. You will see the image of the proletarian who ploughs and cultivates it, and continues to live in tears. You will see the hovel he struggles to live in. You will see the dire poverty imposed by the Sengol there. You will see the landlords and their mansions too. You will see the golden plate, also the white dust in it. You will see the rolling eyes and also the tired body. You will see the sweat and the blood flowing out. You will see the person whose mind is broken like churned curd!

You can see the monastery. The Saivite devotees roaming about. And the adornments on their bodies.And more importantly, the malaise inside!

You will see the garden, also the pond where they take the bath. If only the ponds could speak, we would learn many stories.

You will see Saivam, also the ‘way’ some of them were bestowed with its grace and rose in life.

You will see the shining ring, the ornaments dancing on the ears, the golden feet and the devotees that hold them, and many more such images will shine and make themselves seen – if only you look at the Sengol over and over again.

“Aha, amazing! However difficult it is, the Adheenam is happy and we are blessed!” Those who come to the Adheenam will say this. You can see the devotees whose minds are not happy even if their faces are! You can see a lot more!

But forget for a while that it is made of pure gold, and that it is five feet high and crafted elegantly. Forget these and look at the Sengol. It is only then that you will know how the lords and the wealthy gentry are afraid of facing the wrath of the people. But the Adheenams are seated firmly, without worry or fear – with the people in fear at their feet, with the government protecting them, and the rich sending them forces. Sengol is an appeal.It is not an offering, not a sign of love, not a symbol of patriotism! It is an appeal!

Rulers! This is a time when people claiming to have read many things are demanding that the Adheenams, which had made people fall at their feet and had earned unparalleled fame and money, be dismantled. They say it is the time for our rule to be ended. We are pure sadhus! We have a tremendous affection for you. If you have any doubts about it, look at this Sengol again – five feet high and exquisite craftsmanship. May you protect our Adheenam from the hurtful words of those demanding new systems. Grant us immortality! My lord, Nehru! Grant us life – grant us life for at least two more decades!

This is the prayer from the Adheenakarthar. By presenting this Sengol, by using it to flaunt their friendship with the government, they intend to deceive the common people evermore. The Adheenam, a favourite of Nehru’s government, is already bestowed with the grace of Lord Siva and hence its dominance will neither diminish nor fade – or so the common people will be led to think.

This is all gold! It’s a tiny part of the abundant wealth hoarded with the Adheenams who have come in the line of the ascetics who gave up everything!

In the Adheenams, there are chests full of navaratnas!

The Adheenams lord it over fertile lands where paddy, even more precious than the navaratnas, grows.

The proletariat – the most precious among humankind – are oppressed and tortured there. The tricksters call the Adheenams ‘Siddhars’. Of the huge money offered by those who are duped by this, a small part has gone into a Sengol and reached you.

Much more money has been collected (than what has been spent on the Sengol) and it has gone into making earrings, anklets, and other ornaments.

You can see the pure gold heaped like a mound there – the Sengol was made from this and presented for the purpose of seeking a longer lease of life for the Adheenams. If the possessions of the Adheenams and other religious centres are confiscated and used for making the lives of the country’s citizens prosperous, the Sengol presented by the Adheenam would not be merely an ornament, but will uplift the lives of the people and will thus be bestowed with dignity. We appeal to you to look at the Sengol often and pay close attention to the lessons it offers.

Dravida Nadu, August 24, 1947



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