The central government has announced that the scepter given to Nehru by the Thiruvavadudurai Math at the time of India’s independence will be housed in the newly constructed Parliament building.
However, is it true that Nehru received this scepter as a sign of transfer of power from the British rulers?
“Lord Mountbatten received Sengol in 1947 and gave it to Nehru,” said Ambalavana Desiga Paramacharya Swamigal of Thiruvavadudurai Math in a media conference today.
Regarding the background of this sceptre, an incident was explained by the government in a media conference.
“As the day of India’s independence approached, the then General Lord Mountbatten asked Nehru whether he was undertaking any program to mark the transfer of power. Nehru sought the advice of Governor General of India C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) in this regard.
Rajaji immediately had an idea. It is remembered that the Cholas used to exchange a scepter during the transfer of power from one king to another. A similar scepter was made and thought to be used as a symbol of the transfer of power from the British. Rajaji asked the abbot of Thiruvavadudurai in Thanjavur for a five feet long scepter.
The scepter was designed by Ummidi Bangaru Jewellers, a Chennai-based company. On August 14, three men arrived in a special flight carrying a baton. Among the three persons, one is Kumaraswamy Thambiran, the sub-head priest of the Adhinam Math, the second is Nadaswara Vidwan Rajaratnam Pillai, and the third is Manikkam, the Math’s singer.
These three put the scepter in Lord Mountbatten’s hand and took it back. Then it was anointed with holy water. Then they took it to Nehru’s residence to give it to him. Nehru received it while the chief priests were chanting Devara kirtans,” the video said.
Home Minister Amit Shah also revealed in a press conference held on May 24 that he asked Lord Mountbatten Nehru what programs are going to be undertaken to mark the transfer of power.
Post of Twitter ended, 1
There are press reports and photographic evidence that this staff was given to Nehru by the people of Thiruvavadudurai Math. In one photograph, Nehru is seen standing with a scepter on his forehead.
But there is no clear evidence that Rajaji ever gave such advice. But, Amit Shah revealed that Rajaji was sought by Nehru for advice.
Time Magazine of August 25, 1947 has an account of how the scepter came to Nehru.
Jawaharlal Nehru, who did not believe in God, went into a spiritual state the evening before he became the Prime Minister of India. Nehru was approached by followers of Ambalavan Desikar, head of a monastery in Thanjavur, South India.
Thanjavur Abbot Ambalavan Desikar thought at that time that it would be better for Nehru to receive the scepter from Hindu saints like the ancient kings. Along with Desikar’s two followers Nadaswara Vidwan Rajaratna Pillai also came with them. On August 14, they came in procession to Nehru’s house in an old Ford car.
On reaching Nehru’s house, Rajaratnam Pillai started playing Nadaswaram. The other two were waiting for Nehru’s call. After a while they entered Nehru’s room.
They have a scepter five feet long and 2 inches thick. Someone sprinkled holy water brought from Thanjavur on Nehru’s head. Nehru applied Vibhuti on his forehead. Nehru was wrapped in a peetambaram and the baton was presented to him by Sengol. They also offered Nehru the prasad prepared for Nataraja Swami that morning,” explains Time magazine.
According to a Time magazine article, the abbots wanted Nehru to receive the scepter from the monks as a symbol of the transfer of power. As part of that, the scepter passed from Ambalwana Desikar to Nehru.
The book ‘The Freedom at Midnight’ by Dominique Lapierre, Larry Collins is a comprehensive book about the time of India’s independence.
This book also contains information about Nehru receiving the scepter. The incident was covered in an episode titled “14 August 1947” in Time magazine. But there is no information about Rajaji’s advice to give the scepter to Mountbatten and return it to Nehru.
What happened on 14th August was published by ‘The Hindu’ magazine on 15th August. Accordingly, at midnight on Thursday, August 14, a historic meeting of the Constituent Assembly of India was held.
Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Chairman of the Constituent Assembly, spoke. Later, the members of the assembly passed a resolution dedicating their service to the country and made a speech. The resolution was passed unanimously.
After that Mrs. Hamsa Mehta presented the national flag on behalf of Indian women. The meeting was then adjourned to Friday morning.
It is not written anywhere that Nehru received the scepter from Mountbatten or anyone else at this time.
Post of Twitter ended, 2
Even in the book “The Transfer of Power in India” written by VP Menon, there is no mention of handing over the scepter.
It is understood that it was the monks of Adhinam Math who presented the wreath to Nehru. They also handed over temple offerings to Nehru. It means that they will have reached Delhi by flight on 14th August itself. Viceroy of India was in Karachi on that day. He went there to participate in Pakistan’s independence celebrations on the same day.
It was decided on July 10 where the Viceroy will be on August 14 and 15. In these two days, India and Pakistan will become independent countries.
According to Lord Mountbatten’s papers at Southampton University, on 14 August the Viceroy left at 8 am and reached Karachi at 11.30 am. Returned from Karachi at 3:30 PM and reached Delhi at 7:00 PM.
Apart from the lowering of the Union Jack and the hoisting of the Indian national flag during the transfer of power, no mention of the scepter appears anywhere in his papers.
Looking at the photographic evidence, it is seen in the photographs that the staff of the Aadhinam Math was handed over to Nehru. There is no photographic evidence anywhere as given by Mountbatten.
What happened to this scepter after that?
What happened to this scepter remained unknown for a long time. In 2018, some noticed that the photo of Nehru being handed over the scepter was in Thiruvavadudurai’s Math. Later this matter came to the outside world and an article was also published in a weekly newspaper. The article mentions that the scepter was made at Ummidi Bangaru Jewellers’ shop in Chennai.
Observing this, members of Ummidi gold jewelers tried to locate this rod. For this they also sent letters to many museums in the country. Several months later, the museum in Allahabad sent a reply that they had a similar scepter. Three months later, a photo was also sent.
Seeing this, members of Ummidi Bangaru Jewelers visited the museum. There this scepter is displayed as Nehru’s scepter. After explaining the scepter’s origins to the museum, the jewelers returned to Chennai and shared the relevant video on WhatsApp.
“The video went viral. Some dignitaries saw it. They brought it to the notice of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister’s Office has now decided to table it in Parliament after examining it,” said Amarendran, Managing Partner, Ummidi Bangaru Jewellers.
Ummidi Bangaru Jewelers currently has no information about how much it cost to make this garland and how much gold was required.
In 2019 Amarendran, Managing Partner of Ummidi Bangaru Jewellers, wrote an article for an online magazine. In it, “We are giving freedom to India. What are you going to do in recognition of this? Lord Mountbatten asked Nehru, and then Nehru asked Rajaji for advice, and he advised that the scepter can be exchanged here too, similar to the scepter that happens during the transfer of power in the Tamil tradition.
Ambalavana Desikar (1937 – 1951) was the 20th Guru of the Thiruvavadudurai Adheenam Math, one of the Saiva Maths in India. Rajaji approached him and asked him to undertake any process for transfer of power.
In the same article some comments made by Masilamani Pillai and Ambalavana Desikar are also quoted. “The head of the possession was suffering from fever at that time. At the same time he asked Ummidi Bangaru Chettiar, a prominent jeweler in Chennai, to make a golden rod with the symbol of Shaiva. I don’t remember its weight and price now. In a private plane arranged by Rajaji, Kumaraswamy Thambiran, the priest of Thiruvavadudurai Adheenam Math, and two others were sent to Delhi.
“Due to the partition of the country and the violence that followed, Independence Day was organized in a hurry. It is not a legal event so it is not registered anywhere. Because of this, this scepter and this event have disappeared from the memory of the Government of India,” Satchidanand Joshi, member secretary of the Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts, said in an article in ‘The Hindu’.