Meet the Vummidi Bangaru family, which crafted the ‘sengol’
The historic inauguration of new Parliament building was marked with the installation of the ‘sengol’. The gold-plated ceremonial sceptre was made by the well-known Vummidi Bangaru Chetty family of jewellers in 1947 to symbolise the ‘transfer of power from the British’ to India
It is a historic day for India as Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurates the new Parliament building. The occasion was marked as he installed the historic ‘sengol’ next to the Lok Sabha Speaker’s seat. The ceremonial sceptre has led to a political slugfest between the government and the Opposition, but it day of immense pride for the Vummidi Bangaru family from Chennai.
The well-known jewellers, are the makers of the ‘sengol’ – meaning “full of wealth” – that was handed to the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on the eve of Independence. Now decades later, they will be felicitated at the inauguration ceremony of the new building.
Ironically, the new generation of jewellers didn’t know about the family’s connection to the ‘sengol’ until 2018 when a magazine article mentioned it. Vummidi Balaji, the great-grandson of jeweller Vummidi Bangaru Chetty said: “It is a beautiful feeling for us that our forefathers were part of history and now we are also going to witness the recreation of that event.”
We take a closer look at who exactly is the Vummidi Bangaru family and its rich connect with the ‘sengol’.
Who are the Vummidi Bangaru family?
Today, the Vummidi Bangaru family is one of the most well-known jewellers in Chennai. However, their beginnings are humble, to say the least. The business was started in 1900 by Vummidi Bangaru Chetty in erstwhile Madras. He hailed from Gudiyatham in the Vellore district and started making jewellery in his hometown — Pallikonda. Reports say that Vummidi would make the jewellery himself and carry it around in a box to sell them.
According to a report in The Hindu, the family established their first jewellery store at Govindappa Naicken Street, situated in George Town, Chennai. It was from there that Vummidi using his business acumen spread the brand across the city and today, the family has operations all across Chennai as well as Bengaluru.
A moment that will make every Indian proud of our culture, heritage and vibrant democracy!#MyParliamentMyPride pic.twitter.com/rt9I6uN94g
— BJP (@BJP4India) May 28, 2023
How did they come about making the sengol?
The connection between the Vummidi Bangaru Chetty family and the ‘sengol’ is an interesting one. When Lord Mountbatten asked Jawaharlal Nehru about the ceremony to symbolise the transfer of power from the British to India, the latter reached out to politician and freedom fighter C Rajagopalachari (Rajaji).
According to Rajaji’s great-grandson, CR Kesavan, it was the freedom fighter’s idea to have the sceptre as they did in the times of the Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas. CR Kesavan was quoted as telling The Print, “When Rajaji was asked, the first thing that came to his mind was how the transfer of power happened centuries ago in southern India, like in the dynasties of the Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas – with the ritual of the sceptre.”
After the idea was accepted, Rajaji reached out to Thiruvavaduthurai Adheenam, a Shaivite mutt in present-day Tamil Nadu. It was the seer who commissioned the Vummidi Bangaru Jewellers with the task of making the sceptre.
According to information provided by the government, Vummidi Ethirajulu and his brother Vummidi Sudhakar made the ‘sengol’ in 1947. Ethirajulu, according to a video made, said that the ‘sengol’ is made of silver and plated with gold. The embossing on the sceptre was done by a different set of goldsmiths and it took 10-15 days just for that to be completed.
Amarendran Vummidi, a fourth-generation member of the family, and who runs the operations with his brother Jithendra, says that the ‘sengol’ in today’s age would have cost around Rs 70-75 lakh. “The sceptre would have then taken at least 30 days and about five to eight people to work on it. There are several fine details like a Nandi (divine bull) at the top of the sceptre and several lines written in Tamil on the sceptre,” he told The Print.
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Interestingly, the younger generation of the family didn’t know that it was they who had made this historic sceptre owing to the loss of records. But they learnt about it in 2018 through a magazine article. In 2019, the jeweller’s marketing head, Arun Kumar, made the discovery of the ‘sengol’ at the Allahabad Museum. According to an Economic Times report, Arun Kumar immediately recognised the features of the sceptre, such as the presence of Goddess Lakshmi encircled by flowers on the orb and a sacred bull, known as a rishabha, positioned atop it, and informed the family of it.
#WATCH | …"Today after 75 years, ‘Sengol’ is being remembered. Govt is recreating the entire event that happened in 1947. Very nostalgic and a beautiful feeling for us that our forefathers were part of history and now we’re also going to witness the recreation of that event":… pic.twitter.com/5uzNFYn1s2
— ANI (@ANI) May 25, 2023
The family then decided to organise a press conference with museum officials to share the finding. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the press conference could not take place as planned. So they decided to create a video, which eventually caught the attention of Prime Minister Modi and as they say, the rest is history.
What role did the ‘sengol’ play in the inauguration?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi installed the golden sceptre near the Speaker’s seat. A puja and a multi-faith prayer were held on the occasion.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Adheenam seers were present at the event. The seers handed over the the sceptre to PM Modi who walked into the new Parliament building and installed it.
Speaking about it earlier, Home Minister Amit Shah had said that the sceptre is a “significant historical” symbol of Independence; it was handed over to Nehru to mark the transfer of power from the British to India. However, Congress has contested this and has a different story to tell.
“This ‘sengol’ has huge significance. When PM Modi got to know about this, he asked to get more info on this… On 14 August 1945, around 10:45 pm, Nehru accepted this ‘sengol’ from the people of Tamil Nadu. It is a sign of a shift of power from Britishers to the people of this country.”
The ‘sengol’ has since assumed importance as the sceptre of righteousness. It is a reminder of India’s diversity and the birth of a great nation. And with its installation in the new Parliament building, another chapter has been added to its rich history.
With inputs from agencies
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