Annadurai Cautioned the 1947 Govt and Nehru About the Motives Behind the ‘Gift’ of the Sengol

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?

This article was published in the August 24, 1947 issue of Dravida Nadu, the Tamil weekly founded and edited by the future chief minister of Tamil Nadu. It was 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 C.N. Annadurai, founder-editor of the weekly and the future chief minister of Tamil Nadu – who would, along with his supporters, leave the Dravida Kazhagam, launch a new political party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, in September 1949, and usher in a long-lasting and profound change in Tamil Nadu politics.

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. He even seems to have anticipated what was to come when he makes a sycophantic devotee exult before the head of the mutt: “Who else could think like this? The King holds the Sengol. Who gave the Sengol to the first government? The Adheenam! Everyone will talk about the Adheenam who blessed, sanctioned, and handed over the Sengol as a seal of authority – and only then the new government started functioning! This will be the common talk not just now, but in the days to come as well.”

Translating Annadurai’s literary essay was a challenge and the English text has been carefully checked and cross-checked against the original by the translator, in consultation with scholars who have specialised in the study of the Dravidian Movement and the literature it has produced.


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?

That Sengol is five feet high.

Beautifully crafted.

And is made of pure gold.

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!

Also read: The Sengol Is a Symbol of ‘Divine Right’ to Power. It Does Not Belong in Parliament.


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!

No annan, brimming and overflowing is an old story! I asked what was the reason behind the Adheenam’s divine turn towards politics.

Never mind the reason, thambi! I am not even keen on discovering the reason. But when I think of the consequences…

Why? What about the consequences?

We shall make the Sengol from pure gold. The workmanship going into it will be first class. We shall toil night and day on this!

Ah yes! This will bestow beauty and dignity on the Sengol. But isn’t it also clear that by sending it, the Adheenam is turning its gaze to that side? When I think of the various consequences of the Adheenam looking that way…

Oh, no! Do you think about all these things and worry over them? Isn’t it that this is one kind of outlook and that is a different one?

Maybe, thambi, maybe. But the only reason behind both outlooks is desire.


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.


Iyer (Brahmin): Aha! For the common good! It’s excellent work. Praiseworthy!

Head of mutt: What’s the height of the Sengol?

Iyer: Five feet, apparently! And it’s pure gold! They said so! Your fame will soar to five yosanais! [A yosanai is an ancient measure ranging from four to nine miles.]

Head of mutt: The journalists too…

Iyer: Brush them aside. They will publish photographs and write in praise. But big shots would have come from foreign lands – America, Europe, and more! Looking at this Sengol, they would be stunned!

Head of mutt: The devotees have crafted this exquisitely.

Iyer: The workmanship will be exquisite, of course. But that won’t be noticed. The idea of presenting such an exemplary Sengol on this auspicious occasion did not dawn even on the big kings of Baroda, Jaipur, Udaipur, Mysore or any other kingdom. Won’t they be all praise for the Adheenam for his love, concern, and respect for this occasion? They will talk about the Sengol for a minute or two. But won’t they be praising  you all day long?

Head of mutt: Yes, how is our idea?

Iyer: Who else could think like this? The King holds the Sengol. Who gave the Sengol to the first government? The Adheenam! Everyone will talk about the Adheenam who blessed, sanctioned, and handed over the Sengol as a seal of authority – and only then the new government started functioning! This will be the common talk not just now, but in days to come as well.

A conversation like this might have taken place.

Also read: Parliament Is Not a Temple Where We Worship Gods and Men


May the government live long,

Without any trouble!

So prayed our blessed Adheenathaar

To our Lord,

To the infinitely graceful Siva,

Collected all his blessings,

And made this Sengol,

of pure gold

Etching it with the grace of God.

The poets would have sung this. The Saivite devotees would not have been satisfied with a song to honour this event. There would have been anger and with good reason.

Saivite:  What kind of pasuram (song in praise of a deity) have you composed? Pasuram! You have been around, manuscript in hand, not for a year or two but for a decade now. Your stomach is fat like a ripe pumpkin, but there is no sign of any poetic dexterity!

Poet: Is there anything wrong with the poem?

Saivite: If there is something wrong, that can pass! There is no innovation in it! What is the purpose of this poem?  

Poet: To highlight the glories of the Adheenam.

Saivite: The glories of the Adheenam? What is important is the event of bestowing the Sengol which adds new lustre to the Adheenam – isn’t that so? Wasn’t the poem for that?

Poet: Yes!

Saivite: If that is the case, how have you expounded it in your song? Where are the references to the thickness, length, weight, and beauty of the Sengol? Isn’t that what is important? Only then will the exemplariness of the event become clear. Set the song right first. And then your brain!

The height is five feet!

And made of beautiful, pure gold.

The workmanship is exquisite!

The world will always praise this day!

Never mind! You may go!

Saying this, the monastic head might have sent away the poet and presented the song to the devotees. It was a way of recording the praise.

Also read: Union Government Contradicts Own Narrative on ‘Sengol’ Sceptre


Amidst the group that went to present the Sengol, you would have noticed a person of fair complexion, with artistic eyes ­– the one who played the nadaswaram that mesmerized even a snake. The many who saw him, what would they have spoken about him?

Who is he?

A nadaswaram maestro!

Oho! Why is he here?

The Adheenam has sent him to hand over the Sengol.

What would the Adheenam presenting the Sengol look like?

Like a ripe Siva devotee!

What does he do?

He runs the Adheenam!


Should I respond in a loud voice or in a low voice?


Because there are two kinds of responses, to be given in two different voices!

Thus, they would have spoken and laughed among themselves.

When you look, it seems beautiful.

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 end. 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, reproduced in Viduthalai daily, dated May 26, 2023.