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Meet the Vummidi Bangaru family, which crafted the ‘sengol'

5 days ago 35

The inauguration of the new Parliament building on 28 May has become a political slugfest with several opposition parties refusing to attend the event. However, for the Vummidi Bangaru family an invite to the event is a moment they won’t forget.

That’s because the Bangaru family from Chennai, who have acquired a name for being well-known jewellers, are the makers of the ‘sengol’ – meaning “full of wealth” – the historic sceptre that was handed to the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru by British Governor Mountbatten in 1947 and will now be placed in the new Parliament building by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Ironically, the Chennai-based jewellers didn’t know about their connect to the ‘sengol’ until 2018 when a magazine article mentioned it. But today they are honoured and can’t help feeling proud. Vummidi Balaji, the great-grandson of jeweler 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 are the Vummidi Bangaru family and their 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 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.

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 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 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 the Vummidi Bangaru Chetty family, the price of the ‘sengol’ in today’s age would be Rs 70-75 lakh. ANI

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 sengol was done by a different set of goldsmiths and that 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 family didn’t know that it was them who had made this historic sceptre owing to the loss of records. But they came to know 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 will the ‘sengol’ play in the inauguration?

On 28 May, the day of the inauguration of the new Parliament building, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will install the golden sceptre near the Speaker’s seat.

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.

“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. It has been preserved in a museum in Allahabad since 1947.

Now the ‘sengol’ will be part of the rituals as India gets a new Parliament building. PM Modi will receive the sengol from Tamil Nadu before the inauguration on Sunday and he will place it inside the new Parliament Bhavan. “This will be part of the foundational event and will mark the Amrit Kaal,” Shah said.

With inputs from agencies

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