Monday, June 5, 2023


Ah! No, no, no! If you walked in here expecting me to either talk of the importance of the Sengol or to lament the iniquity of its treatment in the past OR to rant about how it was never an important symbol of the transfer of power and how it represents the hunger to become a dictator instead of a democrat...where was I? Ah! IF you were expecting anything of that sort, please walk right out again. People who regularly come here know that I am this wishy-washy chap who prefers not to talk about things on which the populace is already polarised and refuse to be convinced otherwise even if their own deity comes to do the convincing. (The if-he-tries-to-convince-me-otherwise-he-is-Satan-disguised-as-my-deity school of thought, you know?)

Kodaiyali Sengol kudiyombal naangum udaiyanaam vendarkoli - Tirukkural

He who gives what's needed to the deserving, who speaks softly even with his enemies, who is unwaveringly just, and who protects and cares for the weakest sections of his people is the doyen among kings - Loose translation.

Let's have one thing clear first. Sengol IS the sceptre but, more to the point, it is almost always understood as the RIGHTEOUS sceptre. (The opposite, in case you are interested, is Kodun-gol and it is I who hyphenated it for clarity's sake. And, NO, I will NOT take responsibility if people start using THAT term to vilify their political opponents!) In fact, in THIS kural, Sengol is used in the metaphorical sense of being am impartial judge (though, yes, you can understand it more as righteousness in thought and action rather than merely justice as handed down in a court of law. Thus, a righteous judge of ALL issues, not just legal disputes).

This being soft-spoken to even your enemies is probably dated advice these days when being polite even to your well-wishers is considered a sign of weakness if they happen to oppose any of your whims. And you do not even need to be a 'ruler' for you to spew venom. (Oh, yes, the idea is that you are more powerful when you are a ruler which means you can actually spew MORE venom - in words or in action.)

But it does appear like Tiru gave timeless advice; advice that in Tamil Nadu at least, political parties can quote to justify what they are anyway doing. 'Give what's needed to the deserving'. Now THAT automatically means, in today's politics, giving biryani and liquor and cash to people, which is what they need, so that they vote for you. AND who, indeed, is more deserving than someone who votes for you, pray? AND, by giving all that, you PROVE that you are a worthy ruler, so what more can you ask for?

THAT last thing from this Kural was an eye-opener. The King is supposed to care for the weakest sections of his Society? Now if THAT is not a socialistic idea, what is? Welfare state, anyone? But, then, it is not surprising since the kings of yore used to open their granaries in times of drought, they were responsible for hunting predators if they affected the flocks of their populace and so on. So, now, we have THIS as well to add to the list of things that we have always had in this country long before the West even thought of it. (Ah! No! I am NOT making fun of advanced thought in ancient or medieval India. Thought has ALWAYS been advanced here. You have even had democracy in Licchavi, Atheism as a school of philosophy, yada yada. What I doubt is in actually creating flying machines and nukes and whatnot. Maybe true, may not be true, but, hey, to doubt is free as much as to believe is free. AND the surprising thing is we tout that which can be disputed but do not even KNOW of the ideas that we have birthed. Shows how little we value ideas as opposed to material things.)

Tiru ALWAYS stays relevant, somehow. The surprising thing this time is that he came to the fore in a political debate of the day. THAT much relevance even he may not have expected or wanted. But, then, WHO can claim to be safe from the polarising of today. I will not be surprised if there is a #CancelTiru hashtag on the Net soon!


  1. Suresh

    Being soft spoken is OK. But, even to the enemies does not come straight in the Kural, unless you assume it's implied.

    1. I assume nothing myself. Kural urai ezhuthiyavargalil silarin urai adhu.