India’s Naya Sansad

By Nita Chicooree-Mercier

On May 28, 2023, the Indian Prime Minister inaugurated the Naya Sansad, the new Parliament, a sprawling four-storey building designed by Indian architects, built by Indians and dedicated to the Indian population. It was high time India replaced the old parliament building built by British colonial authorities. The new Parliament’s architecture showcases the symbols of Indian culture in the elaborate sculptures and colourful designs of the ceilings, pillars and shape of the different Houses. The Lok Sabha House, comprising 888 seats with several colours, is based on the theme of the peacock, the national bird of India. The national flower, the lotus, adorns the Upper House, the Rajya Sabha which has 384 seats. The Dharma Chakra of Emperor Ashoka reigns majestically over the Speaker’s seat.

The inauguration was steeped in Hindu civilizational ethos and cultural values. Inspired by the country’s rich history, 21 adheenams, respected swamis from Tamil Naidu, started off the inauguration with Vedic chants, in the spirit of the ancient Tamil civilization and the three kingdoms that shared power in Tamil Nadu – the Pallavas, Cholas and Pandyas. The adheenams handed the sacred sceptre ‘Sengol’, which is the symbol of the transfer of power from the British to India, to the Indian PM. The very idea of bringing up a tradition dating back to the ancient Tamil kingdoms and a map of the neighbouring countries that were under the influence of Indian culture has especially well inspired as it pays due homage to ancient history, it strengthens a sense of continuity between the past and the present, and paves the way for the solid future of a country deeply rooted in its millennial symbols and values.

The Prime Minister prostrated in front of the Sengol, Senmai in Tamil, signifying Righteousness, a symbol of spiritual authority over political authority represented by Parliament. It embodies the Dharmic concept of responsibility and duty of rulers to govern in accordance with specific ethos and values. Viceroy Lord Mountbatten was the last ruler to have handed over the Sengol to the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1947. Ever since, it was kept in Ananda Bhawan, PM Nehru’s residence. Under the leadership of the current Prime Minister, the government made it a point to save the Sengol from oblivion. Multi-faith prayers followed the Vedic chants in chronological order of indigenous faiths first, Buddhism including Tibetan Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

Twenty Opposition parties boycotted the inauguration, and their Chief Ministers refused to show up to for a parliamentary session presided by the Prime Minister. The financial costs of the construction of such a building in a period of economic turmoil was the first reason put forward. The works kicked off during the Covid pandemic in 2020 and lasted nearly two and a half years. However, history is replete with great works undertaken despite widespread economic slowdown.

This recalls how, in the late 1920s and early 1930s, US President Roosevelt gave the green light for the New Deal, which was essentially a series of programmes and projects implemented during the Great Depression and that aimed to restore prosperity to Americans. Further back, the construction of the Louvre in Paris started in the XIIth century during the reign of Charles V and was carried on under François I to serve as a fortress against military assaults by the enemies of France. The sprawling building became the royal residence of the kings right down to Louis XIV and was transformed into a public museum in 1792 after the fall of the monarchy and the reign of terror that ensued. The Louvre has stood out as a piece of great art notwithstanding the poor living conditions of the people even by the economic standards of those days.

Unsurprisingly, secularism was the other excuse for non-attendance of Opposition MPs. Deep inside, they are well aware that the religious tradition of Bharat is inherently secular in character and cannot be compared to the tyrannical grip of established churches over European rulers and on society in general, which led to the separation of religion and state in early 20th century Europe. Communist and leftist ideological inclination to undermine and erase past native history and well-entrenched traditions needs no introduction. Ironically, Tamil Naidu’s Chief Minister Stalin gave a cold shoulder to the inauguration of the majestic parliament that highlights Tamilian heritage. How sad that conversion imposes subservience to external authorities in Europe. It illustrates one of the key challenges the nationalist government has to face in its unwavering commitment to nation-building and unity.

There is no doubt that at this point of its economic development and rising stature on the global stage India should get rid of the iconic circular parliament built during British colonisation with the money collected from the labour and sweat of millions of Indians and dedicate a Made in India parliament to the nation, constructed by local designers, architects, engineers, technicians, artisans and craftsmen from different states. If anything, the cacophony drummed up by opponents reflects the usual bickering, shouting, diatribes and rabble-rousing that characterizes Indian politics within the precincts of the august Parliament and in the media.

The stunningly beautiful building is a crucial achievement in the process of decolonisation. As a matter of fact, it is of utmost importance that leaders of former colonies tossed off the legacy of the colonial past and built a new parliament to reflect the development and aspiration of their young nations. India’s magnificent Naya Sansad epitomizes the dignity and pride of the nation and stands out majestically as a symbol for the Global South in the world.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 2 June 2023

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