LIFE SKETCH THROUGH SIKH ART
Takhat Sri Harmandir Sahib Patna Sahib, marks the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh. Artist BS Malhan created this pen and ink drawing while travelling extensively all over India, to create a series of drawings of gurudwaras which mark the places associated with the Guru.
This early 20th century poster of the Guru shows him casually leaning against the ramparts of a fort, with a partially visible cannon. Dressed as a royal prince of the times wearing a turban adorned with a white plume, endearing him to his people as “Kalgidhar Paatshah”. The Guru has a measured look on his delicately drawn face but sports a sword on his hip and a bow and arrows on his back.
In 1685, the young Guru and his family were moved further into the Himalayas. This drawing vividly captures the serene beauty of the location. The Gurudwara marking the Gurus residence is on the banks of the quietly flowing river Jumna. The township came to be known as Paonta Sahib. Here the Guru spent his time advancing his classical education and nurturing his poetic genius. At the same time he honed his military and administrative skills, preparing himself well for his role as the spiritual and martial leader of the Sikhs
After proving his prowess in battle, as a brilliant military strategist, the Guru moved back to Nanaki Chak. This early 19th century masterpiece is in the popular artistic style associated with Guru Gobind Singh . The Guru is astride his horse flanked by 3 attendants and set amidst a verdant green landscape of rolling hills. Dressed in fine clothes, adorned with jewelry, sporting a kalgi (turban ornament) on his turban he holds the reins of his horse on which is perched his white hawk – conforming to his title of “Lord of the white hawks” “Chitian Bajan Valla”. The artist has drawn a halo around his head signifying his high spiritual position. The Gurus horse , richly embellished with accessories, is rather interesting for being shown in both blue and red color.
This time at Anandpur was a momentous phase for Sikhs. Five forts were built here, including Qila Anandgarh , shown in this drawing.It was at Anandpur that the Guru accomplished the feat of reviving a pacifist faith into a transformed martial Khalsa.
Guru Gobind Singh was also known by the epithet “rider of the blue steed” or “Nele Ghore da asvar” as in this early 19th century watercolor showing the Guru in a stylized composition rendered with delicacy and elegance. By now the Guru was clear about his mission in life and describes his mission in his composition“Chandi Charitra”.
This contemporary painting imagines the scene set for the Baisakhi celebration of 1699 at Anandpur Sahib. The Guru is baptizing the Five Beloved or “Panj Piyare” who become the nucleus of the Khalsa- the order of the Pure. They hailed from regions from all over India in the modern states of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Orissa and Karnataka. This is indicative of the Gurus inclusive thought.
The call to battle came soon. The Gurus 2 elder sons- Sahibzadas Ajit Singh and Jujhar Singh were martyred in a battle with the Mughals at Chamkaur. The artist imagines the scene before battle. The Guru is presenting his older son with a sword while the entourage around them looks anxious even though the brave young Sahibzade is smiling in the face of certain death.
Artist Arpana Caur, has painted this delicate watercolor of the Guru with a pen in his hand sitting stoically composed with a faraway look in his eyes. All seems lost at this time, after the death of his sons and separation from his wives. He is still known to be full of faith and courage when he pens his famous poem in punjabi, “Mittar payare nu, haal muridya da kehna”
The people of Punjab were appalled to hear the news of the dastardly murders of the Sahibzadas (princes) and flocked to the Gurus camp. The famous battle with the Mughals was fought in 1705 at Muktsar in Punjab. Shown here in the painting is , Mata Bhag Kaur a devoted follower of the Guru, holding center stage fighting along side the forty Sikhs who had deserted the Guru earlier and redeemed themselves in this battle as the “Chali Mukhtae”.
Thereafter the Guru retired to the village of Talwandi Sabo in Punjab and prepared the definitive edition of the Granth Sahib (holy book ) to be passed on as the Guru for all Sikhs. It was here where he finished the letter titled “Zafarnama” (epistle of victory) and sent it to the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. His own writings were collected by Bhai Mani Singh and compiled as the Dasam Granth.
The Guru then proceeded to the Deccan to personally meet Emperor Aurangzeb. This fine miniature of the Guru astride a pinto horse, fully armed with swords, bow and arrows and dressed in Mughal fashion is a copy from a set of 10 miniatures of the Sikh Gurus attributed to the workshop of Nainsukh of Guler in early 19th century . While some of the paintings in this set are in the Government Museum and Art Gallery in Chandigarh, the rest of the set is in the Lahore museum. A legacy of the partition of India in 1947 when art collections too were divided between the two nations, making this complete set in the Kapany Collection even more significant.
On 7 Oct. 1708, Guru Gobind Singh’s life journey ended in Nanded, Maharashtra-India. This drawing of the gurudwara Takhat Sach Khand, Sri Hazur Sahib Abichalnagar, commemorates the place where the Guru breathed his last.
The Guru’s last directive to his Sikhs was to bestow the Guruship of the panth (Sikh community) on the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (holy scripture), to be forever revered as the living embodiment of all the 10 Gurus.
Guru Gobind Singh lit a flame in the hearts of his people that continues to inspire Sikhs all over the world to fight against injustice and aspire to excellence in their chosen fields. Within 100 years of the Gurus death, the Sikhs had an independent Empire, which effectively stopped all foreign invasions from the west, which had plagued the Indian heartland for centuries, ensuring peace and prosperity for all.