This painting of Guru Nanak at Kartarpur is an artistic attempt to express the divine light manifested by Guru ji in his old age when he attracted many followers to sit alongside him in the wheat fields of Kartarpur. Looking at this art piece, we dwell upon the last days of Guru ji on this earth as he planted the core tenants of Sikhism in the hearts of a community of the faithful who gathered about him. He casts a royal blue shadow, which takes the shape of a warrior wearing a Dastaar and Kalgi. This foreshadows the transformation of their jyot into Guru Gobind Singh ji who would create the Khalsa panth, born out of the soil of Punjab from the seeds Guru Nanak planted generations before.
To the left of Guru Nanak, we see the field of golden wheat but to the right it subtly transforms into a landscape of arrows and fire. This is an analogy for the turbulent and transformative times ahead for the land of Punjab, hardships which would engender the spiritual and bodily transformation of the Sikh community into the Khalsa panth. The tree is a metaphor for this community; it grew from the body of the Gurus into five powerful trunks (the panj pyare) and then beyond into countless more spirit born souls, stretching into the eternity of boundless time and the infinite cosmos.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the fifth in the line of Guru Nanak, began the compilation of the Guru Granth Sahib, which he called the Adi Granth – the “primal knot” which would forever secure the sanctity of the Sikh faith. The Guru sent out a call to all Sikhs far and wide to bring forth the poetry composed by the four Gurus. When all the volumes had been collected, he sat down with his scribe Bhai Gurdas and carefully selected the genuine works into the Holy Granth. With the completion of this momentous work, the Guru gave the world a gift so pure and essential, that it could transcend the boundaries of time and religion and exist beyond personality and human form.
Bhai Daya Ram of Lahore, Punjab, is the first to raise his hand when Guru Gobind Rai asks for a volunteer willing to give his life in service of humanity. Mata Sahib Kaur looks on at the crowd of thousands that has gathered from across the land in response to the Gurus call. Transformed through Amrit into Daya Singh, he became one of the first 5 Khalsa…the Punj Pyaarey (the beloved five).
Just as Guru Gobind Singh Sahib is considered the father of the Sikh nation, Mata Sahib Devan Kaur is considered its mother. A remarkable young woman, Mata Sahib Kaur was a born leader who took her role as symbolic mother of the Sikhs very seriously. When a Sikh takes Amrit from the 5 Beloved, they are born into the royal house of Nanak. To create an egalitarian society, all Sikhs consider Anandpur Sahib their birthplace and Mata Sahib Kaur their mother.
The first Vaisakhi (April 13, 1699) saw the initiation of the first five Khalsa. Following their investiture, Guru Gobind Rai knelt before the Five Beloved Ones and asked to be initiated in turn as the sixth ‘saint-soldier’. The Amrit ceremony marked his transformation into Gobind Singh. Thenceforth, he was hailed: “Behold the Man non-pareil! Himself the Teacher, Himself the Disciple!”
In a brilliant move of strategy and leadership, Guru Gobind Singh initiated the ceremony of Amrit and transformed the Sikhs into the fearless and united body of the Khalsa. The Khalsa became a brave and moral fighting force against the tyrannical mughal ruler that occupied the Punjab. The Khalsa lives in the image and light of Guru Gobind Singh, dedicated to upholding righteousness, freedom, and the dignity of mankind. That is the Khalsa way.
Guru Tegh Bahadur laid down his life in order to protect religious freedom for all India which was under the oppressive rule of Mughal emperor Aurunzeb, who wished to convert the entire land to Islam. According to the Guru, living a truly spiritual life meant that one should neither oppress nor allow others to be oppressed. Sikh teachings have emphasized the basic human rights of equality, justice, freedom and the right to one's own religion. Under the inspiring guidance of Guru Tegh Bahadur, the Sikhs regained their confidence and continued to grow in numbers and resources.
In 1708, Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, having consciously witnessed the sacrifice of the lives of all his four sons, handed over the legacy of the Guruship to the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. He understood that the age of lineage was over, and so he consciously left no heirs. The unique beauty of this is that the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, our present Guru, can neither be altered nor changed in any way. It is a touchstone for all humanity that exists beyond the limitations of time and space, now and in the future.
Guru Gobind Singh ji passed the Guruship to the Guru Granth Sahib ji, our eternal Guru. The event was witnessed by a loyal retinue of Sikhs who had accompanied him south to Nanded. This closely knit sangat, said to be composed of roughly three hundred Khalsa soldiers including Mai Bhago, devout Sikhs and the few remaining members of the Guru’s own family, had endured much tragedy and hardship to remain by his side in those difficult times. In 1708, on the banks of the river Godavari, on a spot chosen by the Guru, they assembled and bore witness this sublime moment that defined Sikhism forever after. Guru Gobind Singh instructed them to follow the Guru Granth Sahib just as if it were a living, breathing Guru.
The Siri Guru Granth Sahib is the embodiment of the spiritual revolution which was first ignited by Guru Nanak dev ji and the life breath of eight more Nanaks nurtured and fed this flame. Then in 1699 Guru Gobind Singh ji, the tenth Sikh Guru, transformed that flame into a wildfire of spiritual liberation through the creation of the Khalsa panth.
We look to Siri Guru Granth Sahib as our guide to connect with the One internally, see the One in all and fight inequality and injustice in every sphere of our lives as the Gurus themselves did. The image of Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple) reflects the other half of the spiritual revolution because it represents the innumerable gurudwaras and abodes of Nanak which we create to enable the sadh sangat to come together, remember Guru Nanak’s message and carry on his revolution.
This painting shows the Sikhs of the tumultuous 18th century gathering at the Golden Temple during Vaisakhi. The Sikhs served as the leaders and protectors of the region and through their courage and consciousness were able to lead the people through the extreme challenges of that time.
To commemorate the 100th Anniversary of Sikhs contribution to World War One, this painting represents a foray into the contemporary period of Sikh Military history. It deals with the role of Sikh men and women of various nationalities who lived through this epic confrontation of Nations. The title of the painting, taken from the Canadian National Anthem, reflects upon the willingness of Sikhs to fight against oppression throughout history. It is a testament to the spirit of Guru Gobind Singh, which forever emboldens the Khalsa to strive towards a greatness that surpasses humble beginnings.