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Obviously, it was with the ascendance of Bhai Lahina as the Guru of the Pantha that the Guru Nanak’s Sikhs were institutionalized into a body and the Sikh-Pantha was born. Thus, it appears that Guru Nanak was the founder of the Sikh Pantha but was not its First Guru. Its First Guru appears to be Guru Angad. However, the Sikh tradition dismisses such notions and hails universally and unanimously Guru Nanak as the Pantha’s First Guru, perhaps because the Pantha’s basic doctrine and the mode of practising it was what Guru Nanak gave to Sikhs and led it to its apex long before it was formalized on the 7th September, 1539. Hence, whatever the formal shape of the things, Guru Nanak was the Pantha’s Law-giver, Guide, Guru, First Ancestor, and the Fountain-head of its thought and tradition.
Guru Nanak was a prophet of life and faith. For him equality and fraternity were the highest principles of living and the keys of many adversities in life. He believed that fraternity inspired love, and equality vanquished exploitation and developed the feeling of oneness with all, and thus, a better community life, better cooperation and more helping hands. He hence professed harmony on every level in sectarian or religious matter in especial. He chanted ‘Na koi Hindu, na koi Musalman’ : there neither is the Hindu nor the Muslim, all are one. He believed that there was One All-doing – just One, Who was beyond time, beyond decay and beyond death. He called this Supreme Entity as Akal Karta Purakh – the All-doing Timeless One, and He alone is ‘Sat’ – Truth. Akal – timeless, as He is, He is ‘Saibhanga’ – beyond birth, even beyond a divine one – an incarnation, and beyond form, which decayed and perished. Hence, His ‘Nam’ – name, alone is true, and its commemoration is the best and the only means of spiritual elevation and of the self’s communication with the Supreme Self.
The painting, rendered following the iconographic vision of Guru Nanak as it evolved around the middle of the twentieth century, mainly in the paintings of artists like Sobha Singh, who almost completely revolutionized Guru Nanak’s appearance introducing turban and a long gown in his ensemble, halo and divine aura on and around his face, and other elements of majesty in his overall iconography. This portrait is quite close to the style of Sobha Singh, the most respected and popular painter of Sikh themes, especially the portraits of Guru Nanak. As a matter of fact, people now see Guru Nanak’s likeness from Sobha Singh’s eyes. The artist of this masterpiece has wondrously followed each stroke of Sobha Singh’s brush in its exactness.
Guru Nanak has been painted as meditating while seated on a carpet and against a huge bolster under a tree in an uninhabited land but he does not hold his usual rosary, perhaps because having completely merged into the Supreme Self formal commemoration of His Nam does not have any meaning for him. He has instead a rose with a small twig in his hand suggesting perhaps that after the communion of the self with the Supreme Self is absolute, the ugly vanishes and what remains is only beauty and good. The painting is outstanding in discovering the perspective of depth.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.