Gurū Gaurav — A Concept Note

How does one celebrate a phenomenon as extraordinaire as the Dasam Pātshāh, Sahib Siri Guru Gobind Singh, without using a portrait? This was the first question that I was confronted with when I began to imagine an event, simply because no actual portrait or painting of his is known to exist. You may ask why isn’t there a painting of someone who was born not too long ago? Simply because Guru Sahib never commissioned anyone to make an image of his. He was a Realist, musician, calligrapher, master swordsman, strategist, dhurpadiyā, rabābiya, poet, writer, multi-linguist, composer, scholar and orator. He was the son of Sahib Sri Guru Teg Bahadur —Hind Ki Chādar, who was beheaded for historic stance to protect the rights of people to choose and practice any religion or faith. All of his four sons were martyred by rogue Mughal chieftains. Yet, he is the one who sang the heartrending song, “Mitr pyāre nu hāl muridāñ da keheṇāñ” and wrote the epic Zafarnamā to the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb. How do we mark the birth anniversary of someone who did not want to be frozen in an image, imprisoned in a sculpture, or enslaved in an individual’s imagination? He echoed Sahib Siri Guru Nanak Dev’s sentiment that Guru’s Murti is Guru’s Shabd —that one has to dig and dive deep into the verse, and only then converse with the intent of the author. I simply decided to let the Guru be—the way he liked to be.

The Nānaki realisation is the Parmpurkha Parmesarā is creator of even Time, that is, even Time, or Kāl, seeks time from the Kartār, the Doer. Simply, that the Parampurkh has all the Time; that is, will never ever run out of time so therefore, Akāl does not need to look for time. Nānaki realisation is that Kartā has no form, no gender, and beyond the four khāni-s – andaj, jeraj, setaj and utbhuj, and four bāni-s – parā, pashyanti madhymā and baikhari. These Nānaki theorem by my side, I ventured out to celebrate the 350th birth anniversary of the 10th Nānak, Sahib Siri Guru Gobind Singh, the Nānaki way —not do that which Nānak forbids, and do what he himself did: sing all day, sing all night, and dance along, dance along! Guru Nānak sang in Rāga Asā:  

“(Satgurū’s) wisdom has become my (musical) instrument,
love has become my pakhāwaj,   
(now) bliss is, and mind, filled with (infinite) enthusiasm,
this is my bhakti, my tapa,
thus imbued, dances I, step after step…”. 

The two threads I began my weave, were to imagine whom to invite, and why, and the ambiance within which the presentations were to be made. The Bihar Administration had made the largest auditorium in Patna, the SKM auditorium, situated very close to the Gandhi Maidan where the pilgrims from the world over were hosted. As per the Nānaki tradition, I decided not to use any (imaginary) pictorial depiction of the Dasam Pita. For we were celebrating the 350th birth anniversary, for the fact that three hundred and fifty years had just gone by, I chose to include the Baramahā (twelve-month cycle) paintings by artist Sidharth. His paintings not only celebrate Mother Nature but also raise concern for environment protection and endangered species. Sidharth also story tells through his paintings. Italian conservation architect and designer, Micaela Petricca (see photo), and I chose twelve paintings from the high resolution digital images of his entire Baramahā series that Sidharth had donated to the Anad Foundation.

Bihar and Punjab are two ancient civilisations which have been in a fascinating conversation across millennia. If Vedas and other major scriptures including Sahib Siri Guru Granth Sahib were written in Punjab, the best exegetical attendence they received was arguably extended to them all in Bihar region. If ancient Punjab is the vādi swara of our civilisation, Bihar is indeed the samvādi svar. Bihar region has been one of the world’s most musically-gifted regions. It has been a host to some of the most extraordinary legends and music traditions including Dumraon, Darbhanga, Bettiah, and Gaya. The fact that Patna is the birth place of the Dasam Pātshāh, Sahib Siri Guru Gobind Singh, and the citizens of India’s historic state of Bihar its custodians, I decided to invite exponents of all of Bihar’s major music traditions.

I think no one has celebrated humanity, its potential and its harvest of excellence, and at the same time sacrificed everthing that he had, all that he loved and cherished, like the Dasam Pātshāh, Sahib Siri Guru Gobind Singh. The idea therefore was to ask for all humanity to rise together to celebrate the birth of someone so beautiful, generous and so full of love. I am glad that, courtesy the Government of Bihar, especially, the Honourable Chief Minister, Sri Nitish Kumar, and Sri Anjani Kumar Singh IAS, Chief Secretary, Bihar Administration, and Board of Trustees and Advisors of the Anad Foundation, I was able to curate a dignified event to mark the birth centenary of the Dasam Pātshāh. Courtesy all photographers — Harnavbir Singh, Manpreet Singh Khalsa, Gagan Kaur, Sardar Singh Virk and Luigi Hari Tehel Singh; graphics designer Kamleshwar Singh Batra; my editorial team members — Gunika Rishi, Sachin Gopal, Nirvair Kaur Khalsa, Dr. Nirinjan Kaur Khalsa, Jatinder Pal Singh, Nihal Singh, Keerat Kaur, it is my honour to present to you all, a photo-map of Gurū Gaurav.

Bhai Baldeep Singh
January 5, 2017
On the auspicious occasion of the 350th birth anniversary of the Dasam Pātshāh, Sahib Siri Guru Gobind Singh Mahāraj.


Bhai Baldeep Singh and Architect Micaela Petricca