Envisioning the Divine – With the Help of the Experts

imageDr Nadhra Khan

A review by Kanwal Madra

I went to today’s symposium event, called Envisioning the Divine: a whirl wind tour of the art, architecture and conservation of Amritsar. The day was hosted by Sue Stronge from the V&A, who showed why television new anchors get paid a lot of money; they provide continuity without being the centre of attention – perhaps only possible for a non-Punjabi!

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Guru Nanak’s Fundamental Creed

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The exhibition begins with Guru Nanak’s mool mantar, ensuring that visitors to the exhibition get a spiritual as well as an aesthetic and informative experience.

The Brunei Gallery is part of the Museum Mile, which means it is on the official ‘tourist map’. A steady flow of cultured people visiting London from all over the world have been coming to the exhibition and learning about the Golden Temple, Sikh history and Punjabi culture. For many of them, this is their first major experience of Sikhs, so the exhibition is succeeding in highlighting our heritage on the world’s stage.


The Exhibition Seen Through an Optician’s Eyes

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A review by Jagjit Klar

It was in 1999, my first year at university, that I first became interested in Sikh history. Until then I had known very little about it and had met no one that was able to impart to me the religion, culture and traditions of my forefathers. This interest was sparked by a friend who recommended I read a new book entitled ‘Warrior Saints: Three Centuries of the Sikh Military Tradition’, written by two young new authors, Parmjit Singh and Amandeep Singh Madra.

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The Curators of the GT1588 Exhibition

imageThe Curators of the GT1588 Exhibition

On discovering the treasures left to me
by my father and grandfather,
my mind became immensely pleased.

This store, inexhaustible and immeasurable,
is full with priceless emeralds and jewels.

O companions, this store never diminishes,
though we may expend as much as we can;
it is ever on the increase.

Says Nanak: whoever has the writ
of good fortune on his brow,
becomes a partner in these treasures.

Guru Arjan, Guru Granth Sahib, p. 186


Humbled and Overjoyed

imageSukhshinder Shinda & Jazzy B with curator, Amandeep Madra at the GT exhibition

Transcript of Sukhshinder Shinda’s interview at the launch event:

“I feel blessed to have been given the chance to do what I do as a singer, but this exhibition is something else. I am humbled and overjoyed to be here at the launch. Darbar Sahib is open to all and likewise I hope everyone will come to the exhibition and enjoy it”.

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Launch party fascinates all

The launch party for the Golden Temple Exhibition was a fantastic success, attracting high profile names from the Sikh community and the national press.

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Preparing for Launch

Busy preparation for the 14th July exhibition launch at the Brunei Gallery.

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Origins of the Exalted Shrine

A view across the tank. Watercolour by Kharka
A view across the tank. Watercolour by Kharka

The Golden Temple is the popular name for the Sikhs’ most sacred shrine, the Harimandir Sahib, which translates to The Exalted Temple of Hari, the All-Pervasive One.

It is located in Punjab in the city of Amritsar, once a cosmopolitan centre of commerce on the old Silk Route, at the site of a remote spring. Its story is steeped in mysticism. Legends connect it with the epics Mahabharat and Ramayan; the Buddha is said to have meditated here, as did Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the first Sikh Guru, two millennia later.

Aware of its reputed healing properties, Guru Ram Das (1534-1581), the fourth Sikh Guru, excavated the spring from 1573-77 to create a large tank named Amritsar, or the Pool of the Nectar of Immortality. A town soon developed around the site, which became the epicentre of the nascent Sikh community.

In 1588, Guru Arjan (1563-1606), the fifth Guru, began the construction of the Harimandir Sahib in the centre of this tank. The foundation stone was laid by Mian Mir, a Sufi saint from Lahore. The temple was completed in 1601 during the reign of the Mughal emperor, Akbar the Great

The Harimandir Sahib’s status as the Sikhs’ premier shrine was confirmed when Guru Arjan installed the newly completed Adi Granth (foremost sacred scripture) within its sanctum sanctorum in 1604 (the same year that work began on the King James’ Version of the Bible). This volume brought together five centuries of divinely inspired poetry penned by the Sikh Gurus and a range of Hindu and Muslim mystics from across India.

During the next two centuries, the Sikhs faced persecution for their beliefs under successive Mughal emperors, forcing them to militarise as a community. The temple served as a beacon of hope and resistance during their trials and tribulations throughout the eighteenth century.

After coming close to extinction on several occasions, and having witnessed the destruction of the Harimandir Sahib twice in 1762 and 1764 by the Afghan monarch, Ahmad Shah Abdali (c. 1722-1773), the Sikhs eventually overwhelmed the invaders to gain control of Punjab.

Through the patronage of the great Sikh king, Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), in the early nineteenth century, the Harimandir Sahib was covered with copper-gilt panels, which gave rise to its popular name.


Major New Exhibition

Don’t miss the stunning new Sikh exhibition taking place in central London at the Brunei Gallery and launching on the 14th July.

‘The Golden Temple of Amritsar: Reflections of the Past’ will showcase the very best of Sikh heritage and culture on the world’s stage.

Exhibition Highlights

  • priceless Sikh artefacts on display for the first time
  • rare paintings, photographs and archive film footage
  • fascinating eyewitness accounts
  • a lavishly illustrated exhibition publication
  • kids’ corner – competitions plus special demonstration of 100-year-old 3D technology!

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