Mata Gujri Ji and the Chote Sahibzade | New Sikh Art

Featured Post Prints of Mata Gujri ji, Chote Sahibzade, Zorawar Singh ji, Fateh Singh ji, Sikh Canvas Painting, Punjab Art, Bhagat Singh Bedi

“On whose head, He places His Hand [is liberated]. My Lord is the Lord of the helpless. He is the Saviour of the fallen and the Treasure of mercy. Forever and ever, I am a sacrifice to Him.”

– Guru Arjun Dev ji (Guru Granth Sahib, 900)

Mata Gujri, Chote Sahibzade, Zorawar Singh, Fateh Singh, Guru Gobind Singh, Sirhind, Thanda Burj, Painting by Artist Bhagat Singh Bedi
Mata Gujri Ji and the Chote Sahibzade

Guru Gobind Singh ji had challenged the Mughal government for the forceful conversions of Hindus and for the unjust killing of his father and Warrior Saint, Guru Tegh Bahadur ji, who had tried to peacefully persuade the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb to stop.

When Guru Gobind Singh ji arrived in the forest of Machhiwara from Chamkaur, he had lost his two older sons Baba Ajit Singh ji and Baba Jujhar Singh ji in the Battle of Chamkaur.

Before the Battle of Chamkaur, he had evacuated his mother, Mata Gujri Devi ji, his wives Mata Jito Devi ji, Mata Sundari Devi ji and Mata Sahib Devi ji and younger sons Baba Zorawar Singh ji and Baba Fateh Singh ji, out of harm’s way.

In the stormy night, the Sirsa river had flooded so crossing it became nearly impossible. Guru ji was separated from his wives, who were separated from his children and their grandmother.

Mata Gujri ji and the Chotte Sahibzade were looking for a sanctuary however they were tricked and captured by the Mughal police. They imprisoned Mata ji and the children of Guru ji in a cold tower (Thanda Burj).

Cold towers in Mughal architecture were built to be a cool place to relax in the summer. They were built as part of their palaces and buildings, and were of varying heights. Not always a tower as we imagine it today. Sometimes they were just raised off the ground by several feet.

But these were winter months so the cold tower was exposed fully to the onslaught of the winter chill.

Imprisoned here for a few days, the Chote Sahibzade were bricked alive, encased in a wall. When the wall wouldn’t hold up, the Mughal officials decapitated the children.

Mata Gujri ji passed away in the tower as this was going on.

In this painting, Mata Gujri ji and the Chote Sahibzade are saying their Antim Ardas, their final prayer, in the cold tower where they were imprisoned by the Mughal police, before execution.

Guru Arjun Dev ji ki bani –

ਜਾ ਕੈ ਮਸਤਕਿ ਰਾਖੈ ਹਾਥੁ ॥
On whose head, He places His Hand [is liberated].

ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਮੇਰੋ ਅਨਾਥ ਕੋ ਨਾਥੁ ॥
My Lord is the Lord of the helpless.

ਪਤਿਤ ਉਧਾਰਣੁ ਕ੍ਰਿਪਾ ਨਿਧਾਨੁ ॥
He is the Saviour of the fallen and the Treasure of mercy.

ਸਦਾ ਸਦਾ ਜਾਈਐ ਕੁਰਬਾਨੁ ॥੨॥
Forever and ever, I am a sacrifice to Him.

-Guru Granth Sahib, 900

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New Sikh Painting: Guru Nanak Dev ji – Supper at Bhai Lalo ji’s House

Featured Post Prints of Guru Nanak Dev ji, Bhai Lalo ji, Sikh Guru Canvas, Sikh Art Tradition of Punjab, Bhagat Singh Bedi

“If blood gets on one’s clothes, we say the garment has become polluted. Those who suck the blood of human beings, how can their consciousness be pure? Guru Nanak Dev ji says [perform Responsible Actions and] Meditate on the Name of the Supreme Consciousness, with a pure heart. Everything else is just a pretentious display, and the practice of irresponsible actions.”

– Guru Nanak Dev ji (Guru Granth Sahib, 140)

Guru Nanak Dev ji, Supper at Bhai Lalo Ji's House, Bhai Mardana ji, Sikh History, Malik Bhago, Sikh Art, Bhagat Singh Bedi
Guru Nanak Dev ji – Supper at Bhai Lalo ji’s House

In my latest Sikh Painting, Guru Nanak Dev ji demonstrates that Bhai Lalo ji’s bread, earned through Responsible Actions and Meditation, is dripping with Milk. It nourishes everyone around Bhai Sahib, who bows to the Guru. Whereas the bread of Malik Bhago, earned through irresponsible actions, is dripping with Blood. It sucks the blood of those around Malik Bhago, who is looking shocked by the revelation. Standing behind Guru ji, Bhai Mardana ji watches the miracle in awe.

Painting Guru ji’s Four Symbols
Ever since I learned that Guru nanak dev ji wore Four Symbols – Topi, Seli, Tilak and Mala I always wanted to paint Him with these symbols.

Guru Granth Sahib ji and our Puratan Itihaasic scriptures all talk about Guru ji’s 4 symbols. Bhai Kahn Singh ji’s Mahan Kosh also mentions them.

These were Symbols worn by Saints of Medieval India, those who taught Bhagti.

1. Topi is an Old Style of Cap. In puratan art, we see Guru Nanak Dev ji depicted with 3 styles of Caps, which people wear in Himachal Pradesh, Tibet and Afghanistan, in the modern day.

2. Seli is a Black String. Sometimes worn on the cap, sometimes around neck (like a necklace or like a gatra), sometimes both. No current practice of wearing such a string exists in modern day. But it is spoken of and depicted in ancient literature and art.

3. Tilak is a Forehead Mark. It can be seen amongst Sadhus in modern day.

4. Mala is a Rosary. It’s well known today as a Tool for practicing meditation.

Hidden Away in History
This knowledge is nowhere to be found within our community. No one knows about it or talks about it. Even I didn’t know and when I found out, I was taken aback and it caused me to reflect on our situation. I recognized the need within the community of more knowledge and more historically authentic paintings.

Seeing this need I thought I should do a painting where Guru ji is wearing His 4 symbols. However I thought people do not see Him as such and would not want to own such a painting.

To be honest, at that time I did not see Guru ji with His 4 symbols either however I knew that the current style of turban we see him in, is a modern invention.

Meditating on Guru ji
So I started drawing Guru Nanak Dev ji everyday with seli and topi (I would later add the tilak and mala as well). At first it seemed odd. The drawing looked like Guru Nanak Dev ji and looked familiar however it also looked strange at the same time.

Nonetheless I was fascinated by Guru ji’s appearance.

I drew him more and more. Many of these sketches I later shared on my social media.

As I drew Him my mind was absorbed in His feet. In moments of complete absorption, I knew what I was drawing was the Guru and that He was guiding me to draw Him. So despite having reluctance and reservations, I carried on doing this process.

Days and nights I meditated as I drew Guru Nanak Dev ji. If I went out, I would park my vehicle and draw him for 40-50 minutes or so.

In those moments I felt like –
ਜਿਥੈ ਜਾਇ ਬਹੈ ਮੇਰਾ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਸੋ ਥਾਨੁ ਸੁਹਾਵਾ ਰਾਮ ਰਾਜੇ ॥
Raja Ram ji, wherever my Guru goes, that place is the most beautiful to me. (Ang 450)

I was in bliss.

This went on for a year or more, I can’t remember. Every time I would go somewhere I would take my sketchbook and draw Guru Nanak Dev ji in seli, topi, tilak and mala, while meditating.

It got to the point where sometimes my eyes would tear up as I enjoyed the emotions of the meditation.

Sikh Art for Gurpurab 550 Years
A few months ago I heard the community was celebrating Guru Nanak Dev ji’s 550th Gurpurab and I thought what better way to showcase the 4 symbols of Guru Nanak than to paint something for the 550th Gurpurab.

Several years ago I had started a painting of Guru Nanak Dev ji with seli topi holding the roti of Bhai Lalo ji and the roti of Malik Bhago, and showing the difference between one who performs Responsible Actions and Meditation, which nourishes the calves around them, and one who performs irresponsible actions which sucks the blood of the beings around them.

Originally I had Guru ji wearing wearing seli topi however part way through the process I changed it into a turban. Although I made progress on it, I started to lose interest and I stopped working on the painting.

I had tampered with my original vision, which came from Guru sahib and changed it to a turban to appease the insecure part of myself. In hindsight, that was not a good idea. (This was many years ago.)

After the past few years, after my experiences of drawing Guru sahib, I went back and changed the painting back to seli topi and it rejuvenated the painting.

The inspiration that came from that allowed me to do significant amount of work on the painting in a short amount of time.

Lessons Learned
The lessons I learned, I still try to ingrain them deeper into my being because the mind wanders from Guru ji’s teaching.

Guru ji said to not worry about other people, to let go of insecurities and to simply focus on Him. I would lose sight of this and He would again come and tell me to focus on what He said.

During the month of October with Diwali coming up ahead, I started to translate Guru ji’s bani on a daily basis and each day I would contemplate His teachings and focus my mind on Ram naam.

Doubt and fear are activities of the mind. They are like waves in the ocean. They come and go. This was the insight that came. I felt it deeply within.

Over my journey as an artist, Guru ji has taught me to dive into the ocean and taught me to swim as a free spirit alongside His other fish.

Some people say to keep spiritual experiences private, hidden from the public. While I keep almost all of them to myself, sometimes it becomes necessary to share a few with you guys so that you can understand the evolution in my art, and where it is coming from.

Of course there are people who will never understand this state of being nor the evolution that follows it. But for most people, it may be necessary from time to time, to explain the art, to add context to the image, so that they can enjoy it better.

About the Painting
This is a Puratan Style painting of Guru Nanak Dev ji, where Guru ji is dressed as he is shown in Puratan Sikh Art.

The style of painting is Puratan as well, but from Italy. I am a big fan of the Master Artist, Caravaggio, a 16th century artist, from the renaissance period of Italy. I have learned many things from him, despite never meeting him.

You can see his direct influence on my painting of Guru Arjun Dev ji’s martyrdom.

There is a famous painting of Guru Nanak Dev ji by Ustaad Sobha Singh ji, where Guru ji is shown blessing the viewer. Whereas Sobha Singh ji set a modern look for Guru sahib. I wanted to take the viewer back to Guru ji’s Puratan look, perhaps His original historical look, and show that off to newer generations.

So I painted the puratan look of Guru Nanak Dev ji that we see in Janamsakhis of 1700s, but with the puratan style of Ustaad Caravaggio ji from 1500s.

With that I hope I have given you guys a glimpse into our history with this piece.

The intention is not to offend anyone’s faith or belief system but simply to express our Itihaasic relics and artifacts that show us our past, and move forward under the guidance of Guru ji.

Bhagat, do you think Sikhs should wear a Seli and Topi?
The tradition of Seli and Topi was changed by the sixth Guru to that of Gatra and Dumalla (see Gurbilas Patshahi 6).

My intention here is only to show Guru Nanak Dev ji’s historical form and appearance, not to suggest to anyone to wear it.

My message to the community is to follow Guru ji’s teachings to us, in His sixth form, and continue to wear a Turban and a Sword belt as per His instructions.

If you don’t wear a Turban, my message to you is – start to think about where you belong, and who you worship. If you worship the Gurus then understand the depth of their message and the importance of the traditions they started.

When we go to the Gurudwara and benefit from a free meal, we should first think – “Am I performing responsible actions and meditation?” and then think – “Am I giving back to the Guru’s tradition by wearing the physical appearance that He blessed me with?”

If we benefit from one sikh tradition, langar tradition, but do not give back into the community by following other sikh tradition of maintaining uncut hair and turban, then we must take a serious look at our life.

In my view we should all wear turbans over our long hair, as that is Guru ji’s order. But it is also important to share Guru Nanak Dev ji’s original appearance, as it revealed itself to me in puratan literature and puratan artwork, and then in my Being.

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New Painting – Bhai Taru Singh ji

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“I am blind, you are my walking stick, Hari; your name is Supporter of Saints. I am poor and meek, your name is my support.”

– Sant Nam Dev ji (Guru Granth Sahib, 727)

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Bhai Taru Singh ji

The traditional sikh art of Punjab, has always depicted Bhai Taru Singh ji having his scalp removed but it has always missed the key aspect of this story – Bhai Sahib’s internal state. Bhagat’s painting zooms in specifically on Bhai Sahib’s inner state to highlight the importance of meditation. Buy prints of Bhai Taru Singh ji if you are looking for daily inspiration to meditate.

Artist’s Notes

My painting of Bhai Taru Singh ji shows him meditating after his scalp was removed by the Mughal executioner. Admist the darkness, Bhai Sahib reclines back as a beacon of light and shows us that the path to enlightenment is to uphold Dharma.

Who was Bhai Taru Singh ji?

In his early 20s, Bhai Taru Singh ji chose to have his scalp removed rather than give up his religious traditions. He was born 12 years after the passing of Guru Gobind Singh ji and was initiated in to the tradition of the Ten Gurus, through Bhai Mani Singh ji.

In 1700s, Sikhs were being persecuted by Zakariya Khan, who ruled Punjab under the Mughal Empire. Bhai Taru Singh ji and his family would support and provide food for Sikh rebels who wished to take him down.

During this rebellion, Bhai Taru Singh ji was arrested by Zakriya Khan’s police and was tortured. The executioner used a chisel to remove his scalp, however Bhai Taru Singh ji remained absorbed in meditation.

Bhai Taru Singh ji lived after his torture, and continued to meditate and sing the praises of the Lord. He left his body immediately after the death of Zakariya Khan.

Painting Taru Singh ji

I worked on Baba Ajit Singh ji’s painting when I was his age when he sacrificed himself in the Battle of Chamkaur. Then I did Bhai Taru Singh ji’s portrait when I was his age, when he sacrificed himself for the Sikh panth.

It gives me new insights into the mindset of our warrior saints and into my own mind, to paint them at that same point in my life when they made their sacrifices.

I think about what they did at my age and what I am doing. I think about where they were headed at my age and where I am heading. In this way I align my moral compass to the Truth North and follow it.

A great man once said that we don’t get to choose whether we sacrifice or not, we only get to pick what we sacrifice. Sikh Saints followed in the footsteps of the Ten Gurus and sacrificed themselves to uphold Dharma.

So to see our warrior saints side with their Duty, over their own lives, is very inspiring, and fills me up with a fearless spirit.

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New Painting – Bhai Vir Singh ji

Bhai Vir Singh ji, Saint Poet of Punjab, painted by artist Bhagat Singh Bedi, Sikhi Art, Sikh Art,

“Wherever the Sadhus and Saints gather, they sing praises of Hari with music and poems. In their gathering there is peace and bliss. Only those obtain the company of Saints, who have good actions and habits.”

– Guru Arjun Dev ji (Guru Granth Sahib, 676)

Bhai Vir Singh ji, Punjabi Author, Sikh Poet by Bhagat Singh Bedi Artist, Sikhi Art
Bhai Vir Singh ji

Sikh art of Bhai Vir Singh ji is so rare that artist Bhagat Singh Bedi wanted to promote Bhai Sahib, through Sikhi Art™.

Bhai Vir Singh ji was a giant in Punjabi literature. His works have rejuvenated Punjabi writing and have heavily influenced the Sikh psyche many generations after him.

Born in Amritsar in 1872, Bhai Vir Singh ji grew up training and learning Sikh scriptures in gurudwaras. He became fluent in multiple Indian languages, Punjabi, Urdu, and Sanskrit.

Bhai Vir Singh ji’s father, Sardar Charan Singh ji was also a poet, musician and writer. Following in his father’s footsteps, he used his novels and poems to teach the core dogmas of Sikhism.

Amidst the foreign and native pressures of politics and proselytizing, Bhai Sahib revitalized the Sikh and Punjabi culture through his literary art.

This painting was created upon commission, to revitalize the legacy of Bhai Vir Singh ji.

To commission art that enlivens the memory of your loved ones please contact artist Bhagat Singh.

My Purpose in this World

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I am a servant of the Supreme Personality.

Today I want to share something I have not shared with anyone. I want to share my purpose in this world and why I do the things I do, and paint the things I paint.

Ten years ago, when I was young, I saw that there weren’t many positive Sikh characters in the media. Bollywood movies were largely filled with Sikh caricatures and Sikh jokers.

Feeling the lack of positive representation in the media, I assumed the responsibility of creating powerful Sikh super heroes.

I created the Mutants – Born to Stand Out.

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Zora Singh (2007)

As I grew up I started painting ancients Sikh warriors from our history. I started painting the legendary warriors of the past, whose exploits I had heard about in sakhis told to me by my parents and grandparents.

I painted the fierce Mai Bhago ji, the fearless Sahibzada Ajit Singh ji and the legend of Baba Deep Singh ji.

Sahibzada Ajit Singh, Battle of Chamkaur Bhagat Singh Bedi Sikhi Art Heritage of Punjab, Sikh and Punjabi Paintings
Battle of Chamkaur – Sahibzada Ajit Singh ji (2009)

I was quite young at that time, still learning how to paint, but I was immersed in these paintings when I painted them. I was absorbed in each stroke of the brush and each dab of colour.

Sometimes I found myself watching a painting develop on its own. Sometimes I was the painting itself blossoming forth.

Painting had become part of my spiritual practice.

Guru Gobind Singh ji in Machhiwara Dasam Pita Sikhi Art History of Punjab Bhagat Singh Bedi Sikh Paintings
Guru Gobind Singh ji Machhiwara (2010)

As I opened up spiritually, I began to realize that God has given every person on earth a purpose in life. He has given everyone a task to do and he has created it so that the person derives a great sense of meaning and satisfaction by fulfilling their purpose; they are inherently rewarded by it.

I realized that Waheguru has given me a purpose as well, and that purpose is to spread his glory throughout the world.

He told me to spread his glory, not just through paintings but also through my own actions – working hard and working smart, sharing what I know and possess, and cleansing the mind with the detergent of Ram naam.

He told me to create Sikhi Art and paint the Essence of Warriors and Saints, to let the world know about the sacrifices made by Sikh Warriors and Saints, and that essence which drives them – God.

He told me to paint the Gods, Gurus and Guardians, to spread the universal message described in Guru Granth Sahib, and to spread the important message of Universal Brotherhood and Unity of God.

He told me to Meditate on him daily, and to create paintings of the Meditative Process. This was to emphasize the importance of Spiritual Practice in day-to-day life.

Golden Temple in Moonlight at Night, Harmandir Sahib, Harimandir, Hari Mandir, Meditating, Man, Naam Simran, Moon, Baba Attal Rai Gurudwara, Boonga, by Bhagat Singh, Sikhi Art, Wonders of Punjab, Sikh Paintings, Punjabi Art
Golden Temple – Meditations Under the Moonlight (2016)

He didn’t physically come to me to tell me this. He didn’t speak to me with an audible voice.

He did it automatically, by orienting my mind towards meditation, towards painting and towards this lifestyle, and by filling my life up with more meaning and satisfaction when I oriented my mind towards him.

He did it simply by making me feel internally rewarded for doing things he wanted me to do.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for your love and support.

Bhagat Singh
Sikhi Art