“The Lord Himself sits on the throne as Guru Arjun. The canopy of Guru’s greatness glows bright and illuminates all directions.”
– Rai Balwand ji and Satta Doom ji (Guru Granth Sahib, 968)
Guru Arjun Dev ji was son of Guru Ramdas ji and the grandson of Guru Amardas ji. He was devoted to the faith of Guru Ramdas ji and wrote beautiful poems that touched the souls of those who listened. He was later selected by Guru Ramdas ji as the fifth Guru, in the line of successors after Guru Nanak Dev ji.
Mughal King Jahangir felt threatened by the level of influence that Guru Sahib had on Hindus and Muslims. In his memoir Jahangir describes this event. He said that Muslims were being swayed by Guru Sahib’s personality and teachings, and thought that they were foolish doing this, for believing in the holiness of the Guru. He did not believe in the divinity of Guru Arjun Dev ji himself and sought to put an end to the charade. Then when he heard that his own rival brother was blessed by Guru Sahib in a tilak ceremony, he became very angry and arrested Guru Sahib and tortured him to death.
This painting shows Guru Arjan Dev ji peacefully meditating while being tortured. Guru Sahib was made to sit on a hot plate and had hot sand poured over his head and body. Even though he was put through immense pain, he was in profound peace with the moment, with the situation he found himself in. One day while meditating on Guru Sahib’s poetry and the scene of his martyrdom, I had such a profound experience of Guru Sahib, an experience so emotionally moving and so overwhelmingly blissful that I knew I had to paint this scene I was awe-struck much like the executioner who folds his hands witnessing the Guru’s divinity.
Guru Arjun Dev ji is known for compiling the Guru Granth Sahib and for having constructed Shri Harimandir Sahib, also known as the Golden Temple.