“The foolish stubbornness of my mind is gone; God’s will has become sweet to me.”
– Guru Arjun Dev ji (Guru Granth Sahib, 387)
Auranzeb’s army attacked the haveli in Battle of Chamkaur, where Guru Gobind Singh ji (tenth Guru of Sikhs) had taken refuge from his previous assaults. A grim battle took place, which resulted in the death of almost all of Guru Sahib’s men, including his two older sons Sahibzada Ajit Singh and Sahibzada Jujhar Singh. His younger sons and mother had been lost on the way to Chamkaur due to harsh weather conditions.
After resisting the onslaught of the tyrannical governement, Guru Gobind Singh ji slipped into the forests of Machhiwara. It is said that Guru Sahib was still in the highest of spirits, in chardi kala, even after losing all his loved ones and devotees. He rested in this forest overnight, and while Auranzeb’s army searched for him, he was rescued by his Muslim devotees in the morning. They disguised him as their pir, Sufi master, and lead him away from the hostile environment.
Painting Guru Gobind Singh ji in Machhiwara
After laying out the initial idea, in the speedpainting of Machhiwara, I could not think of a way to portray what Guru Gobind Singh ji suffered. He had just seen two of his sons and all of his men getting slaughtered in a gruesome battle. How could this man continue to fight even after he had sacrificed so much? I found the answer soon enough.
After getting lots of encouragement and support from friends and family, I was able to start working on it. I eventually started to see things in my painting that I did not see before. It is said of artists that they “paint from their memory”, rather their attention to their canvas and to the world, their meditation, essentially, develops the painting. This was certainly the case with Machhiwara. I began to see ways to representing things. The shadows the leaves, the muted colours, the withered leaves and the cloudy sky represent the nature of the situation Guru Gobind Singh ji was in.
Yet Guru Gobind Singh ji was in chardi kala, highest of spirits, unaffected by the torment; a state every Sikh yearns to reach. How would I show this? Interestingly the negativity showed me how I could go about it. He was covered in shadows but his face glowed bright. The leaves were withering yet a bud grew from within. The sky was cloudy but it made way for the faint glow of the stars.
That was the power of meditation, that Guru Gobind Singh ji had harnessed as an ideal for the warrior-poet, saint-soldier he has always been. Just like Guru Gobind Singh ji, Machhiwara reminds me to be strong when faced with immense impediments. It reminds me to be ready to sacrifice everything I hold close to me for a noble cause greater than myself. Perhaps, more importantly, which gives one the strength to do so, it reminds me to meditate.