“With my eyes I look, and I see none other than Hari. My eyes are lovingly fixated, and I cannot speak of anything else.”
– Guru Angad Dev ji (Guru Granth Sahib, 655)
Pita Mehta Kalu ji looks at newly born Baby Nanak’s face, in a peaceful and serene trance state, holding him in his hands for the first time. In this painting, I wanted to paint a portrait of Mehta Kalu ji, keeping the main focus on Pita ji, while also showing the light of Guru Nanak Dev ji and his divine arrival on earth.
One the of issues I was facing when painting this portrait was the identity of Pita Kalu ji. How would I paint a portrait of him and immediately have everyone know it is Mehta Kalu ji and not someone else? How would people identify him?
So I kept this question in my heart and I meditated as usual.
After several days I received my answer. As I was lying in bed, about to sleep, I had this scene of the painting come into my mind. It came to my mind, as a whole, a complete scene. In the scene, I saw Pita Kalu ji holding baby Nanak in his hands. There was no light anywhere. The only thing illuminating Pita ji was Guru Sahib himself. Guru Sahib was hidden but his light emanated from his face and lit up the room along with his father. In this manner, Guru Sahib guided me to work on this painting. Granting me the Amogh Darshan of what he wanted, all at once, such is his kindness.
Guru sahib believed in the philosophy of what is known today as Vishisht Advait, meaning Non-Dual Oneness, so holds up one finger. As Ravidas ji explains –
ਤੋਹੀ ਮੋਹੀ ਮੋਹੀ ਤੋਹੀ ਅੰਤਰੁ ਕੈਸਾ ॥ ਕਨਕ ਕਟਿਕ ਜਲ ਤਰੰਗ ਜੈਸਾ ॥੧॥
You, Me, Me, You, what is the difference? The difference is like Gold and Jewellery, like Water and Waves.
Ravidas ji says – Hey Ram! You and I, we are different but one.
Baby Nanak holds up one finger as a symbol of this state of consciousness, that is non-dual oneness, that he comes to experience and share with us later in his life.
In addition to Non-Dual Oneness, Guru Sahib preached hard work, dasan nowan di krit, work that has been done by your hands, your ten fingers. There’s a lot to be said as to why he taught it. However, in this painting I wanted to show that Mehta Kalu ji, was a hard-worker. His hands are that of a working man, who wanted to instill these ideals in his son, through whatever methods he knew, stern or otherwise.
So Pita ji’s embrace was important to show. Kalu ji holds Guru Sahib with his hands. These are the hands that helped shape Guru Sahib into the trader, the traveller and the disciplined man, just like his father. You and me, me and you; we are one, not just two.