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New Insights into Sikh Art

Kavita Singh (Editor)
Synopsis Sikh art is usually identified with the glittering court of Ranjit Singh at Lahore. Assuming that the achievements of Lahore are well known, this book looks further afield, at other courts and other non-courtly settings for art, seeking our fascinating and important aspects of Sikh art and cultural heritage that have not often been studied before. Presenting original research on fresh areas, the articles offer new perspectives on the subject. A major contribution of this volume is its focus on sacred objects and sites which derived not from the art-activity of a royal court, but developed under the direction of the Gurus themselves, or through the collective patronage of a community looking to fulfil its sacred needs. Beginning with an essay that explains important theological developments within Sikhism, the book moves on to study the building projects commissioned by two Gurus: the saintly Guru Arjan, and his warrior son Guru Hargobind. Their personalities encapsulate the double saint-soldier ideal within Sikhism, and their building projects reflect the changing character of the Guruship. Another important paper studies a range of manuscripts of the holy book itself, the Adi Granth Sahib. Here we see the evolving format and style of decoration of Adi Granth manuscripts, and it is explained in terms of major cultural shifts in the Panjab from the 17-19 centuries. The two essays in this volume that deal with courtly arts both focus on painting at Patiala. One looks at the grand royal frescos in the palace, whose iconographic programme reflects ideals of kingship and is meant to amplify the goodness and the glory of the kings. The other essay looks at the "Personal notes" made by the same painters who made the murals—quickly executed and stunningly immediate portrait-sketches of people from the bazaar. The murals and the sketches are both of high quality, and both are unusual and hardly known, suggesting other wonders waiting to be discovered at other Sikh courts. Finally, the book looks towards the present and the future with essays on the images of and by Sikhs in the modern and contemporary world. This includes the image of Sikhs in photography, from early portraits to today’s fashion images; the attempts of early-modern Panjab artists to give form to the Sikh ethos and history; and the grandiose project for the Khalsa Heritage Complex at Anandpur Sahib, that is now under construction and when complete, will probably form the Sikh community’s definitive image of itself.
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About the author

Kavita Singh

Kavita Singh is Professor of Visual Studies at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has published widely on the history and politics of the museum in India, and is the recipient of fellowships and grants from the victoria and Albert Museum, the Asia Society, Clark Art Institute and the Max Planck Institute.

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Bibliographic information

Title New Insights into Sikh Art
Author Kavita Singh
Format Hardcover
Date published: 01.01.2003
Edition 1st ed.
Publisher Marg Publications
Language: English
isbn 8185026602
length 148p., Figures; Col. & B/w Plates; Maps; Index; 33cm.