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7.10.2 label; advertisement; print

Chromolithograph pictorial label used for the advertisement and sale of bales of cloth and individual fabric lengths; printed on paper. Showing the 'ten kings' seated on a terrace with attendants.

early 20th century
British Museum

Label; advertisement; print, ca. early 20th century, © The Trustees of the British Museum.

This painting depicts the ten Sikh Gurus sitting on a patio, along with two attendants. Guru Nanak is at the top, under the tree. What features do the Gurus have in common? What are some differences? What does the posture of the different Gurus show, especially in the direction they are facing? What about the different sizes of the Gurus compared to Guru Nanak? Guru Nanak’s teachings on the Nam, the Word of God, and the Guru formed the basis of the Sikh faith. Guru Nanak also began the Gurdwara, the Sikh house of worship, which is open to everyone regardless of social status or religion and provides free meals. In the early 1500s, followers of Guru Nanak began to form communities. Most of these communities were in Punjab. When Guru Nanak died, there was a succession of nine other Gurus, ending in 1708. These Gurus were leaders of the Sikh community.

This painting shows the ten Sikh Gurus, centered around the founder, Guru Nanak. The ten Sikh Gurus are shown with red halos around their heads, which students might compare to European Christian symbolism. Halos around important religious figures are also part of the Indian artistic tradition. All the Gurus have beards (except the young Guru Har Krishnan, who died at age nine). All the Gurus have head coverings except for Guru Nanak. Two Gurus hold birds of prey, which were used for hunting. Have students take note of how prominently Guru Nanak is depicted in the center and how all the other Gurus are depicted looking toward him. Guru Nanak is also larger than the other figures. The last two artistic decisions emphasize the importance of Guru Nanak.