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7.10.8 Object: A Sikh Temple in Umritzir


Townscape with view of the temple across water, an ox and figures gathered on the bank in the foreground, some seated below a parasol at right, beside birds drink from baths, two towers across the river at right; after William Carpenter Junior, cutting from the Illustrated London News. 1858 Wood-engraving

Carpenter, William Junior
British Museum

Object: A Sikh Temple in Umritzir, 1858, © The Trustees of the British Museum,

This is a wood engraving of the famous Sikh Golden Temple in the city of Amritsar in Punjab. The temple holds the body of the final Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, as well as the Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib. It was built in the late sixteenth century and is an important pilgrimage site for followers of Sikhism. This engraving was done by British watercolorist William Carpenter Junior. What are some of the elements you can identify in the engraving? Compare this painting to the other illustrations in this set, which feature northern Indian and Sikh styles. Which features are similar? Which are different?

One account is that the tolerant Mughal Emperor Akbar donated the land on which the Golden Temple later stood to the third Guru Amar Das. Since it was built in the late sixteenth century, the temple has been a major pilgrimage site. This British painting is considerably different from the northern Indian and Sikh styles of painting found in the rest of this set. One shift is that the colors are much more subdued. Another difference is in the placing of human and animal figures. They dominate the foreground, but the faces are much less distinct than the ones seen in the Indian-Sikh illustrations. The British painting puts more emphasis on outdoor landscape. However, both styles use a combination of architecture and human figures to create a living scene.