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Guru Nanak and the holy man Sant Ren, from a manuscript of the Janam Sakhi (Life Stories), 1800–1900

Guru Nanak and the holy man Sant Ren, from a manuscript of the Janam Sakhi (Life Stories), 1800–1900. India or Pakistan; Punjab region Opaque watercolors on paper. Asian Art Museum,  Gift of the Kapany Collection, 1998.58.4. Photograph © Asian Art Museum.

Guru Nanak and the holy man Sant Ren, from a manuscript of the Janam Sakhi (Life Stories), 1800–1900. India or Pakistan; Punjab region Opaque watercolors on paper. Asian Art Museum,  Gift of the Kapany Collection, 1998.58.4. Photograph © Asian Art Museum.

On one occasion in Guru Nanak’s youth his father gave him money for some business transactions. Instead of using the money as instructed, Nanak spent it all on food for a group of holy men. The incident, known in traditional sources as the Good Bargain, is the subject here, serving to illustrate a fundamental Sikh virtue. Guru Nanak, seated at center, greets a holy man known as Sant Ren. Surrounding these figures are numerous followers of Sant Ren, all identified as Hindu ascetics by their long hair and minimal clothing. The high value placed on generosity and sharing of a communal meal is reflected in the Sikh practice of the langar, literally "kitchen,” the place in the Sikh house of worship where food is given freely to all visitors regardless of faith and background.