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Guru Nanak's meeting with Praladh, from a manuscript of the Janam Sakhi (Life Stories), 1800–1900

Guru Nanak's meeting with Praladh, from a manuscript of the Janam Sakhi (Life Stories), 1800–1900. India or Pakistan; Punjab region. Opaque watercolors and gold on paper. Asian Art Museum, Gift of the Kapany Collection, 1998.58.26. Photograph © Asian Art Museum.

Guru Nanak's meeting with Praladh, from a manuscript of the Janam Sakhi (Life Stories), 1800–1900. India or Pakistan; Punjab region. Opaque watercolors and gold on paper. Asian Art Museum, Gift of the Kapany Collection, 1998.58.26. Photograph © Asian Art Museum. 

In some Janam Sakhi stories, Guru Nanak interacts with Hindu or Islamic religious figures. Some incidents are historical events from Nanak’s lifetime but others are not, such as meetings with learned men who lived before Nanak’s time or with beings who appear in Hindu religious literature. Such episodes symbolically express the inclusive nature of Nanak’s teachings.

An example appears in this painting of Nanak’s meeting with Praladh, a devotee of the Hindu god Vishnu. Praladh’s father, an arrogant and evil king, was defeated by Vishnu in his lion avatar (Narasimha). Praladh was devout from a very young age, despite being threatened with death by his father for his faith. This story is popular in Sikhism as an expression of the themes of devotion and humility before God. In this painting, both major figures have halos suggesting their spiritual status, and the young Hindu greets Guru Nanak with clasped hands, in a gesture of reverence.

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