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Portrait of the tenth guru, Gobind Singh, approx. 1830

Portrait of the tenth guru, Gobind Singh, approx. 1830. India or Pakistan; Punjab region. Opaque watercolors and gold on paper. Asian Art Museum, Gift of the Kapany Collection, 1998.95. Photograph © Asian Art Museum.

Portrait of the tenth guru, Gobind Singh, approx. 1830. India or Pakistan; Punjab region. Opaque watercolors and gold on paper. Asian Art Museum, Gift of the Kapany Collection, 1998.95. Photograph © Asian Art Museum. 

Guru Gobind Singh (1675–1708) was accelerated to the status of guru as a young child following the execution of his father by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. As the tenth guru he established the Khalsa (the Pure) as a fellowship that promoted Sikh solidarity and eventually served to establish the community’s political power. Gobind Singh organized the community into a military force, convincing the Sikhs of the morality of their fight against oppression. Rendered in the manner of a princely equestrian portrait befitting his stature and authority, the guru wears sumptuous regalia, including a gold turban adorned with turban jewels, a necklace, armband, and bracelet, and ornamented weaponry. The trappings of his horse are equally lavish. The guru’s halo, appearing at nearly the exact center of the painting, focuses our attention on his spiritual might.