No one is a Hindu; no one a Muslim. With these radical words Guru Nanak (1469-1539) founded the Sikh religion, calling for the recognition of one God, by whatever name devotees chose to call him, and the rejection of superstition, avarice, meaningless ritual, and social oppression. Meditation and devotion were identified as the work of the private domain and charity, honest work, and service to humanity as the obligation to the social domain. The goal of this catalogue, and the exhibition it documents, is to bring together and illuminate works of art that identify these core Sikh beliefs in the period of their early development by the ten historical Gurus (16th-17th centuries). Through them, we are taken behind the external signs that identify Sikhs, who constitute the world's fifth largest organised religion, to its founding principles. The works of art, from the sixteenth through the nineteenth century, include paintings, drawings, textiles, and metalwork. They are drawn from museum collections in India and the United States and private collections in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The essay and object texts by B N Goswamy and Caron Smith provide keen insight into early Sikh devotion and examine the works of art in the context of the North Indian cultural mix in which they were created.