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Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh: How did the attire of the Sikh gurus change so dramatically?

4 2 5
18.01.2019

In all the posters I have seen that depict the 10 Sikh Gurus, the images of Nanak (the first guru) and Gobind Singh (the 10th guru) are always prominently displayed.

My first memory of these images comes from a visit I made to Nankana Sahib 10 years ago, on the occasion of Nanak Jayanti. The façade of Gurdwara Janamastham, which came up at the spot Nanak was born, was brightly lit up, with a giant banner hanging at its entrance. On one side of this banner was an image of Nanak, his right hand held up in blessing. He had a thick white beard and wore a saffron robe. His shoulders were draped in a brown shawl and he wore a turban tied in the simple Dumalla style.

This is a ubiquitous image of Nanak. It is, of course, hard to say for certain if Nanak actually dressed like that. In 2006, there was a controversy regarding his depiction in school textbooks in California. The image used in these texts was 19th century painting of Nanak in which he wore a crown and had a trimmed beard. This was criticised as an Islamicised version of Nanak. After the Sikh community protested, the image was removed. Still, it is hard to say what Nanak really wore and what style of beard he kept.

There is a narrative that suggests Nanak deliberately chose a garb that would make it difficult for people to associate him with any one religious identity.........

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