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Guru Nanak's visit to Bhai Lalo the carpenter, from a manuscript of the Janam Sakhi (Life Stories)
Place of Origin: India, probably Murshidabad, West Bengal state
Date: approx. 1755-1770
Object Name: Manuscript page
Materials: Opaque watercolors on paper
Dimensions: H. 2 1/3 in x W. 2 1/4 in, H. 5.9 cm x W. 5.7 cm (image)
Credit Line: Gift of the Kapany Collection
Department: South Asian Art
Collection: Books And Manuscripts
Object Number: 1998.58.14
On Display: No
Culture: Sikh

More Information

Exhibition History: The Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, 9/22/1999 - 1/9/2000
"The Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms", Royal Ontario Museum, 5/25/2000 - 8/20/2000
"I Know No Stranger: Early Sikh Art and Devotion", Rubin Museum of Art, 9/18/2006 - 1/29/2007
Exhibition History: The Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, 9/22/1999 - 1/9/2000
"The Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms", Royal Ontario Museum, 5/25/2000 - 8/20/2000
"I Know No Stranger: Early Sikh Art and Devotion", Rubin Museum of Art, 9/18/2006 - 1/29/2007
Resources:

The meeting of Guru Nanak and his companion Mardana with the low-caste carpenter Bhai Lalo appears in several versions of the Janam Sakhi. While it is unclear whether this event (and related events) actually took place, the story’s importance lies in demonstrating the qualities of generosity, hospitality, and lack of prejudice toward class and background.

In this painting, Guru Nanak (in yellow robes) and his companion are shown at the impoverished carpenter’s house. Tired and hungry from travelling long distances, they were offered a meal and place to rest by the generous carpenter who could barely make ends meet for his own family. Different Janam Sakhi manuscripts (and oral versions) include variations of the story, but a reader could recognize the episode through the painted cues included here: the tools of the carpenter’s trade that occupy much of the picture, and details of his clothing.