M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI’S HOMAGE TO SIKH PHILOSOPHER – A LOST IMAGE OF BABA GURU NANAK

M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI’S HOMAGE TO SIKH PHILOSOPHER
A LOST IMAGE OF BABA GURU NANAK

Love for many of Sikh friends of the artist

Guru Nanak by Abdur Rahman Chughtai
Guru Nanak by Abdur Rahman Chughtai

Guru Nanak is the founding father of Sikhism. No one can dispute that. No one can criticize him too. He is the faith of all Sikhs. But a lot woven around him is plainly fabricated and that is not true for Sikhism alone. Every one builds up an icon and then weaves stories about him. The reason is that he did not write much in his lifetime. His spoken discourses were copied by his successor Guru Anjad, others credit his follower Baba Mardana after his death. Yes, janamsakhis exists, but even the oldest one of them (Bhai Bala), does not match their stories with other stories. Maulvi Ghulam Muhammed gives credit to Said Hussain for Nanak’s training. For instance a Sikh writer, namely Sewaram Singh Thapar, himself writes in 1904:

“The History of the Sikhs Gurus lies much in obscurity. The material at our disposal are very chaotic and misleading. The authenticity of the few extant janamsakhis has been seriously called in question. Many of them are full of mythological descriptions and fictitious tales.”

There was an illustrated manuscript (18th century perhaps) in Lahore with an antiques dealer of the Lahore Museum, in which Guru Nanak’s life was illustrated. There was even a miniature of his meeting with Emperor Zaheeruddin Babar. They sent it for identification to the British Museum and turned it to an American diplomat. The American diplomat just plainly stole the Manuscript from the dealer. Mian Aslam narrates the theft to this day with disdain in his heart. Claims are made of many things by Sikh writers. They claim that his portrait was made in Tabrez by Kamal uddin Behzad himself. I obviously do not know the truth, but it remains a claim, till it is substantiated.

Touted as a real image of the Guru
Touted as a real image of the Guru

The visit of Guru Nanak to Mecca is there in the Granth itself but the Granth itself was a subject of revision. In any case no one needs to dispute the claim that Guru Nanak visited Mecca (Dr Zakir Naik does) and had a row with caretakers there. He slept with his feet towards the Holy Kaaba and the caretakers resented it. Guru Nanak volunteered to change the directions of his feet. And then the Miracles started to happen, for as they would turn the feet of Guru Nanak away from the Kaaba, the Kaaba would start rotating itself towards the feet of Guru Nanak. This kind of Harry Potter and Dumbledore stuff is found in tales of most Peers and Faqeers of our area. Ali Hujveri Data Darbar just picked up a mosque from its roots to correct the Qibla of same. I am not one to believe them, for I am scientific oriented person, with use of my mind. These are only Faith stories and people are welcome to believe them. Clash of Titans are romantic for knowledge.

This makes us come to the portrait of Guru Nanak by M.A. Rahman Chughtai. The idea was that of the artist’s own. He wrote to the Maharaja of Patiala that he was making such a portrait and would send it to him. The Maharaja was delighted with the news, but when the portrait was made and it reached him, he did not like it. He wanted the artist to change the style, and the concept. The portrayal showed a portrait of a PUNJABI as a SIKH PHILOSOPHER. The Maharaja wanted the garb of a Holy man in deity role. He did not like it and returned it to the artist. The artist would not change his views. Finally it was printed in MODERN REVIEW CALCUTTA as a SIKH PHILOSOPHER but it was ascribed to JALAL UDDIN CHUGHTAI, a nephew lo the artist, who was an Engineer in Railways. He retired as General Manager Pakistan Western Railways as the top man in his services. But he was never an artist in any way. I felt it must be shared. It can be enjoyed for its deep insight. In fact it very much resembles a portrait, which is described as being of the Guru and done in his lifetime. Unfortunately the style and materials are not of that era in any way. But who are we to make a judg’ment. The Sikhs love it, let them love it. In faith, truth is secondary. Where is Chughtai’s portrait of Guru Nanak? I do not know. It must probably would have gone to some show in India and sold there. It must be out there somewhere. We do not have it in our archives, except the printed one. It is a record in itself.

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