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The Valour of the Young Princes II

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(gouache, acrylics, gold+silver leaf on textured paper 22” x 26”, Khanuja Family Collection)

The Valour of the Young Princes II is an illuminated manuscript that metaphorically visualizes the battle of Chamkaur, as told by Kavi Santokh Singh in Suraj Prakash Granth (Book of the Rising Sun).

The painting is an amalgamation of key moments described throughout chapters 34 - 40 of Rut 6 (pages 259-316 in the following document These chapters describe the entry of Guru Gobind Singh (GGS) and his Sikhs into the garhi (small fort) where they took refuge, to the martyrdom of Sahibzada Ajit Singh (SAS) and Sahibzada Jujhar Singh (SJS) while fighting Mughal forces. The details go as far as naming the Singhs who accompanied GGS, to the jewellery that he wore. The garhi is described as a ship in tumultuous waters, with GGS as the Captain who keeps it afloat. The surrounding ocean waves and dark clouds are the mughal forces, attempting to sink the ship.
The garhi is a blend of architectural structure and the formal qualities of a ship. The sails are covered with an image of Harmandir sahib, navigating back to the center of the panth. The bowsprit is spearheaded by the ferocity of a tiger (Singh), while the stern carries the collective heart of Sikhi. The garhi’s peripheral waters are filled with calm plants and creatures, and among them is a crocodile, which is the meaning of the Persian word “Nihang,” also used to describe a Sikh warrior. Companions of Guru Gobind Singh are present in the elaborate border: Chita Baaz (white hawk) and Neela Ghora (Blue Horse). The mythological Huma bird is a nod to the invisibility of SAS in battle, while also foreshadowing Zafarnamah.
Once combat begins, the battlefield is covered with a red blanket. The Sikh warriors fight with grit, and the enemy’s blood seeps deep into the ground. Witches are filling up skulls of decapitated soldiers to take gulps of the hot liquid. Amidst furor, Gandharbh plays her music from the heavens, greeting GGS and his warriors while enlivening their spirits.
The painting focuses on the moment of Sahibzada Jit Singh (SAJ)’s martyrdom. In order to preserve SAJ’s dignity, Kavi ji omits any descriptions of fatal wounds or a fallen corpse. Instead, he describes SAJ’s departure as a graceful disappearance. 

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Braj text (in Gurmukhi, with transliterations and elaborations)

ਛਪਯ ਛੰਦ


ਅਨਵਰਖਾਨ ਨਬਾਬ, ਤਾਂਹਿ ਕੀ ਦਿਸ਼ ਤਬਿ ਦੌਰੇ। 

ਕਰੀ ਸ਼ੀਘ੍ਰਤਾ ਅਧਿਕ, ਜਾਇ ਪਹੁੰਚੇ ਤਿਸ ਠੌਰੇ।

ਉਦਰ ਪੁਸ਼ਟ ਮਹਿਂ ਹਨੀ, ਓਜ ਤੇ ਬਹੁ ਝਕਝੋਰੇ।

ਜਿਤ ਕਿਤ ਤੇ ਰਿਪੁ ਆਇ, ਘੇਰਿ ਲੀਨਸਿ ਚਹੁਂ ਓਰੇ।

ਇਮ ਕੀਨ ਜੁੱਧ ਗਨ ਸ਼ੱਤ੍ਰੁ ਹਤਿ, ਲੋਪ ਭਏ ਤਤਕਾਲ ਰਨ।

ਸਭਿ ਦਿਖਤਿ ਅਚੰਭੈ ਹੁਇ ਰਹੇ, ਕਹਾਂ ਗਯੋ ਕਿਤ ਛਪਯੋ ਹਨਿ॥੩੪॥

ਅੰਸੂ ੩੯ ਬਾਬਾ ਅਜੀਤ ਸਿੰਘ ਜੀ ਦਾ ਯੁੱਧ
ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਤਾਪ ਸੂਰਜ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਰੁਤਿ ੬,




chhapai chhaṅd


anvarkhān nabāb, tāheiṅ kī dish tab daure

(Sahibzada Ajīt Singh spots Nabab Anwar Khan as he approaches from a distance)

karī shīghartā adhik, jāe pahuṅche tis ṭhaure
(He swiftly runs towards the Nabab)

udar pusht maheiṅ hanī, uj te bahu jhakjhore

(and strategically strikes the Nabab in his paunch)

jit kit te rip āye, gher līnas chahuṅ ure
(the Sahibzada is surrounded by Mughal forces from all directions)

im kīn judh gan shatr hat, lop bhae tatkāl ran

(As he fought, the Sahibzada disappeared from the battlefield)

sabh dikhat achambhai hue rahe, kahāṅ gaio kit chhapio han. 34
(Everyone was left awestruck, wondering where the Sahibzada went; where he was hiding)


ansū 39: bābā ajīt singh jī dā yudh
(Chapter 39: The Battle of Baba Ajit Singh Ji)

srī gur pratāp sūraj granth rut 6 (book 6)

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Character and Symbolic Legend:


  1. Guru Gobind Singh

  2. Sahibzada Ajit Singh

  3. Sahibzada Jujhar Singh

  4. Chitaa Baaz, companion of GGS

  5. Neela Ghora, companion of GGS

  6. Huma Bird, associated with GGS’s Zafarnamah, a bird who flies invisibly its entire life

  7. Keerat Singh

  8. Mohar Singh

  9. Mohkam Singh

  10. Nabab Anwar Khan

  11. Mughal Warrior 1

  12. Mughal Warrior 2

  13. Mughal Warrior 3

  14. Mughal Warrior 4

  15. Bhoot & Pret

  16. Gandharbh, heavenly musician

  17. Heart of the Khalsa

  18. Traditional Nishan Sahib

  19. Harmandir Sahib Sail

  20. Calm waters and peaceful creatures; crocodile (“nihang” in Persian, also definition of Sikh warrior) 

  21. Tumultuous waters and creatures of macabre

  22. Fauna and Flora of both land and sea, merging surrealism of ocean and realism of battleground


Symbolic Bibliography (reference for page numbers)

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