Chandigarh, Nov 10 | For national Akademi award winning painter and writer Jyotika Sehgal, Japji Sahib — the holy scripture of Sikhs — was introduced to her by her mother when she was just a primary school child.
Her mother made it sure that whenever she happened to pray, she was able to recite at least the first few verses of it.
“Later on, after I learnt to read clearly, my mother bought me a Japji Sahib Gutka (a small holy book) in Hindi. As I hadn’t learnt to read Punjabi so far, she made me handwrite the text in Hindi to avoid the confusion in pronunciation,” writes Jyotika in the preface of her latest book in English “Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Jap Ji Sahib: Manifestations of the Magnificent”.
Jyotika is the Head, Department of Painting at College of Art in Delhi and her book has been launched to mark the 550th Prakash Purb (birth anniversary) of first Sikh master Guru Nanak Dev that falls on November 12.
“The image of Guru Nanak ji was my reference of the revered God. However, in later years, after a devastating tragedy where I lost my mother in an accident, I declined all thoughts around that idea,” she told IANS.
“The last 15 years or so, after my marriage and more so after the birth of our daughter, I continuously sensed compelling nearness to the Almighty Creator. I was humbled down by the experience of abounding Grace. In whatever way, reciting the Japji Sahib was the only practice I knew of, to reconnect my presence with my God.
“Hence, my mornings again began with the ritualistic recitation of the complete text of the Japji Sahib. During those 18 to 20 minutes of ‘paath’, I recollected and made sense of various day-to-day experiences of my life, of people and places, about information and imaginations, and so on.
“It was the experience during those inner recitations and dialogues that led to the fine-tuning of the majority of my paintings,” Jyotika added.
“Knowing it well that I had a limited understanding of Punjabi, let alone the Gurmukhi Punjabi of the Gurus, my husband one day casually pointed out that I should not be mechanically devouring the text of the Japji Sahib like many others do. I tried to convince him my logic about the continuing of ritualistic recitation, but this fact was still disturbing me somewhere.”
Jyotika said she saw her doctoral research about the possibility of visual translation of the poetic texts of Mirza Ghalib become more and more sympathetic to artists and art critics when her book, “To Reach You, I Dream” was published.
It prompted her to enquire whether she can employ a similar process to understand and eventually paint specific ideas depicted in the Japji Sahib too.
“I proceeded to follow Japji Sahib in depth from various translations and discourses on it mostly available on the internet.
“I also tried to get reassured by having discussions with many in the field, including Rajvinder Singh, my poet and semiotician husband,” she said.
Finally her book includes the transliteration of Punjabi into the Roman script, followed by its translation into English, she has further included a one-liner for each verse as a gist.
“The content of this book also offers a brief reference to the words and phrases connected with the practice of Sikhi,” she added.
(Vishal Gulati can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)