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Painting a Mobile Sikhism in Garhwal

Tue, June 23, 9:00 to 10:55am, North Building, Floor: 9th Floor, N901


This paper examines the transformations in Sikh institutions and identity as it moved from its seat in the Punjab to a more liminal space in Garhwal in the Western Himalayas, via mural art produced in the Guru Ram Rai Durbar in Dehradun. This mural art was produced by the Durbar for public consumption and was produced over a period stretching from the pre-colonial to the hey day of the British Empire in India. This paper argues that the public nature of this art also played a very important public role in creating a cultural and political space – a space that was actively negotiated along three trajectories. First, it was negotiated through the geographic reality of moving from the Punjab via Delhi to the periphery of the Mughal Empire and then the British Empire in Garhwal. Second, as the political fortunes of the Sikh establishment changed, the position of the community that was forming in the Doon valley changed along with it, whereby it transformed itself from being Sikh to being a sect of the Udasins. Third, its very presence in the valley created a particular urban culture in the valley which can be called a new Garhwali urbanism. This paper extends our understanding of how the specificities of the Punjabi Sikh experience changed the places where it found itself and was in turn changed by it as well.