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Images: details from photos by Amardeep Singh.

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I Have Seen All Places ... But None Like Yours:
The Darbar Sahib of Amritsar

Text & Photos by AMARDEEP SINGH

 

 

 

"I've seen all places ... there's none like yours"  [GGS:1362.10] 

 

 

I see myself as a white cloud floating freely in the sky, unknowingly abandoning myself in search of the unknown, which eventually leads me to an aim that has always been present but hidden deep inside me.

My photographic pursuits are never looking for anything specific. It is the opportunity that gets created in front of me that I aim to best capture through my camera. I call this state of my being as "moving without a mind". I have realized that when I move with a mind, my creativity gets constrained. Only in the emptiness of mind, I find the arising opportunities can be best molded.

My photography motto is to "see beyond seeing". This state has to be crafted and the journey starts where passion begins. Artistic excellence can only emerge if crafted with a feeling.

The year 2010 was hard on me. With a feeling of loss on the sudden death of my beloved mother, I found myself wandering to places like Amritsar. Disoriented, I was in search for something.

This series on Amritsar was created during the period of emotional turmoil and is probably the reason why the images break the mold of routine photos that we normally see of the Darbar Sahib.

In search, I have been to many places.
Through you, I was reminded that He lives within.


While for years I have searched everywhere, making myself the viewer, trying to find Him as my object of experiment. All these experiences have only been relative to the limitation of my perceptions. Through the grace of the Guru, the subjectivity has now been removed and I realize He lives within.

Where do you search me? I am with you
Not in pilgrimage, nor in icons, Neither in solitudes
Not in temples, nor in mosques
Neither in Kaaba nor in Kailash
I am with you, O man, I am with you
Not in prayers, nor in meditation, Neither in fasting
Not in yogic exercises, Neither in renunciation
Neither in the vital force nor in the body, Not even in the ethereal space
Neither in the womb of Nature, Not in the breath of the breath
Seek earnestly and discover, In but a moment of search
Says Kabir, Listen with care, Where your faith is, I am there
. [Bhagat Kabir]


To see the full Exhibit, please CLICK here.

March 21, 2013

Conversation about this article

1: Yuktanand Singh (USA), March 21, 2013, 9:39 AM.

I thoroughly enjoyed the pictures and the prose. But I am disturbed to see spurious poetry, without indicating that it was not from Guru Granth Sahib. This is perfectly acceptable except here along with pictures of Harmandar Sahib. Most such writings are beautiful. Their lofty abstractions will make us nod our head and say wah...wah! but that is all. The difference between these writings - and gurbani - is subtle and it is spiritual in nature. When we are aware that the substrate of gurbani is selfless love and extreme humility ... then we will notice that the words quoted above emit an odor of the ego ... just like the spoiled meat ... the carcass that was rejected by the lion.

2: Kamal Kaur (Los Angeles, California, USA), March 21, 2013, 10:28 AM.

Indeed, the photography is exceptional. It is difficult to find new perspectives on this great shrine to the One God of all - being one of the most photographed places in the world - but you have managed to find some. Thanks for sharing them.

3: Amardeep Singh (Singapore), March 21, 2013, 4:23 PM.

Dear Yuktananad ji: Glad you liked the pictures. Your kind words are encouraging to me as a photographer. I however do not agree with your interpretation of the poetry. Why should any poetry here have to be from Guru Granth Sahib only? It is clearly stated as poetry of "Bhagat Kabir" and we know that there is more of Kabir ji's work than what has been captured in Guru Granth Sahib and thus given phenomenal honour. For me as an artist photographer, this poem resonated in my ears while I was photographing the Darbar Sahib and therefore I find it apt to capture in my thoughts above. I do not see any reflection of ego in its words. Let us not constrain ourselves.

4: Jasmine Kaur (New York, USA), March 21, 2013, 6:09 PM.

If wishes could come true, I'd love to have this wonderful photographer visit major Sikh centers across the world and share with us what he sees through his lens. Inshallah!

5: Harminder Singh (Jalandhar, Punjab), March 22, 2013, 12:23 AM.

Dear Amandeep: Congratulations for taking such beautiful pictures of the Darbar Sahib.

6: Yuktanand Singh (USA), March 22, 2013, 6:26 AM.

Amardeep ji: I understand your position. Just as beauty is subjective, recognizing the uniqueness of gurbani is also a subjective matter. If other poetry also serves the same purpose to us as gurbani, then we did not really mean it when we say that 'there is no one like you', because in fact these words were meant for the Guru. They were not meant to praise the walls, the bricks, the mortar, the marble or a body of water; because gurbani is not restrictive. The correct translation should be more like: "I have seen the entire world and found none like you". But this is a personal matter.

7: Yuktanand Singh (USA), March 22, 2013, 6:27 AM.

This is a liberal web site and we are liberal people. Admiring writings from various sources is wonderful and edifying. I refer to various writings also, even though some Sikhs may not like that. Selected writings of Bhagat Kabir are in Guru Granth Sahib. The caption 'Bhagat Kabir' above does not inform a casual reader that this verse was not from Guru Granth Sahib. A Sikh is supposed to be married to the Guru in gurbani and all this hoopla will appear out of place to others. It was painful to see gurbani mixed with other poetry without appropriate label, particularly under the title taken from gurbani. Just as loving our spouse, over and above other people, is not a handicap, similarly, this is not narrow-mindedness.

8: Yuktanand Singh (USA), March 22, 2013, 6:30 AM.

You will agree that we all evolve and change. At its maturity this feeling arises from a spiritual conviction, not mere faith, not even love, and it cannot be acquired from academic insights. For this reason, until we can personally verify the truth in these words - that our Guru is unique - we self-impose certain constraints. "banday say je paveh vich bundee" - "True slaves are those who enter into slavery in order to see that vision." Sorry, I did not mean to rain on your beautiful exhibit and your exquisite presentation. This is the price we pay for our omissions, however inadvertent they may be, and for pointing at those omissions. I look forward to more such exhibits from you.

9: Preeti (Amritsar, Punjab), March 22, 2013, 7:23 AM.

I go to the Darbar Sahib almost every day. But looking at your photos, Amardeep ji, you've shown me how to look out for the unusual and the different ... which adds spice to an already pleasurable visit each time. Thank you.

10: Loveleen Kaur (Birmingham, United Kingdom), March 22, 2013, 8:01 AM.

Would like to see more of your work, Amardeep ji, on this site. Loved your eye-view!

11: Amardeep Singh (Singapore), March 22, 2013, 3:51 PM.

I'd like to thank all of you for your kind words of appreciation. I will soon showcase more from the Darbar Sahib series on sikhchic.com. To view my general photography work, you may note that I blog weekly under the BLOG section at www.amardeepphotography.com.

12: Gurmeet Kaur (Atlanta, Georgia,USA), March 22, 2013, 8:40 PM.

Amardeep: Fantastic work. Never noticed the red in the marble before you showed it. And - there is nothing wrong with quoting a poem by Bhagat Kabir which is not in the Guru Granth Sahib. Our Gurus respected Kabir Sahib enough to include selections from his work which were consistent with Sikhi, in the Guru Granth. We have been taught to respect and relate to all that is divine.

13: Amardeep Singh (Singapore), March 23, 2013, 6:44 AM.

Thanks, Gurmeet. Seeing the redness in the marble is an example of what I refer to as "seeing beyond seeing". Try to be aware of your surrounding and you will see a lot more than what meets the normal eye. Thanks also for your thoughts on the poem.

14: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), March 23, 2013, 5:15 PM.

May I refer to my copy of "Gurmukh SikhyĆ¢", now eminently being translated into English by Yuktanand ji, First Edition (1969), page 151. Bhai Vir Singh has quoted a salok by Bhagat Farid ji which is not in Guru Granth Sahib but was nevertheless a popular one: "utth Farida gavan kar duniya bhalan ja / mat koi bhakshaya mil pavaee thu be bhakhisha ji-a." - "Go, Farid, and search the world, perhaps you might meet someone blessed, and be blessed by meeting such a one." Bhai Vir Singh's entire poetry is such an ardent wish. Guru Nanak's revolutionary edict was, go and remember Waheguru in the way you like. "sir nanak lokaa paav hai / baliharree haa jaa-o jayhta tayray naav hai" [GGS:1168.14] - "Nanak places his head on the feet of such people / I am a sacrifice to Your Names, as many as there are, O. Lord." Amardeep, I enjoyed Harmandar Sahib through your lens and the accompanying poetry. It was no spoilt meat nor a carcass. Of course, Guru Granth Sahib remains incomparable and your GPS will invariably lead you to the right destination.

15: Yuktanand Singh (USA), March 24, 2013, 6:47 AM.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with quoting verses that have inspired us. In my zeal to make sure that other poetry was not mistaken for gurbani on a popular web site, I explained my view. Not only my silly elaborations did not belong here, they drowned my admiration of the work above as well as the essence of my objection. I apologize. In hindsight, I should have said only this: "I thoroughly enjoyed the pictures and the prose. But I am disturbed to see spurious poetry, without indicating that it was not from Guru Granth Sahib." I have nothing but praise for the work above, but I suggest that we change the caption from 'Bhagat Kabir' to 'Poems of Kabir' or something similar. The book "Gurmukh Sikhya" also clearly indicates that the quote on page 151 was not from gurbani. That's all I meant, really.

16: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, USA.), March 24, 2013, 12:01 PM.

Ref. remarks by Gurmeet Kaur ji (#12): "We have been taught to respect and relate to all that is divine ..." Gurmeet ji, divinity is nothing but 'spiritual truths'. Spiritual truths are not revealed through reasoning and analysing, they come through inspiration which is an inner contact with the mind. However all pictures in this case pertained to Darbar Sahib and the text accompanied by Kabir's poetry could give rise to the erroneous assumption that it is from the Guru Granth.

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The Darbar Sahib of Amritsar"









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