Organized thematically, Virtue and Valor: Sikh Art and Heritage explores key aspects of Sikh religion and history. The exhibition features a broad swath of objects from The Khanuja Family Collection. Portraits of the gurus, reflecting the meticulous style of traditional Indian painting, will be shown alongside photographs recording the Sikh military presence in British India and beyond, as well as a more contemporary image of the Sikh diaspora in North America. Various implements of war will also be on display, including swords, medals, and a helmet and shield, as well as religious texts with images painted by both Indian and European artists.
The founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak (1469-1539) lived in the Punjab region of India, which includes today’s north India and Pakistan. Sikhism set out the devotional path that God is One and all creation is equal, without distinction by caste, creed, race, gender or station in life. Guru Nanak was succeeded by nine gurus; the Tenth Guru decreed that no individual would succeed him but spiritual guidance would be drawn from the Holy Book (Guru Granth Sahib).
Since its founding, Sikhism has grown to include followers on all inhabited continents. Sikhs have played important roles throughout world history. Sikhs were an integral part of the British Empire in India, especially as Khalsa, the pure and saintly soldiers of righteousness ordained by the Tenth Guru. The British government utilized Sikh military prowess in India and other British Commonwealth territories. In the 1870s, some Sikhs moved to Malaysia and Hong Kong to serve as city policemen. During World Wars I & II, Sikh troops, including a women’s auxiliary corps, participated in numerous combat zones. In the late 19th century, Sikhs became immigrants to the US and Canada and have since integrated into many Western countries.