International Journal of Punjab Studies, 3 (1996): 213-227.


An Early Portrayal of the Sikhs

Two 18th Century Etchings by Baltazard Solvyns*

Robert L. Hardgrave, Jr.

When the Flemish artist Baltazard Solvyns1 arrived in Calcutta in 1791, the city was already developing a cosmopolitan character. There were Europeans of various backgrounds, Armenians, Persians, Chinese, and, from the reaches of "Hindoostan" (the term by which India was then most widely known), Muslims and Hindus of numerous sects and castes. There were comparatively few Sikhs in Bengal at that time, but among them, earlier in the eighteenth century, was the great banker and urban landlord, Omichand.2 Solvyns had no apparent knowledge of Omichand or, at least, that he was a Sikh, but in Solvyns time there were Sikhs in Calcutta, distinguished by their dress and customs. When Solvyns undertook his great project to prepare "a collection of 250 coloured etchings descriptive of the manners, customs, character, dress, and religious ceremonies of the Hindoos," he included Sikhs, and it is to this Flemish artist that we owe the first published portrayals of Sikhs.
Born in Antwerp in 1760, of a prominent merchant family, Solvyns had pursued a career principally as a marine painter until political unrest in Europe and his own insecure position led him to seek his fortune in India. India in the late eighteenth century had attracted a number of British artists who found a ready market for their works among the Europeans of Calcutta and Madras and in the courts of the Indian princes. Thomas Hodges, and later Thomas and William Daniell, sold landscapes, but the most handsome profits were to be made in portraiture, and here such painters as Tilly Kettle, Thomas Hickey, and John Zoffany enjoyed the patronage of nabobs and nawabs alike.3
Solvyns was adept at neither landscape nor portraiture, and upon his arrival in Calcutta in 1791, he became something of a journeyman artist. He provided decoration for celebrations and balls, cleaned and restored paintings, and offered instruction in oils, watercolor, and chalk. The decoration of coaches and palanquins apparently provided Solvyns his steadiest income, but hardly the success and sense of accomplishment he clearly sought. In 1794, inspired by Sir William Jones, Solvyns announced his plan to publish A Collection of Two Hundred and Fifty Coloured Etchings: Descriptive of the Manners, Customs and Dresses of the Hindoos.4
With a sufficent number of subscribers to begin, Solvyns set out to record the life of the native quarter of Calcutta, or "Blacktown," as it was then called. He approached his task as an ethnographer, drawing his subjects from life and with more concern for accuracy than asethetics. The collection was published in Calcutta in a few copies in 1796, and then in greater numbers in 1799. Divided into twelve parts, the first section, with 66 prints, depicts "the Hindoo Casts, with their professions." Following sections portray servants, costumes, means of transportation (carts, palanquins, and boats), modes of smoking, fakirs, musical instruments, and festivals.
The project proved a financial failure. The etchings, by contemporary European standards, were rather crudely done; the forms and settings were monotonous; and the colors were of somber hue. They did not, in short, appeal to the vogue of the picturesque. But the subjects were themselves compelling, and London publisher Edward Orme brought out a pirated edition of 60 prints "after Solvyns," redrawn for appeal and colored in warm pastels. The volume, The Costume of Indoostan,5 through various printings, was highly successful, but Solvyns derived no gain and suffered, as he later wrote, "abuse . . . made of his name and of his works."6
In 1804, Solvyns left India for France, and soon after his return to Europe married Mary Ann Greenwood, daughter of an English family resident in Ghent. In Paris, drawing upon his wife's resources, Solvyns prepared new etchings and produced a folio edition of 288 plates, Les Hindous, published in Paris between 1808 and 1812 in four elephantine volumes.7 In his introduction, Solvyns writes that while European scholars have done much "to dispel the darkness which enveloped the geography and history of India, . . . its inhabitants alone have not yet been observed nor represented with the accuracy which is necessary to make them perfectly known. . . ." To rectify this situation, he offered to the public Les Hindous, " the result of a long and uninterrupted study of this celebrated nation."8

The drawings from which are engraved the numerous plates . . . were taken by myself upon the spot. Instead of trusting to the words of others, or remaining satisfied with the knowledge contained in preceding authors, I have spared neither time, nor pains, nor expense, to see and examine with my own eyes, and to delineate every object with the most minute accuracy . . . .
I admitted nothing as certain but upon the proof of my own observation, or upon such testimony as I knew to be incontrovertible. I have wholly neglected the testimony of authors who have treated these subjects before me, and have given only what I have seen, or what I have myself heard from the mouth of the natives the best informed and most capable of giving me true instructions upon the subject of my inquiries.
What I have said of the text, may also in some degree be applied to the prints themselves, in which I have purposely avoided all sort of ornament or embellishment; they are meerly representations of the objects such as they appeared to my view. . . .9

The Calcutta edition labeled each etching by name, but Solvyns published the descriptive text separately in a small Catalogue with brief entries.10
For the Paris edition, however, Solvyns accompanied each etching by an expanded descriptive text, in both French and English.
In the Calcutta collection, Solvyns provides the earliest published depiction of the Sikhs. He presents them in two hand-coloured etchings, each measuring 14 1/2 x l0 inches. In the Calcutta edition, the first, "A Sic," is among the sixty-six prints of Section I, depicting "Hindoo casts, with their professions." In the Paris edition, the etching is entitled "Sics, A Hindoo Tribe." The identity of the Sikhs as a separate religious community was already a matter of some dispute, however, and Solvyns notes that "There are persons who hesitate to rank them among the Hindoos."
The second etching, labeled "A Naunuck Punthy" ("Nanuk-Punthy," in the Catalogue), is among the ten prints of Section VII, "Faquirs and Holy Mendicants." The descriptive text of the 1799 Catalogue and that of the Paris edition reflect limited information and considerable confusion on Solvyns's part, and his portrayal and description of the Nanak-panthi is as baffling as it is interesting.
Reproduced here are Solvyns's etchings for the Calcutta edition,11
with the texts from the 1799 Catalogue and the texts accompanying the plates from the Paris edition. My commentary follows Solvyns's description.




"A Sic"


Calcutta: Section I, Number 9. A Sic in his family dress--the back ground represents them armed as Soldiers.
The History and origin of this curious Tribe, are to be met with in Hadgee Mustafah's Translate of Golaum Housain Khaun's Seir Mutaquirean;12
and an account of them by Mr. Wilkins, is inserted in lst Volume of the Transactions of the Asiatic Society.13

Paris: Vol. I, Section 8, Number 5: SICS, A HINDOO TRIBE.

These Hindoos form also a people with independent laws and customs. There are persons who hesitate to rank them among the Hindoos. But it is certain that their tribe was founded by Nanuck-Shah [Guru Nanak], a descendant of Timur's, who through expiations and money was allowed to become a Hindoo. The first volume of the Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Calcutta may be consulted upon this subject.14
The Sics never quit their families but for military service. They are brave, and acquit themselves well in battle; but all their force is in their first charge: if that is resisted, their defeat soon follows.
It is worthy of observation, that among them a family goes into mourning on the birth of a child, and rejoices and puts on white clothes when death carries off one of its members. This custom, which has been remarked among other nations, proceeds from an opinion perhaps too well founded, that this world is a vale of tears and misery, from which it is always a happiness to be delivered.
The Sic who forms the principal figure in this engraving, is in his ordinary costume, which is black, or oftener very dark blue. The back ground of the plate gives a view of the mountainous country which these Hindoos inhabit, with a group of their warriors near a tent, which is their ordinary abode.

Commentary: The Sikhs emerged as a distinct religious community from among Punjabi Hindus who followed the teachings of Guru Nanak (1469-1539). Nanak--often Nanuck Shah in early European writings--was of a Hindu family, and one can only wonder where Solvyns heard that he was a descendent of Timur and a convert to Hinduism. There are no such references in Ghulam Hussain or in Wilkins nor, indeed, in any published work on the Sikhs.15

Solvyns refers to the Sikhs as "these Hindoos," as, indeed, most understood themselves, but Khalsa Sikhs increasingly sought to shape a consciousness of their distictive character, and it is evident from Solvyns's comments that by the late eighteenth century some observers regarded them as a separate religious body.16
The British, who fought the Sikhs in two wars (1845-46 and 1848-49), later recruited them for the Indian Army as one of the "martial races."
Solvyns portrays the Sikhs, though without specification in the text, with some of the visible attributes of membership in the Khalsa, the militant Sikh order established by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. Prominent among the distinguishing features are the "Five Ks," items (each beginning with the letter "k") that males must wear: uncut hair, sword or dagger; steel bangle on the right wrist; distincitive military-style shorts; and the comb worn in the topknot of the hair (concealed beneath the turban and unseen in the print).17

Khalsa Sikhs also wear dark blue garments and turban--not black, as Solvyns describes. Guru Gobind Singh never required Sikhs to wear any particular color, but Ganda Singh, in an annotation to Browne's early account of the Sikhs, writes that the zealous Nihang sect "patronized the dark blue colour used by the Guru during his escape from Machhiwara. As the Nihangs exercised great influence in the community and occasionally led the expeditions of the Sikhs against their enemies, their dark blue dress acquired general popularity."18

Europeans, like Solvyns, often took the distinctively-dressed and militant Khalsa Sikhs as constituting the whole of the Sikh community, but the Panth, as the Sikh community is known, included a variety of other groups, such as the Nanak-panthi, who Solvyns depicts in his series of religious mendicants, although apparently without recognizing them as Sikhs.
Solvyns's comment on Sikh military tactics--that "all their force is in their first charge; if that is resisted, their defeat soon follows"--is unsupported. Colonel Polier, in his 1787 presentation on the Sikhs before the Asiatic Society in Calcutta, held that "their military capacity . . . are far from being so formidable as they are generally represented, or as they might be," attributing this to "disorderly manner" in which they fight."19
Such views may have been held by a few Europeans in Calcutta in Solvyns's time, but they contrast with the more general judgment of "remarkably good" Sikh military skill.20 W. H. McLeod suggests that Solvyns (and others) may have been confused by a frequently used Sikh tactic "to feign flight and then pull up suddenly and strike their enemy who would be caught off balance."21
Solvyns's discussion of Sikh birth and death practices is similarly at odds with their tradition. McLeod relates that "The Sikhs (and Punjabis) in general) have been a world-affirming and life-affirming community, and such practices would seem to be in direct contradiction to their normal way of viewing such incidents."22

The differences between Solvyns's Calcutta and Paris prints are considerable. In the Calcutta etching, the central figure, a Kes-dhari Sikh,23
stands aganst a clouded sky and wears a black cloak and blue turban, tied as many Sikhs then bound their turban. In the background are three small armed figures, two standing and one sitting. In the Paris print, against a clear sky, the central figure is depicted with a more natural face, with finer features, and the cloak and turban are colored dark blue--despite the text reference in the Paris edition to the black cosume. The small background figures have been replaced by two Sikhs, both armed, now standing in the foreground just behind the central figure. In both Calcutta and Paris editions, the shorts are shown as white, and in each, the principal figure of the Sikh is depicted without a sword or dagger. The shoes are of Punjabi style, save for the instep Solvyns depicts, but are not typical of those generally worn by the Sikhs.
Both plates depict a hilly background and in the text he refers to "the mountainous country which these Hindoos inhabit," but it was only during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries that Sikhs occupied the hills. By Solvyns's time, their land was principally the Punjabi plains.





"A Naunuk Punthy"

Calcutta: Section VII, Number 8. A Nanuk-Punthy,--a sectary formed by Nanuk, and are remarkable for wearing one shoe only and shaving one mustache,--he is represented setting in Durnah, a religious fraud, an account of which is given in the 3d volume of the Asiatic Researches, in Article 22, on some extraordinary Facts, Customs, and Practices of the Hindoos.

Paris: Volume II, Section 4, Number 6. NANUK-PUNTHY.


The Faquirs who go by the name of Nanuk-Punthys are very different, and much more peaceable than those of which we have just been speaking. Their outward appearance offers something striking, not to be met with among any of the other Faquirs; which is caused by their wearing only one whisker and one shoe. The origin of so strange a custom still remains unknown to me, notwithstanding all my endeavours to discover it. Every Faquir of this class has his turban covered with a sort of network of wire, of which also he wears a kind of cord as a collar round his neck. To the left side of the turban, above the ear, are fastened two little bells of silver. The Nanuk-Punthy carries besides in each hand a stick which he is continually striking together, reciting at the same time, with a most extraordinary volubility of tongue, a Durnah or text of the Hindoo legend. There is a pretty ample description of this Durnah or text in the third volume of the Memoirs of the Society of Calcutta. These Faquirs are persuaded that this pious trick gives them an incontestable claim upon the charity and beneficence of all those upon whom they intrude their endless declamations; to which, as often as they are disappointed, curses and reproaches succeed with equal volubility. They pretend to have a warrant for this in the precepts of their sect; and we must remember that the Hindoos feel more hurt by reviling language than by any other sort of ill treatment.
Some of the Nanuck-Punthys choose the markets and public places for the theatre of their perpetual harangues: others go from house to house, from shop to shop, striking their sticks together and pouring forth their declamations, untired and incessant, excess in the well filled intervals of scolding. This is their trade, the profession they have embraced for life. They are in other respects quiet in their demeanour, and are even treated with some degree of respect, especially among the Sics and the Mahrattas.

Commentary: In the broadest sense, Nanak Panthi refers to the followers of Guru Nanak--the Sikhs. But Solvyns here describes an order of mendicants, and although he notes the respect in which they are held by Sikhs, he does not identify them as Sikhs.
According to historian H. W. McLeod, the term Nanak-panthi was used principally for non-Khalsa Sikhs, and there were many of them in various sects in the late eighteenth century. McLeod suggests that the Nanak-panthi depicted by Solvyns may have been a member of one of the Udasi orders. The name Udasi is from the Sanskrit udasin, detachment, and was taken by the followers of Sri Chand (by tradition, 1494-1612), eldest son of Guru Nanak. These ascetics were distinguished from the militant Khalsa Sikhs (depicted by Solvyns in the earlier print) by their renunciation of the world, their celebacy and rejection of such practices as keeping their hair and beard uncut. Among the Udasi orders, numbering more than a dozen, there was neither uniformity in doctrine nor organization.24
But Solvyns's description does not correspond with any of the groups known to McLeod. The representation of the "Nanuk-Punthy" as having only half a moustache and one shoe is baffling, as is the reference to the turban being covered with "a sort of network of wire" and the two silver bells hanging from the turban above the left ear. McLeod concludes that Solvyns must have "encountered a rather peculiar kind--and the practice of striking sticks together further supports this."25 It may also be that Solvyns simply describes an ascetic who took Nanak as his inspiration but, in other respects, was a member of some Hindu order.
Solvyns's reference to "durnah" is most curious. He writes of the "Nanuk-Punthy" reciting "a Durnah or text of the Hindoo religion," but then refers to a description in the journal of the Asiatic Society. The reference is more specific in Solvyns's brief entry for the 1799 Catalogue accompanying the Calcutta edition of the etchings. There, he describes the figure as "represented setting in Durnah, a religious fraud, an account of which is given in the 3d volume of the Asiatic Researches, in Article 22, on some extraordinary Facts, Customs, and Practices of the Hindoos." The article appeared, not in the third volume, but in the fourth, l795, and describes Solvyns's "fraud" as a form of extortion where the supplicant "sets down in Dherna" before a person's house and there threatens suicide or engages in fast and "completely arrests him . . . until the institutor of the Dherna obtains satisfaction."26
The article makes no reference to "Nanuk-Punthy." The practice, dharna, is used today as a political weapon: demonstrators sit before the home or office of an offending party and may threaten "fast unto death" to secure their demands.27
Solvyns's text description of the turban as covered by a "network of wire" is not evident in the etching, and it is surely unlike the turban of the zealous Akali Nihangs, who wear a large, conical blue turban encircled by razor-edged steel quoits.28

Altogether, Solvyns's portrayal of the Nanak Panthi is very odd indeed--one whisker and one shoe, the peculiar turban, the striking of sticks, and the "pious trick" of dharna. What sort of Nanak Panthi could Solvyns have been describing, or was this person a Sikh at all?

Portrayals of Sikhs in the Nineteenth Century

Solvyns's great project was a financial failure, but the Calcutta etchings influenced Indian artists, notably from Murshidabad, to the north of Calcutta in Bengal, and the development of what came to be called the "Company School" of Indian painting.29
Many of these painters, with a blend of Indian and European styles, were employed by the British East India Company and its servants to portray Indian occupations, festivals, manners, and customs, very much as Solvyns had done in his collection of 250 etchings. Indeed, it is likely that Solvyns himself employed such artists as colourists in his own studio in Calcutta. That Solvyns influenced Company School painting is evident in the work of artists in Calcutta and Murshidad--in the black-ruled borders, the positioning of the figures, and most significantly in the subjects portrayed.
It was not until well into the nineteenth century, influenced by Company artists from other parts of India, including Bengal, that the Company School of painting began to develop in the Punjab. Among the Sikhs, painting had been largely limited to murals on temple walls, as those in Amritsar. Miniature painting, as done for the Mughals, was found principally in the Punjab Hills among the Rajput courts, where artists pursued Hindu religious themes. It was only in the early nineteenth century, 1810-1830, that that Sikhs called on these artists for Sikh subjects, primarily portraits of notables in the Sikh court.30
With increasing European contact, from the 1830s, many of these artists turned from the conventions of the Punjab Hill miniatures to European perspective and increasingly to the genre of the Company School.
"British attitudes to painting slowly supplemented and superseded Indian," writes William Archer. "Artists at Lahore and Amritsar . . . had used gouache as their chief medium. The British preferred water-colour and as they settled down to live and rule, they induced Punjabi artists to adopt it. As early as 1838 or 1839, a British traveler in the Punjab had persuaded an Indian artist to portray the different peoples of Northern India, sketching them on British-supplied paper and binding them into an album. Amongst these drawings, some were strongly Sikh in theme--portraits of rulers and pictures of the military."31
French adventurers serving in the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) were patrons of local painters, who provided them with pictures of Sikh rulers, infantry and cavalry, and the people of the Punjab.32
Punjabi artists had seen Company paintings from other parts of India, but they were also influenced by British and European artists and their portrayal of India. Among British travelers to the Punjab,33
fascinated by Sikh martial traditions and most particularly by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, were amateur artists of considerable talent--G. T. Vigne (1801-1863),34 who was in the Punjab in 1837; William G. Osborne (1804-l888),35 who visited the Sikh court in 1838; and, capturing the romance of the Sikhs in her famous prints, Emily Eden (1797-1869), Osborne's aunt and sister of Lord Auckland, Governor-General of India. Accompanying her brother in l838 in a visit to Lahore, capital of the Sikh state, Eden made drawings of Ranjit Singh, his ministers, and ordinary people. Based on these sketches, her Portraits of the Princes and People of India,36 with its rich lithographic depiction of the Sikhs, was immensely popular, and as copies made their way to Punjab, her style influenced artists of the emerging Punjabi Company School.37
Another influence on Punjabi artists came through the realism of August Schoefft (1809-1888), a Hungarian painter who came to Lahore in 1841 to spend more than a year sketching and painting the life of the Sikh court.38

The Anglo-Sikh Wars (1845-46 and 1848-49) brought British army officers to the Punjab, some of whom, like Sir Henry Lawrence, made sketches of Sikh officers, infantrymen, and people in their various activities.39
Some employed Indian artists in the tradition of the Company School to portray Punjabi life and customs. After the British annexed the Punjab in l849, these Punjabi artists produced stock sets of paintings, intended primarily for Europeans and sold in the bazaars, depicting Sikh rulers and heroes, occupations, and costumes.40
Mildred Archer describes the Company School painting as it fully emerged in the Punjab after British annexation:

The sets of costumes and occupations were of two types. One type was clearly made by Punjab Hill artists, probably from Guler who had migrated to Amritsar, Lahore and possibly other centres in the Punjab plains. In style they closely resemble Guler minatures of the mid-nineteenth century and are executed in gouache, with coloured borders, showing the craftsman or subject of the picture in an appropriate setting of a shop or landscape. They are a continuation of the hill tradition and it is mainly in their subject matter that they reflect British taste. A second type was cheaper, simpler and more naive, the figures being shown against a plain background without any suggestion of a landscape. Some sets, however, such as those drawn by Kapur Singh of Amritsar, were more elaborate and placed the figure in an appropriate setting within a coloured border. These pictures were executed on European paper in water- colour. They were at times sold separately, but were usually bound up together into small volumes with tooled leather covers.41

There is no evidence of influence of Solvyns's etchings in the development of Company School painting in the Punjab, save for a possible indirect connection through Company paintings by Bengali artists. But in his systematic portrayal of the people of India in their castes, occupations, customs, costumes, and festivals, Solvyns provided a format that became the standard for the sets of Company paintings, such as those depicting the Sikhs by Punjabi artists for Europeans. The two Solvyns etchings depicting Sikhs--their earliest published portrayal--find their way into no discussions of the representation of Sikhs in art, and the Solvyns portraits, with their descriptive texts, are apparently unknown to historians of the Sikhs. Solvyns sought to provide an accurate account, both visually and in text, of what he observed. There are surely inaccuracies and anomolies, as in the curious portrayal of the "Nanuk-Punthy," but in Solvyns we find rich sources for our understanding of India in the late eighteenth century and, through two etchings, of the Sikhs.

*NOTE: Originally published in International Journal of Punjab Studies, Vol . 3, No. 2 (1996), pp. 213-27. Copyright © Assocation for Punjab Studies, UK, 1996. All rights reserved. Posted on this Web page with the permission of the copyright holders and the publishers, Sage Publications India Pvt. Ltd. [Diacritical marks in the original omitted here.]

1 Born Francois Baltazard Solvyns, he used his middle name, Baltazard, rather than Francois. On Solvyns, see Mildred Archer, "Baltazard Solvyns and the Indian Picturesque," The Connoisseur 170 (January 1969): 12-18, and Robert L. Hardgrave, Jr., "A Portrait of Black Town: Baltazard Solvyns in Calcutta, 1791-1804," in Pratapaditya Pal, ed., Changing Visions, Lasting Images: Calcutta Through 300 Years (Bombay: Marg, 1990): 31-46. The full collection of Solvyns's etchings, together with introductory chapters on his life and work, will appear in Hardgrave, A Portrait of the Hindus: Baltazard Solvyns in Calcutta, 1791-1804, forthcoming.
2 Described as a Punjabi and by faith a Nanak-panthi in C. E. Buckland, Dictionary of Indian Biography (New York: Haskell House, 1968 [1906]: 322-23.
3 See Mildred Archer, India and British Portraiture, 1770-1825 (London: Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1979).
4 Balt. Solvyns, A Collection of Two Hundred and Fifty Coloured Etchings: Descriptive of the Manners, Customs, and Dresses of the Hindoos (Calcutta: 1796, 1799).
5 (London: Edward Orme, 1804, 1807).
6 Les Hindous (Paris: Chez L'Auteur, 1808), 1: 29.
7 F. Baltazard Solvyns, Les Hindous, 4 vols. (Paris: Chez L'Auteur, 1808-1812).
8 Ibid., 1: 20-21
9 Ibid., 1: 21.
10 Solvyns, A Catalogue of 250 Coloured Etchings; Descriptive of the Manners, Customs, Character, Dress, and Religious Ceremonies of the Hindoos (Calcutta: Mirror Press, 1799).
11 The original etchings are in the author's collection.
12 Syed Gholam Hossein Khan [Ghulam Hussain Khan], Seir Mutaqherin: or View of Modern Times, Being a History of India, vols. (Calcutta: 1789; reprinted Lahore: Sheikh Muharak Ali, 1975). The discussion on " Nanec-Shah" and the "Sycs" appears in 1:82-84. The translation is by M. Raymond, a French Creole, who had assumed the Muslim name Hajee Mustapha, but the published translation from Persian appeared under the pseudonym Nota Manus. A later translation, Siyas-ul-Mutakherin, was published in London in 1832.
13 Charles Wilkins, "Observations on the Seeks and their College" [1781], Asiatick Researches 1 (1788): 288-294. Colonel A. L. H. Polier read a paper on the "The Siques," at a meeting of the Asiatic Society in Calcutta in 1787, but it was not published until its inclusion in Indian Studies: Past & Present, 3 (1962): 181-243, and in Ganda Singh, ed., Early European Accounts of the Sikhs (Calcutta: Indian Studies: Past & Present, 1962), 53-69. For another early account in the transactions of the Asiatic Society, see Sir John Malcolm, "Sketch of the Sikhs," Asiatic Researches, 11 (1810): 197-292.
14 The brief Wilkins article, cited above, is the only discussion of the Sikhs in Vol. I of Asiatick Researches, and it makes no reference to Guru Nanak as a descendant of Timur.
15 Letter from W. H. McLeod to the author, December 16, 1994. For a discussion of early European writing on the Sikhs, see J. S. Grewal, Guru Nanak in Western Scholarship (Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study; New Delhi: Manohar, 1992). On the Sikhs generally, see McLeod, The Sikhs: History, Religion, and Society (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989), and his Historical Dictionary of Sikhism (Lanham, Md: Scarescrow Press, 1995). For Sikh history, see Khushwant Singh, A History of the Sikhs, 2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), and J. S. Grewal, The Sikhs of the Punjab, The New Cambridge History of India, II.3 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).
16 Harjot Oberoi, The Construction of Religious Boundaries: Culture, Identity, and Diversity in the Sikh Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 24, emphasizes the fluidity of Sikh identity well into the nineteenth century, but notes the dramatic change in the eighteenth century as the Khalsa Sikhs pushed for "a distinct and separate religious culture." On the problem of Sikh identity, also see McLeod, The Sikhs, 16-47. Although a matter of controversy, McLeod argues that it was only with the Singh Sabha movement in the late nineteenth century that Sikhs asserted their separateness from the Hindus.
17 Five Ks, Panj-Kakkas, in Ramesh Chander Dogra and Gobind Singh Mansukhani, Encyclopaedia of Skih Religion and Culture (New Delhi: Vikas, 1995), 148-49, and McLeod, The Sikhs, 45, 71-72.
18 Ganda Singh, 17, fn. 4. Solvyns is apparently unaware of Major James Browne, History of the Origin and Progress of the Sicks, published as part of India Tracts (London: East India Company, 1788), the first treatise on the Sikhs by an Englishman. The essay is reprinted, with annotations, in Indian Studies: Past & Present, 2 (1961): 535-42 and 549-83, and is included in Ganda's Singh's edited Early European Accounts of the Sikhs, 9-19.
Horace A. Rose writes that "Authorities differ as to the origin of the blue dress. It is said to have been adopted in imitation of Guru Govind Singh who escaped by donning the blue garb of a Muhammadan pilgrim to Mecca. . . ." A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North Western Frontier Province (Delhi: Languages Department, Punjab, 1970 [1919]), 1:709. Khushwant Singh, in a note on the Nihangs, offers a variation on the origin of the blue color. "Nihangs were suicide squads of the Mughal army and wore blue uniforms. The Sikhs took the name and the uniform from the Mughals." A History of the Sikhs, 1:215, fn. 9. On the Nihangs, see Dogra and Mansukhani, 343-44.
19 60.
20 Major James Browne, 17.
21 Letter, December 16, 1994.
22 Ibid.
23 An "orthodox" Khalsa Sikh with uncut hair. See McLeod, The Sikhs, 78-80.
24 McLeod, Historical Dictionary of Sikhism, 214-15. Also see Oberoi, 78-80, and John Clark Archer, The Sikhs (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1946), 227-28.
25 Letter to the author, December 16, 1994. Published descriptions of Sikh ascetics provide nothing to verify Solvyn's portrayal. Horace Rose's description of the Udasi, for example, bears no resemblance to Solvyns's account. Moreover, Rose describes Udasi ascetics as wearing red or going entirely naked, at odds with Solvyns's depiction in the etching, although there may well have been considerable variation in appearance among the various Udasi orders. A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province (Delhi: Languages Department, Punjab, 1970 [1919]), 3:479-81. There is a faint resemblance in Solvyns's description to the Suthra Shahi order of Sikh devotees. Some among them carry a danda (staff) with which they strike their iron bracelets. They claim to be Udasis and live by begging, but, although possible, it would seem unlikely that Solvyns would have encountered someone from so small an order. See Dogra and Mansukhani, 457.
26 Sir John Shore, "On Some Extraordinary Facts, Customs, and Practices of the Hindus," Article 22, Asiatic Researches, 4 (1795): 330-31. The author again discusses the practice, with the spelling "Dhurna," in a note at the end of the article, 346-48.
27 See Robert L. Hardgrave, Jr. and Stanley A. Kochanek, India: Government and Politics in a Developing Nation, 5th ed. (Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993), 173.
28 The quoits, chakkars, are described by Dogra and Mansukhani, 344 and 378. The Akalis are vividly portrayed in two similar Company School paintings, c. 1860, in Stuart Cary Welch, Room For Wonder: Indian Painting during the British Period 1760-1880 (New York: American Federation of Arts, 1978), pl. 57, pp. 128-29, and in Mildred Archer, Company Paintings: Indian Paintings of the British Period (London: Victoria and Albert Museum/Ahmedabad: Mapin, 1992), pl. 162, p. 173. The Akali Nihangs are also portrayed in Kanwarjit Singh Kang, Punjab Art and Culture (Delhi: Atma Ram, 1988), 118-34.
29 See Mildred Archer, Company Paintings, 11-19, 72-127.
30 William G. Archer, Paintings of the Sikhs (London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1966), 18-19. Archer includes an annotated bibliography on Sikh painting, 93-103. Also see B. N. Goswamy, Painters at the Sikh Court (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag/University of Heidelberg, 1975; Kang, Punjab Art and Culture, 98-114; and "Homage to Amritsar," Marg 30 (June 1977).
31 1 William Archer, Paintings of the Sikhs, 58; and Mildred Archer, Company Drawings in the India Office Library (London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1972), 211-16.
32 Mildred Archer, Company Paintings, 169.
33 William Archer lists volumes recording impressions of these early travelers in the Punjab, 1830-1870, Paintings of the Sikhs, 79-92.
34 G. T. Vigne, A Personal Narrative of a Visit to Ghuzni, Kabul, and Afghanistan (London: Whittaker, 1840). A lithograph of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, based on a Vigne drawing done in Lahore and published in London in 1837, is reproduced in William Archer, plate 68.
35 W. G. Osborne, The Court and Camp of Runjeet Sing (London: H. Colburn, 1840), contained 16 lithographs from original sketches.
36 (London: J. Dickinson & Son, 1844). Also see her journals in Up the Country (London: R. Bentley, 1866).
37 See William Archer, Paintings of the Sikhs, 42, 51.
38 Ibid, 47-48. Also see Kang, 86-88, and Man Mohan Singh, "Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Court: Painters and the Painted," in Maharaja Ranjit Singh as Patron of the Arts (Bomay: Marg Publications, 1981), 109-20. Two Schofft paintings, a posthumous portrait of Ranjit Singh and, from life, a portrait of Maharaja Sher Singh, were included in National Portrait Gallery's "Raj" exhibition in 1991. The exhibition also included a magnificent portrait of Maharaja Dalip Singh, painted for Queen Victoria by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, in 1854. The painting, plate 208, p. 181, was used for the cover of the exhition catalog. C. A. Bayly, ed., The Raj: India and the British 1600-1947 (London: National Portrait Gallery, 1990), 180-82.
39 Mildred Archer, British Drawings in the India Office Library, Vol. I, Amateur Artists (London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1969), 49, 141, 208, 236-37, 361.
40 Milded Archer, Company Drawings in the India Office Library, 209-10. The listing of Punjab Company School drawings in the IOL appears pp. 208-31. Also see William Archer, Paintings of the Sikhs, 58-59.
41 Mildred Archer, Company Drawings in the India Office Library, 210.


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