Allegory: A Tapestry of Guru Nanak’s Travels

Mount Kailash, Tibet (China) – Guru Nanak had discourses with the ‘Siddhas’, accomplished spiritualists.
Khost, Afghanistan – Local resident, Khalida Begum, shared her motherly love in remembrance of the departed adherents of Guru Nanak with whom she grew up in this village.
Baltistan, Pakistan – Filming in the high-altitude cold desert. The crew expressing a moment of joy after completing the filming in these hard to access areas.
Ruins of Baghdad Gurdwara adjacent to the shrine of Faqir Bahlool.
By Harbans Lal, Ph.D., D. Lit (Hons)

Five centuries ago, Guru Nanak undertook a worldwide journey to alert people of both the Sindhu civilization east of Sindh River Delta, and those of Turk civilizations west of Sindh Delta against clergy-concocted religion. Everywhere he visited, he advocated God as the virtual reality manifested in all creation. Thus, Guru Nanak’s God is realized through an appreciation of the natural designs that flourish within and around all peoples in every corner of the world and everywhere in the universes. ‘ALLEGORY, A Tapestry of Guru Nanak’s Travels’ (website) is a 24-episode documentary that chronicles the vast expanse of sites that were visited by Guru Nanak in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Tibet, Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka. Approximately 70 percent of this landscape today falls in geographies where filming is difficult.

Between the 15th and 16th centuries, the universal narratives of Guru Nanak’s travels were rendered solely through oral narratives. In the 17th century, these were documented in the form of books called ‘Janamsakhis’, written by men of faith, and not historians. It gave rise to a diverse canvas of storytelling, travelogue, and hagiography.

But today, these are forgotten, and, alongside the deeply entrenched division of land and nationality, many of the sites have become inaccessible. In addition, Guru Nanak’s narrative today stands limited to Sikh places of worship, gurdwaras, whilst he traveled to multi-faith sites – Islamic, Sufi, Hindu, Yogi, Buddhist & Jain.

In an ambitious three-year effort, Amardeep Singh and Vininder Kaur, the Singaporean couple filmed the entire narrative of Guru Nanak’s travels and are releasing one episode a week on the website The project was financed by donations from many nonprofit organizations and philanthropic individuals.

The project has been mostly completed beyond the ambitions of its undertakers.  With the aid of stories written half a century after Guru Nanak’s passing away in 1539, along with popular stories and archaeology, the team followed the trails of sites of various faiths visited by Guru Nanak. The team traveled from Mecca to Mount Kailash, filming under the shelling of gunfire in Afghanistan and the scalding summer heat in Iraq, across the waters of river Sindh on the boat, and the desert expanse of Medina to Baghdad. They have gone from the mausoleum of Bahauddin Zakariya in Multan to the Hinglaj Nani Mandir Caves in Balochistan; from Baba Farid’s grave at Pakpattan, Pakistan, where during his visit, Guru Nanak collected the verses of Baba Farid, later enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib, to the congruent region of Para Chinar, which stands between Pakistan and Afghanistan. In a world where visa constraints, nationalist mandates and geographic divisions are often successful in restricting access, Amardeep and his team continued remaining steadfastly unbounded in their efforts to document the narrative for posterity. Their team comprised of Muslims and Hindus, reflecting the spirit of ‘Oneness’, the teaching of Guru Nanak.

The docuseries, ‘Allegory, A Tapestry of Guru Nanak’s Travels’, is an attempt to appreciate Guru Nanak. It is jointly produced by ‘Lost Heritage Productions’ and ‘SikhLens Productions’. (The author is Emeritus Professor and Chairman, Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience, the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth Texas, and Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies, Guru Nanak Dev University at Amritsar)

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