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Baba Sri Chand & Our Lady of Guadalupe - Espanola


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The Statue of Baba Siri Chand at the 'Siri Maha Akal Mandir' - 'Siri Singhasan-e-Khalsa' -- The Espanola New Mexico USA Gurdwara

Baba Siri Chand


Gurdwara Hacienda de Guru Ram Das - 'Siri Maha Akal Mandir' - 'Siri Singhasan-e-Khalsa' Espanola


The Mural by Ed O'Brien in the Gurdwara


An explanation of what the mural represents to the Sangat of Espanola - by Ek Ong Kaar Kaur of SikhNet

* taken from


Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa,

Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh.

It's interesting - if you study sacred art - that when a spiritual tradition moves into a new culture, that culture creates artwork which combines the symbols of the new religion with familiar symbols of their own. Study Buddhist art from India through to Japan and you'll see what I'm talking about. As the symbols of that faith moved from one country to another, each culture found a unique way to artistically express their experience of the Buddhist teachings. But despite the varying cultural expression of Buddhism through artwork, at heart, the tenants remain the same.

With that framing mind, I'd like to share the story of the painting that's being discussed on this thread. The one that has the Lady of Guadalupe merged with the Khanda. It's a beautiful mural that adorns the back wall of the Gurdwara at the Hacienda de Guru Ram Das community in Espanola, NM.

First - a little background about the artist. His name was Ed O'Brien. He studied a unique form of fresco paintings in the 1930's - an artistic technique that's not very well known today. The fresco is painted in layers in such a way that, as the paint ages, the mural will take on the characteristics of stained glass. After World War II, Ed went to Mexico City to the Basilica and saw the Guadalupe. He had a great religious experience there, and, in order to share his religious experience, he decided to dedicate his life to painting Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was a spiritual mission for him. He would be guided to different places to paint murals and he always included Our Lady of Guadalupe in those murals. Ed did paintings in churches all over the United States. And then he came to New Mexico.

While living in New Mexico, he met some of the younger people from the Sikh Dharma community living in Espanola and spent time with them learning about the Sikh tradition. His experience when the symbolism of the Khanda was explained, was that the notion of the Adi Shakti - the Primal Creative Power of God matched the spiritual experience he had in Mexico with Our Lady of Guadalupe. Even though he had spent his life painting murals for churches, he felt guided to do a mural at the Gurdwara. So he approached the community and requested permission to paint. We didn't have any money to pay him, but he wasn't looking for payment. He slept in the Gurdwara, the community fed him meals, we bought the materials he needed and for days on end - he painted that mural out of his own inspiration of the relationship between his experience of our Lady of Guadalupe and the Sikh Khanda.

The mural is complex and beautiful and there's all types of symbols in it. Ultimately, though, it is a painting that harmonizes East with West, Past with Future, God with Humanity.

Ed O'Brien died a week after completing the mural. It was the last work he did. For the members of the community who had fed him and supported him while he worked on the painting, it was a deeply spiritual experience. He came to us from his own spiritual vision, he spent his time without asking for payment and then, somehow, in the act of doing this painting for the Sikhs, his soul had completed its mission and moved on. It's a sacred work to us not just because of the painting, itself, but because of the way the painting came about to begin with.

What happened was that a man of Christ and an artist, through the symbol of the Khanda, had a chance to move into truly Universal consciousness and realize that his symbol of the Lady of Guadalupe and our symbol of the Khanda point to that same Divine Power which mothers all of Creation. And ultimately, isn't that what our Sikh faith is about - giving people a chance to move beyond a one-aspected understanding of the Divine into an understanding that every faith, every culture, every symbol is trying to describe that one Indescribable Power behind Creation?

I just wanted to share the story behind the painting so you can understand what it meant to a man and a community and why we cherish it so very much.


Ek Ong Kaar Kaur

Espanola, NM

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Baba Sri Chand and Guru Ram Das Sahib

a painting from the Sikh Dharma 3HO Foundation Collection by Smiling Kaur Khalsa of the meeting of Siri Chand and Guru Ram Dass


*Biographical notes from Sikhnet :

Baba Sri Chand (1494-1629) was the eldest son of Guru Nanaak Dev ji. Sri Chand was a devoted Sikh and a saintly person, but unlike his father, he chose the life of an ascetic and renounciate yogi. After his father left this earthly plane, Baba Sri Chand stayed in Dera Baba Nanak and maintained Guru Nanaak Dev's temple. Here he established the Udasis sect who traveled far and wide to spread the Word of Nanaak. Many years passed, with Siri Chand keeping company with his own disciples. Sri Chand heard about the beautiful new city of Ram Das Pur, and the compassion and humility of the Fourth Guru, Guru Ram Das ji. Curious, he set out to meet him. When Baba Sri Chand met Guru Ram Das, he commented that Guru Ram Das had the longest beard he had ever seen. Guru Ram Das, in an expression of honor to the House of Nanaak, said, "It is only long in order to wipe the feet of the saints". Guru Ram Das bent down to do so, and Baba Sri Chand pulled his feet back in surprise. Guru Ram Das’s humility touched Siri Chand deeply and he declared to everyone, "This is truly the Light of Guru Nanaak." From that time forward, Baba Sri Chand maintained close contact with the Sikh sangat. Upon Baba Sri Chand's death at the age of 135, the son of Guru Hargobind, Baba Gurditta was appointed his successor as head of the Udasis. They received support and guidance from the Sikhs, and lived together all across the Punjab. The Udasis protected and maintained the historical Gurdwaras of Anandpur, Hazoor Sahib and Amritsar for over a hundred years after Guru Gobind Singh's death, during the time of great persecution of the Sikhs. During this time, they established schools of learning to keep alive the knowledge of Sikh history and Gurmukhi language.

From: The Encyclopaedia of Sikhism and McCauliffe

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