Anahad Naad and Pictorial Resonance: The Halo and Sonic Vibration in Sikh Art – Gurminder Kaur Bhogal

Spring 2023


The halo is a familiar symbol across Buddhist, Christian, and Mughal art, but its role in Sikh
visual media has yet to be acknowledged and examined. This article studies the Sikh halo in
relation to key philosophical concepts of dasam dwar (the tenth door/opening, located at the
crown of the head) and anahad naad (an embodied perception of an internally heard music). When
viewed from a Sikh perspective, the halo emerges as an external marker of an internal attunement
to the divine one. As spectators, we attune to the latent sonic frequencies of the halo, which reflect
the spiritual attainment of Sikh Gurus and other holy figures. Sikh art allows the inner/outer
dialectic of the halo to come into view: to our eyes, the halo signals spiritual realization, while to
our ears, it invites us to contemplate the intensity of sonic vibration that resounds through and
emits from the divine body in tandem with the expressive kirtan of Bhai Mardana and his rabab (a
plucked chordophone).

Drawing on select artwork, I invite spectators to experience the sonic dimension through attention
to the unique positioning of the halo in relation to the rabab. My critical focus on sonic vibration
as suggested by a symbolic connection between the halo and anahad naad allows a concentration
at the head to offer a new vantage point for understanding the iconographical presence of this
symbol. This article centers Sikh art within the long history of the halo while highlighting how this
symbol establishes a unique epistemological system of expressive meaning.

Keywords: halo, Sikh art, ahat naad, anahad naad, dasam dwar, Bhai Mardana, rabab, Guru

PDF Anahad Naad and Pictorial Resonance: The Halo and Sonic Vibration in Sikh Art – Gurminder Kaur Bhogal – Click the PDF icon to view, right-click to save as.
By Gurminder Kaur Bhogal
Catherine Mills Davis Professor of Music, Wellesley College, MA

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