Anahad Naad and Pictorial Resonance: The Halo and Sonic Vibration in Sikh Art


  • Gurminder Kaur Bhogal Catherine Mills Davis Professor of Music, Wellesley College, MA



halo, sikh art, ahat naad, anahad naad, dasam dwar, Bhai Mardana, rabab, Guru Nanak


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.


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How to Cite

Bhogal, G. K. (2023). Anahad Naad and Pictorial Resonance: The Halo and Sonic Vibration in Sikh Art. Sikh Research Journal, 8(1), 1–22.