Guru Gobind Singh is often depicted in paintings holding a ‘Baaj’. It is common knowledge that the Guru was known as “Chittay baaja wala” or, “Keeper of the White Falcon, but have you ever wondered why the choice of the Falcon?
The Government Museum & Art Gallery, Chandigarh has a fascinating collection of Sikh art, and this painting is part of it. Falconry has been a popular sport amidst royalty, but to see it depicted with Guru Gobind Singh might take many by surprise.
Guru Gobind Singh’s Baaj
Guru Gobind Singh’s Baaj is no ordinary falcon. The Baaj is said to be representative of the Khalsa established by Guru Gobind Singh and its traits are said to be the values proposed for Khalsa members. The 8 values represented by the Falcon can resonate with people of any age, and I can safely say so, because last year, my Grade 3 kids thoroughly enjoyed discussing this painting from the Chandigarh Museum.
1. Self Reliance
It is a fact that the Falcon will never eat what is given or provided to it; instead, it relies on itself, and hunts for its own food to survive. The Khalsa therefore teaches one, to be self-reliant and independent.
A Baaj cannot be kept in a cage under captivity. It either breaks the cage and flies out, or dies within. Similarly, we humans must try to not be enslaved by circumstances, greed or relationships and should strive to be free from all those things that hold us back.
Just as a Baaj has the ability to soar the skies and yet spot its prey (even if its a small rat) on the ground below, the Khalsa advises that we should keep our focus on ground-level realities and not let egos come in the way as we set out to achieve greater heights and climb the many ladders of success that comes our way.
Did you know, that a Falcon never keeps a permanent home? It is always ready to fly away, explore new lands and is ever-ready to settle into new territories. While nothing is permanent, this Khalsa teaching of remaining unattached to material things is the most difficult to attain and is also the best formulae to happiness.
All birds are known to fly in the direction of the wind, with the exception of the Falcon. It is the only bird that flies in the opposite direction. The Khalsa stresses on the need to be resilient – to be able to overcome every adversity or challenge with confidence.
All those NatGeo and Discovery Videos of Falcons teach us one thing – never to be afraid of taking down something bigger in size. To me personally, I love the unwavering passion of the Falcon when it swoops down on its prey – big or small, the Falcon doesn’t care, and neither should we!
The Falcon is a hardworking bird, and simply put, thats a quality Sikhism from the very beginning has stressed upon.
If you’ve ever seen a Falcon fly, you know that it commands the sky with its presence. It is the very symbol of “royalty”. For the Khalsa, royalty or nobility is a state of being, and so it teaches you to embody all virtues of a royal / noble – regardless of economic situation. The Khalsa promotes the values of integrity, honesty, benevolence, generosity, thoughtfulness for the community and the need to stand up for it.
The teachings of the Khalsa are so important for all of us today – no matter what religious group or country we belong to, the Falcon has something to teach us all. Here’s sharing yet another painting of Guru Gobind Singh and his Baaj at the V&A Museum, UK.