by SS Gurukirn Kaur Khalsa, Phoenix AZ
The poetry of the Gurus is exquisite, embodying the divine in material form. To bring this subtlety into earthly form, the Gurus were able to serve as God’s channels, letting the divine flow through them by setting their egos aside. This channeling of the infinite is the source for creative works that have endured for centuries. The term “beautiful” is often used to describe such works. Through the expression of the Subtle Body, the harmonious relationship of the parts to the whole that manifests beauty comes into play in poetry, music, dance, painting, and architecture.
This awareness has informed our work on the new Gurdwara in Phoenix (Guru Nanak Dwara). Creating beauty and majesty in the Guru’s Court have been our primary objectives. The work encompasses multiple floors, rooms, and functions with horizontal, vertical and volumetric dimensions. From one space to the next, we have incorporated harmonic relationships in the selection of colors and patterns in materials and decorative designs.
Celebrating the Many Hues
In step with the Gurus’ celebration of the earth, the color scheme includes golden brown, cream, gold, and blue, with cherry woodwork, which recall the elements of earth, water, woods, and sky. Often, subtle comparisons are required to determine the most appropriate choice for the relationship at hand. One of the first decisions we had to make was for six large ceiling panels in the main sanctuary.
We picked six shades of blue paint, climbed up scaffolding, and painted two panels at a time with long-handled rollers. Only when all were done were we able to compare them, on the ceiling, at different times of day and light, to pick the right color to convey the expansiveness of the sky.
That choice informed our selection of the colors for the carpet. We designed it in a geometric pattern to guide people around the room. The straight walkway leads them toward the Guru to bow, then curves to move them around to either side to sit down. The colors and patterns enhance the spiritual activities taking place in the sanctuary, just as such decorative elements function in religious spaces throughout the world.
Metaphor of the Soul
One of the most exquisite features is the ornamental railing in the mezzanine area. A combination of wood and metal designed by a professor at Yale University, the railing adorns the Gurdwara like a beautiful necklace. It incorporates the lotus motif, the flower that rises from the mud, a metaphor for the soul’s ascension. Through our subtle body, we connect heaven and earth with such symbolic linkages that resonate on an unconscious level.
Our visits to the Harimandir Sahib and the training of our teacher, the Siri Singh Sahib, have taught us to value elegance in our surroundings and especially our Gurdwaras. By establishing the harmonic relationships that make this sacred space beautiful as well as functional, we are reaching for the sublime. It is our prayer that these colors and patterns will elevate those who worship here, so that they feel at one with the divine, in harmony, beauty, and grace.
About the Author
SS Gurukirn Kaur Khalsa became an ordained Minister of Sikh Dharma in 1974. She has served the Guru Nanak Dwara community in Phoenix, AZ, for many years and has been part of the team working on the construction of the new Gurdwara, scheduled to open in 2016. Actively involved in interfaith activities, she serves on the Arizona Interfaith Movement board. She is a member of the Ambassador Advisory Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. As a watercolor painter, she has lent her artistic eye to color and design decisions for the new Gurdwara. She is a signature-juried member of the Arizona Watercolor Association and frequently travels to picturesque areas throughout the Southwest to paint on location “en plein air.”