Sikh Fortress Turban: A British Museum Tour at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum

By Culture24 Reporter | 22 August 2013 | Updated: 21 August 2013

Exhibition preview: Sikh Fortress Turban: A British Museum Tour, Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry, August 24 – November 17 2013

A black and white photo of an army of men in the 19th century wearing turbans
The British rulers of India admired the fighting skills of Sikh warriors, recruiting them into the British Army from 1850© Courtesy Anglo Sikh Heritage Trail, taken by the late Lt Col Colin McVean MC
Distinct to the original Sikh warriors of the Akali Nihangs, the impenetrable fortress turban – sent to Coventry having been held by the British Museum for around a century – has a tall, conical structure.

Protecting both the hair and the head in battle, its look replicates a defensive tower. Its cloth can stretch as long as 20 yards, with the ornamental embellishments on this particular model featuring the Rattray Battalion badge of the British Army squad led by Captain Thomas Rattray in 1856 Lahore.

Given its exotic allure more than 150 years on, it’s little surprise to learn that army generals would bring back these turbans as exquisite examples of Indian art and culture, spawning demand for replicas among collectors.

Jessica Pinson, the Herbert’s Exhibitions Officer, says curators feel “privileged” to display an artefact simultaneously symbolising Sikh history and the social diversity of the city. A programme of special events and talks have also been devised.

  • Open 10am-4pm (12pm-4pm Sunday). Admission free. Follow the gallery on Twitter @The_Herbert.

More pictures:

A black and white photo of 19th century soldiers in turbans
Thomas Rattray's Rattray Singh Battalion was established in 1855© Courtesy Anglo Sikh Heritage Trail, taken by the late Lt Col Colin McVean MC
A photo of a large turban wrapped in dark blue cloth bearing military badges
The Sikh Fortress Turban is adorned with badges© Courtesy British Museum
A black and white photo of an army of men in the 19th century wearing turbans
Small weapons such as steel quoits, daggers, swords and tiger claws were secured to the turbans for easy access during battle© Courtesy Anglo Sikh Heritage Trail, taken by the late Lt Col Colin McVean MC
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