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Quoit turban

Quoit turban

  • Place of origin:

    Lahore (made)

  • Date:

    mid 19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cotton, wicker frame, with quoits and other embellishments of steel overlaid with gold

  • Credit Line:

    Transferred from the India Museum in 1879

  • Museum number:

    3462:1 to 8/(IS)

  • Gallery location:

    South Asia, Room 41, case 28A []

The quoits (rings) and other steel mounts on this turban are associated with Sikhs known as Akalis. The term derives from ‘Akal’, the ‘Timeless One’ – an attributive name of God. Members of the sect are also known as Nihangs, from the Persian word meaning ‘crocodile’, signifying qualities of ferocity and fearlessness. The Akalis are an order of armed fighters among baptised Sikhs.

This assemblage seems to have been put together for display rather than for wearing, which may suggest it was collected by a European in the Panjab. The frame is made of wicker covered with cotton in a form resembling the high turbans worn by Akali Sikhs, but is too small in circumference and too unstable for wearing.

The form and symbolism of the Akali turban (bunga dastar) originate in ancient Indian mythology. The shape is a shrine of the seventh and highest energy centre in the body. A real turban would be tied in two stages, starting with the farla or under-turban, which signifies high rank among the Akalis. The weaponry on the turban includes a central ornament of crescents – a symbol of the Hindu God Shiva – surrounded by gold-overlaid throwing quoits (chakkar or chakra). The chakkar symbolises the cyclical nature of life and is repeatedly used in Sikh symbolism.

Physical description

Akali turban; cotton wrapped over a wicker frame, with quoits and other embellishments of watered steel overlaid with gold.

Place of Origin

Lahore (made)

Date

mid 19th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Cotton, wicker frame, with quoits and other embellishments of steel overlaid with gold

Dimensions

Height: 46 cm, Diameter: 26 cm measurement of base

Object history note

Formerly in the collections of the India Museum and transferred to the South Kensington Museum in 1880.

Descriptive line

Akali turban; cotton over a wicker frame, with quoits and other embellishments of steel overlaid with gold; Lahore, Pakistan; mid-19th century.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Susan Stronge, ed., The Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms, V&A Publications, 1999, cat. 112 p. 223 and p. 142, pl. 162.
Lord Egerton of Tatton, Indian and Oriental Armour, London, 1896, p. 130

Production Note

Transferred from the India Museum to South Kensington Museum in 1879

Categories

Arms & Armour; Textiles

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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