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Heritage The Turban Helmet?

Discussion in 'History of Sikhism' started by aristotle, Sep 8, 2013.

  1. aristotle

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    SPNer Contributor

    May 11, 2010
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    Although there is no definitive evidence to date proving that Sikhs wore Punjab turban helmets, if we look at the collective body of secondary circumstantial evidence, it meets the threshold of evidence to allow us to make the assumption that they may likely have.

    Looking at the number of 19th century or earlier helmets attributed to Punjab or the Sikhs, we find that there are less than a handful of surviving Punjab turban style helmets in existence in various museum and private collections around the world. On the other hand there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of surviving Indo-Persian style helmets attributed to Punjab and the Sikh Empire in various collections. Visual evidence of many paintings and drawings of Sikhs wearing the Indo-Persian style helmet provide conclusive proof that this style of helmet achieved overwhelming broad appeal in Punjab. The large disparity in adoption indicates that the Punjab turban helmet never achieved anywhere near the level of popularity or appeal that the traditional Indo-Persian style helmet did among 19th century Sikhs of the Sikh Empire in Punjab.

    The most distinct feature of the turban helmets of Punjab that is shared among all of the surviving examples is their unusual shape. These helmets feature a one-piece design composed of a primary elliptical bowl with a secondary smaller dome-like bowl surmounting it. It is theorized that while the larger bowl is made to accommodate the wearers head, the smaller dome-like bowl is designed to accommodate the wearer’s hair worn in a top-knot bun. The turban helmet also the sliding nasal guard found on Indo-Persian helmets and thus provides no protection to the face of the wearer.

    Another function of battle helmets, beyond providing safety for the head that was very important was the general appearance of the helmet in terms of its grandeur and intimidation factor directed towards the enemy on the battlefield or other soldiers of the Sikh Empire. Looking at the two helmets at the Royal Armouries display, one can observe that the Indo-Persian style helmet appears much grander and provides a more intimidating form than the relatively benign turban helmet beside it.

    Description of cavalry officers under the command of its European Generals Jean Baptise Ventura and Claude Auguste Court:
    Perhaps the best circumstantial evidence comes from a British military journal describing the October 29, 1831 meeting between Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the British Governor General of India, Lord William Bentinck at Ropar on the banks of the Sutlej River:
    Baron Charles Hugel who visited the Sikh Kingdom of Lahore in 1836 wrote:
    (Source: http://www.sikhmuseum.com/helmet/turban/index.html#1)

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  3. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    1947-2014 (Archived)
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    Jun 17, 2004
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    aristotle ji

    It is true that there are not mountains of evidence; however, all of Sikh heritage of the period following the death of Guru Gobind Singh is sorely deficient in evidence. The turbulence, violence and destruction left little in the way of cultural inheritance for the rest of us. That is why this museum collection is remarkable.

    The slide show of contemporary moments can be viewed at this link: http://www.sikhmuseum.com/helmet/sikhs/index.html#1

    The images are priceless and images count as evidence if you are an art historian, an historian of politics and culture, a sociologist. Many fields depend on images as much as the written word. So the opener - "there is no definitive evidence" - sells the story short.
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