Aug 19 2014

Rare ‘Fortress Turban’ at Sunderland Museum

The Sikh Fortress Turban, a spotlight loan from the British Museum goes on show at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, 23 August  –  16 November 2014.

This magnificent ‘fortress turban’ will give visitors a rare chance to explore the story of the Sikh Turban, a distinctive symbol of Sikh faith and history.

Councillor John Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, said: “Once again Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens is hosting a national touring exhibition. One of our city’s many strengths is its diversity of communities and their willingness to get along together and appreciate each other’s culture. “This is a fantastic opportunity to get to know more about the history of the Sikh community and join in with them to celebrate their heritage.”

sikh fortress turban

sikh fortress turban

This Sikh fortress turban is a rare object of which only five exist in Britain. This particular one is wrapped around a wooden cone and was made for a ceremonial purpose rather than every day wear.

Known as a Dastaar Boonga or fortress turban ” it was once worn by a group of skilled warrior Sikhs called Akali Nihangs. It was used to protect the head in battle and to hold their weapons, including daggers, swords and metal throwing discs.

The ” fortress turban” is on loan from the British Museum and has been touring the country as part of their ‘spotlight loan tour’. The exhibition will also include the loan of special items from the Sikh community in Sunderland and Newcastle and the displaying of the turban in Sunderland will be celebrated by a special community day

Between 11am – 12.30pm and 1.30pm-3pm on Wednesday 27 August visitors to the exhibition will be able to handle objects and share stories linked to the Sikh faith  They can also join in with free family craft activities and see turban tying demonstrations provided by representatives from Sunderland Gurdwara.

This special event has been organised in partnership with Sunderland Gurdwara and the Oriental Museum, Durham University.

The Sikh turban has historically been a symbol of the right to freedom for every person, no matter who they are or what they believe and this right has been defended by hundreds of thousands of Sikhs all proudly adorning their turbans.

The ornaments on this turban include a modified Rattray Battalion badge, which suggests it may have associations with the British Army battalion raised in January 1856 by Captain Thomas Rattray. It has been in the British Museum collection since the early twentieth century, and in 1900 was displayed at the Banqueting House, Westminster as part of a ‘Relics of Old Wars’ exhibition.


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