Origin: Sialkot (Sikh)
Date: late 18th century - early 19th century
Length: Helmet 15cm / chain mail 15cm. Total length approx 35cm.
Materials: Iron, steel and gold.
A fine Sikh Helmet.
THE SIKH HELMET
The turban helmets of Punjab with their unique shape and design bear the strongest resemblance to the style of turban most popular among the Sikhs of the first quarter of the 19th century. Visual evidence from paintings and drawings of Sikhs from that early era of the Sikh Empire typically show a small elliptical turban worn high on the head with a prominent top-knot bun and concave side edges quite similar to the turban helmet. Even a very early image of Maharaja Ranjit Singh dated 1810 shows him wearing this style of turban at that time. All helmets are of typical design of a domed form.
Our example is a Sikh helmet with 95% gold koftgari in tact. The gold work is done in a typical Sialkot /Sikh design with tendrils and flowers. The exact same design is featured on the Dhal (shield) of Baba Fateh Singh (the youngest son of Guru Gobind Singh), which is now held in the collection of the Buddha Dal. The Koftgari is well preserved and intact - covering the entire helmet. One of the most important elements of the type of helmet most popular with Sikhs which is strangely missing on most of the Punjab turban helmets are the three prominent porte-aigrette plume holders with their kalgi plumes. The kalgi plume was considered very important to Sikhs of the era of the Sikh Kingdom of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and most traditional Sikh helmets from that era feature a common arrangement of three kalgi plumes, with the most prominent and largest kalgi plume affixed to the apex of the helmet. On the turban helmets of Punjab though, overwhelmingly almost none of them feature a kalgi plume holder at their apex. In fact there is only one known Punjab turban helmet in a Patiala collection with a porte-aigrette plume holder at its apex, in the traditional three plume holder configuration. Our example features the three plume holders - with the original plume in the centre still preserved! The helmet also features perforated lower edges for the attachment of a camail of chain mail for the protection of the ears and neck. These are crafted of small chain links to form a tight structure.
Sikh helmets are now only found in private collections or museums.
One is held in the Royal Armouries: Object Number XXVIA.35 A and Object Number XXVIA.36. A full set of armour in the Royal Armouries also exhibits a similar helmet Object Number XXVIA.6. Also see Object Number XXVIA.85 and Object Number XXVIA.138 for similar work.
Further examples of Sikh soldiers wearing similar helmets can be seen in Sikh artwork and traveler sketches. Please see In Pursuit of Empire by Davinder Toor for various examples.
Overall a very good example of a Sikh helmet. A unique helmet with the original plume still intact. This is a scarce example and ideal for Sikh collectors.
*stand not included