UPDATED: Darbar Sahib Exhibit in London

For Update – see bottom of postarmor.jpg

Although far from my home (hopefully @blighty and @joo kay singh can share), is an intriguing exhibit celebrating our beloved Darbar Sahib (erroneously called the Golden Temple) at Amritsar.

Nearly 80 artefacts from the past 200 years have been collected for this exhibit on display in central London.  Most of the items are said to be from private collections and this will be the first time they have been publicly displayed.  The entire exhibit is being organized by the UK Punjab Heritage Association and there is indication that it may travel.

Until then, enjoy the art through this BBC Video on the exhibit (unfortunately the BBC does not allow you to embed, so you’ll have to follow the link).

In conjunction, it seems Sathnam Sanghera of A Boy With a Top Knot fame will be chairing a panel at the upcoming DSC South Asian Literature Festival (Oct 7-24) titled: The Golden Temple of Amritsar: Reflections of the Past on October 14.  The panel will highlight the Muslim rababi tradition of kirtan from one of the descendants of Bhai Mardana – Bhai Ghulam Muhammad Chand.  Unfortunately, it will also feature that most media-astute of the neo-Nihangs and pedlar of neo-Sanatan nonsense – Nidar Singh – who now claims himself to be the “Last Sikh Warrior” (I wonder if he could take on Tom Cruise, who we all know is the Last Samurai).  Regardless, the event is free and definitely worth a visit.

Our UK readers, let us know your thoughts!



As promised @Singh, here is a helmet I found in the Sur Singh area in Amritsar district.  Note the ‘joorha bump’.


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20 Responses to “UPDATED: Darbar Sahib Exhibit in London”

  1. AmericanSikh says:

    The armor shown in the picture seems to be of a higher ranking member of the Afghan armies that used to attack Amritsar. Anyone have any detailed info on the picture? I could be wrong.

  2. Jodha says:

    Great eye AmericanSikh!!!

    I am also a collector of Sikh armor and artefacts. While the bazu bands and the dhal may or may not be Sikh (I can't tell from the picture either), the helmet is DEFINITELY not. The distinctive 'joorha bump' is not there. It is hard to say for sure if it is Afghan, since could be Persian or even Mughal.

    Anything else you are seeing that I am missing?

  3. Singh says:

    During a tour with the collector it was confirmed that the helmet does belong to a Sikh soldier. The further prove this fact the collector provided references to paintings showing Sikh soldiers wearing these type of helmets over dastars wrapped with further dastar material around the helmet.

    The distinctive helmets with the "joorha bump" were provided to one particular Sikh regiment under the comment of rather wealthy European commander in Maharaja Ranjit Singhs Army.

    I can provide the exact facts on the above by contacting the collector himself. if you wish to see this.

  4. Jodha says:

    @Singh – I am still not quite so sure. I don't deny that there were probably Muslim regiments in the army of the Sarkar-e Khalsa or that some Sikhs may have been in those regiments. My claim is that they are still not Sikh regiments. I will upload a picture later today of a helmet with a 'jhoora bump' that I came upon in the Sur Singh area in Amritsar district. I think the 'jhoora bump' was more prevalent than is being alleged.

  5. Harjit Singh says:

    Dear respected artefact collectors. I am a firm beleive in the "joora bump" however has anyone been able to show how this helmet was secured on to the head using a dastaar? I am looking forward to finding this peice of the missing puzzle.

  6. JooKaySingh says:

    I've been to see the exhibition now, and these are my initial observations about the physical exhibition itself. I'll do a further post later on about the wider connotations:

    1. It is excellently presented [layout, presentation of exhibits, lighting etc], organised and promoted. It's an order of magnitude more professional than any other Sikh-related exhibition I've ever seen [admittedly I never went to the Smithsonian or the V&A back in 1999, so my impressions aren't fully informed]. So for that, Kudos to UKPHA, especially Harbhaksh Grewal for his Marketing effort. The exhibit has been on the BBC Website, on BBC London, a centerfold in the Times of London, Time Out and various other high-profile news and media outlets. Put simply – this has been the slickest PR campaign in the Sikh arena in the past two decades.

    3. Although it's marketed as a 'Golden Temple' exhibition, more than half of the exhibits aren't actually about the 'Golden Temple' at all! The exhibition is over 2 floors, and yet the first floor, where everyone enters, mostly contains other artefacts from the private collection of Davinder Toor, one of the curators of the exhibition. One example is the alleged Armour of a Sikh Soldier that Jodha has linked above.

    3. It has a timeline in the basement-level of the exhibition which plots key events in Sikh history and contextualises them against what was happening in the wider world at the same time – I think this was excellent.

    4. The exhibits about Darbar Sahib themselves provide a good insight about how it used to look in the late 19th Century, and there is a very good aeriel shot of the Amritsar environs from 1930's I believe, which is quite extraordinary for it's time given Google Earth hadn't been invented then! The archive reels of Darbar Sahib and clips of Bhai Mardana's descendents performing Kirtan are also well done.

    5. There is a also a nice little section for young children where they can draw, look & hold various artefacts. I think this links into point 1, but the organisers have clearly thought about this more than the average Panjabi would, and have been able to cater for an audience who'd otherwise get bored in a typical exhibition.

  7. Singh says:

    JooKaySingh – many thanks for putting in beautiful writing the description of the exhibit. Basically those who do not get to see it before 25th Sept (the last day) will miss an amazing exhibit.

    Davinder has done extensive research into the helmet worn and has even demonstrated how the helmet mentioned above was secured over the dastaar. If you look at the picture above you will note that the helmet cannot sit on a head without a form of cloth under it. The circular add on at the front below the helmet actually sits between the eyese not at the tip of the nose and this is not possible without a dastaar.

    For those who wish to see more information why not go back to the exhibition and talk to Davinder – who would be more than happy to show how it was worn.

    BTW the joora helmet also features in the exhibition with a write up on which regiment of the sikhs had worn this type of helmet.

  8. singh-soorma says:

    Yep that is correct, if you look at the helmet it is simply too tall to be warn straight on the head, the chain-mail would cover your eyes so you would have to wear something ie. a dastar underneath it.

  9. Jodha says:

    @Singh – wearing a dastaar during this period was not unique to Sikhs alone. On the helmet I pictured, I can also take a shot of the underside. You'll find plenty of fabric and padding. I also have helmets from the Qajar dynasty (contemporaries of Sardar Ranjit Singh) in Iran. It appears very much like the one pictures and would have also required for the wearer to have had a 'dastaar-like' covering as well. Again my point is not that the helmet is not from the period (it may even well have been worn by a soldier in the employ of the Sarkar-e Khalsa), my point is merely that it does not seem to be that of a Sikh soldier.

  10. Blighty Singh says:

    I haven't been to the exhibition. I couldn't be arsed. Don't really need to go anyway. London is a living, functioning museum of Sikh history anyway. Full of my history which I pass every day. From the Sikh war inscriptions at Trafalgar Square…to the Sikh battle flags in Westminster Abbey…..to the Sikh cannons standing guard outside Chelsea Hospital….to Maharaja Ranjit Singh's throne at the V&A etc etc. My history is all around me. It'd have to be a damn good exhibition to convince me to risk getting stuck on the northern line.

  11. cansikhsilly says:

    Unless you've gone through the tour, much of what you see will not have context. I suggest visiting. I am from Canada and must say that it was phenomenal. The knowledge transfer in the tours is second to none.

  12. openmindedsikh says:

    I went to the GT1588 exhibition and agree with you it was a real gem and provided a rare glimpse of the history of the Darbar Sahib. There was some excellent talks that were organised too which I found all really inspiring my favourite was the rababi performance and even the one by the Nihang. It's brilliant to see so many different facets of our heritage made accessible, and people from all walks of life enjoying it together. Keep up the good work and I hope the organisers can put on more events.

  13. satvinder says:

    How can you publicly slander Nihang Niddar Singh like that? Have ever actually talked to the man? You should know that top martial artists around the world have great respect for Niddar Singhs martial skills…His deep knowledge of shastar vidya is second to none…

  14. Surinder Singh says:

    I am a u.k based collector and new to the forum. I have aquired a turban helmet amongst other pieces. I would like to get in touch with Davinder Singh Toor if anyone has any contact details for him.

  15. Anderson Thompson says:

    I wish I could visit this Darbar, I love visiting historical places and unfortunately I don’t have much opportunities hence I have to rely on internet and the pictures available on it thanks to besst essays writing service which has helped a lot of people to write their experience drenched in the feelings for the readers to enjoy.