The Akali Turban (bunga
Cotton over a wicker frame, the steel mounts overlaid with gold.
Panjab, probably Lahore, mid-19th century.
Height 46cm, diameter of base 26cm.
Museum no. 3462(IS)
An Akali is a staunch believer in Akal, meaning the Timeless One (God). The Akalis were the original Sikh warriers rasied by Guru Har Gobind at the Akal Takht, seat of temporal authority for the Sikhs in Amritsar. They are also known as Akali Nihangs.
The most striking aspect of the Akali peaked turban is the metal emblem, the gaj-gah (conquerer of battle elephants) which represents superior strength, intellect and daring. The main elements of the gaj-gah are crescents and the double edged sword at the top, but some can also be seen with tridents, knives and tiger claws. It was kept fastened to the turban with quoits (chakkar and chakra) and plaited steel wire. Quoits represent the cyclical nature of life, which is repeatedly used in Sikh symbolism.
See also Photgraphy in the Panjab.