The story of the Sikh Fortress Turban is set to be told at a new display at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery in Bradford, as a unique three-month exhibition is launched.

The piece will explain the importance of the turban as a symbol of the Sikh faith and identity and will display a unique Fortress Turban alongside items from Bradford Museums and Galleries’ collections and items from the city’s Sikh community.

IDENTITY: The Sikh Fortress Turban, known as a Dastaar Boonga, was worn by Sikh warriors called Akali Nihangs
IDENTITY: The Sikh Fortress Turban, known as a Dastaar Boonga, was worn by Sikh warriors called Akali Nihangs

The exhibition will run at the gallery between Saturday 22nd February and Sunday 18th May.

The Fortress Turban, a tall conical structure, otherwise known as a Dastaar Boonga was worn by a group of skilled warrior Sikhs called Akali Nihangs, to protect their head and hair from sword blows.

It is comprised of original weapons including daggers, swords and metal throwing discs, along with the badge of the Rattray Battalion of the British Indian Army, all secured on a replica indigo dyed turban by long lengths of plaited steel.

The turban, which is being brought to Bradford as part of the British Museum’s Spotlight Tour, has been in its collection since the early twentieth century.

Its original cloth had become so fragile that museum experts used new fabric to display the original objects. Members of the Sikh community worked closely with the British Museum to reconstruct how it would have looked using 37 metres of cloth and traditional tying techniques.

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Bradford Council’s Executive Member responsible for culture, said: “We are delighted to be able to host this significant exhibition, which not only tells an international story of Sikhism but reflects on the community of Sikhs living in Bradford and Yorkshire.”

John Orna Ornstein, British Museum’s Head of National Programmes, added: “The display of the fortress turban at the British Museum generated enormous interest from Sikh and wider audiences.

“We are delighted that the turban is touring to a number of venues in the UK and particularly pleased that it will be on show at Bradford, one of the UK’s most vibrant and diverse cities.”

A series of free events at the museum, exploring the history and symbolism of the Sikh faith have also been planned. Admission is free but booking is advisable due to limited spaces.

To reserve a place please contact 01274 431212 or

Notable Dates

Make sure you visit the Cartwright Art Gallery on one
of the following days to experience one of the free special events:

Sunday 9th March, 1.30pm-3.30pm:
British Museum talk and turban tying

Sunday 23rd March, 1.30pm-3.30pm:
Demonstrations in Sikh arms, armour and Ghatka (Sikh martial arts)

Sunday 6th April, 1.30pm-3.30pm:
Invisible Heroes: Sikh Troops in World War 1

Sunday 27th April, 1.30pm-3.30pm:
Talk about young Sikhs, identity and turban tying

Sunday 11th May, 1.30pm-3.30pm:
Talk and Sikh musical recital.