Issue No:  18


In This Issue

  • Project Update
  • 20 years of the Maharajah Duleep Singh Centenary Trust
  • Dastaar Boonga on display in Birmingham
  • Sikh Soldiers contribution in WW1
  • In-Memoriam

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Project Update
 A Scottish Sikh lays a wreath on the grave during the 2008 Scottish Sikh Heritage Trail launch

2012 was another exciting year in which we have been busy bringing you more unique initiatives and events highlighting Anglo Sikh History.

September 2012 saw the annual Heritage Shared month return with events including 'The Forgotten Prince', which saw the unveiling of the restored headstone, of the first born son of Maharajah Duleep Singh, the last king of the Sikh empire. The infant tragically died hours after being born in 1865 and is buried in Kenmore, Scotland.

The Saragarhi Day campaign which commemorates the Battle of Saragarhi 1897, received support from a number of organisations with events held in Southampton and Wolverhampton highlighting the bravery, loyalty and sacrifice of 21 Sikhs of the British Indian Army who all died defending their post.

Much work continued "behind the scenes" with participation in a University of Leicester/V&A driven project looking at the role of community organisations in driving the heritage agenda. Similarly we contributed to a English Heritage focus group canvassing the opinions of specialist organisations such as ourselves.

ASHT also participated in staff/volunteer training at Windsor Castle and in delivering a lecture on the Koh i Noor at the Tower of London.

20 years of the Maharajah Duleep Singh Centenary Trust
 Statue of Maharajah Duleep Singh in Thetford

MDSCT was first established in 1993, the centenary year of the death of Maharajah Duleep Singh, with the objective of highlighting and promoting Anglo Sikh Heritage. The organisational motto and mission statement is "Bringing History and Cultures Together".

Achievements of the MDSCT include a series of initiatives; the ‘Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms' exhibition in collaboration with the V&A; the annual ‘Portrait of Courage' Lecture at the Imperial War Museum; the Jawans to Generals' Exhibition, in collaboration with English Heritage; the Trust also commissioned a bronze statue of Maharajah Duleep Singh, the first major piece of Sikh public art outside India.

The Anglo Sikh Heritage Trail, was first launched by the Trust at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, in July 2004. Its work has literally changed "the cultural landscape" of Britain through its extensive programme of research, outreach, and community events which have touched many groups and individuals.

Since then the Trust has been involved with countless initiatives, including organising the Saragarhi Challenge Cup Polo match as part of the wider Saragarhi campaign.

To mark this milestone anniversary we will be announcing some significant and bold initiatives.

Dastaar Boonga goes on display in birmingham
 Dastaar Boonga ('Turban Fortress')

ASHT was invited to participate in this British Museum led project. Incidentally one of the key British Museum personnel was Paramdip Kaur Khera who initially worked as an intern at the museum in her capacity as an ASHT volunteer.

This magnificent ‘fortress turban' is to go on display at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery later this month giving visitors a rare chance to explore the story of the Sikh Turban; a distinctive symbol of Sikh faith and history.

The fortress turban is on loan from the British Museum following a successful exhibition at the Museum in 2011. This Turban is known as a Dastaar Boonga or turban fortress 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 free exhibition, which runs from 26 January - 28 April 2013, is on tour and will also include contributions from Birmingham's Sikh community explaining why the turban remains important to them today.

Further information at

Sikh soldiers contribution in WW1
 WW1 Centenary Sikh Consultative Forum, Oxford Union Library

2014 marks the centenary of the First World War, the world’s first industrialised war which saw over 17million people die and over 100 countries involved.  Amongst the forces involved, many Sikhs fought alongside the allies in France and Belgium during 1915 valiantly fighting in key battles, against the Germans, until British forces could be mobilised in numbers.

In late 2012 ASHT facilitated and hosted a consultative forum to gather support and consider ways in which the Sikh community could have a role in the centenary commemorations.

The significance of the WW1 anniversary to the Sikh community cannot be overstated and ASHT is both proud and privileged to be involved in a substantive way, especially as so much of our work over the last 20 years has been in laying the foundations for this very topic.

Watch out for more news in the next newsletter!

Harpreet Kaur Gakhal with a Sikh Soldier on 2009 Battlefields Tour

2012 got off to a sobering start with the sudden death on New Year's Day of one of our energetic young volunteers.

Harpreet Kaur Gakhal was a regular visitor to the ASHT offices where she helped with administrative duties. She was an enthusiastic volunteer who recognised and appreciated the enriching dimension that heritage played alongside her spiritual interests.

During the 2009 annual Battlefields Tour she was an excitable and effervescent participant who effortlessly summed up the sentiments of all the visitors in her interview with the BBC - no mean feat for one so young. She will be sadly missed and fondly remembered.

For condolence messages visit

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