The Sikh heritage and the role played by the community during the British rule in India is currently on display at two exhibitions in the United Kingdom.
While the exhibition titled “Empire of the Sikhs,” being held at the Brunei Gallery at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, focuses on the story of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, another show at Slough in Berkshire, England, is celebrating the military valor of Sikh soldiers.
“Empire of the Sikhs” depicts the glorious saga of Ranjit Singh, the leader who posed a formidable challenge to the British empire. With a display of 130 objects that tell the story of his short-lived empire, the exhibition casts light on the powerful emperor, and his leadership and military skills.
Singh, who is often hailed as “Sher-e-Punjab (the Lion of Punjab),” ruled for 40 years and challenged the British supremacy in two crucial Anglo-Sikh wars in 1845-1846 and 1848-1849. The British forces almost came to surrender but won the battle through treachery.
Among the valuables on display at the exhibition are weaponry from the Sikh empire, personal items and jewelry used by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Maharani Jind Kaur, the most famous of his several wives, and a rock crystal replica of the diamond Koh-i-noor, acquired from private and public collections. The exhibition will remain open until Sept. 23.
The Sikh Martial Art Exhibition at Slough, on the other hand, is a 15-day event that honors various military traditions of Sikh soldiers. The exhibition, which was inaugurated at Wexham Road School on July 29, takes the audience through hundreds of years of Sikh history, narrating tales of Sikh soldiers and the role they played in various wars. The exhibition, organized by the Legacy of Valour Society, is open until Aug. 12.
The exhibition features artifacts and other material, which showcase the sacrifices made by Sikh soldiers as they supported British troops in the World Wars, as well as their great Khalsa warrior spirit and the establishment of a Sikh kingdom in Punjab, India.
The exhibition was attended by a number of eminent personalities from the United Kingdom during a private viewing on July 28. The guest list featured United Kingdom’s first turbaned Sikh parliamentarian Tanmanjeet Singh, 107-year-old marathon runner Fauja Singh, and Ravi Singh, the founder of Slough-based charity Khalsa Aid, the Slough Express reported.
“People were impressed in terms of the comprehensiveness of the exhibition,” society chairman Inderpal Singh Dhanjal told the publication.
Sikh soldiers were laid to rest in 400 cemeteries in 35 countries across the world after World War-I, and the number increased further after the end of World War-II, Dhanjal added. However, the impact of the grave sacrifices made by Sikh soldiers is often overlooked by schools in India and the United Kingdom, he said, adding that this exhibition aims to spread more awareness about the Sikh martial history in a bid to rectify the gap in education system overall.
The Legacy of Valour Society, which has organized this exhibition, is a project primarily funded by the local Punjabi community living in Reading and Wokingham, United Kingdom, with the aim to promote learning of the Sikh heritage, including facets such as the history of Sikh and other Indian soldiers, and their contribution towards world history.