Sikh Akalees

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This print comes from a 19th century set produced from original drawings by Emily Eden, a gifted amateur artist and well-known British observer of colonial India. The subject of this picture, Akalis (a.k.a. "Akalees"), "Immortals" or "Timeless Ones," is a specific class of Sikh warrior. Renowned for their bravery and ferocity, as well as for their distinctive headgear and other accoutrements, the Akalis personified the Sikh ideal of military courage and heroism. Among the most distinctive apparel of the Akalis were flat metal circular bands called chakkars (the Punjabi word is related to chakra, the Sanskrit word for wheel). These metal disks were actually a type of sharp and lethal weapon, which could be thrown or used at close range. The Akalis wore chakkars on their turbans, sometimes many at a time, and on other parts of their bodies, as shown in this example. Here we see chakkars worn as part of headgear, on the forearms, around the upper body, and hanging from the belt. Akali soldiers were renowned in the 19th century for their valour in defending the Sikh kingdoms of Punjab.
Object ID: 1998.63.5
Title: Akalees
Series Title: Portraits of The Princes and People of India
Artist: Emily Eden, British, 1797 - 1869
Date: 1844
Medium: Chromolithograph, hand painted on paper with printed commentary text on the reverse.
Source: Asian Art

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