Vanguard of the Khalsa
Vanguard of the Khalsa
A silhouetted battle scene based on a 19th century wall mural
Designed by Juga Singh
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About the Print
The silhouetted battle scene shows Akali-Nihang Sikhs and Afghans in the heat of combat nearly two centuries ago near the borders of Afghanistan. This dynamic image – the only one of its kind known to exist – is based on a wall mural that features in the Warrior Saints: Four Centuries of Sikh Military History - Vol 1 book and was conceived by the book’s creative designer, Juga Singh.
In this action-packed scene, possibly the only surviving painting of its kind, the armies of the Akali-Nihangs and the Afghans clash in a ferocious battle. The Sikh contingent is led by Phula Singh seated upon a war elephant. Under the shade of a royal umbrella, he unleashes a barrage of crescent-headed arrows into the Afghan ranks whilst coolly ignoring the shower of arrows aimed at him.
Several warriors on horse and on foot have broken off from the main body of Akali-Nihangs to engage with the Afghans in deadly combat; one daring Akali-Nihang has penetrated the Afghan frontline and can be seen turning around to attack his adversaries from behind, a position that gives him a massive tactical advantage. Another Sikh warrior collapses to the ground after receiving a deadly blow from an Afghan lance. His dastar bunga has fallen to the ground, revealing his long uncut hair. Nearby, an Afghan warrior clutches his blood-soaked brow after being struck by a flying quoit.
The main contingent of densely-packed Akali-Nihang infantry and cavalry is poised to enter the fray, brandishing bows and arrows, quoits, swords, lances and rifles.
The original mural was painted in the first half of the 19th century in the palace of Raja Suchet Singh in the town of Ramnagar in Udhampur District, Jammu. To our knowledge, it was first photographed by the Archaeological Survey of India back in the 1920s when it was still in reasonably good condition. During a visit to the region in 2009 it was snapped a second time on our behalf by photographer Nick Fleming. By then it had deteriorated considerably owing to water damage and general neglect.