The 1st Bengal Irregular Cavalry (Skinner’s Horse) was raised by Captain (later Colonel) James Skinner (1778–1841) in 1803. The regiment wore distinctive yellow kurtas (long coats) that prompted the nickname ‘the yellow boys’. The son of a Scottish father and a Rajput mother, Skinner is believed to have chosen this colour after an ancient Rajput custom. The tradition held that warriors riding into battle would vow to win or die in the attempt. They would then anoint their faces with saffron and put on ‘Clothes of the Dead’, yellow robes tied over their armour with yellow sashes. The 1st Bengal Irregular Cavalry, and their counterparts in the 4th Bengal Irregular Cavalry (originally raised in 1814 as the 2nd Regiment of Skinner’s Horse), were the only regiments in the Indian Army to wear a yellow kurta.
Where to see this painting?
National Army Museum
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