Purchase, Gift of William H. Riggs, by exchange, 1999
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 378
The gold damascened decoration of this distinctively Mongolian helmet features six large ovals containing the deity Yamantaka (literally, slayer of the lord of death) in the center, surrounded by five female attendants called dakinis (sky-goers). In between them are twelve protective seed syllables, symbolic letters also known as bija. These are flanked by Tibetan inscriptions identifying the protective attributes of each seed syllable. The brow of the helmet is encircled by a series of mantras, including invocations to Yamantaka and the dakinis. In the center of the brow is a monogram known as the All-Powerful Ten, composed of the ten Sanskrit syllables of the Kalachakra (literally, wheel of time) mantra. Next to this is a stylized stupa or chorten, a funerary monument or reliquary that can also represent the enlightened mind.