Iron and gold
H. 7 5/8 in. (19.5 cm)
Purchase, Gift of William H. Riggs, by exchange, 1999 (1999.120)
The gold damascened decoration of this distinctively Mongol-style helmet features six large ovals containing Yamantaka, literally "slayer of the lord of death," and five female deities called dakinis. In between them are twelve protective bija, or seed syllables, flanked by Tibetan inscriptions identifying the protective attributes of each 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 the All-Powerful Ten, a monogram of the ten Sanskrit syllables of the Kalachakra mantra. Next to this is a chorten, a stylized reliquary that represents the mind intent on enlightenment. The form of this helmet, the extent of its decoration, and its symbolism indicate that it must have been made for a high-ranking Mongol follower of Tibetan Buddhism, probably some time in the period from the Third Dalai Lama (15431588) to the Fifth Dalai Lama (16171682).