Lama's ivory bead headdress and skirt

Ch'ing dynasty
Length: 155.0 cm Width at waistband: 86.0 cm

The headdress is composed of five carved ivory skulls, each surmounted by a mandala with a central motif of the Buddhist Wheel of the Law and a Sanskrit character symbolizing a Buddha. The hat is lined with red brocade and is tied on the head. The skirt is made of 41 strings of beads hung from a waistband. The waistband is made of red silk with ivory plaques - representing three dorjes or thunderbolt sceptres, two demon faces and two Wheels of the Law strung together with beads and sewn onto it. The long strings of beads which hang from the waistband are interspersed and inter-connected with ivory plaques also carved with various symbols. The costume is completed by bead arm-bands and anklets. It is a costume worn by Tibetan lamas chiefly during ceremonies for exorcising demons. The skulls and the emphasis on the esoteric serve as a reminder to the devotee of the transient nature of earthly existence and the possibility of release through the Buddhist faith.

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