Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Hats: Who's who in the world of hats?
Hats are actually a big deal in religion and art. In art they help us to identify particular people, hierarchy and religious traditions. They also help us track hats in different paintings and sculpture over time (art history) and help to determine the age of particular works of art, and why, because hats change over time. More importantly hats are fun, weird and sometimes strange. What about the black hat of the Karmapas supposedly made from the hair of one hundred thousand Dakinis? What's a Dakini?
There is also the raven topped crown of the king of Bhutan. This hat is based on a religious hat used in fearsome protection rituals. How did it end up on the head of a king in a kingdom that still exists? How many Himalayan kingdoms are left?
Hats are interesting and each has a story about how it came about, why it has a certain colour and shape, and who can and who can't wear the hat. It is very much a staus thing. The hat in the image on the left is the special hat of the Mindroling hierarchs and in this case worn by Terdag Lingpa Gyurme Dorje in a very rare Tibetan portrait painting.
Look to Hats of the Himalayas for an overview of the different hats and the traditions to which they belong. This is just a preliminary look and a lot more work needs to be done. What is very important to remember is that hats are one of the most important iconographic keys in the study, identification and recognition of Himalayan and Tibetan teachers. Hats, who knew!