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Helmet with chain mail neckguard, approx. 1820–1840

Helmet with chain mail neckguard, approx. 1820-1840

Helmet with chain mail neckguard, approx. 1820-1840. Pakistan; Probably Lahore, Punjab province. Helmet of iron overlaid with gold; mail neckguard of iron and brass. Gift of the Kapany Collection, 1998.69.

The unusual shape of this rare helmet was dictated by the needs of the Sikh warrior who wore it into battle with his uncut hair rolled into a topknot beneath it. Uncut hair was among the five emblems of solidarity adopted in the 1600s by Sikhs suffering from religious persecution. Traditionally associated with South Asian ascetics, uncut hair came to represent Sikh religious devotion. 

The steel and brass links of the helmet's chain mail neckguard are arranged in a diamond pattern that is said to reflect the churning waters at the confluence of the Ganga (Ganges) and Yamuna, India's greatest rivers.