Content and Conceptualization by Sakshi Jain

As echelons of zillion lights adorn

With fragrance of flowers & array of colors

Effusing joys to abound with Pearls of gleams in these autumn nights

Let us thank the heavenly might,
In this festive season of lights

Deepawali is a remarkably popular festival of India. Predominantly celebrated by the people of the Hindu community. Diwali is celebrated on Amavasya the 15th day of the fortnight of the Hindu month of Ashwin. It falls either in October or November month every year. It symbolizes the culture of India which teaches to conquer ignorance that subdues humanity and to dislodge the darkness that engulfs the light of knowledge. The festival of Diwali is celebrated to summon love and prosperity in the house. 

Deepawali celebrates the triumph of the good over the evil as on this day the people of Ayodhya welcomed Lord Ram who had returned from 14 years of exile. The Hindu Lord Ram returned to his palace along with his brother Laxman and Sita ( his wife ). During the exile, Sita was abducted by evil Ravana. Later, The almighty lord ram defeated Ravana and rescued his wife. The whole Ayodhya was lit with diyas and burned crackers to celebrate their victory. Since the day every Indian family celebrates this festival with same enthusiasm and joy.

It’s a customary practice in the Hindu community to light Diyas in their homes at evening as it signifies the surrender of one’s soul to the almighty Diwali.  A Diya is also a personification of the self as Diya is made up of Clay, which represents our body and it also constitutes a cotton wick and oil. The wick in the Diya depicts our ego. Oil or ghee in lamp depicts our vasanas or negative thoughts. As the lamp burns to emit light for all, the oil (vasanas) slowly starts to deplete, the wick(ego) also burns out.The flame of the Diya always burns upwards – inspiring us towards higher ideals Likewise, when we lit ourselves by enlighten of spiritual knowledge  (flame), the “vasanas” get slowly exhausted with ego and fade out completely. The peerless lamp is Sun as it only gives and asks for nothing. That is why it is called a devata – the one who gives.

The Festival of Diwali welcomes a change of season and a change of mood with the bells of festivity and holy rituals around every corner. The farmer thanks the “ The Almighty” for the harvests and pray for a prosperous harvesting season in the forthcoming year as it marks the end of the harvest season and the onset of winters. The traders after offering prayers to Lord Ganesha open a new book of accounts as it marks the beginning of the new financial year. India a country of unity in diversity is even diversified in beliefs when it comes to the celebration of Diwali each religion and state celebrates this festival with different notions and customs.

· Hindus – All Hindus celebrate Diwali as Lord Ram returned to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile and victory over Ravan.

· Jains – They celebrate this festival as on this day Lord Mahavira attained Moksha (the liberation of the soul from karma and the cycle of life and death). The next day of Diwali is celebrated as New Year in Jainism.

·Sikhs – The festival of Diwali is celebrated by Sikhs since 1577 as the foundation stone of Golden Temple is placed on this day and also, the 6th of 10 gurus of Sikhism’s “Guru Hargobind” is released on this day along with 52 others who were detained in Gwalior Fort by Mughal emperor Jahangir.

It even amazes me sometimes that a simple festival could hold so different meaning for so many people and how some stories are still unrevealed. The tag of Incredible India couldn’t be better suited to any country other than India. But, the series of stories still have few more stories to amaze you. Likewise different states hold different tradition to celebrate Diwali; however, the purpose of peace and happiness remain same for all.

Eastern India ( West Bengal, Kolkata, Odisha, Tripura, And Assam )

Most Indians worship goddess Lakshmi on Diwali. Here, Diwali is celebrated as Kali Puja and the night of Diwali is considered as Night of Pitripurush(ancestors). They believe their ancestors descend on the day of Diwali from Heaven and to invite them they burn jute sticks and reiterate.

.“Badabadua ho Gandhara e as a aluaa e jaao baaisi pahacha e gadagadau thaao”(Meaning: oh!! our ancestors, seers and gods you came on the dark night of mahalaya, and now it is time for you to depart for heaven, so we are showing light, may you attain peace in abode of Jagannatha!)

Southern India ( Chennai, Banglore, and Hyderabad)

Diwali comes on Tamil month of Aipasi in south India. It starts from Dhanatrayodashi and extends till Yama Dwitiya. Dhanatroypdashi is just the other name of Dhanteras which is same as other places and the second day is celebrated as Naraka Chaturdashi which can be also called as Choti Diwali The third day is celebrated as Diwali also known as Kali chadus on this day they worship “ Kul Devi to cast off evil spirits but unlike other states they have different significance as the day before on “Naraka Chaturdashi” Lord Krishna killed the asura ( demon ) Naraksura and took the oil bath to get rid of Naraksura blood. To solemnize people start doing the same as they believe that on this day goddess Ganga consecrate the water and goddess Lakshmi will consecrate the oil. On Naraka Chaturdashi in some states, people create a paper-made effigy of Narakasura and filled it with the firecracker and burn it in the morning. The fourth-day Padwa also known as Bali Padyami and fifth-day Bhaiduj is also known as Yama Dwitiya is celebrated similarly to northern states.

Western India ( Gujarat, Maharastra, and Rajasthan )

The celebration of Diwali commences a day before comparing to other states of India. Here, The first day is known as Vasubaras which they celebrate by worshipping cow and its calf – as it’s a symbol of mother and child love. The next day is Dhan Trayadashi or Dhanteras followed by Naraka Chaturdashi and a day after Lakshmi puja or Diwali Then Bali pratipada and Lastly, Bhai Bij which is also known as Bhai Doj in which sisters pray for the prosperity and happiness of their brothers.

Northern India ( Delhi, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh )

The bells of the festive season start ringing for them with the sounds of crackers Dusshera which comes few weeks before Diwali. From where everyone started preparing for Diwali by painting and cleaning their homes, buying gifts and decorating their houses with lights for Diwali. But, the main chores start with Dhanteras in which people worship Lord Kubera (The God of wealth ) and also buy gold and silver ornaments or utensils in order to bring luck and prosperity in their homes. Followed by Choti Diwali where people decorate their houses with diyas and rangoli and offer prayers to their God. The next day is celebrated as Diwali in which people in invite friends and family to exchange presents and sweets and also to pray along with everyone for happiness peace and prosperity. The fourth day people do Goverdhan Puja and next day celebrate Bhai-duj.

Whatever may be the eccentric philosophies or customs associated with the celebration of Diwali. The ideology to welcome positive vibes, worship God for blessing and to start the beginning of the new season with happiness and joy remain the same for all. The twinkling colorful lights illuminate every household with brightness and positivity and the fragrance of sandalwood and agarbatis , color of rangoli and recitations of prayer in every temple and household make you realize the prominence and exclusivity of Indian festivals and tradition.


Research, Conceptualization & Written by Kaavya Lakshman

Jambili Athon, is the pride of the Karbi tribe. It is an exquisite traditional craft made from the Bengwoi ke-er wood. Jambili Athon is the most honored woodcraft and a symbol among the Karbis. It is a cultural identity of the Karbi tribes of Northeast India. Like every other tribe or religion, the people of the Karbi tribe or religion hold their culture and beliefs very dear.

The cultural festival Chomkan exhibits this craft. Art and craft occupy a prominent place in the socio-cultural life of the Karbis. Jambili Athon honors the life of the deceased. It covers the philosophy of life and death, social institutions, and religious practices of the people.

Hence, Jambili Athon stands as a sacred symbol during the crowning ceremony of the social chief Lindokpo. It is also presented to honor the great people. Further, Jambili Athon is often used in logos of many institutions and organizations in Karbi. It is also used as designs on textiles. A miniature Jambili Athon is usually kept as an artifact in almost every household. The skilled craftsmen called baroi practice this craft.

Jambili Athon is a craft with a central axis and a whorl of four branches. The central axis is above the four lateral branches. The apex of the central axis consists of a local bird known as Vojaru. The apices of lateral branches are fixed with another local bird called Vorale. Voleng cherat yet another local bird is perched on the main axis, just below each lateral branch. The other four branches host smaller birds. Jambili Athon is heavily ornamented with intricate carvings and beautiful beads.

The Karbis regard Vojaru as the king of the birds. Vojaru is always followed by other birds traditionally referred as atoi-ani (followers). Therefore, Vojaru is the Karbi king and a leader who protects his people symbolized by smaller birds. These smaller birds are compared to faithful ministers and soldiers. The 5 branches of Jambili Athon represent the peaceful co-existence among themselves in their independent places. Vojaru understand the language of all the birds and can foretell danger. Voleng cherat collects food and does not leave his master.

You can see the Jambili Athon craft in the Recreation Park and Samson Sing Engti Park in Diphu town of Assam.
To conclude, the woodcraft reflects the social pattern of the community of the Karbi tribe. The symbolic assemblage of the different birds depicts the unity of the tribe. It also resembles the closeness to nature through the choice of specialized wood.

Hence, Jambili Athon is a repository of information for the Karbi tribe. You can see the essence of these people is captured within the space of the wood and firmly fixed in the ground. This is for the future generations to not only see, but learn. Over the period of time the majority of the tribal culture is lost in the chaos of modernity.




Author: Dr. Gautam Chatterjee

Generally speaking, every person has at least ‘two selves’ one is ‘a self’ without any ‘guise’ and another is a ‘non-self’ which may not be a pretention always but an ‘alternate self’! To fathom self and the ‘other’(non-self) is a subject of psychology especially the behavioural one! But for common man the search for ‘self’ and to find out its reflective imaginations sometime in ‘disguise’ or otherwise has remained a very essential social exercise since the dawn of our civilization. In this process he discovered the ‘mask’ codified scores of ‘guise’ which were miles away from self but very close to the mind! But those masks were not simple ‘covering’ but a vehicle for ‘imaginations’ of mind of the mankind which remained a powerful object of reverence for all especially amongst aboriginals and traditional people.

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The Mask-culture which dates back to the pre-historic rock-paintings of c.30,000 B.C has travelled down the ages and got expressed some time as ‘magico-religion’, “sacred enactments in Monasteries” or at folk theatrical levels and even through epic depictions, or in carnivals with a touch of festivity. Thus we see mask remained an integral part of universal culture surviving in its own way with every face around us.

In recent past, an International Mask Festival was organised at New Delhi jointly by Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, Sangeet Natak Academy and National School of Drama. This unique festival was conceived by Dr. Kapila Vatsayayan, the living legend of multi-disciplinary study and an Indologist of rare credentials who once said that this mask-festival is to relate the ‘cosmic-man’ or Purusha to the micro-cosmic man with and without ‘mask’!To explore its dynamism Dr. Vatsayayan has initiated collection of masks from world over under IGNCA’s ethnographic collections.The festival started its rhythm with ‘mask-dances’ from India and abroad which finally culminated into the IGNCA’s exhibition of Rupa and Pratirupa (Man and Mask) which displayed around 400 masks from 21 countries of the world . The Mask dance, the exhibition were finally linked with a seminar ‘Mind, Man and Mask’. All these provided us with the entry point to fathom the mask in its unique dimensions whose pulses are discussed below to uphold an holistic view of Mask and its universality.

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The first record of Mask we find in the pre-historic rock arts from different sites of the world which includes the cave engravings of Caverne du Volp, France; Altamira Cave of Spain, Kundusi of Tanzania, Niger, Algeria, Lybia, Russian Kazakistan, New Mexico, Sweden, Siberia, Canada, Peru and Bhimbetka in India etc. Thus we see almost from every part of the world the reference of mask is found. Scholars from Italy Emmanuel Anati and Ariela Fradkin Anati said “Luckily our early ancestors, modestly named as Homo sapiens, had the gift of producing art and among the subjects they have depicted in the walls of rocks and caves there are depictions of masks. From that we learn that since 40,000 to 50,000 years ago our ancestors used to make and wear masks.”

The logo of the festival with a masked-stick man is from the Bhimbetka Rock art sites. This figure shows a ‘shield’like face with elaborate semi-circular ornamental necklaces and feather like head-gear with a movement oriented figure. Thus so lyrical was mask for the ancient man! One find various references of world-rock art analysis from the “World Archives of Rock Art” This WARA has documented around 2 lakh photograps and drawings from various sites of 100 countires.

Dr. M. Leaky analysed four figures from Tanzanian rock art of Kundusi said “Four beings with hidden faces,all have a distinctive oblique line on their head. They seem to make a team for dance or some other performance”(WARA Archives 94-95) Similarly one find a typical herd of ‘deer and bison’ in France being followed by a man who is sporting animal head and ‘playing the musical bow’. Does it not enthuse the Indian psyche where Krishna playing the flute while following the cow-herd?

Another powerful observation is hunting animals with a ‘disguised’mask which is found in Algeria. Thus we see in the pre-historic era the early man almost got besmeared with the world of animals and used mask to ‘hunt’ ‘tame’ and again ‘dance’. Thus mask has always remained very ‘dear’ and ‘loveable’as the self!

From the Mohenjodaro excavations one finds the terracota mask namely Pasupati seal which dates back to 2500 B.C. which in later years manifested and got dimensions from the standpoint of shape to the materials of mask. In Africa one find mask as divine heritage encoded in Mummy Mask of Trebes c.1295-1069 B.C. Furthermore, we find the Roman Mask of golden touch with a pair of eyes but without lips which dates back to 2nd century A.D. The comic mask from Greece and Rome enthused a ‘laughter’ within. The Mexican masks of 900 B.C. of rod shape is also unique which touch the other aspect of human mood namely ‘pain and agony’. Thus mask remained a functional symbol beyond the face and the mind encompassing the mood. Does it mean mask has a relationship with the ‘mind and mood’? Let us try to understand it!

Our faces are the index of mind and function as mirror to ventilate emotions or state of mind in varied dimensions! What are those hidden recesses of our psyche? Those are love, anger, hate, fury, joy, fear and disgust, the sadness and depressions etc. These emotional lines are universal in actions and feelings which encompass all caste, creed and nationality.

Those body languages are adopted in and displayed as ‘abhinaya’to give a emotive punctuation to a particular character in a play in theatrical dimensions or in real life endeavour. Those moods give a varied kind of reflections come out on the face in real or unreal manner. So the man created ‘masks’for all moods. Some of the very powerful emotive sadness is seen in the Korean masks, similarly the laughter in Sri Lankan or in Mexican, and Goanese Masks are some other the examples. Similarly the Greek mask’ comical expressions are some pointer. According to Dr.A.K. Das, an Anthropologist referred that in North Eastern India the clownish mask are seen like the dummy Yak made in bamboo frame enveloped with black cloth and two person manipulate the Yak-mask which evokes ‘laughter’. The image of anger and fury is really widespread world over. The ‘spirit-fox’ of Japan the mythological power masks of Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia are few which enthuse fury and fear when accompanied by traditional music. So we see there are hordes of masks which are perfect aesthetic expressions of human mind’s hidden recess. Another aspect is the world of animal in the mask which loomed large since ancient times.

The faces of animal their power and fury kept a close proximity with man since prehistoric era so is today. And those animals mythological or otherwise remained a ‘powerful’ component of ‘folk religion’ and occupied a ‘sacred space’ in the mind and endeavour of indigenous people. In Nepalese mask dance we see the ‘Jangali Dance’ which comes from the world of tribes knittting the ‘spirit’ and ‘power’ of the other world and on depiction we find scores of mythlogical animals and birds. Same goes in the Himalayan Kingdom –Bhutan where we find ‘fearful’mask of animal spirits which are codified with very high aesthetic connotations of colour and shape. In India the Lion mask of Purulia and Jackal from Gambhira, West Bengal linked the world around in simplistic tradition of masks with dull colour temperatures.

Elaborating the Mask tradition amongst the tribal people in North-Eastern India Dr.A. K. Das said ” Most of the myths connected with these pantomime give impetus for secular mask tradition in this pocket. In Ajilimu dance among the Sherdukpen, the masks representing Nyapa and Nyaro, the two demons, with terrific facial expression and flowing hair are very striking”. Thus we see the encoding of demonic power in mask-dance away from modern theater, but within the mind-scope of traditional people lives as heritage with connection from the other world.

The role of world of animals, is very prominent amongst the wooden masks of traditional people of Madhya Pradesh. Here on the ‘face of mask’we find carved out images of animal world, snakes, insects and even the cosmos is depicted. The ‘balance’of judgement is found on the chin of a mask as if to depict the natural balance and deliverance of justice.

However, mask remained an integral part of mankinds’ eternal search for ‘macro and micro cosmos’ through the concept of ‘spirit’ and linkage is established between ‘seen and unseen’. The practice of sporting masks to invite spiritual powers namely ‘ancestors’ to cure an ailing, to evade ill effect of evil spirits or to bless an occasion or a newly born. Thus invoking spirit through the mask is a continuous tradition world wide. Talking to mask-dancers of Zimbabwe it was gathered that people of varied ethnic origin believe that ancestor soul do come down through mask and play the role of philosopher and guide. Lucky Mayo said that “senior people nurture the concept of family spirit mask and contribute to protect the culture. Generally, grandfather sport this mask to imbibe the ‘family spirit’ so that the whole family can be taken care of….this is surviving despite of technological development and it (mask dance) functions mostly as a pleasant retreat from the techno-dynamics” .In Zimbabwe itself there are around 17 groups who believe in this concept of ‘mask spirit’. Lucky Mayo further said that through this mask one can communicate with dead people and that ‘spirit’ do visit people and dream as well. Those masks are very sacred and those are made of wood, natural fibre, seeds, cane, jute .Those masks are of natural colour. In Zimbabwe, masks are created after invocation with sacred songs etc.

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The renowned scholar Balan Nambiar traced the ritualistic dance of Western coast of India from Gokarna to Kanyakumari . He said that that mask dances such as Patayani, Teyyam, Bhuta,Tira and Kummatti are in vogue. Amongst rural population there is a strong belief of ‘masks apparently to these souls of ancestors’ which is quite near to the African experience we have observed above. Balan Nambiar said “Mask dancers, who propitiate the spirit and in a state of trance give manifold blessings to the gathered devotees, both heal the sick and entertain the spectators. Within their context, mask-wearers are auxiliary spirits which, when aroused, lead in a trance to the world of spirits.”

Similar belief system is in vogue in Sri Lanka where the healing spirit mask is an unique example. The mask known as Dahaata Sanniya or ‘eighteen disease’ is studded with 18 diseased faces atop a pair of their gods and two spirits one the spreader of pain through disease and other the saviour is placed vertically apart. Prof. M.H. Goonatilleka explained that in folk religion this is in vogue. He explained that “Pritiatory magical and therapeutic effects of mask and attendant rituals of Sri Lanka are still not forgotten in the remote parts of the country. The dancer donning demon masks may not be aware of the significance of ritual transformation and the assumption of the role of the disease-causing demon.”

Those masks are: 

  1. Buta Sanniya which is associated with derangement, distortion and listlesness of limbs; 
  2. Jala Sanniya relates with vomitting, dysentry etc;
  3. Gulma sannya refers to lack of appetite, swelling of the abdomen ;
  4. Kana Sanniya relates with blindness; 
  5. Kora Sanniya and
  6. Bihiri Sanniya relate with Lameness and Deafness respectively;
  7. Vata Sanniya is related with Flatulence provoked by aerial humour;
  8. Slesma Sannya is associated with Phlegmatic diseases; 
  9. Pneumonia is represented with mask Kola Sanniya;
  10. Maru Sanniya is wallowing and contortions in the eyes etc.
  11. Amukku Sanniya relates with running with the head tilted to the left trembling of the limbs;
  12. Golu is Dumbness; 
  13. Vevulum Sanniya is associated with shivering and feats; 
  14. Gini Jala Sanniya is about burning sensation,headache and fatigue;
  15. Pissu or Kapala Sanniya is related with madness and delirium; 
  16. Demala Sanniya is also related with madness with distortion of the body; 
  17. The Naga Mask is related with swelling of the faces and peeling of skins and
  18. Deva Mask is related with epidemics and infectious diseases

(For further details read ‘Sanni Yakuma:Its mythical dimensions and religious interaction’,By Goonitilleka printed in Ananda,Essays in honour of Ananda W.P.Guruge,Srilanka 1990.)

Prof.Goonatilleka traced the Sri Lankan Mask tradition and said “A ritual, I believe, is a network of beliefs, a set of rigid procedures which are normally conventionally sanctified, popularly accepted, and collectively adhered to by a community of people. In Sri Lanka, these are partly the result of the ethos, temperament and value orientation of the rural populace.” Thus we see the concept of spirit and mask kept close proximity with any region of the world and slowly they attracted a wider act to play the role of ‘sacred-mask’amidst the changing religio-cultural nuances.

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Mask a reflective identity of ‘folk religion’ coursed its way in universal religion like Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism. The birth of Christ remained a source of inspiration for mask performers. Historically speaking soon after the Spanish conquered the Aztec empire in the 16th century Spanish Monks tried to inculcate Christian belief through the use of religious plays, frequently using masks. And people of Micha can have evolved a particularly lively festival by incorporating mask. Today those masks encapsulate the European and American world on the score of festivity and celebrations.

However, prior to the Christian era we find in ancient Greek drama the use of masks.

Mexican rod shape mask which depicts pain is as old as 900-600B.C.Roman Mask of gold colour temperature dates back to 2nd century B.C. The Rain God of Aztec with four teeth with skull like look dates around 1200-1590 A.D. Similarly, the radiance Gold mask of Columbia C. 500-1500 A.D. is the eye catching example. All these age-old tradition continue in modern world as well. In northern America we find masks of man and animal with the inter-play of hand movements. Sometime two faces are found in single masks as we see in Sri Lanka or in Bhutan. Even one mask depicting two identities or two moods namely sadness and happiness is created with otherwise lip movement.

Mask and carnivals are almost synonymous today as we see festival masks in Germany, “VOLTO” Masks and Belgium masks are seen with goggles. Modern Mexican mask are simple realistic and become powerful socially with beards of modern times. Thus we see masks entered the life of the West with the concept of ‘natural god’ and then transformed itself in the mainstream religious phonetics which later took the shape of ‘festivity’ which is in currency! After having a cursory look at the occidental worlds of Mask let us retreat to the oriental world to arrest the pulses of its ‘religious and sacred’ masks!

In oriental world the masks hover around the ‘icon’ of any level from the concept of ‘protective deity’ to the ‘demonic identity to undo evil world’. Those concepts of power are encoded in the masks which are records of ongoing ‘belief system’ within the ambience of religious codes be it ‘folk religion’, ‘devi and devas or demi gods of Hinduism’ to the ‘Buddhist’concepts contextually incorporated within their traditions.

Masks of Siva and Durga and her manifestive look in the form of ‘shakti’ remained one of the powerful iconic masks in India. Three eyed ‘shakti’ in the Shape of Durga and Kali is very common on the eastern belt of India .The narrative ‘play’ to kill the ‘demon’ is the centrestage of these performances of Mask Dance. In Andhra Pradesh, the Narasimha icon in the Bhagavata -mala is very popular. Masks on the one side depicts the power of ‘deity’and alongside depicts the pet or ‘vahana’ of the respective god. Like in Bengal one sees the lion and Durga in coupled depiction wherein ‘asura’the devil is killed by Shakti.

Thus mask is linked with natural power with ritualistic connotations to strike a harmonious balance with the forces of nature and spirit of the world.

Apart from Shakti one finds the Ramayana theme which is a living tradition in India, Thailand, Indonesia, South East and Central Asia, Mogolian, Iran, China, Japan etc. Wherever Ramayana went it arrested the inner psyche of people and masked depiction of character even away from ritual but within the social ambience the encactment continues either through Ramlila procession or a theatrical enactment. A research scholar from France Anne Vergati had worked in the Himalayan region to fathom the interplay of mask and said “Today, at certain festivals, inhabitants of Kathmandu Valley hold theatrical performances which are of a popular character. In Nepal, in certain areas of Tibetan culture, masks are, of course, worn by participants in Tibetan masked dance (cham), which used to be known in the west as ‘devil dances’ and are performed by monks wearing masks which instruct the faithful concerning the deities they will meet after their death in the Bardo, the intermediate state before their next re-birth.”

The tradition of Nepal to another Himalayan kingdom Bhutan would create an awe for the search of masks. Masks are studded in the life and rituals of all monasteris in the Himalayan range starting from Tibet, Ladak, Bhutan to Sikkim. The cham dance of Tibetan monks is sacred one. Interestingly in Indian and Tibetan dance the amalgamation of theme like the wild pantheon of fierce protector to the local spirits with elements of comic character shows the unification of culture. The Cham can take many forms but one of its most popular theme is commemoration of the last guru Padmasambhu. It is believed that He descends as representative incarnate of all the Buddhas to bestow grace and improve the condition of living. The mask dance usually consists of two parts; the first honours and pays homage to the eight aspects of Padmabhava. The second part of the performance shows Maha Dongcren,a horned masked figure slaying and putting an end to the demonic force.

Interestingly enough the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism survives only in Bhutan. Historical tracing would tell us that by the middle of 15th century Bhutan had developed its own sacred dance traditions associated with great saint Pema Lingpa, the ancestor of the present royal family. His autobiography gives a good account of this living tradition of Bhutan wherein he describes the dances performed in Padmasambhava’s heaven.

Today many Pema Lingpa’s compositions portray different sets of divine attendants and acrobats, who prepare the path to heaven. Dasho Sangay Tenzin said that mask dance are the part of religious cultural traditions and the holy scripts which dates back to the 8th century A.D. codified the ritualistic colour of these dances which are hereditarily followed till date. He further explained that some masks which are used in the courtyard of religion are never re-used and monasteries have today very old masks known as ‘kathrup’. Mask tradition in Bhutan lies deep in the social fabrics and those traditions are also surviving within the frame work of state patronage. Thus mask is surviving within the powerful conotation of Buddhism in Bhutan which is however missing in Sri Lanka and Japan which are predominantly have Buddhist tradition.

Apart from Himalayan tradition the mask thrives with vigour in Indonesia wherein the Hindu tradition still thrives in the forum of ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ dance. The sacred masks are created on ‘auspicious’ day and finished on ‘auspicious’ hour only. Those manufacturers of ‘sacred masks’ perform rituals and lead a pious life especially while creating those masks. On the other hand ‘secular’masks are created by all and performed and participated by all without any dictum of religion or ritual. Interstingly the sharp edged face with intricate lacquer work on the ornamentation of headgear are functional punctuations of aesthetic mask-tradition of Indonesia which surpasses the artistic trend of any given country of the world.

In modern India mask dances at theatrical and ritualistic level are thriving well. The Krishnattam the ritualistic dance-drama of Kerala is a great eye-catcher today. In Krishna temple of Guruvayoor, Kerala a cycle of eight plays tend to depict the Krishna-lore from his birth to death. This Krishnattam is based on 17th century Krishnageethi. The Krishnattam troupe today belongs to the Guruvayoor temple.

Similarly Seraikella Chhau dance of Bihar is another powerful centre of modern Mask dance. The sophisticated masks made of paper- mache with awe inspiring headgear adds to the folk tune and steppings of mask dancers. The dance motifs and themes are interrelated with of myths and history covering animates and inaimates as well to depict the sentiments. It is said the technique of this dance was evolved from the shield and sword dance of Pharikhanda.

Purulia Chhau of West Bengal is the symbol of Sun God worship through masks. The central theme of this dance is to depict how evil is punished based on mythological stories. This is performed especially during the Chaitra Parva festival.

During the festival of Mask the performance of Thanatomorphia by Astad Deboo and Dadi Pudumjee of Ishara Puppet Theatre evoked tremendous response. The central idea was to depict the many faces of Death within the light and shade of hide and seek. It showed that Death as seductive dancer, a passionate lover, the liberator and finally joyous celebration. Thus is the vividnes of ‘self’ and ‘mask’ in the world of performance.

Barring Islamic world, mask has always remained a second identity of the world and academic people often tried to define this ‘guise’ phenomenon but mostly in vain. However, modern mask maker Michael Meschke and Maria Oona Meschke tried to give an analysis which goes “a mask is not a photography, a portrait. Agood mask is an extraction of essence, a selection of expressions which have undergone a purification, meaning both exaggeration and simplification. We call that procedure stylisation .It means to give a style, as opposed to nature. Such masks correspond with the myths, they too have this purified structure. Myths could be called strylised narration”.

This explanation goes well with the global context and concept of Mask which can be sported and removed at will.

But modern days’ mask has taken further shape closer to the face and manipulation within that face gives a newer identity. Imagine a middle aged beautiful lady before retiring to bed washes her face to remove those extra layers of cosmetics and takes off her coloured contact lenses and removes those lyrical eye-lashes and wigs to become natural to the self at least while resting away from social world of ‘self’ and the other ‘self’. Are these part of modern masks? It’s a question to be answered by ourselves! Nevertheless, the art aesthetics and imaginations to create the ‘new’within the ‘self’ has remained a close encounter of mankind in the past so it would be in the future!.