Tikuli is the local term in Bihar used for Bindi, a colorful dot which married women wear on their forehead between the eyebrows. Bindi is usually worn by Indian women in bright red color. Bindi is used as a symbol of the third eye and hence worn where the sixth chakra is present. However, in present time, Tikuli is used as a source of women empowerment in the Indian state of Bihar. This art originates in Patna from more than 800 years. Being avid art lovers, the Mughals provided active patronage and appreciated the features of the art. Tikuli art is an unprecedented and stand-out piece of hand painting, more than 800 years old and has its source in Patna. It is one of the principle subjects for Nepali and Bhojpuri society tunes. In a large number of the Hindi writing books, it has been used as an image of cheerful married life, a character of a wedded woman.

Revival of Tikuli Art

Because of the efforts of two passionate artists Tikuli Art reemerged on the scene. Chitracharya Padmashree Upendra Marathi was a popular artist in 1954 who worked towards the revival of the dying art. He got inspiration from Japanese paintings and methods to portray the Tikuli art on hardboard. However, his efforts didn’t gain much popularity till he passed away. It was popular painter and artist Ashok Kumar Biswas who stepped in 1975 after him to take the art to a whole new level. Along with wife Shibani Biswas, Ashok worked hard to develop the art into a source of our livelihood. Eventually, because of his efforts the art gained so much popularity that in Asian Games of the year 1982, Tikuli art pieces were gifted to the best players by Smt. Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India.

Decorative Wall Plates

Decorative Wall Plates

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Making of Tikuli Art

Hardboard is used to make paintings by the artists. These hardboards are cut in various shapes like triangular, square, rectangular, and circular. Then, on the cut wooden piece, four-five enamel coats are applied. The wood is rubbed with sandpaper after every coat giving it a polished surface. Finally, design is made by paint after the final coat. It is further embellished with golden foil and jewels. Madhubani motifs are used in Tikuli art paintings to increase its variety and expand the details. It is a treat to see these two brilliant art forms in one frame for many art lovers. The art requires mild sunlight in order to dry or dry air at room temperature because of the use the enamel paint. For finished look, the art must be a dust free atmosphere. Favorable seasons are spring and summer while monsoon being highly unfavorable.

Smt. Indira Gandhi selected Tikuli art plates among other crafts.

Smt. Indira Gandhi selected Tikuli art plates among other crafts.

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Unique feature of Tikuli art

Expensive: The etching gold foil technique on the glass with natural raw materials made the art production work quite costly at that time.

Rare: The special skills required for this art was present only the state of Bihar.

Detailed Work: Tikuli artist needs to do the detailing in smallest of a piece of the clothes.

The above-mentioned characteristics made Tikuli art a sole privilege offered to royal people. After the entrance of the British Raj over Mughal Empire, the art faced a change. Machine made Bindis took popularity over hand-made ones. Hence, thousands of Tikuli artists became jobless.

Mithila Painting

Mithila Painting

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The most successful Tikuli art organizations of India are the following:

Bihar Mahila Udyog Sangh

The Tikuli or “Bindi” which has decorated the forehead of Hindu women has now found another incarnation as an art frame, on account of the artist, painter and specialist Shree Ashok Kumar Biswas. Biswas learned the art from Lal Babu Gupta who spent significant time in the art. His energy for restoring an old art of Bihar proved valuable for art lovers as well as for some poor families. With humble beginnings at Dehri On Sone in Rohtas region of Bihar, this man had an aptitude and an ability to match his fantasies. He may be known as the solitary crusader in the fight for the restoration of the diminishing Tikuli specialty and he has kept the fight going at Patna since 1974 with his wife Shibani.

Bihar Mahila Udyog Sangh

Tikuli Art done by Bihar Mahila Udyog Sangh

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Upendra Maharathi Shilp Anusandhan Sansthan

Established in 1956, Upendra Maharathi Shilp Anusandhan Sansthan conducts research and training, product development activities and also tries to safeguard the state’s languishing crafts. The home of India’s some initial paintings, Bihar is tremendously rich in its arts and crafts. UMSAS organizes wide range of public programs, like workshops, seminars, fairs, exhibits, and special events.

Upendra Maharathi Shilp Anusandhan Sansthan

Upendra Maharathi Shilp Anusandhan Sansthan

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Patna-based Ashok Kumar Biswas has for all intents and purposes with no help reestablished this art. He has melded the tikuli art with another art type of Bihar, Madhubani, to make embellishing divider plates, napkins, place settings, inside decorations, plate, pen stands and other utility things. The hundreds of years old passing on Tikuli art shows the numerous appearances of our rich Indian culture including the acclaimed Madhubani Paintings of Bihar.

An old specialty of the Mughal times, tikuli art is really beautiful in the present times also. It is still the part of tribal adornments worn by the Santhal tribe of Bihar. The art of making tikuli is hinting at restoration — as an art and also a good business recommendation for poor groups of Bihar towns.


This article was originally created for, and published on www.gounesco.com, a UNESCO supported umbrella of initiatives that makes heritage fun.
By Roshini Muralidhara

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The toys are made from ivory wood that is grown in old parts of the  Mysore region, and are exported worldwide. Photo credit: Pee Vee/Flickr

Karnataka is a land rich in art and history.  Many craft traditions in the state have been passed on from generations and this progression has helped support a variety of handicrafts. One such tradition that has gained immense popularity is the art of lacquerware toys in the town of Channapatna, a city located 60 kilometers southwest of Bengaluru, in the Ramnagara district.

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Channapatna toys  in their various forms. Photo credit: Sandip Bose/caleidoscope.in

This art’s origin can be traced back to the reign of Tipu Sultan who had summoned artisans from Persia to train the local craftsmen in the making of wooden toys. For over two decades, ivory wood  wood has been used prominently; occasionally rosewood, sandalwood, cedar, pine and teak are also utilized.

This traditional craft is protected as a geographical indication under the World Trade Organization, regulated by the government of Karnataka, and are featured in every major handicraft exhibition in India.

During her January 2015 visit to India, First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama, was so impressed by these toys that now they adorn the shelves of the White House!

The first cultural tableau at the 66th Repulic Day parade at Rajpath was from Karnataka. Photo credit: Screengrab

The first cultural tableau at the 66th Repulic Day parade at Rajpath was from Karnataka. Photo credit: Screengrab

Owing to the popularity of these toys, Channapatna is known as ‘Gombegala Ooru’ (Toy Town or Land of Toys) of Karnataka.

Wood for the process is acquired from the local tree of Aale-Mara (Wrightia tinctoria). Artisans follow the traditional method of handicraft which involves lacquering.The initial step of the toy making process is procuring wood from the local markets.

channapatna toys

The various chisels used in the toy making. Photo credit: Sandip Bose/caleidoscope.in

The wooden planks are seasoned for two to three months based on their size. Then, they are mounted on a lathe machine and are cut into various shapes using different types of chisels.

Once the required shapes are achieved, they are rubbed with sand paper for smoothening and then are pressed with a lacquer stick, for the eventual gleam. The toys are then pruned, carved and coloured using vegetable dyes. Finally, the product is given a polish.

These toys manufactured using fine quality seasoned wood, vegetable dyes and smooth edges are known to be one of the safest.

channapatna-toy-artist

Artisans chisel out the toys for that smooth finish. Photo credit: Sandip Bose/caleidoscope.in

The toy making industry is  majorly a small-scale industry. Even though the state government has established large-scale lacquerware craft complexes with training institutes, local skilled artisans have studios in their homes. Even though this industry earlier faced a stiff competition from Chinese toy makers, it is back in demand with export ordrs from Europe and America,.

These local artisans are benefited by a number of non-governmental organizations and private companies such as Microsoft (India) who provide them with designs that are contemporary and have global standards to produce world-class toys.

Though these skilled workers do not make a lot of money in the process, their knowledge of the craft and job satisfaction was pretty apparent when I visited one such workshop.

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The end product of the industry is a variety of wooden toys ranging from dolls to spinning tops (called Buguri locally), trains, bullock-carts, small vintage cars, mathematical games, puzzles etc.. Photo credit: Hari Prasad Nadig via Flickr


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.

Image Source: http://www.ibiblio.org/gautam/GC_Pics/mask0011.jpg

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.

Image Source: http://www.ibiblio.org/gautam/GC_Pics/mask0010.jpg

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.

Image Source: http://www.ibiblio.org/gautam/GC_Pics/mask0004.jpg

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.

Image Source: http://www.ibiblio.org/gautam/GC_Pics/mask0006.jpg

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!.