Traditional Masks of Himachal Pradesh
In Himachal Pradesh, the traditional masks made are those of seetu or lion, braktoo or leopard, deities, demons; Dharamraj, or God of death, Bajrapani, Padmasambhava. These characters are predominant in several performing arts. One example is the Chham or devil dance of Buddhists and then there are folk theatres like Swang, Karyala, Dhuria swang, etc. Masks are also used in festivals like Shyala, Naranattar, Deothan, Nirsu, Hinger, Bhuda Chhango, and Padeyie.
Read Also: Various types of Dances in Himachal Pradesh
Dedication to local Gods like Grama Devta or the village deity and Kula Devta or family deity has been the compelling factors for the artists to continue the tradition of mask making, it an ancient craft still pursued with much zest. Some masks are made for the inside of temples. Masks of Gods and Goddesses are also placed at the entrances of the village homes to keep away evil spirits.
Masks of Kullu
- In Kullu valley, it is obligatory on the part of the artist engaged in making masks to impart training to at least one member of their family. Inheritance of traditional art has been considered as fulfillment of the will of God. But this nourishing of legacy has helped in continual of traditional art.
- During the festival and religious ceremonies, the masks of deities representing the idol of god and goddesses are installed at different places of worship. It is due to the reason that it is difficult to carry the original idols during religious processions. Some of the masks of deities date back to the 12th century or before.
- The masks are used in the traditional Fagli dance of Kullu. The masks are termed as Mandialye, Dhalyare, and Reeshe.
Masks of Rampur
- In Rampur Bashar, the wooden masks in folk styles in the temple of Dattatreya at Dattanagar are used by the villagers in the plays, which are performed three days after the Baisakhi festival.
- The play depicts the victory of gods over demons signifying the victory of good over evil.
Masks of Sirmour
- In Sirmour the masks are very popular.
- These are used in folk dances on occasions like Diwali or community dance at temples on religious occasions etc.
- The masks in Sirmour are generally made of Khal or skin and aluminum.
- The skin of the goat, Himalayan ghoral, or wild goat, and other animals are used in mask making.
- These masks are termed as Moohre in Sirmour in the local dialect.
Masks of Kinnaur
- The white metal masks are popular in Kullu valley.
- The wooden and terracotta masks are commonly used in Kinnaur.
- These masks are termed as Bugg in Kinnaur.
- The preparation of raw material for terracotta in some parts of Kinnaur is peculiar.
- It is a manifestation of the religious leanings of lamas or Buddhist monks.
- The herbs like Chandan or sandalwood, resin, akhrot or walnut, heera- moti or diamonds – pearls, and several costly ingredients are ground and mixed with clay.
The first museum of masks in the country has come up at Udaipur in Rajasthan under the aegis of West Zone Cultural Centre. The center has set up a Shilpa grama or art village near Udaipur. The concept of art village is a unique experiment and envisages converting and promoting the rural folk arts of India. Besides mask museums, the horse puppet and terracotta museums have also been established in Udaipur.
Masks from Himachal Pradesh, which are made of wood and usually are carved out faces of animals like the lion or leopard and also of deities and demons. The masks of gods are placed at the entrances of the village homes to keep away evil spirits. Yet, this traditional practice is witnessing a steep decline. Mask-making you can say is almost extinct. The younger generation is not taking up this family tradition any more because it doesn’t help them generate a decent income.