Mask Makers of Charida, West Bengal

Art History/Craft History, Craft, Handloom, Art

Mask Makers of Charida, West Bengal

Sethi, Ritu

The Sanskrit treatise on the dramatic arts - Natya Shastra (200 BCE - 200 CE) includes a section on masks as they were considered a natural extension of the performing arts. Masked performances continue to play a significant role in transforming the performers’ identity to that of the character portrayed across ritual, carnival, theatre and dance whether it be the classical, folk or tribal tradition. One such continuing tradition is the ritual martial art dance-drama of Chhau that depicts the epic battles between gods and demons, and enacts morality tales. The dance celebrating the spring festival of Chaitra Parva is customarily performed annually over a period of thirteen days in April in the Eastern states of West Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha. Characterized by martial art and acrobatic moves that form part of the dramatic performances the origins of Chhau are hard to trace though oral histories and interpretations by scholars pointing to a rooting in ancient tribal war dance traditions. In Seraikela in Jharkhand the ritual performance is highly choreographed and stylised as it was patronized by the local rulers - the erstwhile royal family of the Singh-Deos whose patronage continues to date. While in Purulia in West Bengal the performance has been sustained over the years by the local community themselves as is apparent in the very spontaneity of the acrobatic performance. Governed by individual variants and distinct styles of performances it is in Purulia and in Seraikela where the individually hand crafted over sized masks are do...


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