CULTURE - MASK MAKING
Mask making is one of the most famous traditional crafts still practiced in Majuli. It is mainly practiced by the Sattras. Natun Chamaguri Sattra has worldwide acclaim in making exquisite masks. It has been practiced by the Bhakats here for centuries. Masks are an integral part of Sattriya culture. Traditionally, masks were used for religious dance and drama. They were conceptualized as a tool by Shri Shankaradeva to make and depict the characters of Srimad Bhagwat to the devotees. Masks helped to provide a physical form to the puranic characters. They also helped people to associate with the character and expressions of the mythical heroes.
Mask collection, Natun Samaguri Sattra
Masks are used for religious performances and traditional dramas. Mainly materials like bamboo and cane, cloth, clay and rock color etc are used for making masks. In some case wood may also be used. Traditionally three types of masks are prepared viz.
- Mukha: these are face masks.
- Lotokai mukha: this type of mask is used to move lips, eyes hands etc.
- Bor mukha: this is nearly life size or even larger in special cases.
There are two types of masks based on frame material used:
- Made of bamboo
- Made of paper
Mask during preparation
The paper masks are used only for making headgear. For other parts bamboo, mud, and cloth are used. The masks that are made for the characters of Brahma, Hansa, Ganesha, Gaduda, Jatayu, ten headed Ravana, Kumbhkarna, Taraka, Maricha, Subahu, Putana, Chakravat, Kaliya Naag, Bakasura, Aghasura, Dhenukasura, Batsasura, Hanuman, Jambuban, , Baraha, Nar Simha etc. Masks for Krishna, Rama, Lakhshmana are not made. For the day of the performance they are regarded as the God's incarnation. Apart from these the craftsmen also prepare Dadhishal, rathas (chariots) for war, swords, Gada, Bow and arrow, axes, trishula, Vajra, Chakra, Head gear, Nupur, full sized cow, horses etc are also made as per the need of the story being recited.
Mask making is one of most well known craft forms of Majuli in present day. However the craft is not practiced by all the Sattras. Chamaguri Sattra is famous for making masks in the region; Bhakats of this Sattra are known to make beautiful masks which are used for religious dance and drama.