TITLE: Chhau Colonist Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: India
SUBREGION: Purulia, West Bengal
ETHNICITY: Bengali
DESCRIPTION: Mask Representing a Colonist
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Chhau Dance
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: gesso; paint

Chhau dance is a modern version of a classical Indian dance with tribal origins, originating in the Indian states of Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal. The dance is usually structured around Hindu folk stories exalting the gods Shiva, Devi or Vishnu, and uses both elegant and martial techniques. The Purulia Chhau of West Bengal and the Seraikela Chhau of Jharkhand most commonly use masks to identify the character portrayed.

This specific mask portrays a British colonist. It is not one of the original Chhau characters, and may represent a demonic or clown character for humorous effect.  It most probably originates in Purulia.

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TITLE: Chhau Durga
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: India
SUBREGION: West Bengal
ETHNICITY: Bengali
DESCRIPTION: Durga (Shakti) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Bagmundi
CEREMONY: Purulia Chhau Dance
AGE: 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: gesso; wire; plastic beads; sequins; plastic feathers; human hair; paint

Chhau dance is a modern version of a classical Indian dance with tribal origins, originating in the Indian states of Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal. The dance is usually structured around Hindu folk stories exalting the gods Shiva, Devi or Vishnu, and uses both elegant and martial techniques. The Purulia Chhau of West Bengal and the Serakeilla dance of Jharkhand most commonly use masks to identify the character portrayed.

This specific mask is of the Purulia type and portrays a god named Durga or Shakti, the principal form of the Hindu warrior goddess. She combats demonic armies with her multiple arms, each carrying weapons such as the bow, trident, shield and sword. She is often depicted as riding a tiger.

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TITLE: Chhau Rakshasa
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: India
SUBREGION: West Bengal
ETHNICITY: Bengali
DESCRIPTION: Rakshasa Mask
MAKER: Sri Gokul Chandra Rai, Santineketan, West Bengal
CEREMONY: Purulia Chhau Dance
AGE: 1973
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: gesso; wire; dyed cloth; tinsel; beads; dyed feathers; paint

Chhau dance is a modern version of a classical Indian dance with tribal origins, originating in the Indian states of Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal. The dance is usually structured around Hindu folk stories exalting the gods Shiva, Devi or Vishnu, and uses both elegant and martial techniques. The Purulia Chhau of West Bengal and the Seraikela dance of Jharkhand most commonly use masks to identify the character portrayed.

This specific mask is of the Purulia type and portrays a rakshasa, an earthbound, bloodthirsty, shape-changing demon. In the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, rakshasas are numerous and fight on the sides of both good and evil.

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REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: India
YEAR PRINTED: 1974
VALUE: 1 rupee

This stamp is one of a set of four printed by India in 1974 to celebrate its masking traditions.  The mask in this stamp represents the Hindu deity Narasimha, a lion-like god, and is worn at festivals by dancers.

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REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: India
YEAR PRINTED: 1974
VALUE: 2 rupees

This stamp is one of a set of four printed by India in 1974 to celebrate its masking traditions.  The mask in this stamp represents the Hindu demon Ravana, a being with many heads (ten by some counts, one hundred by others) and twenty hands who is devoted to the god Shiva.

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REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: India
YEAR PRINTED: 1974
VALUE: 20 rupees

This stamp is one of a set of four printed by India in 1974 to celebrate its masking traditions.  The mask in this stamp represents the Hindu sun god, Surya.

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REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: India
YEAR PRINTED: 1974
VALUE: 50 rupees

This stamp is one of a set of four printed by India in 1974 to celebrate its masking traditions.  The mask in this stamp represents the Hindu moon god, Chandra.

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TITLE: Kali Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: India
SUBREGION: Unknown, probably Uttar Pradesh or West Bengal
ETHNICITY: Bengali
DESCRIPTION: Kali (Durga) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Vijayadashmi Festival; Dussehra Festival
AGE: ca. 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

During Vijayadashmi and Dussehra festivals, the Ramlila story is frequently reenacted by masked actors. The Ramlila is a story of the god avatar Rama, similar to the story told in the Ramayana.

This mask represents Kali, a god who leapt from Durga’s brow in order to kill certain demons, but became so battle raged that she began killing everything in her path until Shiva stopped her by throwing himself under her feet. Kali is considered another side of Durga, but destructive and evil, and so she appears black and ferocious, with fangs.

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TITLE: Somana Kunita Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: India
SUBREGION: Karnataka
ETHNICITY: Kannada
DESCRIPTION: Goddess Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker
CEREMONY: Somana Kunita Dance
AGE: 1960s-1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: red sandalwood
OTHER MATERIALS: canvas; adhesive; paint

Somana Kunita (sometimes spelled Kunitha) is a folk dance unique to the southern region of Karnataka, India, most commonly in Bangalore, Mysore, Mandya, Hassan, and Tumakur. The dance honors the local goddess, with red masks representing benevolent gods and yellow, white, or black masks representing fierce or malevolent gods. Each village has its own version of the masks.  Along with the mask (soma), the dancer wears an improvised skirt made from a saree for female characters, or tight pants for male characters, along with jewelry and a cane or bunch of peacock feathers. The mask includes a triangular or arched headdress (banka) made of cane and covered with colorful cloth, neem tree leaves, or flowers. The masqueraders dance to the music of drums, pipes, and flutes at village festivals, with songs about the mother-goddess intermittently sung during the performance.

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