Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cho Masks of Purulia

Masks formed an integral part of all the ethnic tribes of ancient civilizations. Cures to illness and pains were relied on witchcraft and the magic cult. Masks of imaginative Gods and Goddesses and animals were used to instill fear and faith in the common folks.
Mask Makers(Mohagora)
In the chirda village of Bagmundi near Purulia the 'Pals', 'Sil', 'Dutta', 'Garai', 'Silmura', 'Bhatt' are engaged in themask making business. Farmers too look for a second livelihood by making these masks. There is a marked difference between the masks of a God and an Asur. The mask of a God has an aura of divinity in it while the mask of an Asura can be distinguished by its large eyes and protruding teeth.
A clay model of a mask is first made and dried in direct sunlight to make it hard. This is the first step known as 'Mati Gora'. It is then covered with powdered ash. Then layers of old newspapers moist with gum are pasted on this powdered layer. A thin layer of fine clay will be applied known as "Kabij Lapa". On drying, old torn cloth are pasted on it effectively. The mask is then polished, "Tapi Palish", with a wooden spatula. With a small tool, "batali" the features of the face are defined and cleaned. This is known as "Khushni Khoncha". A layer of clay water is applied on it. On drying a layer of zinc oxide or "khori mati" is applied on it. According to the characters the mask is painted and decorated. The artisans are well versed in the use of colours. Dark yellow or bright orange are the colours used for Gods and Goddesses like Devi Durga, Lakhmi and Kartik. White is generally used for Lord Shiva, Ganesh and Goddess Saraswati. Goddess Kali is painted black or blue. A talisman or a tilak is applied on the forehead of Lord Rama and Krishna. The Asuras are painted in black or deep green with thick mustaches, protruding teeth and large eyes.
Decoration of the mask
Silver and golden foil cut in different shapes, string of beads, pith works, and coloured paper flowers, feathers of hens and peacocks are used for decorating the masks. A type of oil is applied on the mask for a fine finish. Many masks are required for performing cho(not Chow) dance, to bring in variety to the performance but the exorbitant prices of the masks along with the cost of the drums, becomes nearly impossible for professionals to perform let alone non professionals. This piece of art is in great demand in our country and abroad. Different institutions and organisations decorate their places with these beautiful masks to add value to their institutions.
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