MAJULI MASKS (Syllabus: GS Paper 1 – Art and Culture)

News-CRUX-10     8th March 2024        

Context: Recently, the traditional Majuli masks and Majuli manuscript painting in Assam were given a Geographical Indication (GI) tag.

Majuli Masks

  • Traditional Depiction in Bhaonas: Handmade masks traditionally depict characters in bhaonas, theatrical performances with devotional messages, under the neo-Vaishnavite tradition introduced by Srimanta Sankardeva.
  • Inception through Chinha Jatra: Srimanta Sankardeva established the art of masks through a play called Chinha Jatra.
  • Diverse Depictions: Masks can portray gods, goddesses, demons, animals, and birds such as Ravana, Garuda, Narasimha, Hanuman, Varaha, and Surpanakha.
  • Variety in Size: Range from masks covering just the face (mukh mukha) to those enveloping the entire head and body of the performer (cho mukha).
  • Materials Used: Masks are crafted from bamboo, clay, dung, cloth, cotton, wood, and other materials found in the riverine surroundings of their makers.
  • Transition to Contemporary Settings: Traditional practitioners aim to bring the art out of sattras, or monasteries, into contemporary contexts, revitalizing its relevance.
  • Significance of Sattras: It established by Srimanta Sankardeva and his disciples, serve as centers of religious, social, and cultural reform.

Majuli Manuscript Painting

  • Origin and Material: Majuli manuscript painting, originating in the 16th century, is executed on sanchi pat, or manuscripts made from the bark of the sanchi or agar tree, utilizing homemade ink.
  • Earliest Examples: The earliest illustrated manuscript is believed to be a rendering of the Adya Dasama of the Bhagwat Purana in Assamese by Srimanta Sankardev.
  • Patronage by Ahom Kings: The art form received patronage from the Ahom kings and continues to be practiced in every sattra in Majuli.