Origin: According to its mysterious history, witches started the practice of wearing masks. Since then masks of West Bengal are popular. The masks of West Bengal are popularly known as Mukhosh.
Present Day: The Government of West Bengal has adopted special measures to protect this art form and has developed Rural Craft hub at Kushmandi. They are continuously putting in efforts to promote this art form.
Masks based on mythological characters of the religious books are very common. However, you can also find masks of demons, chhau mask, bamboo masks and wooden masks. These masks are known for their exquisite craftsmanship and detailed facial intricacy.
Wooden masks of West Bengal are considered very important in the social and cultural activities of the state. Purulia has artisans who make amazing wooden masks for Chhau dancers. In Purulia, Charida and Bagmundi districts are famous for Chhau masks. The artisans in Malda make masks for Gambhira dancers. Chhau masks have a distinctive feel to them as they have a mythological connection and they represent the gods, goddess and other.
Mask handicrafts are very popular and are demanded a lot because of their use in religious functions, theater,and folk dances. The most popular mythological characters in these masks are Moshan, Hanuman, Narorakshas, Chamkali, Chamunda etc. The mask of Dinajpur are famous for their bold demonic look. These masks are also used as a decorative item and serve as a great souvenir from Bengal.
Procedure: These stunning masks are of different varieties and are usually done in wood or by using Papier Mache. These masks are painted in bright colours. The masks of hilly areas are made out of soft wood and are painted with different colours representing the evil/demons. The different type of wood primarily involved in Mask making are Gamari, Sal, Mango, Pakur,Mahogany and Bamboo.
The process of mask making involves artisans cutting out the desired shape from bamboo or wood, sponge wood. Clay or paper is also used for making mask. Once the desired shape is achieved, carving is done to highlight features and then the mask is painted with bright colours. Masks for Dinajpurare wooden made and are also called Mukha.
These masks are a great export item and are demanded by different countries. A large number of masks are exported to USA every year. These are also exported to many other countries like UAE,UK, France, Germany etc.
Bring Home Masks: These masks can be found at different markets across West Bengal and are also found at different festivals and fairs in Bengal.