Accepted Paper:

Heritage of Vaishnavite mask in Assam  


Arifur Zaman (Gauhati University)
Birinchi Medhi (Gauhati University)

Paper short abstract:

The mask is the integral component of many cultures and each civilization. From time immemorial masks are related to the primordial thought process of innumerable cultures.

Paper long abstract:

Mask is a form of art and it has a thought provoking history of evolution. These have been designed in innumerable varieties from a good number of materials available in the environment. Mask makers have shown great resourcefulness in selecting and combining the available materials in their surroundings. Superstition and belief about mask abound in different communities. The mask also holds deep significance in the socio cultural study of a community, which has a custom of mask making. In Assam (India) there is a rich heritage of mask. It is an integral object of the satra, i.e., the Vaishnavite monastery of Assam. Majuli is a river island situated in the upper reaches of the mighty river Brahmaputra in Jorhat District of Assam. In Majuli at present there are 22 satras, among which only four have praiseworthy tradition of mask making. In the satras, the masks are made from the splited bamboo woven structure covered with a mixture of clay and cowdung. That is why these masks are very light in comparison to their structures. The mask of the satras can easily spellbound the spectators with their craftsmanship and splendour. Some of the masks are worn over or infront of the face; sometimes, however, a mask covers the whole body of the wearer. In this paper a modest attempt has been made to examine the thought provoking mask making tradition of the Chamaguri Satra of Majuli, Assam(India).

Panel P074
Anthropology and intangible cultural heritage: new possibilities for traditional topics? (Commission on Intangible Cultural Heritage)