Masks are an integral part of the mukh-bhaona performances of Majuli Island in Assam. Masks are a medium of creative expression used in different performances held during festivals, and in the Vaishnavite narrative theatre called the Bhaona. Deeply embedded in the bhakti movement, the origin of the Bhaona form of theatre is ascribed to the great Vaishnava saint, preacher and reformer Srimanta Sankaradeva. The mask or mukha forms an important component of the Bhaona performance, which helps in making the play attractive, expressive and in putting the message across.
The ten-headed huge mask of Ravana from Samaguri Satra in Majuli is the most spectacular one. It is blue colored and the nine heads are arranged circularly around a much bigger one. The arrangement of the heads of Ravana has remained a nice subject for the creative minds in visual tradition in several parts of India through the ages. As the circular pattern is unique, the colour blue is also significant since that colour is usually kept for the Gods.
Ravana had a Brahmin origin. Again, he was a great intellectual of the contemporary time, and that is why the blue colour is put on his face, just like the gods. In the traditional method of making, the mask is made up of cloths, mud and earth colours on a bamboo woven armature.
Samaguri sattra is a sattra, rather a grihast or a family run sattra, a very well renowned sattradhikar famous for his exquisite work of mask making. Located 15kms from Kamalabari is Majuli where the artists make various puranic or mythological characters. Interesting how they built up a mask from natural things ,bamboo ,clay and cow dung.The masks of Majuli have a uniqueness.
These are made of clay, bamboo, cloth etc. Despite the size of the masks these are quite light in weight. Masks are made on all the characters of the Mahabharata, Ramayana, and Puranas.