These Masks form an integral part of Chhau Dance, a genre of Indian tribal martial dance which is popular in the Indian states of Odisha, Jharkhand and West Bengal. It needs extremely high artistic perfection and knowledge of the epic and mythology for the artist to make the right mask which depicting perfect mood.
The masks are completely handmade. They are made using clay, mud and paper. The process is intricate and time consuming. First, a clay model of a mask is made from antel maati (sticky clay from the river) and then it is dried in sunlight. Then it is covered with powdered ash. Successive layers of soft paper pulp mixed with gum from mulberry plant are pasted on the cast. After the rough foundation, the final details are carved out by the skilled fingers of the artisans by applying a thin layer of fine clay. The entire thing is then dried in sun again.On drying, the mask is wrapped in a clay-soaked muslin cloth for a smooth texture and then polished with a wooden spatula called kabeez. Â After a layer of zinc oxide, the mask is painted with bright colours and decorated according to the character.
A wonderful and colorful addition to any room, and a great housewarming gift for both friends and family.