Majuli Masks GI Tag

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Source- The post on Majuli Masks is based on the article “GI tag for Majuli masks of Assam: History, cultural significance of the centuries-old art form” published in “Indian Express” on 7th March 2024. 

What is the News?

Recently, Assam’s traditional Majuli masks got a GI tag.

About Majuli masks

Majuli masks
Source- The Indian Express

1) About: These are handmade masks that are traditionally used to depict characters in bhaonas, or theatrical performances with devotional messages under the neo-Vaishnavite tradition.

Note: Majuli is the largest river island in the world and the seat of Assam’s neo-Vaishnavite tradition. Neo-Vaishnavite tradition was introduced by the 15th-16th century reformer saint Srimanta Sankardeva.

2) Characterstics: 

i) The masks can depict gods, goddesses, demons, animals and birds. Ravana, Garuda, Narasimha, Hanuman, Varaha Surpanakha all feature among the masks.

iii) Sizes:
(a) Mukh mukha: They cover just the face, and it is made in around five days.
(b) Cho mukha: They cover the whole head and body of the performer and takes up to one-and-a-half months to be made.

iii) Material used: The masks are made of bamboo, clay, dung, cloth, cotton, wood and other materials available in the riverine surroundings of their makers.

3. Traditional practitioners are working to take the art out of their traditional place in sattras, or monasteries, and give them a new, contemporary life.

About Sattras

1. Sattras are monastic institutions established by Srimanta Sankardev and his disciples as centres of religious, social and cultural reform.

2. Presently, Sattras are also centres of traditional performing arts such as borgeet (songs), xattriya (dance) and bhaona (theatre), which are an integral part of the Sankardev tradition.

3. Majuli has 22 sattras, and the patent application states that the mask-making tradition is by and large concentrated in four of them — Samaguri Sattra, Natun Samaguri Sattra, Bihimpur Sattra and Alengi Narasimha Sattra.

About Majuli manuscript painting

1. It is a form of painting originated in the 16th century.

2. It is done on sanchi pat, or manuscripts made of the bark of the sanchi or agar tree, using homemade ink.

3. The earliest example of an illustrated manuscript is said to be a rendering of the Adya Dasama of the Bhagwat Purana in Assamese by Srimanta Sankardev.

4. This art was patronised by the Ahom kings. It continues to be practised in every sattra in Majuli.

UPSC Syllabus: Art and Culture

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