PERFORMING ARTS AND CULTURE (HOW MASKS ARE USED FOR DRAMA AND DANCE IN INDIA AND ALL OVER THE WORLD) A mask is an artifact normally worn on the face, typically for protection, concealment, performance, or amusement. Throughout the world masks are used for their expressive power as a feature of masked performance – both ritually and in various theatre traditions. The mask is normally a part of a costume that adorns the whole body. Masks are used almost universally and maintain their power and mystery both for their wearers and their audience.

The continued popularity of wearing masks at carnival, and for children at parties and for festivals such as Halloween are good examples. Ritual masks occur throughout the world. The function of the masks may be magical or religious; they may appear in rites of passage or as a make-up for a form of theatre. In India the use of masks is found in dance rituals, dramas, folk songs, temples. In South India masks are worn by Kathakali Dancers, to depict good and evil characters from Hindu epics. Masks find an important place in Hindu festival celebration such as Durga Puja, Dasera, Ram Navami.

Masks are an important part of many theatre forms. The tribals too used different colourful masks. In folk dance and drama, masks play an important role. Wooden masks made in Orissa are used in mime, in folk opera groups’ in presenting stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata and local sacred legends. Papier-mache masks representing Goddess Durga and other masks in the operatic plays represent the various good, bad and comic characters, and are accordingly made to bring out the highlights of the theme and the personality they represent.

Dance has an important role in India as a part of worship, a pastime and as a part of Sanskrit dramas. Classical dance can be found in many different forms; manipuri, kathak, bharata natyam and kathakali. Faces made up to look like masks, along with the use of mime are the characteristics of kathakali dance. In India various lion and tiger dances are performed during ceremonies. Lion and tiger masks ward off evil forces. Love, humor, pathos, anger, terror, disgust, wonder and serenity are the nine basic emotions which are fundamental to all Indian aesthetics.

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The use of masks enables the performer to communicate the sentiment of a particular dramatic situation through their bodies rather than through the facial expressions. Mask is basically an important part of theatre craft that has been connected with the rituals and Indian history since antiquity. India is the place where such theatre crafts are in huge demand because of the fact that India is the centre of theatre and drama.


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