Mask dances could be divided into three major categories; one is
classical mask dance, other category is folk mask dance, and the other
is ritual mask dance. Mask dances in classical dances are very less, as
compared to the mask dances of ritual and folk mask dances. In some
classical mask dances the masks are fully face covered masks; some are
side face covered masks, for example the Kathakali, the classical dance
Devilish facet of masks
Most of these dances use craft work kreedam (crown).In Bharatha
Natyam, a branch which developed in the twentieth century, was called
“dance drama”. In the dance drama, different types of masks are used,
according to the needs of the selective characters of the selective
themes. These characters use fully covered face masks.
These masks are mostly made out of certain soft wood, which is easy
to carve according to the craftsman’s needs. Even the Thai dances, for
instance in Ramayana, certain characters, like Hanuman, Sukreevan, and
Vaali use fully face covered masks.
Mask making is really an excellent and unique talent, and it is a
good craftsmanship. Many of the families took this profession as family
heredity profession. But unfortunately, such craftsmanship artistes do
not get much recognition in the modern society. While making the masks
the mask maker, must clearly express the real facial expressions of the
Classical mask dances, and folk mask dances have certain norms, and
both provide equal opportunity for creativity, within the limited frame
work. All the classical and folk dances have certain defined clarified
items. The items of the classical mask dances and Folk mask dances have
their own defined order, and use certain selected ornaments, and
designed costumes.Simillarly each and every Classical and Folk mask
dances are based on certain selective music.
Some are accompanied with vocal music alone, and some are only
accompanied with instrumental music alone, and some more are accompanied
with vocal music and instrumental music together. Hence all the
classical and folk mask dances have rich historical background, and
longstanding historical developments. Some of the folk mask dances are
practised only for certain festivals, and for certain occasions, by
certain caste or clan annually.
Performer wearing a mask
Before the introduction of Cinema, drama was quite popular among the
common masses for the entertainment purposes. In Tamil folklore,
Naadukoothu, and Therukoothu were quite popular among the earlier
Tamils. Both these Koothu forms used the masks, to depict the
characters. Due to the arrival of cinema, tele dramas, T.V, and home
vedio systems, these traditional art forms lost their values and
demands. Many of the hereditary actors abandoned these professions, and
switched on to other professions. The past thirty years of war in Sri
Lanka was also one of the major causes for the downfall of these folk
based mask dances.
One of the most popular mask dances of Southern Sri Lanka is Kolam.
Different characters are involved in this dance, and according to the
needs of the story, beautiful carved masks are used. Kolam was
originally considered a mask dance form for amusement, but it had a
Ritual mask dances are also naturally found in Sri Lankan. Generally
the purposes of these ritual mask dances are used for different purposes
such as religious, magical and ritual purposes. This particular variety
of dances takes place in the open spaces.
Another important mask dance of South Sri Lanka is Sanni Yakuma.There
are altogether 18, Sanni Yakuma demons to cure eighteen types of
diseases. Each Sanni demon has a particular name and each demon is
supposed to heal certain diseases.The dancers representing these demons
by wearing specific masks, black colour costumes, and the skirts
decorated with leaves.
In West Bengal there are two popular mask dances practised, during
the Sun festival.Chhau is a ritual dance, and also it is a group dance,
danced by group of dancers. Gamphira is another Bengali mask dance, but
it is essentially a solo dance.
Almost all around the world like other dance forms, mask dance is
also quite popular, which is based on its own tradition, and cultural