Masked Performances and Razzmatazz: An Exhibition

Exhibition Overview

Altitude and the consequent remoteness and variations in weather have shaped up diverse socio-cultural landscape of the Himalayas. All communities express strong faith in divine and believe it helps in overcoming the vagaries and fears. The faith is celebrated in variety of ways. The mask performances, especially, dedicated to divinity are observed in all the Himalayan states from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh.

The “Masked Performances and Razzmatazz” is a collection of fifteen photos from Celebrations section of ABHA that completes three years in 2020. The collection features both main mask performances and subsidiary funny acts.

The section captures action, color, and mood of the Himalayan celebrations that are often organized even in harsh snowy winter. These performances loaded with religious and spiritual messages have dedicated intervals for fun.

The exhibition has two sections:

Section 1: Divine Masks

Local material and styles are preferred for both types of masks. The divine masks represent local deities and perception of divinity. Even masks of the same character may vary from region to region. For example, masks of mahakala from Lamayuru and Yarma look different. All masks are not worn on face. Some masks adorn the head. However, only boys and men perform mask dances and dramas irrespective of location.

All Buddhist communities destroy a metaphoric evil figure in different ways during the performances, a ritual symbolising victory of good over evil. Masked performances are called chhams in these communities. Auspicious timing of the celebrations is honored irrespective of (unpredictable) weather.

Section 2: Funny Masks

Masked jesters entertain audience with all sorts of tricks during intervals. One of the common tricks is stealthily throwing sattu (ground barely or other local cereals) on audience. They even indulge in razzmatazz to collect donations and shoo adamant photographers out of the performance area.

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