The Unique Mask Tradition of Bharigaan

The wooden theatrical mask of the Rabhas of Assam is associated with the performance of Bharigaan, a lesser known theatrical drama, enacted by the Rabha community of Assam, based on the subjects of local folklores and Hindu mythology.

The masks unleashes in the performer the vital qualities of the personified character, be it a bird, animal, demon or deity. These unique masks weighing around 2-3 kgs are extraordinary in many feats compared to the other masks tradition of India. Apart from its heavy weight, none of the masks, personifying various characters, has a hole or opening for highlighting the eyes, mouth or nostrils.

The masks are often coloured with dyes prepared from natural vegetables and minerals. Mostly, yellow remains a dominant colour which is used as a contrast on the base of a dark colour to highlight the face and other ornamentation. The masks, in its form and features are most simplistically rendered. The same masks are used in the plays year after year.


** Image courtesy: Folk Art & Culture of Bodo-Kachari and Rabha Tribes of Assam, Paresh Bhuyan, 2015