Himalayan Masks From The Land Of Mountain
Himalayan masks are used in Hinduism, Buddhism, by the tribal group of Mountain and Himalayan Region of Nepal. Masks are generally used for reaching the altered state of the consciousness called Shamanism and for exorcism practice.
These handcrafted masks represent the unique culture and traditions of the people residing in the Himalayan people. Walking along the Art Galleries around Thamel, Kathmandu, one can find the wide variety of the Himalayan masks. These masks are originally made by the local people like monks and other practitioners of the Buddhism and Hinduism.
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Practice of Shamanism and the masks
The practice of Shamanism is popular among the Asian people. Its practice is also widely famous among the Nepali people. The tribal group of Nepal like Magar and Gurung have been practising the Shamanism for a long period of time. Shamanism is practised mostly in the Mid-Hills of Nepal and is a gateway to the spirit world and an integral part of the daily life.
The practice of the Shamanism takes the practitioner to the altered state of the consciousness and hence allows them to interact with the beings in the spirit world. Many people think it as a superstitious practice. The shaman mask used by the practitioners is simple in appearance but is very expressive; it is carved out of hard, brown wood and coloured completely in black. It has a high, domed forehead, large, almost rectangular eyes beneath rubbery, projecting eyebrows, a long, wide nose and an open, as it was speaking mouth. In its abstract simplicity, this mask is a highly impressive object.
Shamanism in Nepal is worshiped with the following beliefs:
- Spirits exist and they have important roles to play in day to day human life.
- The person worshiping Shamanism (a Shaman) has the ability to interact and communicate with spirits.
- Benevolent or malevolent are the two types of Spirits that exist.
- Shamans can cure sickness or diseases caused by malevolent spirits.
- The shaman can employ trance inducing techniques to incite visionary ecstasy and go on vision quests.
- The shaman’s spirit can leave the body to enter the supernatural world to search for answers.
- The shaman evokes animal images as spirit guides, omens, and message-bearers.
Shamanism in Nepal is worshiped mostly by people who have an association with the Tibetan culture but there are also pure Hindu practices prevalent in Nepal.
Benediction – Prayer for divine blessing
For performing the benediction there are sixteen dancers wearing the copper masks. In general term, it is called 16 brass masks. The lead dancer is known as Vajra Barahai surrounded by Gyani-dakinis. Hence, this dance is believed to purify the land and objects, and teachers give disciples the benediction to transform them into pure buddha land. The dancers carry damaru and bell in their hands and chant:
Om Aa Hung vajra
Guru Padhma Siddhi Hung
Upon the request, the eight incarnates of the Padmasambhava come out to offer prayer to Guru Padmasambhava in form of dance and the prayer. The eight dancers wear a religious robe, meditation cap and the masks and play the instruments to offer the dignity and respect to the Guru Padmasambhava.
The Eleven Acharyas
The eleven Acharyas are considered to be the reuniting of the Gyalpo.
- One mask is seen smiling.
- The two masks are red in appearance with front teeth pressed on the lower lip.
- Following red masks, other two are of skin colour.
- The other four have pressed lips.
- Last two are green in colour and have the different posture of the mouth.
All of these masks have Vajra and minor trumpet in hands.
It this dance the main dancer (diety) wears the buffalo mask.
Hashang and Hatuk
Popularly known as the smiling Buddha, Hashang is the Tibbetian mask. Evergreen smiling Hashang represents the inner peace of the mind. Hashang is displayed along with the Hatuk (his disciple). Thus the dance of Hashang and the Hatuks represents the master and the disciple relation. This dance is performed during the Hemis Fair.
Along with these unique kinds of masks, other common Himalayan masks represents the deities Shiva, Mahakala, Garuda, and so on. If you are the one familiar with the Himalayan masks then you must have realised a common thing in all of them: A third eye on the forehead. It represents the enlightenment and the consciousness.