India & Himalayas

Mahakala mask from Nepal


Q:  I’ve been searching for literally YEARS on this mask.  I cannot find any information.  it is really old wood, painted and bears a red stamp mark. I cant tell if its symbols or numbers, and I’m crossing my fingers you may be able to tell me something about it.  Its really odd and unique.  Walt, 892

A:  Your mask is a traditional Mahakala from the Himalayan region, where it is quite common in Buddhist performances and for sale to tourists. We know it is from Nepal because of the the red wax seal affixed by their customs service. There are Tibetan and Bhutanese Mahakalas that look very similar. It is handsome in my opinion, but I can’t be sure whether it is really old and used, or antiqued for the trade.  B

One Comment

  • Alain Rouveure

    I just came across this wonderful site about masks. How l missed it all those years…? OK. Your mask is very decorative and very probably made in Nepal and definitely made for the tourist market as our friend above wrote.
    There are loads of “decorative masks” made every day and this one is no different. The subject is indeed MAHAKALA, a protective spirit/god from Tibetan Buddhism found in Tibet, Bhutan and of course Northern Nepal. That is for sure.
    As for the age, looking at the holes that, if it was to be used as a dancer’s mask during religious ceremonies, it would have the holes in different places either sides of the face and some in the forehead to be secured properly. So, it is definitely modern and decorative for the tourist market. That is quite ok.
    I have been traveling and regularly working in Nepal since 1979. I have seen and handled literally thousands of masks and seen similar ones. The wax stamp at the back is the seal of export out of Nepal for goods that are less than 50 years old.
    Yes it is highly decorative.

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