India & Himalayas

Pretty Raksha devil from Sri Lanka

Q: I want you to see my last purchase which, unbelievable but true, also pleases my husband. It is a mask from Sri Lanka and looks rather old judging from the wood (not old due to the paint). I bought it at an online auction. Could you please tell me more about it? Monica, 1588

A: I’m pleased to hear that your husband liked this Raksha mask. (My wife was rarely pleased with my purchases.) It is especially handsome because the composition and coloration is so professional. Perhaps this carver is an art school graduate. However, it won’t impress any serious collector of Sri Lankan masks. That’s because it is a little too quickly painted and carefully antiqued. Yes, it is meant for the tourists trade.

Here’s some general information that will be of interest to beginning collectors. These colorful and various types of masks are used at different occasions by the locals. Mostly at traditional dance performances and religious rituals carried out with the belief of healing sicknesses, praying for rain and many more uses. Traditional mask dances resemble a group of devils and they have created particular design of a mask for each and every devilish character in the performance. These masks also carry different facial expressions according to the dance act. To name some, Kolam masks in Kolam dramas carry a funny looking humorous type of an expression while Raksha masks carry a fearless devilish expression. B


  • monica

    Yes, of course, Bob: I agree with your opinion and I believe it is an object created for tourism, as the paint is enamel. But I don’t think it was artificially aged because the wood is really vintage (not antique). It reminds me more of an object from the seventies like certain Gouros that you see around. What do you think about it??

  • Bob Ibold

    Even with three large, hi-res scans of the front, side and rear, I can sometimes not confirm authenticity. There’s nothing as good as holding a mask in you hands.

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