• East Asia,  India & Himalayas

    Mongolian Buddhist mask

    Mongolia, once the second largest empire in the world, is north of both Tibet and China. So the prominent religion of Buddhism is shared with Tibet, and the Mahakala mask is also made for ceremony in Mongolia. This is a good example of the northern version of this famous mask. Can you tell the difference? It is very close, so I have archived this mask under both “East Asia” and “India & Himalayas.” Here is a little more history. Since time immemorial Mongolia has been occupied by tribes whose nomadic existence was dictated by the rugged topography and extreme climate of this vast region. More often fragmented than unified, these…

  • India & Himalayas

    9 Mahakalas on 1 plaque

    Q:  Here are some pictures and info about a wood mask. I bought it at an estate sale in Maine a week ago. The mask is light in weight. Has a red wax seal on back. Mask measures 20 inches high X 13 inches width X 6 inches depth. Can you give me some info on it? Joel, 1396 A:  This is a decorative wall hanging from Nepal. The use of Mahakala masks and the red wax seal tell us where it was made. The Indians south of Nepal use 10-headed masks of King Ravana for their Chau dances, but I’ve not heard of 9 Mahakalas. I believe this unusual…

  • India & Himalayas

    Himalayan shaman’s mask

    This Nepalese tribal mask is a crude version of a traditional Buddhist  monk’s.  A village shaman in the Middle Hills region of Nepal would have carved this hardwood by himself in order to perform healing, initiation and other rites. The underlying animist presence among shaman, which is clearly demonstrated here, is a significant contributing factor to the design of this mask. It shows evidence of having had much use, with a natural patina derived exclusively from being handled over many years. That’s animal hair glued to the chin. It is very old. The higher altitude of the Himalayan region greatly contributes to the preservation of wooden objects like this, whose…

  • India & Himalayas

    Kali masks from India

    Here is what the Second Face Museum has to say about the first Kali mask… The Gambhira Dance is an agricultural religious dance originating in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India by devotees of Shakti, also known as Durga, a female god created by the combined energies of all other gods to destroy the tyranny of demons called asuras. Ghambira dance is performed to music of the same name. The two main characters are a grandfather and grandson, with the former narrating a story involving social and political issues during the dancing and singing. Masqueraders representing gods, animals, and important characters act out the elements of the story. This mask represents…

  • India & Himalayas

    Special Mahakala mask from Himalayas

    Q:  I purchased this mask 20 years ago in an antique shop here in Portugal. I have taken good care of it, it looks +/- as it did at the time of purchase. It has a seal on the inside. The gold paint has been painted over  what used to be yellow. I was under the impression it was a Thai mask but after checking your website I believe it might be Balinese?  Duarte, 1337 A:  Mahakalas come in many styles. This larger one with its mustache and other interesting details is not like any I have seen before. It may have been used in culture because no attempt at…

  • India & Himalayas

    Chhau mask needs headdress

    Q:  Here is one of the Chhau masks Karen gave me, sans headpiece or crown. Would appreciate anyone giving me an idea of how I can get a headpiece for the mask. Thanks, Mickey  1336 A:  Purulia, India, has a rich folk culture and is the birth place of the martial arts dance of Bengal called Chhau. In this tradition the dancers are men that are usually armed. This character is supposed to be a woman who would wear something pretty on her head. This missing headpiece could be purchased in India, but that is something I know nothing about? The cover photo of my book, Masks of the World,…

  • India & Himalayas

    Masks of the Himalayas

    Masks from the middle highlands of Nepal, usually crude in design and dark with age, have always appealed to educated collectors. Though the masks look rough (almost ugly), they have an artistic power that can’t be denied. This picture, which I found on the internet, is typical. The only unusual thing is the metal foil stuck to the mask’s forehead. Think about the mix of Hinduism and Buddhism, and how these very poor people must make their own masks.

  • India & Himalayas

    Jeweled bronze Mahakala

    Q:  I’m an art teacher and received this mask from my mother in law who had got it for me in an estate sale of someone who was a world traveler and collector of many things on his travels. I think it is Tibetan Buddhist but not sure. Masks aren’t my forte but I wanted to show my students.  Annie, 1307 A:  It could be Tibetan or Nepalese, but calling it Himalayan is accurate. It is a popular Buddhist god called Mahakala. Many of these masks are made of carved wood or papier mache instead of beautiful bronze embedded with brightly colored glass beads. As you can see on the…

  • India & Himalayas

    Himalayan mask of Mahakala

      Q:  I live in Paris and came across this mask a few weeks ago. It looks fine for the patina and the wear. Stylistically, it appears to come from Bhutan. Especially because of the bridge on the back of the mask that permit it to sit on top of the head allowing the dancer to look through the mouth of the mask. Sorry I do not have a side view. Any ideas? I am more into Buddhist art but collecting interesting masks once in a while. Many thanks for your help.  Steve, 1279 A: It’s a Mahakala and could be from Bhutan, Nepal or Tibet. The big question is whether…

  • India & Himalayas

    Common Sri Lankan mask

      Q:  Did you get my pictures I sent of my mask?  Candace, 1273 A:  It’s a typical mask from that island culture off the Southern coast of India. Most of the people are Sinhalese who emigrated many years ago from Northern India. Their traditions of masquerade are rich and still in practice today. Unfortunately, Candace has sent us low resolution photos, nothing of the rear, no size or other information. It’s impossible for me to say much about this piece. It could be old and used, or a cheap tourist reproduction that that has been antiqued. I do like the shot that shows the fangs and ears separated from…