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World Heritage Week Special: MSRTC driver preserving traditional mask-making art

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Vaibhav Pawar

Nashik:

The traditional art of making facemasks of different god-goddesses, demons and other mythological characters is still preserved by the village system. The facemasks which are used for ‘Bohada’, a traditional festival in tribal parts of Nashik.

The festival is celebrated either three days or seven days in the village temple. The masks are worn by the men who are selected and they dance on the beats of traditional drums like Sambal. The masks of lord Ganesh, Sarja, Ekadashi, Dwadashi, Mahadev, Maruti, Garuda, Gajasuraa, and others are very famous between tribals.

The art-making of facemasks for this festival has been preserved by the family of Raisingh Thakur of Khamkheda, Deola tehsil. The tribal family of Thakur has preserved this art in its fourth generation by Dharma Pawar (Thakur). He works as a driver in Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC).

To conserve this traditional art, he saves his time to make facemasks. Though mask-making doesn’t give him a living he is still struggling for preserving the art.  The festival of Bohada is also fighting for its existence. The people are losing interest in organizing the festival.

The insertion of various entertaining instruments in daily life has forced people to ignore their traditions. The energy and enthusiasm have disappeared from the festival. The village system of brotherhood, sharing has long gone, says Dharma Pawar.

The new generation with a smartphone may not feel connected with traditional art. They may found it funny or exciting but just for a selfie. The festival is still celebrated in some parts of Kalwan, Surgana, Nashik, Dindori, Dhule, Jalgaon, Amalner and other tribal parts. These masks are available for sale as well as on rent at Pawar’s place.

How it’s made?
A mold of the shape of the mask is made. Plaster with a mixture of flour and paper is made to give shape to the mask. With the help of this plaster different shapes as required – the face of any god, goddess or demon the shape is given by the artiste. After finishing the structure of the mask, it is dried in sunlight. Then a suitable color to the mask according to its character is given by the artist.

“This is the heritage which has come to me by my ancestors. This is the real wealth I have got from them and I consider it my duty to preserve it. Though I don’t earn my living through this art I am still happy with what I am doing. The demand has greatly fallen for the masks since the last 20-25 years. The festival of Bohada is not much celebrated by tribals now.”
                                                                                                      – Dharma Pawar (Thakur), mask making artist

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