Mukhota: Mask Making Craft

Traditions From Uttarakhand

Project FUEL

In collaboration with Uttarakhand Handloom and Handicraft Development Council

Mask making or Mukhota is a traditional craft of carving masks out of wood. These masks portray characters from mythological tales and are used in ritual theatre performances. They are especially used during Ramman religious festival and ritual theatre of the Garhwal Himalayas. The festival, which is inspired from the life of Lord Rama, was declared as Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2009.

Significance of Masks (2018/2018) by Project FUELProject FUEL

Masks are also used in religious ceremonies performed by villagers. Such masks are kept at home or temples. The process of making masks is considered sacred by the artists, as they bring to life the mythological gods and goddesses. After each mask is completed, the artisan offers food and prayer to the mask.

Dharam Lal, Mask making artisan (2018/2018) by Project FUELProject FUEL

Dharam Lal

Dharam Lal is a resident of Urgam Valley in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. He has been making masks since he was 16 years old, and it is his only source of income. His endeavors have been supported by the State Government of Uttarakhand who has felicitated and supported him for keeping the craft tradition alive.

Achieving the correct size for a Mask, Project FUEL, 2018/2018, From the collection of: Project FUEL
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Marking the features of a face on the Mask, Project FUEL, 2018/2018, From the collection of: Project FUEL
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Drawing the face on a Mask, Project FUEL, 2018/2018, From the collection of: Project FUEL
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He starts the process by first sawing the wood according to the size of the mask. The wood is sourced from the nearby forest. Using a measuring tape, he marks the places where different features of face will be carved. This process to draw and measure the wooden piece is called ‘naksha and napayi’. Using a pencil, he draws the facial features on the wood, like eyes, nose, lips, ears and other details.

Carving the facial features of a Mask, Project FUEL, 2018/2018, From the collection of: Project FUEL
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Painting the Mask, Project FUEL, 2018/2018, From the collection of: Project FUEL
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As a next step, he carves out the facial features previously drawn, as the mask begins to take its shape. Following that, he then adds in details that will enhance the features of the masks, ending the process by smoothening the wood. The last step is painting the mask, after which it is ready to use.

Dharam Lal's Life Lesson (2018/2018) by Project FUELProject FUEL

Dharam Lal wants to keep this cultural tradition alive and is teaching local kids in his village about the craft. Self-taught, and guided by his own imagination and experience, he has made a name for himself in the craft. He believes that self knowledge is the supreme knowledge.

Mask making craft of Uttarkhand, Project FUEL, 2018/2018, From the collection of: Project FUEL
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In this video, Mask artisan Dharam Lal demonstrates how a mask is made and tells his story of simplicity, self-education and how sheer hard work can be one's legacy.

Credits: Story

'Homespun in Uttarakhand' is an episodic series that features life lessons of seven master artisans of Uttarakhand, their personal stories and their passion celebrating the unrecognised & dying craft practices, which need preservation.

Presented by Project FUEL, in collaboration with Uttarakhand Handloom and Handicraft Development Council (UHHDC)

Director: Ajitesh Sharma
Director of Photography: Udit Khurana
Music: Sameer Rahat
Editor: Tushar Madhav
Producer: Apoorva Bakshi
Creative Producer: Deepak Ramola
Sound Design and Mix: Teja Asgk
Colorist: Shara Sethna
Project Manager: Neha Gupta
Research: Project FUEL

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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