Masks of Bengal

Mask or mukhosh, as it is known in Bengal has a mysterious history, too vague to be
chronicled in perfect sequence, both in terms of advent and influence. Rumour has it that in ancient times, witches started the practice of wearing masks. To camouflage themselves, the witches built a sublime weapon, a facial veil that prevented them from being exposed. They wore colourful ornate faces made from wood or paper, a bait to attract innocent people, who were then sacrificed so that the witches would be granted immortality.

There are various theories regarding the origin of masks in Bengal – one of them says that the wearing of masks started during the time of the great migration that took place in the Bengal delta during pre-historic times; another associates masks with symbols of negating geo-political boundaries of the world.

Though there is a lot of ambiguity about the origin of masks in Bengal, it is evident that masks were of great religious importance owing to the belief in spells. Tribal priests would wear these masks and exhibit various magical skills.

Thus masks became a popular prop in Bengali culture, many of them being used in various dance forms performed to appease the demon gods and to usher in peace as well as prosperity.