Masks of South India # 8

In Karnataka, there are masks of Bhutas. They are spirit deities who are said to officiate as tutelary spirits of certain families or regions. The Bhutas are worshipped during festivals. In Kerala, masks are used in Theyyam, a form of worship. Theyyam is distinguished by its rich ornamentation and elaborate headgear. Bhagavata Mela, developed in the 17th Century when Telugu-speaking people from Andhra Pradesh settled in Tanjavur, Tamil Nadu. A few of the characters such as Narasimha, Brahma and Vinayaka wear masks. The mask used by lion god Narasimha is especially significant since it is worshipped in the temple throughout the year, and is brought out on the day the play is staged.Drishti bommais are painted with fangs, large eyes and moustaches, and displayed outside houses to ward off the evil eye. In Andhra Pradesh, the cheriyal masks are used as decorative items. Only five families that prepare these masks, remain today. The masks are made with a combination of tamarind seed powder and saw dust, and painted as Rama, Ravana, Sita, Hanuman etc.

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