Odisha's elephant mask 'Gajamukha' is  'Exhibit of the Month' at IGRMS

Gajamukha,’ an elephant faced mask from Odisha is the ‘Exhibit of the Month’ at Veethi Sankul of Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS), Bhopal.

The exhibition, inaugurated by choreographer Chandra Madhav Barik on Thursday evening, is part of the popular museum series ‘Exhibit of the Month’. And the traditional exhibit will be displayed in the appearance for a whole month.

It has been compiled and composed by Sudeepa Roy (Assistant Keeper). Roy says that Gajamukha comprises of two words Gaja and Mukha. Here Gaja means elephant and Mukha means face. In Oriya local dialect Mukha is used for masks.

In Odisha one can find a wide range of masks prepared in various mediums like wood, solapith, papier-mâché, cow dung etc. Being light in weight and because of easy availability paper or paper pulp is the most preferable medium for crafting masks, toys and various decorative items by the artists of Odisha, she says.

Technical expertise and aesthetic sense of rural artists expressed in these articles is amazing. Although masks are used for various purposes like decoration, dances, religious procession etc. but this type of huge masks mostly find space on walls for decorative purposes, Roy adds.

Odisha's elephant mask 'Gajamukha' is  'Exhibit of the Month' at IGRMS
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Process of Making Mask:

A base mould of desired size and shape according to the object is made with hard and sticky clay collected from the pond and dried in the sun. This mould is covered with several layers of paper using tamarind seed glue and kept to be hard. This hardened mask is separated from the mould with the help of a sharp tool and coated with a layer of mixed cow dung, ant hill clay and glue to increase the strength of the mask. In case of big size masks different parts like the trunk and ears are made separately and joined together. A composite of paper and glue are again applied to increase the size and ensure the durability of the object. After this a layer of chalk mitti and glue is applied. Next step is carving out facial features and smoothing the surface by rubbing with the help of coconut fiber and cotton cloth or stone. Natural colours used for making pattachitra are also applied for decorating the mask. According to the shape and size of the object, artists beautify them by making different floral patterns. Creative skill of the artist of Raghurajpur is visible in various forms of pattachitra, coconut shell, lamp-shade, wooden toys, and different craft items. These artists are famous for their paintings related to the episodes related to Ramayana, Mahabharata and Lord Jagannath.

Odisha's elephant mask 'Gajamukha' is  'Exhibit of the Month' at IGRMS
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Tools and Essential Materials:

Beauty of a papier-mâché object lies in its colourful appearance. Papier-mâché artists of Odisha are fond of bright colours which enhance the glow of objects. Various shades of colours are applied on black or any darker background. Colours are obtained from natural resources like minerals and vegetables and to ensure their longevity vegetable glue is also added. White colour is prepared from conch shell powder, Red from red oxide stone, Black from Soot / lamp black, Blue and Violet from Indigo, Yellow from Haritala (a kind of stone) and Green from leaves. Preparation of papier-mâché objects including mask is mostly based on hand moulding but a little bit use of tools like fine chisels, sharp knife etc. is also there. Other materials like ant hill clay, cow-dung, clay, paper, chalk powder, glue made of tamarind seeds, varnish etc. are also used.

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