This project focuses on documenting the knowledge of the mask-maker who creates the masks for the Nava Durga Naach (Nine Durgas Dance) performed in Bhaktapur, Nepal during the annual lunar festival of Dasain, which centres on the worship of the goddess (Devi/Durga) in all her forms and aspects. In the dance, seven forms of Durga and six other deities (including Siva whose mask is carried by one of the dancers) are embodied by dancers as they don their masks. The mask maker, Purna Bahadur Chitraker, is now 77 years old. His family have been making masks for at least two- to three-hundred years. Based on previous research into the traditional arts, this project aims to create and populate a framework of the knowledge involved in the creation of the masks. This includes developing understanding of: tools and materials, their use and meanings; methods; details of imagery of individual masks; models and prototypes for the masks; stages of the making process; approach to the process; ritual associated with the process; knowledge of deities and its use in the process; pedagogy; relationships with other knowledge holders; environmental issues; other challenges.

The primary goal will be to document the knowledge involved in the mask making process using images (photos, drawings, short videos) accompanied by notes based on observations, discussions with knowledge holders and others in the community, and other research. Creating the masks for the Nava Durga Dance requires dedication, willingness to submit to ritual restrictions, and the experience and stamina to complete all the masks according to the tight schedule dictated by the festivals and rituals involved. Passing down sufficient depth of knowledge in this labour-intensive process is difficult. Recording the wisdom of the mask maker and the meaning and significance of the masks is important as each step of the making process contributes to the power of the masks to facilitate the transformation of dancer to deity. Understanding the making of the masks is a key to further understanding of the dance itself and its continued place in the lives and heritage of the people of Nepal.

Primary Applicant:
Emily Pott

Renuka Gurung
Purushottam Lochan Shrestha

Research Assistants:
Jonathan Eeles
Rajesh Chitrakar

Location of Research:
Bhaktapur, Nepal

Host Institution:
The Princes Foundation, School of Traditional Arts

Top Banner Image: The hand of the artist Purna Bahadur Chitrakar painting final details on a mask for the Nava Durga dance, Bhaktapur, Nepal. (Photo: Renuka Gurung)