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A traditional wooden tantric Buddhist dance mask from the Monpa people of Arunachal Pradesh , a state in the North East frontier of India, that borders Bhutan and Tibet. This is a product of the Buddhist cultural diaspora that spans the Himalayas and though the peoples and cultural groups in question undoubtedly have their own unique characteristics, to the eye of the average Westerner, they would be called "Tibetan". To discern the subtleties that distinguish the various "tribes" requires more than passing familiarity. There is however a set of core cultural beliefs that in the vast Tibetan border zone, has as its axis Vajrayana or tantric Buddhism.

One common tradition among all the Vajrayana Buddhists is the "cham" dances. Known to many as "Lama dances" these are characterized by monks or lamas dressed in elaborate costumes and wonderful masks that range in expression from the comical, to the sublime, to the horrific. The mask is carved from a dense heavy wood and has evolved a lovely patina. The deep carved lines of the face are a distinctive characteristic of Monpa masks and mask collectors may note that their appearance has more than a passing similarity to masks of far Eastern Asia such as in the theatre masks of Japan. The mask depicts a wrathful protective deity, whose aggressive countenance reflects his unwavering dedication to protecting the Buddhist Dharma and its adherents. In other words, these haughty gods and their retinues were bound by oath to serve Buddhism. To this day at certain points in the lunar calendar, monks and lamas don ornate robes and a variety of masks and perform meticulously choreographed tantric dances known as "cham" in Tibetan and related dialects. The purpose of these dances is two-fold, first, to pay tribute to the protector deities and the founders of Tibetan style Buddhism who bound them by oath in the first place (Padmasambhava). Secondly the dances invoke the protectors to obliterate obstacles and misfortune that might otherwise trouble the local community.


ITEM NAME:   Vajrayana Buddhist Monpa Mask
PRICE:   Email 
PEOPLE/REGION:   Arunachal Pradesh




Circa mid 20th c.


8" wide
11" high

Please note the item number and kindly e-mail your inquiries.


Visa, American Express, Master Cards and Discover are accepted.


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