|Genre:||Asian History, Ancient Religions & Mythologies|
|Published:||February 01, 2000|
The ancient civilizations on Earth have traditions that attest to the use of masks in rituals and as decorative items. They have demonstrated a remarkable range and diversity of meanings throughout history, cutting across cultural and geographic boundaries. The current study focuses on the masks that the Newars, the dominant ethnic group in the Kathmandu Valley, wear. One distinctive feature of the Newars is the persistence of Buddhism despite Hinduism's political domination. The masks depict demons, goddesses, and gods; they never depict the deceased or ancestors. According to the author, the funerary ceremonies can be used to explain why there aren't any representations of the deceased or ancestors. The memory of the departed is perpetuated through rites carried out after their passing; there are no memorial monuments or other things to keep their memory alive. Between statue masks and masks used in ceremonial dances, a differentiation is drawn. The author focuses on the situations in which professional dancers wear masks and pays attention to the myths that describe how dances came to be and their significance in rituals. The dances done during various festivals throughout the areas of the Kathmandu Valley are described in great detail. Then, each year, painters perform ritualistic destruction and remaking of the masks worn. The relationship between the dancer as a social being with social identity and the mask that depicts a god or goddess is explained by Anne Vergati. The dancer's mask is intended to change his identity rather than conceal his face, turning him into a deity. The book, which is supported by several color graphics, will interest specialists of the cultures of the Himalayan areas as well as art historians and aficionados.