Gomira_A Dying art of Bengal

IMG_2945mThe Gomira dance is also part of the ritualistic dance forms that prays the Adi-Shakti or the primordial energy. Thus Gomira also celebrates Shaktism or worships Lord Shiva just like other dance forms like Gajan and Neel puja. The worship of Lord Shiva can go long back into the history when primitive animistic festivals were practiced to please the sun god, fire god and various other gods. With the advent of Buddhism,. The Hindu Lord Shiva and Parvati were replaced by Bodhisattva and Tara. Later as Hinduism was revived, the female deities Adya and Chandi became more pronounced and were worshipped as much as Shiva. The festival is celebrated mostly at the end of Bengali year . Gomira is actually an animistic tradition in which the primitive people pay their homage to different Gods in order to attain security. The Gomira dance have extensive .The festival is celebrated mostly at the end of Bengali year by use of wooden masks. The artists wear various masks which depicts various incarnations of Kali, Nrisingha and ghosts.

Though Gomira is celebrated in jalpaiguri and Dinajpur, it’s originated from Malda. Traditionally the Gomira starts four days priour to the end of Chaitra and ends in the first day of Baisakh. However the tradition is not followed strictly now a days and it starts on the last day of chaitra at Kushmandi.

The wooden masks are the symbol of the richness of the craftsmanship of the local people. Masks of various forms of kali,the rakshashas(deamons) animals are used. Nrisingha masks are very common.

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Before the play priest worship the mask used during the dance.

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It is interesting to know that Narasingha a figure of Chandi is transformed into Narasingha a figure of vishnu.

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The wooden masks are traditionally objects of worship and devotion. The craft of Gomira mask-making, in its pristine form, catered to the needs of the Gomira dancers and any villager wishing to give a mask as an offering to the village deity. The Gomira dance masks of Dinajpur district have ensued from animistic practices of the Desi and Poli communities of the Rajbongshis. The Gomira dances or Mukha Khel are organised to propitiate the deity to usher in the ‘good forces’ and drive out the ‘evil forces’ during the harvesting season. Traditionally, the Gomira dance starts with the entry of the characters Bura-Buri, who are the human representations of Shiva and Parvati. Apart from serving the ritualistic purpose, the dance performance is also a source of joy and gaiety for the villagers.

There are no specific green room for their make up but a open space, generally backyard of any village house.
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During preparation they help each other to put on mask or dress. As the masks are so heavy they have to be fastened carefully and securely.
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The play is only performed by the males but they also enact the character of the females. There are differences in the costume of male and female characters,Genarally Male wears triple layered skirt and a jacket , sometimes dhoti and woman wears saree. Almost everyone wears “ghungur” and “waistband”. There costume is also very primitive.
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The place where the dance is performed is called “gomira tola”. There are no specific dance pattern but the dance is famous for the energy and vigour. There is no narration of stories but several musicians are seen playing different instruments. Overall performance is very colorful indeed.
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  • In 2013 a memorandum of understanding was signed between the West Bengal government and UNESCO to promote culture-based livelihoods to change for the better for these mask-makers.
  • Banglanatak, a social enterprise that partners with UNESCO worked for capacity building among the mask-makers at the ground level

In “Mukha mela”organized by state govt of West Bengal about 186 wooden mask artisans, 171 pottery artisans, 63 cane and bamboo artisans and mukha artisans from North and South Dinajpur will take part in the festival. There will be folk programmes at the festival, which has been organised by the Mahishbathan Gramin Hasta Shilpa Samabay Samity and is supported by West Bengal Khadi and Village Industries Board (WBKVIB). It may be mentioned that many of the traditional wooden mask makers had left the profession and joined some other vocation to earn money. Other steps are already taken by the department of MSME to give special emphasis for the revival of this special art form.

The masks making part is the most important part in Gomira dance. It is performed to propitiate the deity, usher in the ‘good forces’ and drive out the ‘evil forces’. Themes of the masks are usually spiritual, historic and religious. The department of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises & Textiles, in association with UNESCO, has developed a Rural Craft Hub at Kushmandi. The artisans’ collective runs a Folk Art Centre, which is also equipped with accommodation facility for guests. One can participate in workshops; learn about the history of the community and craft, nuances of mask-making and the fascinating associated stories.

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The Kushmandi village is a home of Gomira mask makers. Almost every house in the village makes wooden masks . Now a days bamboo masks, various other wooden items are also very common products , which are prepared by the artists of Kushmandi. It’s a great experience to visit kushmandi and see the heritage mask makers at their work.

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