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Artistic features of the main parts of Nepal

 

The lowland Terai and the band of low hills in southern Nepal


Logically the art of this region is steeped in Hindu culture. In the same way as the north of Nepal's art is influenced by Lamaist culture as discussed below. Although there is a tribal dimension in the artistic production of northern and southern Nepal, but the tribal aspect is often superficial compared to the dominant styles of the two great cultures of the north and south. Tribal culture that has only produced inflections or changes in the two dominant styles. It's in the area of ??hills and highlands that we are in contact with the emergence of a more typical Himalayan art with a strong tribal aspect.
Even when they are old, the masks of this south tropical region do not have a thick, shiny black patina as in the hills and highlands and mountains. In fact, these masks are not kept inside closed houses in contact with the smoke from the heater to fight against the cool climate. The masks are used to obtain favor from the gods, and celebrate the ancestors and the legends.


The area of ??hills and highlands.


In this region we find the most original Himalayan art, the most surprising. Taking its inspiration from the earliest times, we are in the presence of an art influenced by shamanism. Shamanism traces which remain despite the Buddhist and Hindu conversion. Shamanism that gives some masks of this region a family resemblance to those of Siberian shamans. The masks were worn during sessions of healing, witchcraft and suppression of enemies, to promote the hunting of animals. Shamans of Nepal were talented sculptors as we can admire the drums and ceremonial daggers and exorcism (Phurba) they have achieved. No doubt they could also carve some masks even if we can not say precisely which ones, or know  the role that these masks could have play during shamanic rituals. The shaman is a central person in the village. He knows how to cast out demons, heal, encourage the departure of the dead in the afterlife, when to wear masks and why. Masks were probably used in rituals of exorcism, prediction of future, protection by invoking the ancients. They could be carved at the funeral to help the passage of the dead in the afterlife or to represent a demon and make it peaceful.


Within the area of ??hills and highlands (Middle Hills), there are two major poles creative:
* In eastern Nepal, including in the sphere of Kirant, masks of ancestors or for pantomimes are rather rounded and have a naturalistic style, their style is so elaborate that they suggest that they may be portraits. They have a thick black crusty patina or smooth.
* To the west of Nepal, among the Khas who occupy the major part of the Karnali basin masks are flatter, often disc-shaped or like shield. They are more rudimentary, less realistic, with unbridled imagination.


Real theatrical masks do not exist in the hills and highlands as they exist in areas of Nepal near the Indian influence.

 

Kathmandu Valley


Located in central mid-hills, the Kathmandu Valley is a focal point of many ethnicities and cultures. It is inhabited by the Newars, talented artists and ethnic majority in the region. Buddhist, Hindu, even shamanistic influences, mix in this valley. The festivities and dancing are majority Hindu. We mainly observe the feast of the dead cows, the festival of Indra the rain god. During the festival of Indra, whose role is to protect the rice from climatic hazards and from the threat of demons (Lakha) occur many masked shows.


The masks of deities are small either in metal such as copper and delicately executed, or in papier mache with bright colors that allow to identify the deity represented and with crowns of skulls or flowers. Masks of the Kathmandu Valley are unlike those seen in other regions of the Himalayas and are different from the masks from northern India and in Tibet. The mask of the devil (Lakha) is made ??of wood or metal. Archaic with lunar shape, it is not easily distinguishable from other tribal masks from hills and highlands.

 

High mountains


Ethnic Buddhist from the mountains have been influenced by Mongolian and Tibetan Buddhism, but the remoteness, accentuated by the mountains, enabled the emergence of different styles in different parts of Nepal and in Arunachal Pradesh which is located east from Bhutan.


* The Botia.


This name is given to various tribal groups, mostly Buddhists, of Tibetan origin who settled on a strip of territory north of Nepal. The Sherpa are included. They are quite close from ethnic groups of hills and highlands that are Thakali and Tamang. These Botia practice in addition to Lamaism, a form of shamanic tribal religion close to Kiran. Tibetan ancient shamanism and the tribes of the hills and highlands of Nepal are from the same origin.


* The Sherpa at the east of Mount Everest.


The ceremonies that take place in early winter are the occasion of big and hilarious shows, during which the formation of the Buddhist doctrine is celebrated (the struggle between various Buddhist shrines and fight against animism). The rival sects and religions are ridiculed by the clowns dressed in masks of clowns.


* The Nyingba west of Nepal.


During the spring festival great festivals are organized in villages. The style of these shows may vary from one village to another. This is an opportunity for emotional release in which popular religion and institutions are not spared from criticism. Performances to which we can attend to are recounting the struggle between good and evil, ending with the victory of Buddhist deities. The masks are of variable quality and may differ from one village to another.


* The Arunachal Pradesh.


This territory depended from Lassa until the invasion of Tibet by China, then it was annexed to India. It is populated by ethnic Buddhists, the Monpa and the Sherdukpen. These tribes have  mostly made in the past beautiful masks, perfectly crafted, and with a fine finish. These masks are made of wood and not in masticated paper like most Tibetans masks. During performances appear very elaborate masks of gods, princesses, kings, ministers, women, priests, clowns, monsters, various animals ... who narrate local legends. There is also a production of a few masks more rude and primitive.
Masks can be exposed as paintings, attend to monastic dances and be used during festivals or seasonal village feasts. Finally they can be used in a private context, that is to say home.
The masks in this region are often characterized by a system of attachment of cords maintained at three locations, at ear level and under the chin.