Author: Jiwan Pani
Publisher: Publications Division
ISBN/UPC (if available): N/A
The human body is like a mask. Life wears it as it acts. When Death pulls down the final curtain, Life stops acting and discards the mask. Then it lies revealed.
The face which gives the body its identity is also its quintessence. If the face is masked it becomes another face. The body too becomes another body because it feels that a new being flows in from the mask. That being seizes upon the body and transforms it so that there is not inconsistency between the new face and the new body. Thus mask acts as an instrument of metamorphosis, especially when the mind is as impressionable as that of a primitive man.
Nobody knows where and when mask originated. It seems probable that deep in the prehistoric past each primitive society developed its own makes to minimize the feeling of vulnerability. At that time scientific reason did not develop to explain the various phenomena of nature to which the primitive man was helplessly exposed. He, therefore, felt highly insecure and vulnerable. He could see that the forces of nature, which control him are basically of two kinds-the benevolent and the malevolent. The former, he thought, are the acts of the gods whereas the latter, that of the demons and evil spirits. Thus he started creating myths and desperately tried to materialize these supernatural powers so that, through appropriate rituals which are but enactments of myths, the gods could be pleased and the evil spirits appeased. As a result, from his myth-making faculty were born many idols, images and icons. And mask was born as a special kind of icon.
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