Myths are traditional stories handed down from one generation to another through verbal or written form. They are especially connected to religious beliefs and rituals. Every society has myths. Myths are sacred narrative of Gods, an attempt to explain cosmology and the fundamental mysteries of life, the universe, as well as solve natural, supernatural and cultural facts.Mythology is both the study of myths and the body or collection of myths connected to a particular religion.Myths became a part of religious systems and gradually different rituals and ceremonies derived from it. Rituals and ceremonies are accompanied with dance, drama and music.
These aspects of life mainly educate peoples in rural areas through vivid performances. Tradition of Mask making practice is also associated with these performances. Artisans have also been inspired by mythologies and mythical legends and have given them visual form.Mask is an art object, an aesthetical creation of our ancestors. In Odisha mask making practice is closely connected with Hindu rituals and ceremonies.
People of Odisha perform different mythological stories from Puranas, Epics and from local mythical stories as a part of ritual and in celebration. Mask is treated as an essential object in some folk performances, such as “Ramleela”, “Prahallad Nataka”, “Pashu Nrutya”, “Baagh Nacha” “Chaiti Ghoda Nacha” “Thakurani Yatra”, “Shahi Yatra”, “Snana Yatra”, “Lankapodi Yatra” and “Medha Nacha”. These folk performances are known as “Jatra” in local language. Some very popular dramatic persona in “Jatras” are Ravana, Angada, Rakshyasa, Hanumana, Banara, jambuman, Nrusingha, Garuda, Surpanakha, Nrusingha, Durga, Mahisasura, Lion, Tiger and Horse.
The mask maker in Odisha is known as chitrakar. Odishan masks are made out of wood and papier mache. Papier mache masks are very light in weight but in the case of wooden masks, artisans choose mostly light weight wood such as mahalimba as per Hindu mythology. To portray the particular character masks are carved and painted from outside with beautiful motifs, symbols and colours following iconography, which makes it lively.