Mask dances face extinction

Shashi Dhungel

Bhaktapur, July 2:

Mask dances, which have amused foreigners and countrymen alike, are disappearing, thanks to the onslaught of Western culture and government apathy. Groups that used to perform such dances have not been able to perform them due to lack of funds. If the government apathy towards these dances continues, half of these dances will become extinct in a few years, Ganesh Ram Lacchi, the chairman of the Madyapur Art Council, says. The Kartik Dance of Tistung, which used to be performed every 12 years, has not been performed for 24 years. The Manmainju dance of Banepa has also the same story to narrate. “The Nepal Mandal — the area between Dolakha and Pokhara — has about 26 groups that perform mask dances. The city of Bhaktapur alone has about 17 such groups. However, owing to fund crunch, these groups have been finding it difficult to perform mask dances,” says Lacchim, who is doing a research on mask dances in Nepal. “Every year, thousands of tourists come to Nepal to see these amazing dances,” Lacchi says, adding: “The government organisation responsible for the preservation of these dances has not shown any interest in preserving them.”

The mask dancers have to follow some strict rules. For example, they cannot cut their hair and cannot stay out of their houses. “The customs are different, masks are different and dances have to follow specific rules. If adequate attention is not given, half of these dances will be forgotten.” Most of these dances are performed between the Gai Jatra and Indra Jatra. While the Bhadrakalidance and Bagbhairav dance are performed every 12 years, the Nawadurga dance is performed every 40 years. The number of dancers also varies. While 13 and 19 masked dancers are required to perform the Nawadurga dance and the Bode Nilbarahi

dance, 31 masked dancers are required to perform the Tridevi dance of Harisiddhi.