Title Mask
Accession Number 64.841
Title2 Ritual Mask
Museum Name National Museum, New Delhi
Gallery Name Anthropology
Object Type Anthropology
Main Material Gourd
Component Material II Metal
Manufacturing Technique Carved
Country India
Origin Place Odisha
Period / Year of Work 20th century CE
Tribe Kuttia Kond
Dimensions Ht. 27 cms
Brief Description Kuttia Kond Masks such as this is used as substitutes for human skulls at the annual or triennial sacrifice (Meriah) to Dharni Pinnu, the Earth Mother. They are made of gourds, decorated with red and white beads.
Detailed Description The Kond masks form a link with the old days of Meriah (human) sacrifice. When this practice was stopped in the middle of the 19th century, the Konds preserved many relics related to this practice which they believed had divine sanction behind it. Many kept the old knives, iron chains and bowls which were used in those savage rites; some were able to preserve little bits of human flesh in bamboo tubes; others, more lucky, cherished human skulls. Some of these remain to this day, and the Konds say that at every full moon they can hear spirits weeping for human blood. In those villages that were fortunate enough to possess a human skull, the priest kept it in regular use. In the other villages, they sacrificed a substitute which was the buffalo (which was all that Government permitted). They use to place the skulls in front of the stone symbols of the Earth Mother. But in course of time the skulls got damaged or destroyed by fire and the custom was abandoned. This was the time, the priest tried to kill the buffalo, but the axe would not even break the skin. A Kuttia Kond priest then had a dream in which the Earth Mother declared, 'the head is destroyed; make a new head in its place. Sacrifice, dance, and then kill the buffalo. Then, and only then, will I be pleased and accept your offering'. Accordingly the Konds made a mask after the pattern shown in the dream and next day the festival was celebrated without a hitch. Ever since then masks have been made and, at the time of the buffalo-sacrifice which the Konds still call Meriah, one of them is offered to Earth Mother, a fowl is killed above it and the villagers dance, the children waving branches in the air, and it is believed that the Goddess is satisfied. (Elwin, The Tribal Art of Middle India, 138-139)