Cheriyal Masks: Clay and Color Weaved Storytelling

Drawing their name from the village of Cheriyal, located about 100 kilometers from Hyderabad in Telangana, India, Cheriyal masks are a vibrant and captivating art form with a rich history dating back over 400 years. These handcrafted masks, traditionally used as storytelling props, are more than just decorative pieces; they are windows into the cultural heritage and artistic expressions of the region.

From Clay to Storytelling:

Cheriyal masks are meticulously crafted using a combination of natural materials and traditional techniques. The base of the mask is formed using a mixture of tamarind seed paste, sawdust, and used cloth. This combination creates a lightweight and durable canvas for the artistry to come. Once shaped, the mask is then decorated with vibrant colors derived from natural pigments. Skilled artisans use their brushwork to depict various characters, deities, and mythological figures, breathing life into the narratives they aim to portray.

A Legacy of Storytelling:

Cheriyal masks were traditionally used by wandering storytellers, known as "Jangams," during village fairs and festivals. These masks served as visual aids, capturing the audience's attention and enhancing the dramatic impact of the stories being narrated. The vibrant colors and expressive faces of the masks helped portray emotions, characters, and scenes with remarkable effectiveness.

Beyond the Stage:

While their original purpose was storytelling, Cheriyal masks have transcended their theatrical roots. Today, they are cherished as beautiful decorative pieces, adorning homes and offices, adding a touch of cultural richness and artistic flair to any space. The masks come in various sizes, with smaller versions serving as souvenirs and larger versions displayed as conversation starters or collector's items.

A Fusion of Styles:

Cheriyal masks showcase a unique blend of artistic influences. The bold outlines and vibrant colors often reflect the Mughal influence, while the focus on mythological and folk themes is deeply rooted in the local cultural traditions. This fusion of styles creates a distinctive aesthetic that is both visually captivating and culturally significant.

Preserving the Legacy:

The art of Cheriyal mask making is traditionally passed down through generations within families. Artisans undergo rigorous training in the various stages of mask creation, ensuring the continuity of this unique art form. However, like many traditional art forms, Cheriyal masks face challenges in the modern world due to competition from mass-produced alternatives.

Experiencing the Art:

Visiting museums and art galleries showcasing Cheriyal masks allows for a deeper appreciation of the intricate craftsmanship and the captivating stories they hold within. Witnessing these vibrant pieces firsthand offers a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Telangana and the enduring power of storytelling through art. Whether adorning a village storyteller's hand or displayed as a decorative piece, Cheriyal masks continue to captivate audiences worldwide, serving as a testament to the enduring power of artistic expression and cultural heritage.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.