The ecstatic wooden masks of Kushmandi in Dakshin Dinajpur is associated with the Rajbongshi community. Around 250 artists are engaged in making Wooden and Bamboo Masks and other items of decor. These masks are part of the costume of the traditional Gomira dancers who perform to propitiate the deity to usher in the 'good forces' and drive out the 'evil forces'. Themes of the masks are generally spiritual, historic and religious.
Department of Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises & Textiles, Government of West Bengal in partnership with UNESCO has developed Rural Craft Hub at Kushmandi. The artists run a Folk Art Centre which also provides accommodation facility for guests. Artists host Mukha Mela (festival) each year in end October.
Explore the Folk Art Centre to learn about history of the community & craft and learn about the craft-making process. Participate in workshops and know the associated stories. Visit the ruins 'Neelkothi' from the British era and also witness Dhokra mats of women weavers. You can also explore nearby Kulik Bird sanctuary in Raiganj. Visiting the local haats is a must in this place.
Nearest railway station is Kaliaganj. From the station it takes around 45 minutes to reach Kushmandi by road. Kushmandi is a 2 hours drive from Malda.
One can enjoy stay at the Community Resource Centre with well furnished lodging facilities along with basic amenities that are available for the guests. There are lodges at Kaliaganj too.
The Hub has a three storied building where guests can visit, observe the craftsmen at work and can also see the artifacts displayed. One can explore the Folk Art Centre to marvel at the craftsmanship and even participate in workshops to learn the craft and its history and associated stories. Various workshops and training sessions are held here from time to time.
The wooden masks are traditionally objects of worship and devotion. The craft of Gomira mask making, in its pristine form, catered to the needs of the Gomira dancers and any villager wishing to give a mask as an offering to the village deity. The ecstatic Gomira dance masks of Dinajpur district have ensued from animistic practices of the Desi and Poli communities of the Rajbongshis. The Gomira dances or Mukha Khel are organized to propitiate the deity to usher in the ‘good forces’ and drive out the ‘evil force’ during harvesting season. Traditionally, the Gomira dance starts with the entry of two characters Bura-Buri, who are the human representation of Shiva and Parvati. Apart from the ritualistic purpose this dance performance is also a source of joy and gaiety for the villagers. The masks started their journey from the village dance performances to the urban drawing room and with time became delectable pieces of art.
Artists of Kushmandi will celebrate their 3 day village fair along with folk festival on October 27 - 29, 2017.