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Metal Craft: Mohras (The Masks of Local Deities)

A MaskMetalsmiths of Kullu and Mandi fashion a large number of Devi and Shiva masks. These masks are locally called Mohra. These highly revered masks are restored in temples of the local deities and taken out in processions during local fairs , festivals , and other sacred ceremonies.

On special occassions these masks are decorated with flowers and are installed on a small chariot called 'Rath', with brilliant cloths hanging around it. These colourful chariots of the deities are carried by the devotees on their shoulders, followed by a band of local musicians.

Mohras are characterized by the benign smiles on their faces, crowned heads and third eye in the center of the forehead. Some of the masks stand out for their classical perfection while majority of these belong to the rural tradition.

The Mohras are generally made of copper and brass. Ashthadhatu, an alloy of eight metals is also used in making Mohras. These eight metals are Gold, Silver, Brass, Iron, Tin, Mercury, Copper, and Zinc. The skills of casting, ornamenting, and engraving are required in making Mohras.

Mohras along with the other excellent artpieces made of metals follow a rich tradition of metal crafts in Kullu and its surrounding provinces. The dexterous smiths of Kullu have cherished their skill through generations. They make these masks in their traditional smithies with a hearth and tools blackened by the smoke.

The significance of the Mohras has not diminished with the passage of time. These are taken in procession to the festivals by local people with same faith.

During Dussehra festival of Kullu, around 300 deities assemble in Dhalpur Maidan to pay their homage to Raghunath Ji, the chief deity of the Valley. During their combined procession one can have a look of countless number of smiling Mohras on the chariots. These chariots move harmoniously with the tumult of divine tunes played by the local musicians following their deities.

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