Discover India

Masks of Glory DISCOVER

Charida is not the most popular tourist spot in West Bengal. But its obscurity is one of the reasons we choose to discover the undiscover­ed ‘mask village’ of India.


AS OUR CAR PULLED into the dusty parking lot, a little boy, dressed in nothing but a pair of shorts and a grin that flashed all of his immaculate white teeth, came running towards us. Upon his insistence, we let him lead us to what he claimed was the “best shop” in this area. As we squeezed in through a narrow door, we were greeted by a wall of faces.

While some looked amicable, a few were outright angry, and still others looked on with an expression I can only describe as disapprovi­ng. The colours they donned were dazzling: mellow yellow, forest green, neon pink, dark blue, and many shades in between. As I looked around the room in awe, I noticed a lady seated in one corner of the shop. Sprawled in front of her was the biggest Kathakali mask I had ever laid eyes on. The little boy who had led us there was now waiting by the door, eager to show us around the rest of his village.

I had managed to whisk my family away to Purulia for a quick vacation earlier this year, and we were on the last leg of that trip when an argument broke out on what our final stop should be. While my father insisted on an obscure ‘mask village’ he had read about on the Internet, mother was keen on visiting the village of Baranti, famous for a beautiful lake nestled amongst the hills. Unable to settle the dispute, they turned to me for the deciding vote. I picked the mask village with a mixture of apprehensi­on and intrigue. Never before had I heard of this place, the Internet had few reliable descriptio­ns, and even our driver was unsure of the directions. The only argument that outweighed all of this? It was a place largely hidden from the mainstream tourist influx (a boon, given the pandemic at hand), and if everything worked out, it would be a memorable experience.

And so, with a sketchy Internet connection, some guidance from Google Maps, and vague directions from passers-by, we set off on our quest for the mask village. Two hours later, when we finally stepped out of the car, we were greeted by a road flanked on either side with a seemingly endless display of masks. We had arrived at the village of Charida.

Located in the larger Baghmundi CD Block of the Purulia district, Charida is home to artisan families who have been in the mask-making business for over four generation­s. It is not merely a profession here, but a way of life—an integral part of

Less than an hour’s drive from Charida, Bamni Falls is a scenic wonderland of gushing waters and lush greenery.

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