The mask that's become the face of Kerala


The Kathakali masks today available as little souvenirs and showpieces are an icon of Kerala's culturescape. Complete with the elaborate headgear, painted face and long black hair of the Kathakali costume, these curios are made in plaster of Paris, clay or papier mache.
Based on the colour of the face, the shape of the headgear and beard, there are five distinctive types of characters inKathakali. The pacha or 'green' costume represent the virtuous and noble; the kathi or 'knife' the proud, aggressive, and unrighteous; the red thadi or 'beards' are the aggressive and demonic, the white thadi or 'beards' the mythical and fantastic beings like the monkey gods and the black thadi or 'beards'- the tribesmen, foresters and cave dwellers. Theminukku or 'polished' characters represent women, sages, brahmins etc. The Keralite usually goes for the pacha or the good characters to be displayed in his home.
This multicoloured extravagant craft has become a lucrative village industry. A mask can cost anything from less than a hundred rupees to a few hundreds depending on the size, the material and the intricate patterns used. The Kathakali mask is available at government owned emporiums across the state and at handicrafts showrooms near famous temples and tourist destinations.

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