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Mask Dance and Religion  

by on Wednesday, 18 June 2008No Comment | 5,803 views

Balinese dances, dance dramas and music and all kind of arts at first in Bali are not art for art’s sake. All choreography, compositions and adances are ultimately rooted in religion. And masked dance is not an exception. Like an extravagantly supplemented canang offering, they are offered to the gods at home and temple festivals. Mask dances is also an offering to God. In addition, theatrical mask dances are used for, planting and harvest celebrations and at times of transition in the lives of individuals and communities. Mask dances, such as Topeng, also discuss politics of the past and present, and morals.

Topeng Pajegan (Pajegan Mask)

Masks may represent gods, animals, demons, or humans and can be whole masks or half masks depending on the dance they are used for. Masks can also be sacred or non-sacred depending on their purpose and preparation. Because the mystical theatre in Bali has captured the attention of so many foreigners to the land, non-sacred masks are made abundantly for sale. However, the best of the mask carvers have not abandoned their calling to create the sacred, consecrated masks when they have a “feeling” to do so.


Mask carvers only begin to create a mask when the feeling is “right”. However, this feeling can change during creation, forcing the mask maker to halt the process and resume when the right feeling returns. Therefore there is no set amount of time it takes to make a mask and it can range from 40 days to 4 years.

Monkey Mask

Balinese mask dancers differ from Western dancers because they do not act like their character, they become their character. Thus, the spirit of the mask enters the body of the dancers. When used in Balinese dances the dancer must use fire to summon the mask’s spirit and then fall under the power of the mask. It is now that the dancer or dancers can perform the multi-dimensional dances of Balinese mask dance.

Hanoman Mask

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