|Chano Lowang||Assistant Director Textile and handicrafts||9436221957||chanolowang1614[at]gmail.com|
The Monpas have a glorious heritage of arts and crafts. Their craftsmanship is manifested in various trades like weaving, bamboo works and paintings, paper making, incense making, pottery, etc. Monpa artisans are held in esteem and respected in their society as their services are inevitable in their socio-cultural life.And the Department of Textile and Handicrafts, Tawang has assisted in various ways in achieving and in maintaining the old traditional culture of the Monpas. The Department of Textile & Handicrafts, Tawang has 1 (One) Departmental Sales Outlet called the District Sales Emporium showcases the traditional handloom and handicrafts items of the tawang District in particular and of the State in general.
WOOD CRAFT MASK:
As the region is endowed with lush green forest, various kinds of wood is extracted to make various objects of their daily use as well as for other purposes. Their skill in woodwork is best expressed in wood carving. It is a specialized craft confined to menfolk only. The experts who are involved in the above trades are known as ‘Trukpa’.Their low table called ‘Cho-tze’ is known for its artistic carved wood work. It is open on the side fencing the person seated on it. The other sides ae paneled with carved figures of dragon, bird or flower pattern painted in vivid colours.The Monpas also produce various utensils of daily use from wood. ‘Zan Shongbu”- a shallow flat rectangular utensil used for kneading flour is made from a single block of wood by hollowing out inside. ‘Jandhong’ is a long cylindrical churn made of wood with brass around. It is used for churning butter tea. For churning milk, they have ‘Zob’ which resembles jangdhong in size but bigger in size. ‘Sheng Tsumrong’ is a wooden mortar in which cereals and other edibles are pounded with the help of a wooden pestle.
The Monpas have been weaving cloth to meet their requirements since time immemorial. Weaving in their society is done almost exclusively by women. Girls are trained in the art of weaving from a very early age. In a family where there is no weaver, either a weaver is engaged by family to weave cloth whenever necessary on payment basis or they buy woven clothes from them.
The basic raw materials used by them in weaving are wool and cotton yarn. They shear their sheep and do the washing, combing, spinning and weaving. Cotton yarn is imported from the plains of woolens which meet their essentials requirement of clothing. They also weave blankets, hoversacks, tents etc., from yak hair. Of all the carpets deserves a special mention. By combining different shades of woolen yarn, they weave carpets with exquisite designs of dragon, snow lion, birds or flowers on them. Equally sophisticated and artistic is their textile bags which is made by combining five colours- red, yellow, white, black and green.
Paper making is another art in which the Monpas excel. Probably they are the only tribe in Arunachal Pradesh who know the art of making paper. Their paper is made from the bark of a shrub called Dapne Botanical Papercia, locally called Shugu-Sheng. The Papers produced are monpas are said to be of very high standard in terms of quality. Monpas use it mainly for religious purposes. Most of their religious scriptures are written on hand made papers. Many holy scriptures are written on ornate cardboard, consisting of several sheets of hand made papers pasted together, and varnished over with a black pigment, upon which the letters are written in silver or gold.
A thangka, also known as tangka, thanka or tanka (Tibetan:)is a painting on cloth. The literal translation of the Tibetan word THANG KA means ‘recorded message’. Among all the art and crafts in Tawang, painting occupies a very special position. Not only is it essential for designing, decorating and finishing many mundane objects, but it is also a highly developed and important means of religious expression. It is a medium through which the Buddhist philosophy can be explained.Thanka paintings have a powerful and forceful impact on most people when they first encounter it. As Guiseppe Tucci, the famous Buddhist art historian, commented” The images are now peaceful, now terrific, seem to jump up alive before your eyes to crowd on you like ghosts and to engrave themselves mercilessly into the bottom of your subconscious so as to haunt you in your dreams as well…”.The thangka is not a flat creation like an oil painting or acrylic painting but consists of a picture panel which is painted over which a textile is mounted and then over which is laid a cover, usually silk. Generally, thangkas last for a very long time and retain much of their luster, but because of their delicate nature, they have to be kept in dry places where moisture won’t affect the quality of the thangka. It is sometimes called a scroll-painting. There are many types of thankas in terms of its main contents and designs. The subject matter includes Buddhas, bodhisattvas, goddesses, wrathful creature, humans, inanimate objects (stupas), monastic accessories, religious objects, animals, plants, flowers etc. Painting along with sculpture is a medium through which the highest ideals of Buddhism are evoked and brought alive.
The practice of mask making can be traced to the influence of the Tibetan culture. The development of Tibetan masks can be outlined as follows:
As early as the Neolithic age, before the creation of masks, Tibetans painted their faces with animal blood, brownish red color and black ash, which had an effect similar to wearing masks.
Influenced by the totem worship of primitive Bonism, Tibetans started to express themselves by wearing animal masks.
After the creation of Tibetan Buddhism, Tibetans began to worship deities, and the image of deities started to be adopted into masks.The creation of operas promoted the development of masks, which had an innate decorative function.
Masks can be classified into religious type and folk type in terms of their functions:
Religious masks are generally used in religious dance festivals, but they vary in different monasteries. This type usually includes three dimensional or semi-three-dimensional hard-shaped masks made from roughcasts. They are regarded as a form of sculpture. As the Buddhist believers think that religious masks symbolize gods and spirits, they especially emphasize solemnity and constancy in the making of masks. This strict standard has resulted in the artistic form of religious masks becoming fixed. Religious masks are only used in performances, held once a year, but at other times they are hung and enshrined in monasteries, with the masks of a protective deity in the central position. Some masks in some particular monasteries have even become their treasures.
Although bamboo is not abundantly available in their area as compared to other parts of Arunachal Pradesh, the Monpas make judicious use of the limited resources. Besides using it for house-building, they turn out beautiful articles of daily use from purposes and every house has all the requisite types of bamboo baskets and vessels. Their works in basketry is of high craftsmanship.
The most common headgear of the Monpas is the hat made of Yak’s felt. It is called ngama-shom or tzithpa-sham in Tsoksom area, nga-sha in Mago-Thingbu and dhueja in Zemithang area. The material required for making such hat is yak’s felt and hot water to which is added some crushed crepe apples. remarkably this hat has no stitching.
The severe cold climate of the area, especially during winter months necessitated the Monpa to evolve a device to cover their feet as well. The technique employed by the Monpas in making shoes is very simple. The Monpas art of shoe making is , however, dying due to onslaught of machine- made fine leather or rubber shoes in the market. Today, one can rarely see people wearing their hand-made shoes. Only during festive gatherings one can see a few rural folk in their traditional shoes.
Pottery is also found among the Monpas. It is mainly the job of men folk. This craft flourishes on commercial scale in Kangteng village which lies to the south-west of Tawang Township. They make earthen vessels of various sizes, which are used primarily for cooking, for brewing liquor, for storage of fermented cheese etc. The products are exchanged for various articles or sold in cash.
The Monpas are also experts in the art of making incense. The basic raw materials used by the Monpas in making incense is the leaves and the stems of juniper tree, while other ingredients used are several different herbs locally known as balu, solu, adung-Karpo, Shole-Karpo, etc. For adhesive, the bark of trees, locally known by the name of yang-yang-ma and dhongze is used.
The Department is going to conduct capacity Building & Skill Development Training programs in 6 different Blocks of Tawang District on various above mentioned trades like Weaving, Goichen Cap Making, Tailoring, Mask Making, Thanka painting etc. during which 225 nos of youths of the district will be trained.