Indian artist brings ancient 'Masan' paintings to the attention of world
Published : Tuesday, 16 June, 2020 at 8:56 PM Count : 1586
Perhaps the world has not yet heard details about a distinctive form of paintings, called 'Masan Paintings' which had developed in North Bengal of India.
Madhusudan Das, an Indian artist, who did his Bachelor and Master in Fine Arts from Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, West Bengal, brings the Masan paintings to the attention of the world for the first time.
The word 'Masan' has been derived from the word 'Shamshaan'. The Masan paintings and Pooja have been of great significance for the 'Rajbanshi' tribe in North Bengal in ancient time.
"This form of art and paintings that have been celebrated for hundreds of years are nothing less than absolutely mesmerizing," says Madhusudan.
The artist says his exploration and observation of this ancient tribe during his visit to North Bengal had ignited a flame of interest and curiosity towards their art and lifestyle.
Born in Jalpaiguri district of the Indian state of West Bengal in 1973, Madhusudan's place of living is in between a city and rural areas. It is located on the bank of the Teesta river which is the second largest river in West Bengal, on the foothills of the Himalayas. The scene on the bay of the Teesta looks almost like a sea beach. There are many types of trees on the bank of the river.
"To take a break from the mundane daily life in my childhood, I often used to go to the banks of river Teesta and lying underneath a tree, I could view the different variations in the sky, the horizon and various formations of trees. Roaming in the Teesta river on traditional fishing boat, I used to view the ripples in the river, clouds hover casting the sky,shades of light and darkness in the horizon. Being grown up in such an environment, nature inspired me a lot. I could compare the peace and serenity of nature with the chaos of the urban life filled with pretention," says Madhusudan.
For the artist, art serves as meditation for the soul. It helps him maintain a clear mind and stay focused on the things he must do to sustain the life. It is a motivational force as great as gravity that helps him get up in the morning to face the world, with a dream full of joy and excitement.
"The dream is one that I continue to create in my mind daily and that I try very hard to apply to my two-dimensional canvas or on a piece of paper," he says.
The artist reveals that he has studied many fields, like nature, human behaviour, sufferings and emotions. He has struggled hard in his life.
"I used to go to village markets which was five to six km away from my house where Masan art was displayed. In my formative years I used to like these Masan Chitrakala. It attracted me more than anything. In my childhood I used to like them a lot because of the way they looked but when I grew up and went to art collage then I realised the importance and value of the paintings which attracted me more towards the Masan Chitrakala," he says.
Explaining about practice of Masan Pooja, the artist says that the pooja hardly exists in today's world. Almost all the believers of this faith who introduced it to the society have died long ago. However, this belief exists today due to the people who have been told about this by their parents.
According to Madhusudan, there was lack of technology and education in the olden times and people who lived there were deeply immersed in superstitious and out-dated beliefs. These superstitions are persistent today due to strong beliefs that were carried by these people. The Masan pooja came to existence because of these superstitions.
The 'Rajbanshi' tribe still follows and believes in 'Masan Pooja' especially in North Bengal. They believe that 'Masan Devta' exists in his 'rudra' form. They also believe that Masan Devta doesn't bless anybody.
The deity annihilates any person who upsets him. That's why the people who are suffering think that it's 'Masan Devta' whose anger has caused such an agony upon them.
This is when the people who are suffering approach the occultists who sometimes scare and other times drive the spirit away.
'Kamrup' in Assam was the main centre of the occultists. This was where meetings regarding black magic took place. Such talks about the spirits and ghosts eventually led to the existence of Masan Devta in 'Uttarbanga' or North Bengal.
It was in reality, the inadequate number of doctors and advanced medicines that caused people to believe in 'Masan Devta' as their last hope. These occultists would provide the people with different solutions for problems like defeating the enemy, driving spirits away and personal as well as family problems. Also, they would help in cremation of bodies and driving diseases like cholera away from the village.
All this was done by occultists. It was them only who used to offer their prayers to 'Masan Devta'.
"Not just problems related to the body, they also help in increasing crop growth, maintain the well-being of animals and even increase our life span. This makes the Masan Pooja very important. The farmers of the village are the ones who offer their prayers," says artist Madhusudan.