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Masked characters, usually divinities, are a central feature of Indian dramatic forms, many based on depicting the epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. Countries that have had strong Indian cultural influences – Cambodia, Burma, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam – have developed the Indian forms, combined with local myths, and developed their own characteristic styles.
The masks are usually highly exaggerated and formalised, and share an aesthetic with the carved images of monstrous heads that dominate the facades of Hindu and Buddhist temples. These faces or Kirtimukhas, 'Visages of Glory', are intended to ward off evil and are associated with the animal world as well as the divine. During ceremonies these visages are given active form in the great mask dramas of the South and South-eastern Asian region
In ancient Greece, the use of masks begins with performances by masked actors. These performances date from the VI Century A.D. Masks were used to help the actors convey stories and traditions that included feasts in honor of Dionysius the god of wine and plants.
For the most part, people tend to associate the use of masks with ancient pagan rituals. One wears a mask to seek protection from evil spirits during the time that we believe demons are present.
In the European Christian tradition, the word "carnaval" has been linked to the idea of "good bye to the flesh", referring to the 40 days of lent. During this time, Christians, in particular, Catholics were prescribed not to eat meat according to the traditional religious precepts. Therefore, the days preceding Lent became a period of abandon and indulging. The celebration becomes an escape to the pressure and to the rigidity of religious tradition.
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