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Living masks of the Newars: The itinerant masked dances of the Kathmandu Valley

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Fig. 33.
A masked lākhay dancer flanked by two clownish demons wearing plastic masks.
Jumla - August 2014.

The two clowns are holding datura (Nepali: dhaturo), a poisonous herbaceous plant from the same family as Belladona and Mandragora. It is associated with Shiva, ascetics and is used in Nepal for magic-religious purposes. When smoked, its seeds produce psychedelic effects, just like the ganja (marijuana) cannabis plant.

Datura is frequently used for this purpose by yogis, especially Aghoris. Normally, the mask wearers are Newars (there is a guthi association linked to this performance) but the musicians who accompany them also include members of other ethnic groups and castes. The lākhay mask is in brass.

© S. Shakya