Recently, the traditional Majuli masks and Majuli manuscript painting of Assam received a Geographical Indication (GI) tag. 

About Majuli masks

Geographical Indication (GI)

  • It is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. 
  • GI tags are issued as per the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act,1999. This tag is issued by the Geographical Indication Registry under the Department of Industry Promotion and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • Darjeeling Tea was the first Indian product to get a GI tag.
  • Tamil Nadu (61) has the highest number of GI tags.
  • It is governed and directed by the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). 
  • In many EU nations, GI is classified in two basic categories—Protected GI (PGI) and Protected Destination of Origin (PDO). India only has the PGI 


  • The masks have been made in Assam’s sattras (monasteries), since the 16th century. 
  • Majuli, the largest river island in the world and the seat of Assam’s neo-Vaishnavite tradition, since the 16th century.
  • Introduced by the 15th-16th century reformer saint Srimanta Sankardeva.


  • Traditionally crafted handmade masks are used in bhaonas, devotional theatrical performances rooted in the neo-Vaishnavite tradition.
  • These masks play a crucial role in depicting characters within the devotional narratives.
  • The masks depict gods, goddesses, demons, animals and birds — Ravana, Garuda, Narasimha, Hanuman, Varaha Surpanakha all feature among the masks.
  • The masks are made of bamboo, clay, dung, cloth, cotton, wood and other materials.
  • They can range in size from those covering just the face (mukh mukha), to those covering the whole head and body (cho mukha).  

Art practised in monasteries:

  • Majuli, with 22 sattras, stands as a hub of Sankardev tradition, hosting monastic institutions founded by Srimanta Sankardev and his disciples. 
  • These sattras, established for religious, social, and cultural reform, have evolved into centers of traditional performing arts, including borgeet, xattriya, and bhaona. 
  • The concentration of the age-old mask-making tradition is notably prominent in four specific sattras: Samaguri Sattra, Natun Samaguri Sattra, Bihimpur Sattra, and Alengi Narasimha Sattra, as highlighted in a patent application.

Majuli manuscript painting

  • It is a form of painting —originating in the 16th century — done on sanchi pat, or manuscripts made of the bark of the sanchi or agar tree, using homemade ink.
  • These are inspired by the Pala school of Painting art.
  • Majuli’s Manuscript Paintings vividly depict Hindu epic tales from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Bhagavata Purana, particularly focusing on Lord Krishna’s stories from the Bhagavata Purana.
  • The earliest example of an illustrated manuscript is said to be a rendering of the Adya Dasama of the Bhagwat Purana in Assamese by Srimanta Sankardev. This art was patronised by the Ahom kings. It continues to be practised in every sattra in Majuli.

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