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Home India Assam’s Safi Makes Ravana Murtis for Dussehra, Reads Gita, Bible with Quran

Assam’s Safi Makes Ravana Murtis for Dussehra, Reads Gita, Bible with Quran

Even as the rest of the region is busy with Durga Puja preparations, Assam’s Safiqul Islam Safi, 30, has another task at hand – creating a larger than life idol of Ravana for Dussehra.

Safi’s idol is almost 111 ft tall and he has completed the most important part of the idol – the head. Hailing from Besimari village in Darang district, Safi has engaged four local youths to help him with the assignment, which is back after a four-year Covid break.

“We started our work more than two months ago. The whole structure is made of locally available 300 bamboo sticks, besides paper pulp and locally available colour. The masks are made based on our rich mask-making culture of Majuli. The only difference is that in Majuli masks, cow dung is used extensively,” said Safi.

A fine arts graduate, Safi has been making Ravana idols since 2012. Besides Ravana, the Kumbhakarna and Meghananda idols go up to 60 ft.

Safi has often been questioned by his community members about why he makes idols of Hindu deities and asuras. “In 2012, I faced a lot of flak from my community, which continues even now. Some people say I have converted to Hinduism, which is not the case. They say making murti (idol) is prohibited in Islam. For me, it’s my profession, besides I have Gita, the Bible along with the Quran at home. I read these holy books. We have watched Ramayana and Mahabharata at home, when the shows were telecast during Covid lockdown. I feel that these TV shows teach life lessons. I have paintings of Rama and Krishna at home, which I made extensively at one point of time,” said Safi.


Masks in Majuli were used by performers in traditional ‘Bhaona’ plays. Earlier, the masks were made of different materials such as wood, clay and earth. Later, bamboo was used to make these masks.

Being lightweight, these masks were used to enact different mythological stories in Bhaonas and gradually mask-making became an important craft of the area.

Mask-making is an elaborate process. (News18)

Mask-making is an elaborate process. It begins with making a three-dimensional framework for the face. It is made from a local variety of bamboo that is split. These splits are then woven into a hexagonal pattern to make the framework. The base is now covered with pieces of cotton fabric dipped in a paste of soil and water mixed with cow dung. This paste is applied over the mask a number of times after which the facial features are carved using a special set of knives. The pieces are dried in the sun.

Natural colours were used earlier for beautification of masks, but they have now been replaced by artificial colours. Hair and mustaches are made from jute and water hyacinth.


The masks are of three types – mukha (face masks), Lotokai Mukha (where eyes and lips can be moved) and Bor mukha (these are big in size and cover the whole body).

In 2017, Guwahati-based Nuruddin Ahmed built a 98-ft Durga idol made of bamboo at the Bishnupur puja pandal, which was enlisted in the Limca Book of Records as the tallest Durga idol. He is also credited with building a 55-feet idol of Lord Ganesha at a Durga Puja pandal in Guwahati years ago.

Ahmed is also a Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee.

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