Exeprience Korean mask dance, Talchum, in Delhi this SeptemberWords: Ambica Gulati; Photos:  Korean Cultural Centre

They sat in a ring, listening in perfect silence the story of Korean masked dance drama– Bongsan Talchum. This was a masterclass on mask making for school students at the Korean Cutural Centre (KCC) India at Delhi. KCC had invited experts from the National folk Museum of Korea, Seoul, to present this interesting and fun dance drama for students across schools and universities in Delhi.

MasksChungSungJunGettyThe masks did remind me of our Bharatnatyam dance. Talchum– literally meaning a dance behind masks – has many themes. Their basic are exorcism rites, ritual dances, biting satire, parody of human weaknesses, social evils and the privileged class. Another popular theme is the conflict between an old wife and a seductive concubine.


As the teachers had also got the musical instruments used in these dances all the way from Korea, it was a great introduction to the Korean culture. And all the materials for the masks—mask, colours, rubber bands—were free for the participants. The children made their masks and then danced their own stories.

Korean Traditional Instruments
Korean Traditional Instruments

What happens in Talchum?

  • Miming, speaking and even sometimes singing.
  • They include dramatic content with masked characters portraying people, animals and sometimes supernatural beings.
  • Bongsan Talchum’s Meokjungchum is one of the most prominent dances wearing a red coloured mask which demons detest while worshipping the gods or during exorcism rites.

Bongsan Talchum Dance Mask
* Designated as Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 17
* Widely celebrated in the entire Hwanghae province.
* Performed on Dano festival–a bonfire is lit and the performance continues till the early hours of morning.
* There are 34 types of masks but only 26 are used, as some are used two-ways.

When is the time for these?
With regional variations, the mask dance drama was generally performed on the First Full Moon, Buddha’s Birthday on the Eighth of the Fourth Moon, Dano Festival and Chuseok. Variations may have been performed at festive state occasions or at rituals to supplicate for rain.




Different kinds of dance dramas

Know more about Korea at:
Korean Cultural Centre India, The Embassy of the Republic of Korea, 25 A, Ring Road, Lajpat Nagar 4, New Delhi 110024, India
Tel: 91-11-4334-5233
Mob: 91-9899917585; 9716232722
Fax: 91-11-4334-5032
Website: http://india.korean-culture.org