The puppet art or Kathputli’s – has this legendary form of art faded? Well what is Kathputli? This is an ancient yet legendary form of Folk entertainment in India. These days we hardly get to see the wonderful puppet shows, all that I remember about Kathputlis is bright and colorful dolls dressed up in typical Rajasthani attire and their body parts were attached to strings. But when I think of these beautiful Kathputlis I land up asking a question to myself – Where Have All The Kathputli’s Gone? In fact, I feel each and every Indian would be having this question in their mind.
Kathputli: The Indian Puppets
Do you know what the word Kathputli actually means? Well the word KATH means Wood and the word PUTLI means Doll, so Kathputli is a doll made of wood. These Kathputli as we call them in India are nothing but Indian version of Puppets, who are dressed in colourful Rajasthani dresses. The most prominent feature of the Kathputli is their big eyes; anyone who holds a Kathputli is bound to notice the big eyes in the first glance itself. The other feature is the attire, which is traditional wear from Rajasthan with shiny laces on it. The hands and other body parts are attached with strings and these strings are in the hands of a magician called the puppeteer who can actually make these Kathputli’s dance for real.
The puppet has three main parts, which is the head, shoulders and hands. The head and shoulders are made of wood, the hands and the body are stuffed with cotton. These are draped in traditional Rajasthani attire and then strings are added. Kathputli’s mostly do not have any legs designed within it, however there are few exceptions.
History of Kathputli or Indian Puppets
According to history the puppetry in India is over 1000 years old, however this isn’t backed with any solid evidence. The Indian puppetry is an age old traditional form of art which is highly rich in content. When I say its rich in content I mean that the Kathputli’s dance or show always have some references to the local folk tales, Rajasthani ballads and even folk songs. These references actually prove to be a link with our Indian Heritage.
When we talk about an awesome puppet show in India, then it is all about a story which is not intense but light hearted. The format of the show is mainly storytelling, so the audiences get very easily involved.
A typical puppet show comprises of a tent (called tambudi) which is either made of 7 bamboo poles or 2 light weight cots (put up lengthwise). The frame of the main stage is supported by a backdrop, front and decorative curtains. The magicians of this show who bring in life in the Kathputlis are called puppeteers, they are mostly concealed behind main stage. The sounds play a very important role in these shows, it has two main instruments – one is the DHOLAK (Hand drum) and the other is the BOLI or SHRUTTI.
Mostly these puppet shows in India are performed by the villagers or the Rajasthani tribes, who keep travelling to several towns and cities to showcase this art and perform Kathputli shows. Indian puppeteers have even preferred to move out and travel to other states in India, like of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Nepal. It is also believed that these people even reached Ceylon and Burma. Puppetry is the only way for puppeteers to earn their living.
Kathputli: Eternal Bond With Rajasthan
As I said this form of art has its roots from the ancient era, but it has an everlasting bond with the Rajasthani culture and tradition. The moment you see a Kathputli you will understand how true it is, they absolutely look like little Rajasthani Dolls.
In Rajasthan, the Puppets shows are performed in almost all villages, be it a religious event, or some festival or any social gathering Kathputli Ka Naach is a must. Rajasthani’s are known to be very attached to their own culture and tradition, this is one important reason why the art of Kathputli is still alive in India. The puppet shows in Rajasthan showcases the ancient lifestyle of the Rajasthani tribal people. According to researches, the link of Kathputli and Rajasthan also indicates that this art actually originated from Nagaur (Rajasthan) or from other surrounding areas.
The state of Rajasthan is known for its rich culture, it is also said that the Kings of Rajasthan loved creativity and art. This is one reason which encouraged various form of unique arts in Rajasthan, like kathputli, weaving, pottery, wood and marble carving and painting.
India is blessed with various forms of art and the Indians are equally contributing to keep them alive. I hope the upcoming generation takes these beautiful form of art to another level without separating them from its roots, which belongs to India.