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Rajasthan

Kathputli: The Puppetry Art of India

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Kathputli Art Blog

The vibrant and colorful Indian puppets are believed to have originated earlier, is also known as Kathputli, where kath means wood and putli means doll.  Beautiful dolls made out of wood and cloth by hand and are strung by strings.  They are used for entertainment when the puppeteers hold these wooden dolls and make them dance and enact a play.  These dolls are generally in the form of a couple. Their attire resembles the dressing and costume of the village people, and kings and queens in those days.  Surprisingly, if we go today to the rural parts of Rajasthan, or the desert regions of India, we can still find people dressed in the same manner as they did some thousands of years ago!  This form of entertainment is considered the oldest form of entertainment in the state of Rajasthan.

Elements used in Kathputli

Kathputli puppets of Rajasthan is Carved from a single piece of wood. They are bright in colour and beautifully dressed. Large eyes with arched eyebrows and thin lips on an oval face are being specialized as an identity. The costumes and head gears are designed in the medieval Rajasthani style of dress, which is prevalent today. The Kathputli are two feet in height.

Uses

Puppet shows were the most common source of entertainment for all age groups, and the main attraction to all festivals, gatherings, family events and functions.  Tales were told of bravery, valor, love and happiness based on the life of their kings and brave soldiers. They would always be to glorify the kings and sing their praise to the people away from the palaces.  The puppeteer thus not only had the responsibility of entertaining people of the land, but also to spread social awareness, education, and teach moral values through stories and songs.

Kathputli art of India
Beautiful Kathputli Art

The puppeteer would sing along with his aides who would play music for each show.  Special shows were especially conducted to welcome the kings of neighboring states, and even the Moghuls.  This art was patronized by all the kings in Rajasthan and great respect was given to the artists who not only created the beautiful vibrant dolls, but sang and enacted a play to entice the audience.  To this day, puppet shows are conducted and children enjoy them as much as adults. Puppets are also used as decorations in a house, or on doors as a welcome gesture for the guests.

Puppetry in India

Puppetry has long been popular in India, with puppetry forms from across the world found in the country. However, it is common to find puppetry styles that have been adopted from elsewhere before being given an Indian makeover.

Puppetry in India is believed to be thousands of years old, with ancient writings, songs, and folk tales alluding to puppets.

Many puppetry forms have only been introduced to India during the last century. Still, they quickly became part of the national consciousness. Such is India’s vast size and scale that, as well as being a national tradition, puppetry traditions can differ from state to state across the country.

Handmade Kathputli art of Rajasthan
Handmade Puppetry

String Puppetry

String puppetry is the most common and popular type of Kathputli across India. It is also a fantastic example of how different forms of puppetry exist across various regions.

Marionette puppetry is thought to have been one of the earliest forms of puppetry found in India. It remains popular today in Karnataka, Orissa, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu.

Kathputli of Rajasthan in India

Kathputli is a string puppet, native to Rajasthan, India, and is the most popular form of Indian puppetry. Being a string marionette, it is controlled by a single string that passes from the top of the puppet over the puppeteers. It is a join of two Rajasthani language words Kath meaning wood and Putli meaning a doll that has no life. Kathputli means a puppet that is made entirely from wood. However, it is made out of wood, cotton cloth, and metal wire.

It is believed that Kathputli ka Khel, seen in every part of Rajasthan today, originated in Nagaur near Jodhpur, on the edge of the Thar Desert. The word ‘kathputli’ literally means a ‘wooden toy’, being a combination of ‘kath’ (wood) and ‘putli’ (toy). These artistes fashion the puppets themselves and, along with the unbelievably deft manoeuvring of their ‘toys’, they bring to life folk tales that they narrate throughout the performance.

CONCLUSION

Rajasthan is a culturally rich state and the kings of Rajasthan were very fond of Art and Creativity, the kings of Rajasthan mainly encouraged the kathputli artists. Puppetry in Rajasthan is a hereditary profession as the skill puppetry is handed down to the next generation. They are used for entertainment when the puppeteers hold these wooden dolls and make them dance and enact a play. These dolls are generally in the form of a couple. They are bright in color and beautifully dressed. The costumes and headgears are designed in the medieval Rajasthani style of dress, which is prevalent today. Tales were told of bravery, valor, love, and happiness based on the life of their kings and brave soldiers.

Puppetry has long been popular in India, with puppetry forms from across the world found in the country. However, it is common to find puppetry styles that have been adopted from elsewhere before being given an Indian makeover. Many puppetry forms have only been introduced to India during the last century.

String puppetry is the most common and popular type of puppetry across India. It is also a fantastic example of how different forms of puppetry exist across various regions. Marionette puppetry is thought to have been one of the earliest forms of puppetry found in India. Kathputli is a string puppet, native to Rajasthan, India, and is the most popular form of Indian puppetry. It is believed that Kathputli ka Khel, seen in every part of Rajasthan today, originated in Nagaur near Jodhpur, on the edge of the Thar Desert.

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