Puppets of Rajasthan

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Last weekend’s Udaipur adventure got me researching about puppets and the forgotten art of storytelling. It reminded me of my school days when all the cousins would gather at our grandparents place and put up a show. Such simple pleasure, Such awesome memories!!

Udaipur attracts travelers who want to experience the old world charm, live in ancient palaces, next to the enchanting lakes, in the heart of the Aravalli Hills. It woos travelers with its forts, palaces, temples, gardens, mountains and narrow lanes lined with shops. Udaipur is a living memory of a heroic past.

Camel Rides, boat rides and donkeys on streets everywhere were my three year olds highlights. And even though shopping was not on the agenda, how could I stop myself when I saw the ‘Raja-Rani’ hanging outside the shops!

Not that it was the first time, I have played with the Rajasthani katputli’s when I was young but they just had to be bought and shared with you guys. Now Available at LuckyDuck !!

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Puppet shows make the best part of Udaipur recreation. Many hotels arrange them at focal points on their property to entertain their guests. Otherwise, you can always go to Bharatiya Lok Kala Museum to enjoy their puppet show in the evenings. They are one of the few organizations in the country that is consistently working towards preserving folklore and folk arts.

Puppets are also known as kathputli, where kath means wood and puthli means doll. Like all art form, puppetry also has many variations in India, the India Craft House gave me some great insight.

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These kathputlis I had encountered are string puppets. They are made of mango wood and usually have no legs. The lower half of the puppets are covered with long pleated skirts, which are not attached to the strings. The hands are stuffed with cloth and cotton, to which the strings are attached. These strings enable puppeteers to move the different parts of a puppet. The face of a puppet is made in wood and is painted with large eyes and kumkum on forehead. It is jeweled with ornaments in the neck. The attires of female puppets resemble the traditional Rajasthani garbs, including ghaghra, choli, and odhni, while male puppets are dressed in achkan and long kurtas, inspired from the Rajput dressing style. The kathputlis disperse the vivid colors that add verve to their performance making them highly attractive.

Puppet 3

Among various stories performed at a Kathputli show, the most well-known one is a story about the king Amar Singh Rathode of Rajasthan, who lived around the time of Shahjahan. It was originally a story of fifty-two kathputlis so long and episodic, that it was almost never narrated in full. The theme would remain the same, with some comic humor added to convey serious issues. There was no fixed time limit for a show. Every show would be a unique and effervescent interaction between the puppeteers and the audience.

The group of performers includes singers, narrator, and manipulator of puppets. The main puppeteer is called the sutradhar, who is accompanied by musicians and assistants. The sounds for the performance are taken care of by two instruments – the dholak, or hand drum and the boli / shrutti.

The amount of effort that goes into making each of these puppets is extraordinary, each one is hand painted and hand stitched. Found some interesting information about making them.

Puppet 1

One of the best things about ‘The Adventures of LuckyDuck’ is the reading and researching about these beautiful works of art.

You Shop- You Learn!!

Reading about the history and evolution of puppets got me to understand the impact of puppetry. Puppetry, which is a real challenge to the imagination and the creative ability of the individual, is one of the most ancient forms of entertainment. Besides entertainment, puppetry serves as an applied art, conveying meaningful messages. Of all art forms, it is probably the least restricted in form, design, colour and movement. It is also the least expensive of all animated visual art forms.

The early puppet shows in India dealt mostly with histories of great kings, princes and heroes and also political satire in rural areas. Religious portrayals in puppetry developed in South India with shadow puppet performances of stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata. Even today, especially in Kerala, shadow puppet is a temple ritual performed every year during a temple festival for a specified duration.

Learning through play is fundamental to young kids, helping them to develop the necessary skills in life. Puppets can stimulate children’s imagination, encourage creative play and discovery and are a wonderful interactive way to introduce narrative to even the most reluctant reader. They can be a powerful way of bringing story time to life. According to Jean Piaget theory, puppet play helps young children develop creative and cognitive skills by forcing them to use their imaginations. Kids trust the puppet and don’t feel threatened by it, making it a perfect neutral medium through which they can discuss sensitive issues. The child can express thoughts, fears and feelings through the puppet that they might otherwise find difficult to voice to an adult.

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My next project is going to be some DIY Puppets now.

Till then I will be telling my daughter stories with these special ones I brought for Udaipur. There are some available at the LuckyDuck.in Shop. Let’s get on with the show…

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