Puppetry is an ancient art form, presumed to have survived a span of three millenniums all around the world, with its presence recorded in almost every continent. Kathputli is a popular art form of Indian puppetry, prominently found in Rajasthan, its tradition being more than thousands years old. These puppets are unique objects of art, the work piece of extreme skills and talent.
The word ‘Putli’ has been derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Putta’ meaning son or Putra, as puppets are believed to be the expression of human life.
These puppets are generally crafted in places like Sawai, Madhopur, Bari and Udaipur of Rajasthan. The Bhatt community has been making the Kathputlis since ages. They go performing the Kathputli naach from village to village, mostly during the dry season when there is less or no cultivation.
These gorgeous and colorful puppets are chiseled out from a piece of 8-9 inch long wooden stick, shaped into edgy faces, and added details of protruding noses, elongated eyes, and long ears. The wooden face is then oil painted in yellow, white or any light color to give the effect of skin. The body up to the waist and hands of the Kathputli is made of stuffed rags, cotton and cloth bits. Different types of colorful clothes are stitched to the shape and size of the Putli. They are then decorated with traditional jewelry and other accessories. The hands of the Putlis have no joints and their movements are free. The absence of legs is hidden by long trailing skirts of the Kathputlis.
To make the Putlis dance, strings are attached to the hands, head and back of the body that helps the puppeteer to maneuver the Kathputlis to move and dance. During the performance the puppeteer, takes a ghungroo (string of bells) in his hands and play it making squeaky whistling noises while manipulating the puppets to the rhythm of the ghungroo and music.
Kathputli of Rajshthan does not require a foreword in India, as they have been featured and showcased at various platforms from time to time. However there has been a sharp decline in the propagators of this art form in recent times. Alike many traditional arts, Kathputli Naach has been shaken by the winds of modern times where there has been a substantial shift from conventional art forms towards mechanically advanced art forms. Strategic actions are required to be initialised to keep this subtly perishing art to revive to its past glories.
- Dibyoshnata Talukdar