Topic of the Day - Forms of String Puppets in India

UPSC Exam Preparation: Topic of the Day – Forms of String Puppets in India

The word Puppet is derived from the Latin word ‘Pupa’ which means doll. Though India is said to be the home of puppets it is yet to awaken to its unlimited possibilities in this field of art. The Tamil classic ‘Silappadikaaram’ has the earliest reference to the art of puppetry, written around the 1st or 2nd century B.C. Puppetry is believed to have been originated in India, more than 500 years before Christ and has gained significant traditional importance in India over the years. Epics and legends mostly form the basis for selection of themes for a puppet show. Legends, Puranic stories, local myths generally form the content of traditional puppet theatre in India. A puppet show is a creative effort of many artists working together.

India has a rich and ancient tradition of string puppets.

  1. Kathputli – Rajasthan
  • These are carved from a single piece of wood and are colourfully dressed in Rajasthani style of clothing.
  • The show is accompanied with dramatized version of the traditional Rajasthani music.
  • The puppets do not have legs and are manoeuvred using 5 strings.
  1. Kundhei – Orissa
  • The string puppets of Orissa are made up of light wood and are dressed in long flowy skirts.
  • They have many joints and are easy to manoeuver.
  • The costumes of Kundhei resemble those worn by actors of the Jatra traditional theatre.
  • The music is often drawn from the popular tunes of the region and also are inspired by Odissi.
  1. Gombeyata – Karnataka
  • The dolls resemble the characters of Yakshagana- the regional traditional theatre form.
  • Theatre performances are a glimpse of prasangas in Yakshagana.
  • The puppets are manoeuvred using strings attached.
  1. Bommalattam – Tamil Nadu
  • These are a combination of string and rod puppets.
  • The dolls are made of wood and strings. The strings are tied to an iron ring which the artist wears on his head.
  • Bommalattam theatre has elaborate preliminaries which are divided into four parts – Vinayak Puja, Komali, Amanattam and Pusenkanattam.

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