During my recent visit to Amritsar, we took a halt at Haveli Amritsar. I love everything which belongs to the tradition and culture of our incredible India. And at Haveli, I saw Kathputli Dance which is one of the popular performing Art of India.With the neck breaking change in our lifestyle at a fast pace, where our mode of entertainments have taken over by televisions, mobile phone, and laptops. We are forgetting our traditional ways of entertainment. One of the most beautiful traditional Art forms is Puppetry. In modern times these puppets are not only a basis of entertainment but also provide moral and social education to people. Today Kathputli is one of the most popular performing arts of Rajasthan after Ghoomer.
Kathputli Dance means dance of puppets. Rajasthan Kathputli dance is famous all over the world and is well known as puppetry dance. Famous stories of mythology and stories from famous Rajputana history are told through puppets in Rajasthan.
Kathputli word is a combination of two words Kath means wood and Putli mean puppet. Kathputli means a puppet made from wood which is covered with cotton cloth. The metal wire which acts as a string also joined to create a Kathputli. Puppets are controlled by a single string that passes from the top of the puppet over the puppeteer’s hands. Puppeteers show his ability with strings like dancing, horse riding, swordsmanship, juggling, and acrobatics. Animal puppets like camel and horses also used for shows but only their neck is movable.
History of Kathputli Dance:
According to historians this art form of Rajasthan is more than 1500 years old. Bhatt community of Rajasthan started the use of Kathputli as string marionette art. Marionette, also called string puppet, any of several types of puppet figures manipulated from above by strings or threads attached to a control. In a simple marionette, the strings are attached in nine places: to each leg, hand, shoulder, and ear and at the base of the spine.
The tradition of Kathputli is based on various folk tales and stories. These Kathputlis are dressed in beautiful bright Rajasthani clothes. Tribes of Rajasthan have been performing this art from the ancient times and it has become an eternal part of Rajasthani culture and tradition. Any festival, village fair or any social gathering nothing can complete without Kathputli dance in Rajasthan. Rajasthani kings and nobles were encouraged and supported the craftsmen in activities ranging from wood and marble carving to weaving, pottery, and painting. They would look after the artists and craftsmen in return for the artists singing praises of the patrons’ ancestors.
Different shows through Kathputli dance explain different problems like dowry system, women’s empowerment, illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, and cleanliness. These shows aware people of these problems in a simple way and also shows the way to solve these problems.
Performance of Kathputli Dance:
For the performance of the show, a small stage is set where puppeteers would show puppetry and narrate the story. In the performance, music or ballad plays an important role as the entire performance is based upon the ballad. Ballad is a poem or a song narrating the story in stanzas. Typically these ballads are of unknown sponsorship and pass from one generation to another.. Sometimes, the puppeteer makes use of various sound effects to achieve the real impact and give a greater quality entertainment. The puppeteer shows all his skills to make puppets dance to his tunes. Puppeteer is mostly accompanied by his wife or some other person. Puppeteer plays the dholak or drum and sings the song to narrate the story. The puppeteer produces the shrill voice which is spoken through a bamboo reed. It recounts historic stories, replay tales of love, and include high-pitched sound as the puppet twirl and move excitedly at the time of performance.
Preservation of Kathputli Dance:
Thanks to Haveli that they are making efforts to preserve this popular performing Art of Kathputli dance. Not only they providing employment to puppeteers but also they are making aware the young generation about the rich cultural history of India. 21st March is celebrated as world puppetry day. Various organizations are putting effort to preserve this creative form. Organisations like ‘Rupayan Sansthan’ in Jodhpur and ‘Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal’ in Udaipur are promoting Kathputli dance through varied shows which is a good medium to preserve this dance form. Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal even has a puppet theatre as well as puppet museum. Do you know New Delhi capital of India too has dedicated an area to Kathputli dance? The area is known as ‘Kathputli Colony’ and is located at Shadipur Depot. in Kathputli colony puppeteers, magicians, acrobats, dancers and musicians and other itinerant performance groups have settled since half a century.