Kathputli, the string puppet dance, a form of theater art of Rajasthan in India.
Katha means ‘story’ and putli means ‘puppet’.
The puppets are doll figures can be up to 2 ft tall, manipulated by a puppeteer, who stands above and works the puppets by strings connected to them. The strings are connected to hands, head or waist. Usually they don’t have feet and lower part is covered by long skirt for the ease of management.
The heads and trunk are carved from mango wood, patterning the figures like the ones seen traditional Rajput paintings.
The figures are dressed in such that their social status could be identified. Swords, shields are stitched to their hands to show the Rajputana culture, who were considered to be efficient fighters.
Popular animal figures in the Putlis include Camels, horses snakes etc.
Puppeteers come from Bhaat community, and are known as ‘nat Bhaat’, those who perform plays.
They usually lead nomadic lives travelling from village to village showing the puppet dance. Troupes of puppeteers consist of suthrdhar, string puller, an assistant to him, bhagavat, narrator and singer of the story and musicians.
Plays show the heroic deeds of Prithvi Raj Chauhan, Vikramaditya, Amar Singh Rathore and some other Rajput warriors, there shows called Putli sansar, depicting a royal court.
This art form is dying today, the dramatic urge is being replaced by sheer entertainment. The talent has no charm now. However the puppet figures are today being sold in Government emporium called ‘Bagore ki haveli’ in Udaipur, it is also a treasure trove all this history and heritage of this art form, to provide some relief to the puppet artists, the West Zone Cultural Center under ministry of culture is taking reforms to protect the art form by organizing the shows.
Some reforms like organizing the puppet shows in the western world may provide further relief to these artists and can help continue legacy of them. Moreover, it could introduce to the western world the heritage of Indians, and the unique talent we possess. I hope Govt considers this move seriously.