Rajasthan Kathputli dance is world famous and well known as Puppetry dance. It is the old tradition of stories from mythology and legends are told through puppets in Rajasthan. String puppetry is very much famous in Rajasthan.
The name itself says that this dance is of puppets and is a very popular entertainment in Rajasthan in melas and festivals. This is considered to be a very expressive form of dance of all the theatrical forms.
Some have stated that this dancer form is the oldest form of dance and the tribes of Rajasthan have been presenting and performing this dance form since the ancient times and has become an eternal part of the culture of these people. Every fair, gathering and celebration has this dance form displayed. As per the records, some 1500 years ago, the tribal people started using Kathputlis as string marionette and this dance form is made on stories and folk tales. The Bhat community that started this art form claim to have performed in front of the royal and well to do families and have received their share of prestige and honor from Rajasthan. After Ghoomar, this art is the most asked for in Rajasthan and many organisations in Rajasthan are working towards preserving this ancient dance form. There is a Kathputli colony in New Delhi where the many puppeteers, acrobats, magicians and dancer have settled since half a century.
Performance of Kathputli Dance
For this dance form, a small stage is made where the puppeteers display their story through Kathputlis with ballads. Many sound effects and interesting stories are weaved to engage the audience and provide quality entertainment. Their hands make those kathputlis dance on every tune and beat and are performed during any fair or festivals in Rajasthan.
This is considered as a travelling form of dance and tales of love and other emotions are displayed with high pitch sounds and the puppets move and swirl during the course of performance.
Kathputli Dance Elements
Rajasthan is famous for this dance form of Kathputlis and is an age old tradition. Ballads are used to narrate and display the stories. These people travel, from one place to another just to perform this art and get money for their living. Tales of chivalry, love, romance and other emotions are displayed with the help of these puppets.
Different puppets like Rod puppets, gloved puppets and shadowed puppets are used in this form.
Occasions for Kathputli Dance This dance form is very common and famous during weddings, festivals, fairs and other occasions of celebration and happiness.
Kathputli is a string puppet theatre, native to Rajasthan, India, and is the most popular form of Indian puppetry. Being a string marionette, it is controlled by a single string that passes from the top of the puppet over the puppeteers.
Kathputli is a join of two rajasthani language words Kath meaning wood and Putli meaning a doll which has no life . Kathputli means a puppet which is made entirely from wood. However it is made out of wood, cotton cloth and metal wire.
Some scholars believe Kathputli art tradition is more than thousands years old. One finds its reference in Rajasthani folk tales, ballads and sometimes even in folk songs. The tribes of Rajasthan have been performing this art from the ancient times and it has become an eternal part of Rajasthani culture and tradition. No village
fair, no religious festival and no social gathering in Rajasthan can be complete without the Kathputlis. It is believed that somewhere 1500 years ago, tribal Rajasthani Bhat community started the use of Kathputli as string marionette art and it is in their love for tradition that art of Kathputli survived the test of time.
Tradition of Kathputli is based on folk tales and stories. Scholars believe that folk tales convey the lifestyle of ancient Rajasthani tribal people and Kathputli art might have originated from present day Nagaur and surrounding areas. Rajasthani Kings and nobles were patrons of Art and Craft and they encouraged the craftsmen in activities ranging from wood and marble carving to weaving, pottery and painting. Over the last 500 years, Kathputli was a system of patronage supported by kings and well-off families. The patrons would look after the artists in return for the artists singing praises of the patrons’ ancestors. Bhat community claim that their ancestors had performed for royal families, and received great honour and prestige from the rulers of Rajasthan.
Today Kathputli art is one of the most popular performing arts of Rajasthan after Ghoomar. Organisations like Rupayan Sansthan in Jodhpur founded by Vijaydan Detha and Komal Kothari in 1960 and Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal, Udaipur, founded by Devilal Samar in 1952, are working in the field preserving and promoting the art of Kathputli, the latter even has a puppet theater as well as puppet museum.Capital New Delhi also has an area known as ‘Kathputli Colony’, in Shadipur Depot, where puppeteers, magicians, acrobats, dancers and musicians and other itinerant performance groups have settled since half a century.
Characteristic to this form are the shrill voices produced by the lead puppeteer which are spoken through a bamboo reed. The art of Rajasthani puppetry (also called
Kathputli) originated a thousand years ago when the Bhat community began to practice this art. Patronised by many ruling families in the state, it soon grew into a major art form of the region. Due to the invasion of Rajasthan by the Mughals, Kathputli gradually lost its importance. It has been one of the oldest forms of entertainment. Historically, these puppets were not only a source of entertainment, but also provided moral and social education. The shows tackled problems like the dowry system, women’s empowerment, illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, and cleanliness. These puppet shows made people aware of the social problems that everybody was facing and also showed ways of solving them.