CHAPTER I . OTHER CRAFTS
the Rajasthani puppet and an ancient performing art...
ONCE UPON A TIME...
Kathputli is an ancient and one of the most popular performing arts of Rajasthan (India). Kaath means "wood" and Putli means "toy".
Socially, the puppet players caste is attached to other castes through the “jajmani system” - a system of patronage supported by kings and well-off families. The patrons would look after the Bhats (artists) and these, in return, would sing praises of the patrons’ ancestors.
In the traditional Kathputli show there is a tambudi (tent), made of bamboo poles and two lightweight cots put up lengthwise. This frame is the support for the backdrop, front and decorative curtains, where the puppeteers are concealed behind.
The puppet itself consists of three parts: the head and shoulders made of wood; the hands and torso stuffed with cotton and covered with the character’s garment; and the string.
Traditionally, except a few examples, the puppets don't have legs.
The performance "music" is made by the dholak (a hand drum) and the boli or shrutti box (similar to a harmonium). The sound of the boli represents the puppets speech and the drummer translates this to the audience.
In our days, the puppeteers sell the puppets for money, due to infrequent performances - the cast has been reduced, many new characters are born and music is replacing the traditional boli/shrutti and dholak sounds of this narrative.
Yet, the word puppetry still has a strong association with the Kathputli of Rajasthan and it remains a vibrant form of entertainment across all ages and geographical boundaries.