Kathputli of Rajasthan

Origin:  The word Kathputli is a combination of two words - ‘Kath’ and ‘Putli’. ‘Kath’ means wood and ‘Putli’ spells a toy. One of the most ancient art forms of Rajasthan, Kathputli art has existed for more than thousand years.  India has been home to this art form for ages; it’s believed that Egyptians are the earliest known puppeteers. In Egypt, the earliest evidence highlighting string puppets dates back to 2000 BC. In India, the famed 2nd century Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar speaks about `marionettes moved by strings`. 

The puppeteers, Rajasthani tribes, would move from one village to another carrying with them self-made puppets to entertain the local audience. In return, they would accept cash, livestock or harvest. Tribes solely relied on the art of Kathputli for making money. Around 1500 years ago, Putli Bhats, a performing artist’s tribe, practiced this art as their family profession.  Around 11 generations of this community have dedicated their life to this ancient art. 

The news about these talented tribes spread across deserts and soon they were invited to royal courts to mesmerize the nobles. This humble tribe’s talent was honoured by the royal kings and queens in the royal courts. Art lover kings such as Vikramaditya, Prithviraj Chauhan and Amar Singh Rathod ensured this form of art flourished. Unfortunately, the Mughal era saw the Bhats community being reduced to penury. 

Present Day:  The Bhat community continues to be the torchbearers of this craft. Even today, Bhat community depicts the stories that have heard their grandparents and parents showcase. Today, this art has spread across India and no fair or festival is complete without this dance. 

Some of the museums that are home to the best Kathputlis are Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal (Udaipur), Chitrakala Parishad(Bangalore), Crafts Museum(New Delhi) and Jagmohan Palace(Mysore)

Procedure:  These gorgeous puppets are made of wood, wire, cloth stuffed with cotton, rags, saw dust etc. A hand held control string is attached to the different parts of the puppet.  This control string is used to suspend puppets.  The characteristic feature of string puppet also address as marionettes is jointed body and limbs. This allows movement. 

Traditionally, string puppets are heavy and this tow rods are fixed to the puppets hands. Limbs and bodies of puppets is made using mango wood and cotton. A single wood is used to carve out the neck, face and heads of the puppets. Puppets are embellished with musical instruments, swords etc. 

Bring Home the Kathputli art: Decorate your home with auspicious Kathputli art bought from fairs. 

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