As echelons of zillion lights adorn

With fragrance of flowers & array of colors

Effusing joys to abound with Pearls of gleams in these autumn nights

Let us thank the heavenly might,
In this festive season of lights

 http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kalw/files/styles/medium/public/201410/diwali-golden-temple2.jpg

Deepawali is a remarkably popular festival of India. Predominantly celebrated by the people of the Hindu community. Diwali is celebrated on Amavasya the 15th day of the fortnight of the Hindu month of Ashwin. It falls either in October or November month every year. It symbolizes the culture of India which teaches to conquer ignorance that subdues humanity and to dislodge the darkness that engulfs the light of knowledge. The festival of Diwali is celebrated to summon love and prosperity in the house. 

Deepawali celebrates the triumph of the good over the evil as on this day the people of Ayodhya welcomed Lord Ram who had returned from 14 years of exile. The Hindu Lord Ram returned to his palace along with his brother Laxman and Sita ( his wife ). During the exile, Sita was abducted by evil Ravana. Later, The almighty lord ram defeated Ravana and rescued his wife. The whole Ayodhya was lit with diyas and burned crackers to celebrate their victory. Since the day every Indian family celebrates this festival with same enthusiasm and joy.

https://www.ishtadevata.com/blog/data/blog/uploads/2016/10/Return-of-Shri-Ram-To-Ayodhyaa.jpg

It’s a customary practice in the Hindu community to light Diyas in their homes at evening as it signifies the surrender of one’s soul to the almighty Diwali.  A Diya is also a personification of the self as Diya is made up of Clay, which represents our body and it also constitutes a cotton wick and oil. The wick in the Diya depicts our ego. Oil or ghee in lamp depicts our vasanas or negative thoughts. As the lamp burns to emit light for all, the oil (vasanas) slowly starts to deplete, the wick(ego) also burns out.The flame of the Diya always burns upwards – inspiring us towards higher ideals Likewise, when we lit ourselves by enlighten of spiritual knowledge  (flame), the “vasanas” get slowly exhausted with ego and fade out completely. The peerless lamp is Sun as it only gives and asks for nothing. That is why it is called a devata – the one who gives.

   https://sg-dae.kxcdn.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/diwali-ligthing-the-fire-within.jpg

The Festival of Diwali welcomes a change of season and a change of mood with the bells of festivity and holy rituals around every corner. The farmer thanks the “ The Almighty” for the harvests and pray for a prosperous harvesting season in the forthcoming year as it marks the end of the harvest season and the onset of winters. The traders after offering prayers to Lord Ganesha open a new book of accounts as it marks the beginning of the new financial year. India a country of unity in diversity is even diversified in beliefs when it comes to the celebration of Diwali each religion and state celebrates this festival with different notions and customs.

· Hindus – All Hindus celebrate Diwali as Lord Ram returned to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile and victory over Ravan.

· Jains – They celebrate this festival as on this day Lord Mahavira attained Moksha (the liberation of the soul from karma and the cycle of life and death). The next day of Diwali is celebrated as New Year in Jainism.

·Sikhs – The festival of Diwali is celebrated by Sikhs since 1577 as the foundation stone of Golden Temple is placed on this day and also, the 6th of 10 gurus of Sikhism’s “Guru Hargobind” is released on this day along with 52 others who were detained in Gwalior Fort by Mughal emperor Jahangir.

 https://wiralfeed.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/mahavir-diwali-jain.jpg

It even amazes me sometimes that a simple festival could hold so different meaning for so many people and how some stories are still unrevealed. The tag of Incredible India couldn’t be better suited to any country other than India. But, the series of stories still have few more stories to amaze you. Likewise different states hold different tradition to celebrate Diwali; however, the purpose of peace and happiness remain same for all.

Eastern India ( West Bengal, Kolkata, Odisha, Tripura, And Assam )

Most Indians worship goddess Lakshmi on Diwali. Here, Diwali is celebrated as Kali Puja and the night of Diwali is considered as Night of Pitripurush(ancestors). They believe their ancestors descend on the day of Diwali from Heaven and to invite them they burn jute sticks and reiterate.

.“Badabadua ho Gandhara e as a aluaa e jaao baaisi pahacha e gadagadau thaao”(Meaning: oh!! our ancestors, seers and gods you came on the dark night of mahalaya, and now it is time for you to depart for heaven, so we are showing light, may you attain peace in abode of Jagannatha!)

  https://c1.staticflickr.com/8/7344/10618869126_a54b1707af_b.jpg

Southern India ( Chennai, Banglore, and Hyderabad)

Diwali comes on Tamil month of Aipasi in south India. It starts from Dhanatrayodashi and extends till Yama Dwitiya. Dhanatroypdashi is just the other name of Dhanteras which is same as other places and the second day is celebrated as Naraka Chaturdashi which can be also called as Choti Diwali The third day is celebrated as Diwali also known as Kali chadus on this day they worship “ Kul Devi to cast off evil spirits but unlike other states they have different significance as the day before on “Naraka Chaturdashi” Lord Krishna killed the asura ( demon ) Naraksura and took the oil bath to get rid of Naraksura blood. To solemnize people start doing the same as they believe that on this day goddess Ganga consecrate the water and goddess Lakshmi will consecrate the oil. On Naraka Chaturdashi in some states, people create a paper-made effigy of Narakasura and filled it with the firecracker and burn it in the morning. The fourth-day Padwa also known as Bali Padyami and fifth-day Bhaiduj is also known as Yama Dwitiya is celebrated similarly to northern states.

 https://i.pinimg.com/originals/92/2a/d9/922ad9adf9c34b372fea350238cdd43e.png

Western India ( Gujarat, Maharastra, and Rajasthan )

The celebration of Diwali commences a day before comparing to other states of India. Here, The first day is known as Vasubaras which they celebrate by worshipping cow and its calf – as it’s a symbol of mother and child love. The next day is Dhan Trayadashi or Dhanteras followed by Naraka Chaturdashi and a day after Lakshmi puja or Diwali Then Bali pratipada and Lastly, Bhai Bij which is also known as Bhai Doj in which sisters pray for the prosperity and happiness of their brothers.

https://www.desiblitz.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Diwali-Food-t.jpg

Northern India ( Delhi, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh )

The bells of the festive season start ringing for them with the sounds of crackers Dusshera which comes few weeks before Diwali. From where everyone started preparing for Diwali by painting and cleaning their homes, buying gifts and decorating their houses with lights for Diwali. But, the main chores start with Dhanteras in which people worship Lord Kubera (The God of wealth ) and also buy gold and silver ornaments or utensils in order to bring luck and prosperity in their homes. Followed by Choti Diwali where people decorate their houses with diyas and rangoli and offer prayers to their God. The next day is celebrated as Diwali in which people in invite friends and family to exchange presents and sweets and also to pray along with everyone for happiness peace and prosperity. The fourth day people do Goverdhan Puja and next day celebrate Bhai-duj.

 http://ste.india.com/sites/default/files/2016/11/01/542955-bhai-dooj.jpg

Whatever may be the eccentric philosophies or customs associated with the celebration of Diwali. The ideology to welcome positive vibes, worship God for blessing and to start the beginning of the new season with happiness and joy remain the same for all. The twinkling colorful lights illuminate every household with brightness and positivity and the fragrance of sandalwood and agarbatis , color of rangoli and recitations of prayer in every temple and household make you realize the prominence and exclusivity of Indian festivals and tradition.


 


Content research and written by Prasanna Balakrishna

Image Source: tamilnadu.com

Bommalattam art, a performing art of puppet show or puppet dance is one of the oldest art forms in South India. Bommalattam puppetry was originated in Tamil Nadu state. Tamil Nadu is a birthplace of various arts, entertainments, and dances. The puppet show is performed in temples during various festivals. The performances last for a week or ten days, usually continuing overnight.

Bommalattam was also used during the freedom struggle to promote nationalistic zeal.

BEAUTY AND TASTE

The puppets are made of cloth, wood, leather, or other materials. The strings or wires are used to control the puppets. The hands and legs of the puppets are tied to the strings. Highly skilled and experienced puppetries stand behind a screen and move the puppets. Hence, the audience cannot see these puppeteers.

There are five to eight members in the puppet show troupe. A single puppeteer presents the entire puppet show. An assistant hands the artist the right puppet and musicians repeat the songs after their leader.

The Bommalattam finger puppet dance begins with the homage to God and continues with humorous stories. The buffoon is an extremely hilarious character displaying fun and frolic.

The Bommalattam puppetry in India is closely associated with religious and ceremonial events such as temple festivals. The individuals sponsor the puppet shows for the fulfillment of vows, thanksgiving for marriages and childbirth, or the welfare of the community. In earlier days, the puppet dance in Tamil Nadu was used to narrate religious stories, especially ethical stories. In addition to it, people believed it is auspicious to host a puppet show to shrug off evil spirits from their villages.

POPULARITY

This art is famous for its traditional tales of Valli Kalyanam (Valli’s marriage), Sita Kalyanam (Sita’s wedding), Harichandra, Lava Kusa, Nallatangal Kathai and Markandeyan Kathai (Markandeyan’s story). The traditional puppet show ideas are used these days to spread modern messages of creating awareness for family planning and AIDS.

The puppet show is also performed in a tent and a fee is charged for the same. This art is facing extinction because of lack of patronage.

HISTORY

Great performers, epic reciters, storytellers, picture-showman, and clowns were popular since the 10th century A.D. after the breakdown of classical tradition. Bommalattam puppetry history dates back to India’s medieval period and puppets were used to portray gods and heroes.

Large crowds gather to watch the bommalattam finger puppet dance. The puppeteers were always present in village markets and fairs on the occasions of civic and religious functions and also for the important household events.

Bommalattam (string puppet shows) and Thol Bommalattam (shadow puppet show) are two forms of traditional puppet shows practiced in Tamil Nadu. Bommalattam puppet dance combines the techniques of both rod puppets and string puppets.

The strings used for the show are tied to an iron ring, which the puppeteer wears like a crown. A few puppets have jointed arms and hands that are controlled by rods. The wooden Bommalattam puppets are the largest, heaviest, and most articulate of all the traditional Indian marionettes. A puppet may be as big as 4.5 feet in height and weighs up to ten kilograms.

The Thol Bommalattam puppet show uses leather shadow puppets. These are flat figures pressed against the screen with a bright light shining from behind. The puppets create silhouettes or colorful shadows for the viewers in front of the screen.

SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES

Apart from the individual puppeteers, there are also many institutions involved in the promotion of Bommalattam. Some of them follow:

The Tamil Nadu Traditional, Cultural & Educational Charitable Trust endeavors to popularize the art of Tamil Nadu among students and youth. Tamil Nadu folk arts such Mayil Attam, BommalattamKummi, Kai Silambu Attam, and others are especially valued and protected.

The Government of India offers the Scheme for Scholarships to Young Artistes in Different Cultural Fields, which includes Tholu Bommalattam of Tamil Nadu.

Mahatma Gandhi University offers core courses on the folk and ritual traditions of Tamil Nadu.

The Centre for Cultural Resources and Training conducts a variety of training programs for school teachers, teacher trainers, and educational administrators so that students may know the importance of the culture of our country.

Modern students are interested in learning the art of Bommalattam and some of them have even performed during their annual day functions. It is hoped that this art will flourish again in the hands of the upcoming generation.


“In art, man reveals himself and not his objects”, Rabindranath Tagore on art and artisans.

Art is the language of culture and the artist is the poet. The true intricacies and beauty of art can be seen in the hands of the artisans, who put their soul into making a single piece of work. All art forms around the world have their own story to tell. But unfortunately for some of them, the audience is unable to lend a listening ear. As a result, many of our traditional art forms are now on the verge of fading away. We, at Nazariya, are working to promote these dying art forms and to restore the artisans their pride and dignity, which they once enjoyed.

 

Wood carving artisan

Mr Laxman Bhatt- wood carving artist

” I am an artist and I am proud of it. I started at an early age, with the talent
inherited from my ancestors. With my slow and steady efforts, I honed my skills in
carving. The piece of wood and my passion to keep giving shape to my imagination
motivated me throughout.”

Lifestyles have changed so rapidly that our traditional crafts and art forms have been consigned to the archives, dying slowly with each new generation being brought up unaware about our cultural heritage. Lack of funding to globalisation, a lot can be attributed to the decline of art. As a result of this, the millennials are mostly unaware of the art forms that make up our rich cultural heritage. Even people who wish to know more about them, find it difficult to do so. All that they are left with are trips to museums and libraries, which provide only half the picture.

kinnera artisan

The Kinnera; a string instrument played by the Chenchu tribe and which is on the verge of dying. To read more about this click here.

One of the reasons why traditional art forms are dying is because the children of these artisans no longer want to carry on their ancestral art. The technicalities behind these arts are passed on to the younger generation and the knowledge is mostly confined to the same family or clan. Since machine-made art is cheaper and cost-effective, the age-old traditions have faced a backlash. Even though traditional art forms require huge commitment and dedication, these artisans seldom get enough recognition and financial support. This leads the youth to abandon traditional arts making it a major factor in their decline. Nazariya helps them by giving them a bigger platform and an engaging audience to work with. As soon as the market for traditional art forms improves, then money would automatically flow.

So, there is need to bridge the gap between the urban and the rural. While traditional art forms flourish in villages, they do not have an urban outreach. Consequently, Nazariya provides these artists with a platform to showcase their work and helps in building connections with the urban market. By being a part of Sargaalaya International Arts and Craft Festival- 2016, we have, thus, taken our mission to a new level. We are not simply a storefront for selling paintings and art & crafts, our aim is to build deeper interactions between the customer and the artisans. In addition, we also organise regular workshops, where visitors can have face-to-face interaction with the craftsman. After all, Mahatma Gandhi once said, “true art must be evidence of happiness, contentment and purity of its authors.” And to revive the art, we need to provide opportunities for the artist.

Given below is a list of some artisans and the art they specialise in.

ARTISANS

  • Mr Laxman Bhatt; Wood Carving
  • Mr Shankar Lal Bhopa; Phad and Miniature Painting
  • Mr Harekrishna Parida; Coir Toy Making
  • Ram Pal Singh; Braj ki Sanjhi
  • Mr. Chandan; Dhokra Metalsmith
  • Mr. Dilip Shyam; Gond Art
  • Mr. Abdul Rehman; Arabic Calligrapher
  • Kayakalp; Puppetry
  • Kreeda Games; Traditional Indian Games
  • Mr. Menon; Jambili Athon

In order to read more about various artisans and their work, click here.

 


Author: Siring Adol Caur

Vrindavan is a town in the Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh, India. It’s the place where, according to Hinduism, Lord Krishna spent his childhood days. The city is 10 kms away from the Agra-Delhi highway, and is called the nucleus of Brajbhoomi, whereas Brij is the official language of the town. This place is known as the city of widows also, as 15-20000 widows reside here.

Lord Krishna holds a great importance in Vrindavan/Mathura like Mozart for music. The festival of Janmashtami marks the birth of Krishna and is celebrated in India espevially Vrindavan with great pomp and show every year. The picture of the Hindu deity is observed to be painted, printed or sketched by various artists on different bases, like Madhubani paintings, Cloth painting, Stained glass work, Broken tile work, calendars etc. A Lord Krishna’s idol with Radha is a common thing in any hindu household.

The calendars have the paintings print of Krishna with Radha, Krishna in a forest with his cows grazing, Krishna playing a flute, Krishna eating butter, baby Krishna with mother Yashoda, Krishna leaving Vrindavan on a chariot where the milkmaids are crying etc.

Image Source: http://cdn.vrindavantoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/080620111472-001.jpg

Image Source: http://cdn.vrindavantoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/080620111472-001.jpg

Image Source: http://iskconnews.org/media/images/venug1.jpg

Image Source: http://iskconnews.org/media/images/venug1.jpg

The painting of Krishna in Vrindavan is quiet common and is painted by almost every painter at a grass root level. Many artisans display their paintings in form of a calendar or notebooks in exhibitions, exhibitions cum sales etc. in places like Dilli Haat or the exhibitions organised by Handicrafts Board of India etc.

 

Where can you buy this traditional art form?

·       www.krishnaculture.com, sell calendars, and books on a theme based on Krishna and Vrindavan, also they provide with art based on Vrindavan.

·       www.krishnastore.in sell Vrindavan desktop calendars in 365 pages

·       www.goldenlotusproductions.com sells a 365 page full color table calendar on Vrindavan and Krishna quotes.


Lifestyles have changed so rapidly that our traditional crafts and art forms have been consigned to the archives, dying slowly with each new generation being brought up unaware about our cultural heritage.

Sampada Kathuria

 

Remember being beheld and mesmerized by the magical colorful figures dancing to the tune of a lively music, or narrating stories in their own animated way during your visits to Rajasthan or cultural festivals and fairs anywhere in India?

Puppetry, a real challenge to the imagination and the creative ability of the individual, is one of the most ancient forms of entertainment. Besides entertainment, puppetry serves as an applied art, conveying meaningful messages. It calls for a willing suspension of disbelief — through symbolic representation of real characters through puppets. The audience is persuaded to accept the icons as representation of reality and, through this representation, gets involved with heart and soul! Of all art forms, it is probably the least restricted in form, design, color and movement. It is also the least expensive of all animated visual art forms. It has been used in almost all human societies both as entertainment – in performance – and ceremonially in rituals, celebrations and carnivals.

Puppets have been used since the earliest times to animate and communicate the ideas and needs of human societies. Some historians claim that they pre-date actors in theatre. In fact, there is evidence that they were used in Egypt as early as 2000 BC when string-operated figures of wood were manipulated to perform the action of kneading bread!

According to Centre for Cultural Resources and Training, Ministry of Culture, Government of India, the root of Puppet is derived from the Latin word ‘Pupa’ meaning a doll. Ancient Hindu philosophers have paid the greatest tribute to puppeteers. They have likened God Almighty to a puppeteer and the entire universe to a puppet stage. The producer-cum-director of the human theatre has been termed as ‘Sutra Dhār’ meaning the holder of strings, likened to the god. Srimad Bhagavata, the great epic depicting the story of Lord Krishna in his childhood say that with three strings-Satta, Raja and Tama, the God manipulates each object in the universe as a marionette. The word might have found its place in theatre-terminology long before Natyashastra, the masterly treatise on dramaturgy written sometime during 2nd century BC to 2nd century AD.

At the turn of the millennium, when the Sri Vijaya Empire spread to the South Asian countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka, religious messages were carried far and wide with the epic tales and the Puranic legends, forming the staple of puppetry in those countries as indeed for all other performing arts.

India is believed to be the birthplace of puppetry, with crude specimens found in the Harappa and Mohenjodaro civilizations as well. The art of puppetry as a form of entertainment and illustration has found widespread mention in many ancient scriptures and literary works including the Gita, and works of Kalidasa and Patanjali as well. In fact, India has a varied tradition on shadow puppetry, given that records have shown that there was a form of theatrical performance by the time of the composition of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, known as the “Chhaya Nataka”. Even today, especially in Kerala, shadow puppet is a temple ritual performed every year during a temple festival for a specified duration.

Sampa Ghosh, and Utpal Kumar Banerjee, in their book Indian Puppets, along with appendices for Museums in India containing Puppets, Directory of Indian Puppeteers, and Global Bibliography on Puppets, highlighted facts such as,

“Puppetry originated in India and travelled across the seven seas to the Eastern and Western World as vouched by many scholars. Puppets dated back to a period well before Bharata’s Natya Shastra and have continued to be unabated throughout the Centuries in almost all Indian States. Puppetry is one Enduring form, which has entertained masses and educated people. The famous Puppeteers of Rajasthan are really acrobats, who only put on Puppet Shows when they move out of villages. Puppets are by no means only for children, — The Puppeteers of Orissa Sing and Dance about the Romantic Love of Radha and Krishna, and Keralan Puppets narrate Kathakali Stories in the same make-up and costumes.”

Different types of puppets are used in traditional puppetry, such that variations exist in form, structure, manipulation and presentation techniques. The different traditional forms are glove, rod, string, and shadow puppets. The local name given to puppetry varies from state to state within India. For example, Traditional string puppet shows, most likely to be seen at cultural fairs, are prevalent in the states of Andhra Pradesh (Koyya Bommalata), Assam (Putala Nach), Karnataka (Sutrada Gombeyata), Maharashtra (Kalasutri Bahulya), Rajasthan (Kathputli), Orissa (Gopalila), Tamil Nadu (Bommalatam) and West Bengal (Tarer or Sutor Putul).

The great Russian puppet-master Sergei Obraztsov said that the puppet theatre is just as “human” as any other type of human! Puppets are capable of executing fantastic movements, feelings and thoughts that are difficult and, at times, even impossible for live actors to portray convincingly. Inanimate objects and even the stage design itself can be animated through puppets. Flowers, balloons, the earth itself, skyscrapers, tools, furniture, weapons, and even just a beam of light are given roles. They can express feelings, thoughts and relationships, which is something only possible in puppet theatre.

In India, Puppetry, throughout history has held an important place in traditional form of entertainment. The themes for puppet theatre have mostly based on epics and stories adapted from early literature, local myths and legends. The early puppet shows in India dealt mostly with histories of great kings, princes and heroes and also political satire in rural areas. The content of traditional puppet theatre in India imbibes elements of all creative expressions like painting, sculpture, music, dance, drama, etc. The presentation of puppet programmes involves the creative efforts of many people working together. With the progress and development of civilization, the mysticism connected with traditional puppetry slowly started to fade which was replaced with an element of entertainment. Slowly, this art form emerged from the precincts of the temple and villages to reach out to the outside world performing on various social and contemporary themes in Indian towns and cities.

Puppetry has been successfully used to motivate emotionally and physically handicapped students to develop their mental and physical faculties. Awareness programmes about the conservation of the natural and cultural environment have also proved to be useful. These programmes aim at sensitizing the students to the beauty in word, sound, form, color and movement. The aesthetic satisfaction derived from making of puppets and communicating through them helps in the all-round development of the personality of the child.

However, our lives have moved along the technological advancements such that the television shows and the movies at the best movie theatres have become the only widely known sources of visual and informational treat. The new economy is based on information, where creativity, innovation and knowledge play a major role, more sophisticated forms of entertainment. The arts and culture sector is given less importance in development policies, and rather seen as a drain on the economy, even though the products of the cultural industries are consumed and reveled by millions of people all over the globe. Skilled craftsmen communities at remote locations are faced with a hand to mouth situation given the limited market, and thus are bound to leave their traditional work. With rapid change in lifestyle, aging and negligence, this vast repertoire of knowledge and wisdom that once sustained and nurtured the community, is therefore fast disappearing.

This ancient art of puppetry is dying a slow death due to neglect. Puppeteers find it difficult to earn a living and feed their families just by giving puppet shows as there is hardly any audience left. A large urban audience are not even very aware of this art form.

However, Press Trust of India reports that children of around 2,600 families with very few means of livelihood from the slums of Delhi put up shows under the banner of Kalakar Vikas School, taking an active step in the conservation of this Indian heritage- a step that many affluent people would also not dare to take. Their efforts are encouraged by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), who recently released a journal with the focus on puppetry, and The Union Internationale de la Marionette (UNIMA).

PAVAI, a tribute to the art of Indian puppetry and its practitioners, in collaboration with Madras Naturalist Society, conducts regular session in schools to create awareness about concepts related to Indian wildlife, endangered animals, understanding biodiversity, interdependence of animals in an eco-system and other related topics. About 15 schools have been covered under this project.

Chadar Badar, an ancient form of puppetry that tells stories of the Santhal way of life and migration, and a rare and obscure form of performing art, is on revival route and recently debuted on a prestigious platform — Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts —at the Akhyan Festival dedicated to folk art, including masks, scroll paintings and puppetry. Accompanied by song, flute and drumbeats, the puppets create an illusion of a rhythmic Santhal dance. The person responsible for the renaissance is New Delhi-based artist and cultural ethnographer Ravi Kant Dwivedi, who has been nurturing its practitioners and getting them to train fresh talent in the hinterlands. What he found fascinating about the puppets were their intricate workmanship- “Indigenous animation at its best — figures that dance in such perfect and continuous synchrony that they appear to be automated”. Dwivedi, an artist trained at Kala Bhavan, Shantiniketan, has been intrigued by the form ever since he stumbled upon a dismantled but intricate puppetry set tucked away in a thatched hut at Noasar village. He failed to gather printed material on this form at Anthropological Survey of India, Asiatic Society and Indian Museum during the documentation of Chadar Badar for the National Handicraft and Handloom Museum, New Delhi and not many Santhals knew about it, either– only a handful of Santhals performed this form, and that too only for a few days during Dasain festival held around Durga Puja. Its revival thus became Dwivedi’s lifelong mission — locating surviving puppeteers and nurturing their craft. Finally, in 2009, Dwivedi directed a four-month workshop held at Santiniketan, with collaborators such as Asian Heritage Foundation, New Delhi, and Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, Mumbai. The workshop roped in master trainers Bulu Murmu and Som Murmu from Dumka to teach eight Santhal youths how to make puppets. The youths, two each from four districts in Jharkhand and Bengal — Som Marandi and Santosh Soren (Dumka), Arjun Soren and Sahadeo Murmu (Deoghar), Sukur Murmu and Sanatan Murmu (Birbhum), and Rabin Hembrom and Anil Hansdah (Burdwan) — learnt to make puppets with their intricate lever-controlled mechanisms. Bulu, Santosh and a three-member accompanying team trained by Santosh, performed at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. At the grassroots, too, the form is enjoying a second coming. The youths are now performers in their villages.

Daman Murmu, one of the few surviving artists who perform Chadar Badar wants to pass on this art to as many people as he can. However, so far he has got only one student. “Every morning I carry this box (with puppets hanging in them) on my bicycle as far as I can in areas surrounding my home and tell different stories accompanied by songs and hand-made crude musical instruments” Mr. Murmu told The Hindu, who was recently felicitated at an event by the Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI) along with an NGO Sambhav. He makes living out of the rice and other food grains which he gets from people after his performances!

Meanwhile, filmmaker Palash Das has come up with a documentary on Chadar Badar titled ‘Saga of a Puppet Show’ in which he highlighted the life of another artist, Sukan Mardi of Birbhum who has been practicing it for the past 18 years. “Besides being a tribal art form is also an important tool in the tribal community to spread social messages,” he added.

Now, a handful of puppeteers from a remote village in Kendrapara district have taken an initiative to revive the ancient art, locally known as ‘Sakhi Kundhei’. There is a village in the district called Palakana, where the art form is still alive, and the artistes perform live shows in the surrounding villages and even afar. Fakir Singh, a 62-year-old string puppeteer from Palakana, says there are some people who still enjoy the shows. “I carve out wooden puppets on orders received from puppet show operators. The dolls made by me fetch money, in addition to what I earn by staging the shows,” he says. A researcher of puppetry Basudeb Das, says: “It’s a tough battle to keep the art alive when more attractive means of entertainment are bombarded round the clock on the electronic media… So, the question is how long these handful of artistes will be able to carry on the ancient traditional art to future generations,” says Mr. Das. A practitioners of string puppetry attribute it to lack of patronage by government and non-government organisations, The Hindu reported.

Other Indian groups – traditional and contemporary- that sell this form of art are:

Puthali Kalaranga, a 15-member troupe of youngsters, is specialised in traditional Bommalatta puppetry at Bangalore. It has evolved a unique style of puppetry, recognised as the ‘Mudrika School of Puppetry’. They perform famous episodes from the Puranas, such as, Sri Krishna Thulabhar, Indra Garva Bhanga, Girija Kalyana, Kumar Sambhavaand Lanka Dahana, — using modern techniques to make their shows spectacular. Their Lion and the Fox (from Panchatantra) was performed in Kannada and English. The group has performed in many places in India and Iran. Director Dattatreya Aralikatte scripted Indrachapa by using mythological themes to deal with the issue of deforestation. He has participated in several puppet festivals and seminars in India and abroad. Karnataka State, DSERT, CCRT, etc., have given him awards. He has directed Purana Kathamala, a TV serial in Kannada, Tamil and Telugu. Putthali Kalaranga has evolved a unique style of puppetry, referred to as Puppets of Datta, which has come to be recognised as the “Mudrika School of Puppetry

Ramaiah is a traditional shadow puppeteer of Karnataka, with 6 members in his group. He is the son of famous puppeteer Hombaiah. They seem to lack invitations for shows nowadays.

Rampada Ghoroi is a traditional Beni Putul Natch exponent and farmer, has migrated to Kolkata in order to survive as a full-time puppeteer in the traditional glove puppet form with its terracotta heads. His family has performed Beni Putul Natch for the past 80 years. The repertoire comes from the epics, with some modern, topical touches added to keep pace with changing morality, be it an anti-smoking or new roles for traditional women. Music from Bollywood movies or a national calamity may find their way into the lyrics of his songs.

Ranganatha Rao is a multi-faceted artist, classical singer, composer, scriptwriter, costume-designer, light designer and director from Bangalore. Winner of the Sangeet Natak Akademi award, he is a traditional Bommalatta puppet artist having learnt puppetry from his grandfather. He was a schoolteacher and turned a professional puppeteer as suggested by Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay. Rao’s Garuda Bommai puppets are 7 ft. tall, used during Ratha Yatra (Car Festival) in south Indian temples, where people get into the body-frames of the puppet and dance. Rao devised a special kind of puppet for use as visual aids in rural schools. He has visited international puppet festivals in Japan, USA and Europe. His group is called Ragaputhali, which has performed in major cities in India and abroad.

Kolha Charan Sahoo, who began his career in Ravanachhaya under the guidance of the late Kathinanda Das, directs Ravan Chhaya Natya Sansad, Orissa. He has performed Ravanachhaya all over the country as well as gives training to younger performers.  He was an active participant in the National Puppet Theatre Festivals organized by Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1978 and 1995, and the Puppet Theatre Workshops in 1988, 1991, 1997 and 1998. He has been President and Guru of Ravan Chhaya Sansad since 1986 and published a book Ravan Chhayar Utpatti, Stithi o Vikash. Kolha Charan has received many awards, including the Bhanja Kala Parishad Award (1997), the Utkal Yuva Sanskritika Parishad Award (1997), the Orissa Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1998) and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1999.

Satya Narayan Putul Natya Sanstha, West Bengal follows the Danger Putul tradition of Bengal rod puppetry. The late Kangal Chandra Mondal founded the group for more than thirty years, but the impact of mass media had already begun to undermine the popularity of the form. The present leader of the group, Nirapada Mondal, began implementing new ideas into the traditional Danger Putul in order to win back some of the audiences. He broadened his exposure to contemporary puppetry by attending puppetry workshops and worked with Suresh Dutta to further develop his puppetry skills and technical expertise. He has produced Raja Harish Chandra, Mukti Chai, Natun Jivan, Siraj-Ud-Doula, Raj Laxmi. Nirapada Mondal was awarded a National Scholarship in 1997 from the Government of India.

Selvaraja Shadow Puppet Group, Tamil Nadu is directed by A. Selvaraja, who was born into a family of leather puppeteers settled down in the temple city of Tirukalukundram, about 60 from Chennai. His father and grandfather were practitioners of this art form.  Selvaraja owes most of his training and skills to his uncle, Chellappa. While the earlier leather puppet performances entertained the common folk during temple festivals and fairs, presenting mythological scenes from theMahabharata and Ramayana, Selvaraja uses it to present socially relevant themes, such as child welfare, community health, population control and adult literacy. A play dealing with the issue of AIDs was peformed as part of the World AIDS Conference in Germany in 1993. In 1997, he performed in Hamburg and Italy. He stages his puppet shows in Dakshina Chitra, Injambakkam every Saturday and Sunday. Selvaraja devised a shadow play with animal characters for children sponsored by an audiocassette producer.

Sri Annapurneshwari Leather Puppet Mela is a traditional 5-member shadow puppet group of Karnataka. The group has travelled widely in India, Iran, Iraq, Holland, France and Italy. The group leader Virupaxappa Kshatri learnt puppetry from his father at the age of ten. He has been awarded many certificates from the State and Central government and also from abroad.

Sri Ganesh Yakshagana Gombeyata Mandali, Karnataka is a traditional group that performs the Yakshagana coastal area style. The presentation is highly stylized since it adheres strictly to the norms and standards of Yakshagana Bayalata. It is interesting both on account of its technique and content. Carved wooden string puppets 50 cm high play dance, song, dialogue, and the whole range of human emotions and passions beautifully. The plays and themes come from the epics and the Bhagavatha Purana. Director Bhaskar Kogga Kamath, son of the master puppeteer, Kogga Devanna Kamath, comes from an old lineage of Yakshagana Gombeyata, 350-year old performers. He studied dance, music, puppet carving, painting and manipulation from his father. Along with the group, Bhaskar has toured extensively through India, Europe, Australia and Pakistan, participating in national and international puppet festivals. He has been given awards and written many articles. Bhaskar is presently developing new staging and performing techniques to broaden the appeal of Yakshagana Gombeyata.

Sri Gopalkrishna Yakshagana Bombeyata Sangha is based in Kasaragod, in the North Border District of Kerala. The troupe presents its performances based on the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata in the Thenkuthittu style of Yakshagana, using carved string puppets with colourful costumes. The troupe used the string puppet form initially; now it has shifted to rod puppets, an innovation of the younger generation of performers. Director K.V. Ramesh, a graduate from Calicut University, was attracted to the Yakshagana art form carried on by the late Parthi Subba of Kasergod. He performs in Kannada, Malayalam and Tulu languages.

T.N. Sankaranathan is the founder and director of Sri Murugan Sangeetha Bommalatta Sabha of Tamil Nadu. He and fellow members are the manipulators of the puppets; give voices for the dialogue and narration as well as the musicians. The group has a repertoire of 16 stories, depicting different Lords. It has staged throughout India. Their performances have been included in the filmsIndian (in 5 languages), Avaram Poo, Sikappu Malargal andShonthamadi Nee Yanagu, as well as appearing in several Tamil TV serials.

Sri Nataraja Nilaya Charmachita Kala Pradarsana Committee is a traditional shadow group of Andhra Pradesh, which performed some big cities in India. Besides epics, they perform on AIDS, family planning, adult education, protection of wild life, polio, deforestation, etc. These puppeteers are in great difficulty now and seek help from all puppet lovers to preserve and continue their art form.

Some of the famous museums for puppetry are:

Bharatia Lok Kala Mandal: This famous museum is near the City Palace, Udaipur, in Rajasthan. The interesting collection exhibited in this museum has achieved a rear preservation of folk arts, costumes, dolls, masks, musical instruments and paintings, the high point of the exhibits being the collection of traditional puppets of India and some foreign puppets, presented by different countries. It has also an auditorium where traditional Rajasthani puppet shows are regularly held.

Chacha Nehru Children’s Museum: This museum at Thiruvanathapuram, Kerala, has traditional dolls with traditional costume. Folklore Museum, Manasa Gangotri located in Mysore, Karnataka, also has a very large collection of shadow and string puppets. Jagmohan Palace too located in Mysore, Karnataka, has collection of crafts object including puppets.

Karnataka Chitrakala Parishad is located in Bangalore and is working since 1967. It has a collection of 2000 traditional puppets.

Crafts Museum: Located at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, The museum has an exhibition of unique craft objects, including puppets from all over India.

Indira Gandhi National Centre For The Arts (IGNCA): Located in Delhi, it is the national body for the Indian art and culture, and their manifestation in textual, still image, moving image and audio form, comprising both primary material of books, journals, manuscripts, paintings, sketches, slides, video-films, etc. and secondary material on their annotations and reprography.  It has a collection of slides of Indonesian shadow puppets and films on traditional puppets in its rich archives.

Karnataka Janapada Trust: It is the brainchild of the renowned writer and folk-lover H.L. Nage Gowda, set up in Bangalore in 1979. The Trust has a folk museum, comprising video recordings of shadow, rod and string puppetry of Karnataka. The museum has also a collection of all puppets available in Karnataka, including miniature puppets.

Malliah Theare Crafts Museum: It is situated in Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg, New Delhi and commemorates Srinavas Malliah, a patriot and associated with the theatre movement in pre-Independence India.  The museum contains a rare collection of puppets, masks and ornaments.

National Children Museum: This museum is in Bal Bhavan, New Delhi. It has a rich collection of toys and dolls from India and abroad.

Orissa State Meseum: Located at Bhuvaneswar, it has a collection of traditional string puppets of Orissa.

Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum: Located in Pune, Maharashtra, it specializes in “Chitrakathi” collection and its regional variations of Mahabharata and Ramayana. Narratives, music and songs accompany the scroll paintings that reflect the leather puppet traditions of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Sangeet Natak Akademi: It has a museum at Rabindra Bhawan, Ferozshah Road, New Delhi. The museum has a very large collection of different traditional puppets of India. The Akademi also has a large archive of audio and videotapes, photographs and films on puppetry.

Indian Puppetry Festivals: Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA), under Government of India, has organized various events focusing on puppet theatre since 1950. The associated workshops during the festivals gave an opportunity to Indian puppeteers to interact with their counterparts from other regions.  Besides, SNA often organizes festivals of contemporary puppets and many modern groups also organize festival in their respective places.

Upen Biswas, Minister for Backward Classes Welfare, on behalf of West Bengal Government, in 2014 proposed to set up a National Museum for Puppetry at Kankurgachi to showcase different types of puppets from across the country, particularly from the state, to preserve the dying art of traditional puppetry.

Karigar Haat’, a 10-day art and culture festival, was held in 2014 at the Birla Industrial and Technological Museum where puppeteers from all over the country were invited to peform. The highlight of the festival was the display of a rare and almost extinct form of puppetry called ‘chadar badar’ from the tribal area of Birbhum district. Other kinds of puppets such as rod, string, cloth and wooden ones were also showcased. The festival aimed to promote puppetry as a powerful tool of communication to spread social messages.

The Orissa Sangeet Natak Akademi, a cultural organization, in 2011 held a four-day festival showcasing dying traditional arts and also encouraging talented artistes to continue in these art forms. People witnessed some rare and brilliant and cultural performances, including traditional dying art forms like Suta Kandhei, a unique string puppet show. The turnout on all four days was quite impressive, which indicated that people enjoyed these programmes.

Earlier, Authorities in Jaipur, Rajasthan in 2009 organized ‘Putal Yatra’, the puppet festival to promote the traditional art of Puppetry at the Jawahar Kala Kendra to revive this dying art form. The festival has brought together different forms of puppets from across the country to entertain people. The aim was to bring together traditional and contemporary puppets from across India under one roof for the people.

There are many other sources of traditional puppet-groups and their repertoires. The religious and ritual origin is evident till today when we find puppeteers, from Indonesia to India, who begin their show with prayers to the gods and look upon their puppets as divine manifestation. They do not allow the good characters to get mingled with the evil ones and, at the end of the show, put back the puppets with great reverence. This sense of dignity, bordering on awe, brings out the touch of divinity in puppetry, which persists still, — not merely in the racial memory of puppeteers, but also in the living continuity of their art.

The passion and optimism of these people is a lesson to most of us who hesitate to protect what we know is valuable and on the verge of being lost to us forever. These artisans are willing to connect to youth of today to not only protect the various forms of this cultural heritage from dying, but also convert it into a form of social entrepreneurship. Banglanatak dot com is one such social enterprise working at grass roots with a mission to foster pro-poor growth and safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. Therefore, an impetus has been placed on the usage of culture based approach for development and community skill empowerment, along with use of folk theatre, to educate people on diverse social issues, mobilizing community led action, and life skills development.

Author: Sampada Kathuria