Kathputli is a string puppet theatre, an indigenous art form of Rajasthan, India, and is the most popular form of Indian puppetry. It is controlled by a single string that passes it from the top of the puppet over the puppeteers. Kath means wood, Putli meaning a doll. Kathputli means a puppet that is made from wood. However, it is now a little modified and made out of wood, cotton cloth, and metal wire. At Manvar’s desert camp in Jaisalmer, you get an opportunity to experience this art.
The wooden dummy dolls are bright-colored attires. Other than dolls, you also get to some dummy animals like elephants and camels which are also made of bright fabrics. The puppeteers use strings that are attached to the puppets to move them around. A cot is placed lengthwise and a mini stage is set up. A rope is tied to join the upper legs of the cot. Then the puppets are tacked to that rope. The cot is then covered with sheets to hide the puppeteer from the eyes of the public. He moves the limbs of puppets one by one and the story moves forward. The show starts with a loud beat of dholak, (a traditional Indian musical instrument). There is narration along with folk songs. The beats in the song and the music from dholak are in sync with the movement of the puppets. Enjoy the most vibrant part of the Rajasthani folk culture, the Kathputli dance at our desert camp in Jaisalmer in Manvar.
Tribes of Rajasthan, the Rajasthani Bhat community to be specific, have been performing this art from ancient times and it has become an eternal part of Rajasthani culture and tradition. It is performed in all village fairs, religious festivals, and social gatherings in Rajasthan. Nothing can be complete without the Kathputli dance show. The tradition of Kathputli is based on folklore. Scholars believe that folk tales convey the lifestyle of ancient Rajasthani tribes and puppet art might have originated from present-day Nagaur and nearby areas. Kings of Rajasthan were lovers and patrons of art and craft and they encouraged the craftsmen in activities ranging from wood carving to weaving, pottery, and painting.
According to the stories of Rajasthan, King Vikramaditya of Ujjain was very fond of puppets. His throne had 32 beautiful dolls sculptured on it. The puppeteers portrayed the life and accomplishments of Vikramaditya with 32 puppets. Later Prithviraj Chauhan requested the Bhats to show a play on his accomplishments. Then this art form saw a downfall during the Mughal period and reduced furthermore during British rule as they no more entertained.
Initially, the Kathpulis would tell stories from the Ramayan, the Mahabharat, and other mythologies. With time the stories of Kathputlis changed and along with being a source of entertainment also gives moral and social education. Different shows explain different social problems like the dowry system, women’s empowerment, illiteracy, poverty, family planning, female illiteracy, unemployment, and the importance of cleanliness, and these shows help people to be aware of the social problems that are around them and also show ways of solving them. And since puppets are characters and not actual people, the crowd does not get offended and understands social issues in a better way.
You are welcome at the desert camp in Jaisalmer of Manvar to enjoy an evening filled with cultural entertainments like folk dances and Kathputlis performed by local talent along with traditional Rajasthani food which is also sourced locally.