Kathputli

Jeff Pham - India


March 3, 2016

 What you see is an Indian art form called Kathputli. Kathputli is a joint of of two Rajasthani [people up in north India] words Kath meaning wood and Putli meaning a doll which has no life. Put these two words together [Kathputli] and it means a puppet which is made entirely from wood. However, the word itself is fairly inaccurate.The puppets are made out of wood, cotton cloth, and metal wire. Due to physics you can’t control a puppet with a wooden string [besides going up and down] or else it would be a baseball bat with weird looking faces. Believed to be dated back 1500 years ago, Rajasthani tribal Bhat made India one of the first countries in the world to have pioneered this kind of art form.  Traditional music, vocals, Tabla [equivalent to conga drums but more Indian], and many other Indian instruments help to enhance the kathputli’s showcase. No village fair, religious festival, or social gathering in Rajasthan can be complete without the Kathputlis. Kathputli stayed true to its tradition and stood the test of time. Due to the Mongal invasion hundreds of years back, its importance lost its luster. Back then royal and wealthy families would look after the puppeteers in return for putting on shows that praised their ancestors. Now days, you will be very broke living the lifestyle of a puppeteer. Historically, these puppets were not only a source of entertainment, but also provided moral and social education.These puppet shows made people aware of social problems that everybody was facing and also showed ways of solving them. The shows tackled problems like the dowry system, women’s empowerment, illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, and cleanliness. If you ever visit India and want to see one of India’s oldest art forms go to Rajasthan, you will be amazed.

Jeff Pham