This time around, Nazariya brings to you, the great Kaavi Wall Art. This unrevealed heritage of Goa is bound to leave you awestruck!

Kaavi Wall Art

Kaavi art on an old wall in Goa

Every time we think about Goa- the beautiful beaches, lingering seafood and a culturally diverse atmosphere are the chief thoughts that come to our mind. But Goa has so much more to offer. We hardly know about the rich heritage of Goa which now by hook or by crook is besieged for attention.

Kaavi art is what we are about to unleash. It’s one of the most sacred and oldest art forms of the Goan cultural heritage. Today on the verge of being a dying art form, Kaavi art is a form of painting in Konkan region in temples, houses, small shrines and walls of Roman Catholic Churches of Goa.

The term Kaav in Konkani refers to Indian red pigmentation which is the only color used in the art form which is obtained from the laterite soil. The specialty of the art form is its technique of the application of the murals on the wall: the reddish painting is artistically drawn against the white sandblasted background.

Kaavi Art Motif

The beautiful deep red colored motif of Kaavi Art

If you ponder over how the material is prepared then let me take you to the Goan beach and make you explore, how the snow-white lime is obtained by burning the sea shells and washed sand from river beds were mixed with jaggery and then is allowed to ferment for two weeks. This mixture is then effortlessly hand poured to obtain a homogenous substance which soon hardens and then is applied to the walls which enrich our eyes as Kaavi wall art!

The beauty of the art form has insisted it to spread its wings from Goa and expand its vistas to Maharashtra and Karnataka. But Goa being the origin of the art form has been deprived of Kaavi so far. Much of the works you will come across are mostly hundred years old and more maybe. Some are so old that they do not appear very presentable and the families who own the artwork have the lack of economic resources in order to restore the art. One problem faced in restoring this art in temples and houses is that we have no one practicing this art in Goa anymore. To perform Kaavi artisans need to import from Karnataka and Maharashtra.

Kaavi being an art form that can be composed as smoothly as butter and can also be so complex that it may require geometrical assistance. The architectural touch in Kaavi is commendable if you observe it so closely. If you let the ridges, platforms, and niches that are decorated with spirals, spades, semi-circles, and curves seep into you for a while and realize the architectural beauty in the two-dimensional art of Kaavi.

The following images depict the architectural attribute of Kaavi Art very precisely –

Kaavi art with architectural attributes

Kaavi art with architectural attributes

A pillar depicting extraordinary Kaavi Art

A pillar depicting extraordinary Kaavi Art

 

Kaavi can still be very well be seen at The Brahmini Maya Temple, Kshetrapal Temple in Agarvaddo, and Venkatesh and Parashuram in South Goa. However, inspite of its downfall the Goa Heritage Action Group has resolved to make the people and the government sit up and take notice in order to save Kaavi art from disappearing completely from Goa.

Since Goa is one of the highly admired tourist spots, the objective is to bring in the thought of people to see this thing of beauty and create more awareness. It will be a huge moment of loss if the art form is not preserved. Being at the stake of extinction Kaavi is not just an art form but a whole lot of perspective of knowledge, culture, belief, and stories of our ancestral history.

 It’s a call to preserve the intangible cultural heritage of one of the most exotic and popular travel destination of the world.  It’s the call to preserve Kaavi.


Join Nazariya at Sargaalaya as we rediscover our Artistic Heritage Together


Sargaalaya, the Kerala Arts and Crafts village in Kerala, is an initiative of the Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala. It is an exclusive place where you can not only pick a product fashioned by the traditional artisans of Kerala but also learn one or two lessons in the subtleties of crafts-making. While designed as a tourist destination, Sargaalaya is also a platform for exhibition, sales, and craft-making. The tourist can have face-to-face interaction with the artisans showcasing their life-long achievements, and maybe learn a thing or two!

We, at Nazariya, focus on building a platform where you can not only purchase unique handmade products, but also discover the behind-the-scenes of who makes them, what their story is, and experience their journey in a way you could have never imagined before. Our aim is to provide a platform to the artisans and help them showcase their talents and handiwork to the masses. We also organize workshops to allow the people to gain better insight into how the artist’s mind works, what nuances go into making a single piece of craft, and help them learn a few basics themselves.

The core values of Sargaalaya and Nazariya are the same; revisiting art forms. The only difference is that we focus more on how to revive dying forms of art around the world. The thought is the same but the thinkers are different.

Given below are some art forms that Nazariya would be focusing on presenting at Sargaalaya International Arts and Craft Festival- 2016.

 

  1. Wood Carving

“Exquisite Wood Craft from Amer, Rajasthan. Available on our website.”

Wood carving is a form of woodworking done by a cutting tool (knife) in one hand or a chisel in two hands or with one hand on a chisel and one hand on a mallet, to make a wooden figure or figurines of deities, like Buddha and Ganesha. It originated in Rajasthan in the 17th century. Intricately carved wooden doors and windows in palaces and havelis are testimonies to its popularity in the medieval era. In fact, even today this craft is practised extensively in various parts of Rajasthan.

 

  1. Phad Painting

“Ethnic tribal royalty painting in Rajasthan.”

http://i0.wp.com/www.artnindia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/img046.jpg?fit=995,1000

Phad painting is a style religious scroll painting and folk painting practised in Rajasthan, state of India. Phad painting is traditionally done on a large piece of cloth or Canvas known as Phad. The paintings are the life of two legendary Rajasthani heroes, Pabuji and Devnarayan ji, who are worshipped as the incarnation of lord Vishnu and Laxman. While the story is narrated using songs and dance, the visual impact is provided by the phad.

  1. Miniature Painting

“Radha and Krishna as depicted in a miniature painting.”

http://www.dollsofindia.com/images/products/miniature-paintings/miniature-painting-CU12_l.jpg

Miniature paintings are beautiful handmade paintings which are often vibrantly colored, but as the name suggests, very small in size. Also, very intricate and detailed work goes into making them, which further gives them a unique identity. The art of miniature painting was introduced in India by the Mughals, who brought this art form from Persia. Here, the themes mainly depicted are court scenes, gardens, forests, palaces, stories of Lord Krishna, love scenes, and battles.

   4. Puppetry

“Kathputlis in Rajasthan.”

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-VQPlWd3eee8/UOcMCyTA8aI/AAAAAAAAUy0/qIhxNf7pDqQ/s1600/Kathputli Dance, Rajasthan.jpg

Puppetry has always held an important place in traditional entertainment. Like traditional theatre, themes for puppet theatre are mostly based on epics and legends. Puppets from different parts of the country have their own identity, and regional styles of painting and sculpture are reflected in them. Like the string puppets from Rajasthan are known as Kathputli, similarly string puppets of Orissa are known as Kundhei, and puppets from Tamil Nadu known as Bommalattam.

   5. Gond Art

“Tribal Gond art”

http://www.artribal.com/img/dummies/t3.jpg

Gond Art is a reflection of India’s largest Adivasi community called Gonds in Bhopal. It is the art of stories, the art of spirituality and is believed to bring good luck. The Gonds were storytellers who used to narrate the stories glorifying the king and this was the main source of their livelihood. The Gonds painted their walls with lively portrayals of local flora and fauna and gods and the art form is created by putting together dots and lines. Here the artists use colours developed by charcoal, plants sap, cow dung and leaves.

The passion and heart that the artisans put into creating these art forms are what distinguish them truly. Every art form has a deep history, a deeper soul, and this year at Sargaalaya International Art and Craft Festival, Nazariya is going to help voice their stories.

“Let’s live history together”


Content Research, Conceptualization & Written by Kaavya Lakshman

History

The word Padayani originated from the word ‘Pada’, which means ‘army’ or ‘warrior’.

This is the traditional folk dance of Kerala which is a beautiful amalgamation of music, dance, theatre, satire, facial masks and paintings. It is a Dravidian form of worship that existed before the advent of Brahmanism. The ancient ritual is performed in Bhagavati temples, dedicated to goddess Bhadrakali. The performance takes place from mid December to mid May.

Temples : The Padayani festival takes place in central Travancore, comprising the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala.

Temples which still practice Padayani are Thazhoor Bhagavathy Temple and Kadammanitta Temple.

The Padayani festival at the Palli Bhagavati temple at Neelemperoor in Kottayam district is a spectacular event. Large swan effigies called ‘Annam Kettu’ are taken out, adding more charm to the festival. Fireworks and traditional orchestra are other features of the festival.

Image Source:http://nazariya.in/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/56751591411b0-3e34cfd690d64113b71746eb9e87d810-860×350-1.jpg

Story / Legend

“According to mythology, this ritualistic dance commemorates the dance performed by Lord Shiva and the other Gods to appease Goddess Durga, whose anger could not be quenched even after annihilating the demon, Darika” (cited from http://www.keralaculture.org/patayani/80)

Origin of Padayani

Earlier this elaborate and expensive event was carried out to heal the illnesses not amenable to medical modalities of intervention. In the form of psychic or spiritual healing, it was solely designed, controlled and performed by a section of the Thinta endogenous group of Kaniyar community (The traditional professional Hindu astrologers of Kerala), as a method of exorcism This folk art has become a divine ritual tradition in association with festival occasions of Bhagavathy (Bhadrakaali) temples of Kerala(cited from http://www.liquisearch.com/padayani/traditions_of_origin)

 

Padayani- The Ritual

In the olden days the Padayani performance lasted for nearly two weeks, but over time it has been shortened to a day. Kolam Tullal is the major portion of the performance. Kolam is the masque prepared by drawing images on the leaves. The Kolams are made of the green of the lath itself (kamukin pacha), kari (carbon), manjalpodi and sindooram. The dancer wears the kolam, and performs the ritual dance expressing his devotion.

The significance of the kolam is the representation of spiritual forces and divine characters. The face masks and headgear of the characters depicted are both spectacular and terrifying, a typical element of Kerala art. The paints used are natural and of vivid colors.

The characters include : Ganapathi Kolam, Yakshi Kolam, Bhairavi Kolam, Gandharvan Kolam, and Mukilan Kolam.

Kolam thullal takes place on the same day as the Kappoli. The main instruments used during the performance are the thappu, chenda and kaimani. Padayani songs are quite simple to understand for those who speak Malayalam, thereby engaging the entire community.

The members participating in the ritual performance undergo rigorous, traditional physical training and discipline. This consists of a special diet regimen for physical and spiritual cleansing.

Popular elements of the dance :

Kalan Kolam : It is the most popular part of the Padayani ritual. This dance form narrates the of a boy begging for his life to Lord Siva when ‘Death’ comes to his sixteenth birthday.

Bhairavi Kolam : It is the dance dedicated to the worship of the goddess Bhairavi. The kolam (masque) used for this performance is the biggest, and is headed by more than one person due to its massive size and heavy weight.

Vinodam : Satire is an essential part of Padayani. This is performed to make fun of the petty vanities of people as well as target areas for social reform.

 

Significance of Padayani in the society : Padayani is not just an art form, it is a community gathering to ensure the physical and mental well being of the entire village. It is a set of rituals that transcends the boundaries of caste and religion, generating a sense of unity.

Image Source: Pathan Amrita News

 


Author: Seemab Alam

Image Source: http://www.desipaintings.com/images/Chamba-miniature-painting.jpg

The romantic ambience of the monsoon season in the heart of Himalayan Mountains was once loved by a princess named Champavati, daughter of Raja Sahila Varman around 920 A.D. While Raja’s daughter took fancy to the site and asked her father to build a town upon it. As the Raja agreed with his beloved daughter and the town was given its name Chamba from the princess’s name Champavati.

Ravi River

Image Source: http://www.indiamike.com/files/images/07/95/31/chamba-1.jpg

The Chamba district is in the state of Himachal Pradesh in northern India. Located at the altitude of 996 meters (3.268 ft) above mean sea level, situated beside the bank of Ravi river and has the population of 20,312 people.

While Chamba is noted for its miniature Pahari Paintings  where Basohli style of paintings took roots with Nikku, the artist of Basohli migrating from Guler to Chamba in the 18th century. However Basohli paintings are considered the first school of Pahari paintings and during the reign of Raja Udai Singh and Raja Jai Singh, patronizing of this art form was conducted. In its continuation Raja Charhat Singh developed this folk art at another huge scale which had a long lasting effect on the local artists.

Image Source:                                http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_sFCue8XC5cI/TP4RcZPg5ZI/AAAAAAAAAl0/TBHMXxSAP2M/s1600/PACF016.JPG                                  http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_sFCue8XC5cI/TP4RAAio8wI/AAAAAAAAAlk/FBURg_0DCSE/s1600/PACF019.JPG                                        http://www.indiamike.com/files/images/17/95/31/chamba-2.jpg                             http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_sFCue8XC5cI/TP4RQtZZemI/AAAAAAAAAls/GbcQAMRgABQ/s1600/PACF008.JPG

Chamba paintings bear a resemblance to Mughal style of paintings including strong influences of Deccan and Gujarat style of paintings. Chamba paintings being very realistic and revealing social documents of history of those times also inspire from the natural surroundings and combine in the depictions of Hindu Mythology particularly the legends of Radha Krishna, Shiva-Parvati, Rama Darbar, Yashoda and Krishna, Gopis Love scenes, deer, birds and women.

Art has two different aspects of presentations, traditional and innovative. The art of Chamba, presented via Pahari painting school is basically traditional. The composition of this art is based on the old form. The main reason for this is the arcade for traditional style paintings. As very few artists have strength and courage to create their own idioms and independent styles that are really different from old forms. Many artists create copies from other paintings in a general manner, however they may enlarge and change the figures but the set form has a very hard grip on their psyche.

The major reason for the extinction of this art form is that it failed to evolve itself with the changing time and adapt itself into the contemporary world. There has been a visible stagnation in Chamba painting in creative demeanour when compared to the work of other artists with vibrant innovations we find in Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and other cities in the world of contemporary artists.

Tradition needs to be preserved but the same preservation would cause the loss of any other substantial tradition is not appreciated. Therefore similar is the case with Chamba Painting. Chamba is a town with rich cultural tradition with many national award winners but altogether the town lacks the “art-world” coordination. The basic synchronization between the artists and politics either narrow or wide, demand of the market and changing perspective due to modernisation lacks in Chamba which somehow is responsible for the crumbling position of this wonderful art form. Also this has also prevented the artists of Chamba from a pure and delightful experience of interaction and sharing.

However the tangible connection to this intangible heritage survives with the preservation of many traditional paintings being showcased in many museums at Chamba, Shimla and Dharamshala and these museums also hold the distinguished work of artists like Lehru, Durga and Miyan Jara Singh.

Also with proper attention to this art form and by covering missing coordination of the art and changing world and fixing any other remaining loopholes we may preserve this art form from dying forever.

Its important for us to uphold what our ancestors have left us behind. Be it the beautiful stories, the massive mahals or the eye-catching art like the Chamba Painting. Our roots lie in them and binding our roots with such tempting traditions defines who we are.     


Author: Seemab Alam

Image Sources: 

http://i1.tribune.com.pk/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/481629-DastangoiPhotoPublicity- 1355931408-393-640×480.JPG                       http://ste.india.com/sites/default/files/2015/12/18/442871-d1.jpg

“Woh Dastan aisi thi ki na palke chapke na kadam dagmagate,

Woh Dastan aisi thi ki hum wahi tham se gaye the..

Us Dastango ki awaaz aur uske andaaz me thi kuch aisi baat ki jaha jaha woh hume lete gaya.. waha waha hum bas chalte gaye aur khote gaye..”

The medieval romances, the tales of travails and lovers, stories of adventure, magic and warfare. All of these epics narrated orally in nature, The Dastan and the adjoin art we scarcely know about is Dastangoi: The lost art form of Urdu storytelling. Coming all the way from 16th century, Iran, dastangoi is the compound of two Persian words Dastan meaning story and Goi which means to tell a Dastan.

The origin of dastangoi goes back to the pre-islamic Arabia and with it the spread of Islam dastangoi came all the way to Iran and to Delhi in India. From Delhi dastangoi toured its way to Lucknow by the 18th century. All this happened during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 when many artists, writers and dastangos moved from Delhi to Lucknow.

When dastangoi gained popularity and started its regular performances at various locations of the cities, there was a time when it became very popular among the opium addicts and it became one the most vital part of their gatherings at opium houses. The early dastangos told the tales of magic, war and adventure and borrowed spontaneously from other stories like the Arabian nights, stories written by Rumi and in India, they also narrated the stories from Panchatantra and later own the tales of freedom fighters and other major events.

By all this time dastangoi was attaining its fame but during 1920’s era of sound and cinema’s revolution in India things started getting different as in 1928 Mir Baqar Ali died, who was the last famous dastango of India. With that this classic art form started losing its charm.

By now people started seeing dastangoi as a dying art form but Ankit Chadha, the very young and among the only 12 professional dastango of India and the founder of Heptullha a ‘heptular’ company that conducts storytelling sessions for adults and children alike has a very different opinion regarding the same. When asked if he considers dastangoi as a dying art form? He says, “I do not. But, my opinion does not make it alive or dying. Also, the question is whether we see Dastangoi as simply a performance art form, or as a living culture of storytelling which it once was. As a performing arts form, in May 2016, we complete 11 years of Dastangoi as it was reinvented by Mahmood Farooqui. He has led this journey with great success – from no traditional proponents to more than a thousand shows by 25 performers trained by him. We have created dozens of modern dastans – as varied as biographies of Manto and Kabir to Dastan-e-Sedition on the trial of Dr. Binayak Sen to Dastan Alice Ki, the adaptation of Carroll’s children’s classic. All this, however, its still the beginning. While our audience is growing (and not dying at all), Dastangoi is still seen as something exotic by many of them. I want to see these listeners perceive Dastangoi as a part of their everyday culture as much as I see it as my way of life.”

Image Source: http://d152j5tfobgaot.cloudfront.net/wpcontent/uploads/2015/05/Yourstory_ankit_chadha_dastangoi.jpg

There seems to be a tangible connection to this intangible heritage. Intangible as the very existence of this art form has got a vague approach of people. But noticing the encounter of Ankit with this classic art form which shares a very low limelight these days proves that yet being immaterial, dastangoi has got a very solid connection to the people of India with the efforts of artists like Ankit making it possible. Upon this Ankit says, “While Dastangoi is a classic art form, it has still not become established in the eyes of state or society like music, theatre and dance are. We are still building the ground and I feel fortunate to be a key player in this process. And as far as the limelight is concerned, the inner journey means much more to me personally than the perception of the media and others.”

Passion plays a key role in upholding the art forms that tend to be dying. Also the responsibility of not letting go of what was ours is another thing. Apart from Dastangoi being performed around festivals like Jashan e Rekhta and others, Jamia Millia Islamia – a central university in New Delhi inculcates among its students to uphold these art forms. Through this the youngsters of the nation are connecting to this art form and appreciating their inclination towards the same.

It’s said that when Dastangos perform a Dastan they present it very lively. Like moving pictures and sometimes they themselves became pictures. Sometimes they speak like old women sometimes like kids and sometimes like ghosts or whatever the Dastan demands them to be. Although considered a fading art form of Urdu storytelling, Dastangoi is being recognised more and more among people of all ages. It emerges as a phoenix and is ready for all the pleasure of being born again and being loved again.


Author: Dr. Gautam Chatterjee

From urbanites view point art is viewed as a secluded activities of people and vision is from the standpont of Gallery de art. But for indigenous people like Naga, art and culture are inseparable from their daily milieu. And their art is functional within their ambience. In order to research and depict the Naga life Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts(IGNCA) has recreated their life through Milada Ganguli’s rare collection of Naga Art at Mati Ghar IGNCA which can be seen from Monday the 6th October, 1997.

Image Source: http://www.ibiblio.org/gautam/heri0006.htm

Image Source: http://www.ibiblio.org/gautam/heri0006.htm

Milada Ganguli, 90 year old , a connoisure of Indian art is the connection between the past and present. A native of Czechoslovakia, came to India way back in l939 after her marriage to Mohonlal Ganguli, a writer and a close relative of Rabindranath Tagore. She developed a special interest in the hills of North-East India and was specially attracted towards Naga culture. She has visited these people around 18 times and collected artefacets of rare kind. Today, one part of her collection is the holding of National Museum, Calcutta and second part has come to the IGNCA which are being displayed at theexposition titled “SUNGKONG”–call of the Log Drum.

The exhibition is studded with rare artefacets and photographs placed within the context of beautifully created panorama of Naga life ,the aura of bamboo and grass work interplayed with symbolic motifs of tiger,lion,cross-bow to the votary symbol of potency.

The exposition revolves around the theme of ‘Sonakong’ or the call of Log drum of Naga people. Symbolically it reflects the major part of the extinct Naga Art forms which are no objective articulation of aesthetics but a display of functional art of bygone era. The entrance is the roof of the Morung or dormitary which is decorated with long tassels of thatching grass. Then one walks over the dried grass reaching out to the Morung. This Morung is the epic centre of the Naga life. Here youth and elders meet to share their oral traditions,heritage and functions as a platform of folk cultural demonstration. At night this is the watch post to keep a watch over the enemies. Then comes the unique log drum which is another functional symbolism of this tribe. The interrelatedness of Morung–the dormitary and use of Log drum for community communications is the high point of this exposition. Dr. Malla, Art Historian coordinating the exhibition explained that….

To read the complete article, 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