Rajasthani puppetry undergoing renaissance

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Jaipur, March 31 : Rajasthan's puppetry shows despite facing a difficult phase for a long time due to modernism have held on to their traditional style of spreading social messages and entertaining people beyond age. It was visible here during the Rajasthan Diwas festival.

The festival, which was a gala event of variety entertainment and exhibition of traditional arts and crafts at various venues, attracted everyone's attention for its puppetry show, staged at the Pink City's popular Jawahar Kala Kendra.

The show was viewed as significant for dispelling the fears of this puppetry art going into oblivion due to advent of modern forms of entertainment.

Be it the puppets' colourful attires, interesting themes and lores along with the accompanying artistes behind folk songs, all attracted the locals as well as the tourists attending the Rajasthan Diwas here.

These internationally famed shows of Rajasthan have a theme different from the other.

One of the most popular themes is that of the dialogues of Amar Singh Rathore of Nagaur, besides telling popular stories of Anarkali, Laila-Majnu and some other regional legends.

"I have been doing it since my childhood. It is a puppet depiction of life of Amar Singh Rathore. Our ancestors used to tell us about Amar Singh Rathore. Today, our government gave us a chance to perform the show. Our artistes even go abroad to perform these shows. We hope to carry forward this art form," said Rajesh Gaur, a puppet master.

Puppetry shows at one time used to be the most popular medium to put across social messages on topical issues.

Everyone felt that the puppeteers deserve kudos for preserving the old art for alive despite changing times in India

"Puppets are almost like live performances. They expose the children to many innovative ideas. They are much better than the television world. They are really nice. They tell us traditional stories. We are really happy that they have come to Jaipur and performing here. Earlier, about five to ten years ago, there was not much happening. This is beautiful," said Priyanka, one of the audiences.

"We have a very good source of entertainment of Rajasthani culture. I really liked their finger movements and expressions. They attract everyone with this art of theirs. Besides Rajasthan, it also has more popularity abroad. Foreigners, who come here, are very happy to see this," said Shailja Jakhar, a local resident.

In puppet shows, a number of wooden dummy dolls that are dressed up in bright and color attires. The puppets are then held by strings by the puppeteer who pulls them by moving fingers to move them around.

According to historians, the puppeteers traditionally belonged to the nomadic community of Bhatts in rural Rajasthan.

Although urbanites in Rajasthan and elsewhere have largely ignored puppetry, no rural fair or festival is considered complete without a show staged by puppet masters. by Lokendra SIngh

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