Puppets & Puppeteers of Nagaur Rajasthan

An old folk saying "We are only puppets, our strings are being pulled by unknown forces" This is an article about puppets - from a place that is famous for their puppet crafts and puppet shows - Rajasthan, and it is about the puppeteers themselves. The slideshow consists if 3 parts Part 1 Puppets exhibited at the Bagaur Haveli Museum, Udaipur Part 2 : A young man whose family has been  hand-crafting puppets for generations demonstrates the scultping of a puppet from a block of wood while the women prepare the costumes. Part 3 : The same Puppeteer performs a puppet show at the Bagaur Haveli. The most spectacular feat is the one in which his horseriding puppets performs acrobatics with two fire torches in his hands as he rides his black steed. [slideshow]
A few notes from an afternoon of conversation with the puppeteers and their family at Devaali village.
* The biggest difference they see between the olden days and today, is that puppet shows earlier were structured to be as long as 2-3 hours and all the viewers sat through the show with interest. It was fulfilling to be an entertainer in those days. Today, the show lasts for barely 15 minutes. To hold the attention of the audience, puppeteers now display dramatic acts of skill rather than use their skill as a medium for narrating legends and tales. In smaller villages narration is still the active focus of the puppet shows, but with the advent of electronic entertainment, this medium is losing its appeal as an entertainment form.
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The wood used for puppets made for shows is different from the wood used for puppets made as souveniers / home decor.
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All the puppetteers belong to a single clan and although they have settled in a few places around Rajasthan, they all know each other though extended families.
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The family heads are dedicated to the art & craft that their clan has practiced for generations and determined to see that it survives. It is heartening to see that the son - now around 25 years of age -  is following the family tradition of making and performing puppet shows.
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jm
June 2012



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