Etymology of Kathputli
The term 'Kathputli' is derived form Rajasthani language. 'Kath' means wood and 'Putli' means a doll. Thus, Kathputli means a puppet which is made entirely from wood. However, cotton cloth and metal wire are also used to create a Kathputli.
History of Kathputli Dance
According to historians, this art form of Rajasthan is more than thousands years old. It is believed that around 1500 years ago, the Bhat community of Rajasthan started the use of Kathputli as string marionette art. The tradition of Kathputli is based on various folk tales and stories. The scholars are of the opinion that folk tales convey the lifestyle of ancient Rajasthani tribal people and Kathputli art might have originated from present day Nagaur and surrounding areas.
It is said that the Kings and nobles of Rajasthan were admirer of Art and Craft. They encouraged and supported the craftsmen in activities ranging from wood and marble carving to weaving, pottery and painting. They would look after the artists and craftsmen in return for the artists singing praises of the patrons' ancestors.
Performance of Kathputli Dance
For a performance, a small stage is set where puppeteers show puppetry and narrate the story. In the performance, music or ballad plays an important role as the entire performance is based upon the ballad. Sometimes, the puppeteer makes use of various sound effects to achieve the reality impact and give a quality entertainment. The puppeteer shows all his skills to make puppets dance to his tunes. The puppets are fixed on stage; in fact they are strung on the stage for the performance. It recounts historic anecdotes, replay tales of love, and include much screeching and high-pitched sound as the puppet twirl and move frenetically at the time of performance.
In olden days, the puppeteers used to travel from place to place through various villages to entertain people. Through puppets, the puppeteer narrated the stories of legendary heroes or historic events. Thus, along with the entertainment they also used to spread awareness among the citizens. Different types of puppets or Kathputlis are used for popular puppet shows that include Glove Puppets, String Puppets, Rod Puppets and Shadow Puppets.
Preservation of Kathputli Dance
Since Kathputli dance is a very important part of Rajasthani tradition, various organisations are putting effort to preserve this creative form. Organisations like 'Rupayan Sansthan' in Jodhpur and 'Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal' in Udaipur are promoting Kathputli dance through varied shows which is a good medium to preserve this dance form. Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal even has a puppet theatre as well as puppet museum.
Capital New Delhi too has dedicated an area to Kathputli dance. The area is known as 'Kathputli Colony' and is located at Shadipur Depot. Here puppeteers, magicians, acrobats, dancers and musicians and other itinerant performance groups have settled since half a century.