Themes of Kundhei Nata
The show of Kundhei Nata uses only two figures representing Krishna and his love Radha, nowadays so humanized that at times they act like any rural boy and girl. In the twelfth century, when the poet Jayadeva wrote the Gita Govinda, the Krishna-Radha theme grew extremely popular in Odisha for dramatic presentation. Krishna worship became more and more extensive and reached its peak in the sixteenth century when it influenced not only theatre but also all branches of art and literature. During this period, it is likely that both glove and string puppet traditions of Odisha adopted Krishna legends as their exclusive thematic content. Many lyrics, short poems, and long narrative verse or kaiya written between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries were inspired by Krishna. Others had human heroes and heroines. The glove puppeteers use these poems, mainly devotional but sometimes secular.
Performance of Kundhei Nata
Kundhei Nata comprises only two persons, the lead puppeteer and a drummer-cum-puppeteer. They require no stage to present their performance neither do they hide behind a screen. They sit on a mat or level ground and manipulate the puppets in full view of the audience. At times, the drummer who plays the barrel-shaped dholak holds one of the two puppets. While manipulating the figure, he occasionally beats one face of the drum with the hand that wears the puppet. It appears as if the puppet is playing the drum. This act immensely amuses viewers. There is not much drama in a Kundhei Nata show, nor is the technique in any way complicated though, at times, it is quite imaginative. Its main attraction lies in the singing and the literary quality of the songs. Interspersed humorous sequences enhance the appeal.