The origin and growth of puppetry has a long history. Puppet shows are indicated to have existed in almost civilizations. The origin of puppets is quite controversial. Significant examples of ancient puppets are found in India ,China, Egypt, Greece .In China, in India , Java and else where in Asia it is found that ancient traditions of puppet like figures were being used in ritual magic and undoubted the primitive people made puppets before the invention of writing.
India is regarded as the home of puppets. It is being claimed by many scholars that puppetry originated in India and not in China as being believed earlier. It seems almost certain that puppetry originated in India and this per formative art travelled across the seven seas to the eastern and western world .Puppets of different forms developed in times in different parts of the world. Shadow puppets have developed in China and String puppets have originated in India.
When puppetry originated it is not in record. It is believed puppetry started between 20500 B.C.to 30500 B.C. Excavation of Harappa and Mohenjodaro sites have revealed that a number of toys whose body parts can be manipulated with strings. Amongst the variety of archaeological relics includes a terracotta bull with detachable head that can be manipulated by a string. Ancient traditions of puppet like figures indicating about civilization is indicated in the caves of Bhimvetka, 60 kms from Bhopal of Central India. Since ages puppetry has formed an important part of folk-culture in India, particularly in the rural parts. In India traditional puppetry is popular in villages, fairs and festivals which basically present its theme from the popular myths, legends and Epics.
WORLDWIDE DEVELOPMENT OF PUPPETRY:
Puppetry was an art form that is spread all over the world. Different cultures had puppet traditions and these developed in times in different parts of the world. Puppetry from India have spread to Indonesia and Japan .In Europe written records of puppet shows go back to 5th Century B.C. Till 17th century, ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome had puppetry and the Churches incorporated puppets to enact biblical plays .Later puppetry was banned in the churches. In 17th century, puppetry revived in Italy, when ‘Pulcinella’ a classical human character of Italian Commedia dell’arte became a stock character in Neapolitan puppetry and began to appear in the Italian puppet theatres.It was later carried to Europe by Italian puppet troops and everywhere he adopted different names with new characters.There puppets with a long crooked nose began to enter as PULCINELLA in Naples ( in south Italy), then POLICHINELLE in French, PUNCH in London,PETRUSHA in Russia.
In Europe, travelling puppeteers reached the height of their popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries. Puppetry in Europe have become so popular that once the Itinerant puppeteers rose up to set up permanent theatres and they started presenting the Puppet-operas with the marionettes (string puppets).This attracted large audiences and the theaters were frequented by the rich and famous .In later development, puppet-cabarets and puppet-comics plays fascinated the audiences.
In England where puppets had mainly played folk stories and popular Old Testament stories, later in the seventeenth century sprang up with the introduction of Punch .Pulcinella of Italy inspired the English puppetry Punch and Judy . Punch and Judy became the popular glove puppets.
Despite a similar foundation in folklore and heroic drama, far eastern puppetry developed along somewhat different lines. There developed the shadow puppets. The shadow puppets of Java, Bali and Thailand are manipulated by rods against a transparent screen lit from behind. Javanese puppet theater performs many cycles of plays from mythical origins to contemporary events.
In 18th century,Puppetry of Japan developed with the emerge of the ¾ of the life size ‘Bunrekhu’ puppet , a name given by Umerua Bunrakukan the great puppet master of Japan of 18th century.
Bunrekhu puppets are the most stylized, sophisticated puppets less than life size and are operated by the puppet master who controls the head, eyes and right arm of the puppet, while one assistant move the left arm and another the legs.
In the 1920s the German Hotte Reiniger exploited film techniques to produce a remarkable series of silhouette shows based on shadow figures.
The puppets, created by US puppeteer Jim Henson for the educational television show ‘Sesame Street’, are now popular in many parts of the world.
TYPES OF PUPPETS
Different types of puppets are used in the puppetry shows There are mainly four types of puppets –Glove-puppet, Rod puppet, Shadow puppet, String puppets(or marionettes) etc.
The string puppets of India have hands but no legs. The other name which describes the string puppets are marionettes which originated in medieval France are type of puppets moved by strings attached to their hands and legs.
Marionette or string puppet puppets are controlled by a number of strings, plus sometimes a central rod attached to a control bar held from above by a puppeteer. The control bar can be either a horizontal or vertical one. Basic strings of operation are usually attached to the head, back, hand and just above the knee. This form of puppetry is complex to operate, requiring greater manipulative control than a finger or rod puppet.
Rod Puppet is a puppet constructed around central rod secured to the head. A large glove covers the rod and is attached to the neck of the puppet. A rod puppet is controlled by the puppeteer moving the metal rods attached to the hands of the puppet and by turning the central rod secured by the head.
Shadow Puppet is a cut-out figure held between a source of light and a translucent screen. Untypical as it is two dimensional in form; shadow puppets can form solid silhouettes.
Hand or Glove Puppets are controlled by one hand which occupies the interior of the puppet. Punch and Judy puppets are familiar examples of glove puppets. Larger varieties of hand puppets place the puppeteer's hand in just the puppets head, controlling the mouth and head, and the puppets body then hands over the entire arm. Other parts of the puppet are usually not much larger than the hand itself. A sock puppet is a particularly simple type of hand puppet made from a sock.
Besides these four main kinds of puppets , the Black Light Puppet, Banraku Puppet, Finger puppet, Human-arm puppet, Light Curtain Puppet, Marotte puppet, Muppet , Water Puppet , Push-in or paper puppet are some other puppets that later developed in different countries.
STRING PUPPET IS THE MOST ANCIENT TYPE OF PUPPET
Every country has a special type of puppet for example:- Hand or Glove puppets which are traditionally used in British. Shadow puppets are famous in China. In Burma only string puppets are found. India is famous for its string puppets and so on. According to available evidences string puppets seems to be the most ancient type of puppet. String-puppets existed long before 2nd century B.C. Excavation of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro sites the most ancient human civilization, have revealed that a number of toys whose body parts can be manipulated with strings. There is no such strong evidence to prove that shadow -theatre was prevalent anywhere in this country. Shadow puppets, glove puppets are of later origin.
String puppets are the three-dimensional figures which are controlled by the puppeteer with the strings attached to it.
In India the Puppeteer is called Sutradhar who manipulates puppets with sutra (strings) from inside. The best reference of string puppet is probably from the Gita where the three qualities of the Sattah, Rajah and Tamah found in men, are the three strings pulled by the Divine to lead men in life. There are numerous centers of traditional forms of puppetry in India. Indian puppetry is a traditional art form originating in folklore and legends .Single string puppets (kathputli) are found in Rajasthan.
SOME STRING PUPPETS OF INDIA
In India, Traditional String puppets are more prominently seen in the states of Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Orissa with different names...
String puppets of Rajasthan state are known as KATPUTLI because the head and the head dress of the puppet is carved out of a single piece of wood (called =kat and putli means doll) and the puppets are without legs. Katputli shows of Rajasthan are usually based on history, the popular, myths, folklore or legends of the state.
The traditional String puppets of Karnataka state are known as GOMBEYATTAwhich are highly stylish sophisticated puppets and have several joints with 5 to 7 strings. The Gombeyatta puppets and the sets of the stage resemble to ‘Yakshagana’ the traditional live theatre form of Karnataka. In Gombeyatta, episodes from the Epics and puranas are presented.
The traditional String puppets of Tamil Nadu state are known as BOMMALATTAM The traditional wooden Bommalattam puppets of Tamil Nadu are the largest and the heaviest of all the traditional string puppets of India, which may be 4.5 ft in height and 10 kgs in weight.The manipulation of these puppets is a combined technique of both string and rod puppets.The puppeteer wears an iron ring fitted like a crown in his head and the strings from the puppet are attached to the ring.The puppet also has two rods attached to its hands and the puppeteer holds the two rods with his hands. For the complicated movements usually two puppeteers co-operates to manipulate one puppet.
The traditional String puppets of Andhra Pradesh state are known as BOMMALATTA which literally means the dance of the dolls. Bommalatta are highly stylish puppets quite large and heavy with many joints.
The String puppets of Kerala state is known as NOOLPAVAKOTHU which are made of wood and beautified with various paints. The puppetry shows are based on the Epics and stories of the local folklore.
The traditional String puppets of Orissa state are known as SAKHI-KUNDHEI or the GOPALILA KUNDHEI. SAKHI in Orissa means female companion, and since these puppets are beautiful dolls they came to be known as Sakhi-kundhei. It is also known as GOPALILA KUNDHEI because the shows of Orissa are usually based on the popular legends of Lord Krishna and Radha. They are made of light wood, without legs and have joints at the hands and legs.
The String puppets of West Bengal state are known as TARER PUTUL or SUTO PUTUL.The puppets have no legs and the costumes are colorfully styled in conformity with the local Jatra theatre styles
The String puppets of Maharashtra state which came from Rajasthan state are known as the MALASUTRI BHAULAYA..
The String puppets of Assam state are known as PUTULA NACH, PUTULA BHAONA and PUTULA-BHARIA. The different part of the body of the puppets are made of Solapith or Madar( a soft wood available in Assam).Some puppets are also made of paper pulp.Usually the size of the puppets ranges between 1 to 3 ft. The shows are usually based on the Mythological themes and the Epics.
The String puppets of Manipur state are known as LAITHIBI JAGOI which literally means the dance of the dolls.
The String puppets of Tripura and Bengal states are known as PUTUL NACH, which are made of wood and paper-pulp.
STRING PUPPETRY OF ASSAM INDIA IS OLDER THAN THE VAISHNAVA CULTURE
The String puppets of Assam state are known as PUTULA NACH, PUTULA BHAONA and PUTULA-BHARIA. It is believed that the string puppetry of Assam is even older than the 500 years old Vaishnava culture.
The saint –poet Sankaradeva (1449-1569) initiated the Vaishnavite movement in Assam and gave shape to the religious, social, cultural and literary life to the people of Assam.
Sankaradeva, was born in Assam in 1449 and he died in 1569. He gave to the people religion, literature, poetry, music, dance drama. The Bhowna (dance drama) and Ankiya Nat (one act Play) of Assam initiated by Sankaradeva was the most powerful agency to carry the religious and ethical ideas to the masses.
The specialty which can be observed in Assamese Bhowna is the coordination and harmony of songs, rhythmic dances, instrumental melodies and dialogue. All the actors enter the stage and move from the beginning to end with gestures and postures. The dialogue is also delivered in dancing postures. Geets such as ‘Madhyawali, Muktawali and other songs (descriptive emotional and pathetic songs) are also sung in dancing postures.
The skilled village artists called ‘Khanikar’ prepare ‘Cho’ (effigies) and masks (mukha) such as Ravana, Yama, Kumbhakarna, Hanumana, Kali Nag, Garuda Pakhsi which are essential in Bhowna.
* Words highlighted in bold & italics are Indian words.Please refer glossary.