Published By: Nirtika Pandita

The historical journey of puppetry in India

With the idea to narrates folklores, the tradition has continued

A form of theatre or performance, Puppetry is the art of making human-like objects move while narrating a story. The figurine objects attached to the strings, often resembling human or animal figures, being pulled with fingers has been an age-old traditional art. This art of storytelling started in ancient India when it was a source of entertainment as well as a means of disseminating information and folklores to the public. And the person moving the objects is referred to as the puppeteer. In the olden days, groups putting up the puppetry show would travel from one village to another, presenting shows. This age-old tradition of storytelling has been part of various cultures and over the years was adopted and evolved throughout the country.

The origin and legacy of puppetry in India

The origin of puppetry can be traced back to about some 4000 years ago; while according to some historical accounts, puppets were pre-date actors in theatre. In fact, there are pieces of evidence of puppets being a part of the Egyptian arts culture for nearly 2000 BCE. During that time string-operated figures of wood were manipulated to perform the action of kneading bread. As mentioned earlier, from the earliest times, puppets always have been used to animate at the same time talk about the needs of human societies.

Though there is no clear evidence of the origin of puppetry in India if the ancient Hindu philosophers, are to be believed they have writing given great importance. The philosophers have compared the God Almighty to a puppeteer and the entire universe to a puppet stage. Taking note of the Bhagavata, the epic narrates the childhood story of Lord Krishna through three strings - Satta, Raja, and Tama. It goes on to show how God manipulates each object in the universe just like the show of puppetry.

The religious importance of puppetry

In the realm of Indian tradition and culture puppetry holds a high religious value for it represents the stories of Hindu gods and goddesses.  It has been a part of sacred rituals and mostly on various religious festivities villages will have puppetry to narrate the tales of spirits. At times, it also lays down the importance of the festival taking place. According to various legends, the performance of puppetry is equivalent to an act of divine service.