The most common form of puppetry in India, the string puppets of Rajasthan are commonly known as kathputhlis in the local language. The colorful appearance of the puppets and the invincible skills of the puppeteers make this art reach directly to the hearts of the viewers. In most parts of the world string puppetry is the main form of puppetry, which originated in Rajasthan.
It has been said that the history of puppets in Rajasthan is around thousands of years old. Though there has never been found any written evidence for the same. The Bhat community in Rajasthan is the main perpetrator of this art and has made enormous efforts to get this art flourished not only in India but also outside India. They wander around different parts of the country, roaming village to village, presenting the popular stories of deities and heroes. From the ancient times they have been performing for some kind of remuneration, like cash, livestock, a portion of crop harvest. In those times, it was a well-liked form of entertainment among kings and their families. The Bhat community settled in different kingdoms of Rajasthan and for this reason there are several beautiful narratives on those royal families that laud the stories of their bravery, love, kindness, courage and numerous conquests.
All these are expressed through puppets, the beautiful marionettes that are made in Jaipur, Rajasthan. There are many artists in Jaipur who earn their livelihoods out of these puppets as the puppet shows are one of the major attractions for those who come to spend their holiday in Jaipur. However, the string puppets are prevalent not just in Rajasthan, but in the entire country.
A Kathputli or string puppet is made of mango wood and usually has no legs. The lower half of the puppets is covered with long pleated skirts, which are not attached to the strings. The hands are stuffed with cloth and cotton, to which the strings are attached. These strings enable puppeteers to move the different parts of a puppet. The face of a puppet is made in wood and is painted with large eyes and kumkum on forehead. It is jeweled with ornaments in the neck. The attires of female puppets resemble the traditional Rajasthani garbs, including ghaghra, choli, and odhni, while male puppets are dressed in achkan and long kurtas, inspired from the Rajput dressing style. The kathputlis disperse the vivid colors that add verve to their performance making them highly attractive.
The group of performers includes singers, narrator, and manipulator of puppets. The main puppeteer is called the sutradhar, who is accompanied by musicians and assistants. The artistic and interesting plays offer a great deal of entertainment. Most of the heritage hotels in Jaipur organize puppet shows for the entertainment of their guests. One can also find these colorful lively puppets being sold on the streets of Jaipur, which are quite inexpensive.
DeraMandawa, one of the most liked hotels in Jaipur provides the best accommodation in Jaipur as well as a wonderful Rajasthani treat.