As you traverse the craft-dotted landscape that enriches the country, you’ll witness a grand spectacle of vivid colours and magnificent designs. Rajasthan, for instance, has nurtured and celebrated centuries-old crafts within its folds; Kathputli is one such craft.
Originating from the words kath meaning ‘wood’ and putli meaning ‘lifeless doll,’ Kathputli is the art of storytelling with handmade puppets.
As one of the oldest puppetry forms in the world, Kathputli has placed India on the world map of handicrafts. The art was started by the Putli Bhat community more than a thousand years ago and has been used in Rajasthani ballads, folk dances and village fairs ever since.
Forty years ago, as the craft spread north, a slum commune was erected in the deep, dark bowels of Shadipur Depot, Delhi, and aptly named ‘Kathputli Colony.’ Street performers, magicians, folk dancers and singers gathered here to entertain audiences. For the length of their performances, these entertainers would forget about their hardships and living conditions; instead they would slip into the happy world of Kathputli where they could be whoever they wanted to be. In 2010, the Delhi government declared that it would help improve the facilities and infrastructure in Kathputli Colony; the project is currently underway.
Today, there are various organisations, like Rupayan Sansthan and Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal, working to protect and promote the beautiful craft of Kathputli. The museum by Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal dedicated to the craft is a must visit the next time you are in Udaipur!