Art & Culture

String Puppets Play Of North Karnataka

Puppetry is one of the most remarkable devices of art, which is capable of universal appeal. India is said to be the motherland of Puppetry. The concept of this earth as the stage for God to perform his plays pervades Indian philosophy. The Sanskrit word for puppet is Puttalike or Puttika which is related to the word Putra which means son. The animation of puppets though imaginative manipulation is what is suggested by the etymology of Puutalika, or Pupa.

The earliest reference to Puppetry in India is in the Tamil Epic Silappadikaran of about 2nd century B.C. The term Sutradhara the “holder of strings” seems to suggest puppetry and it is used in relation of to plays like Kamsavadha in Patanjali”s “Mahabhashya” – indicating the long history of puppetry in India, since even the 5th century B.C.

Generally string puppets are made of softwood, painted according to the character. The puppets are designed according to the live Yakshagana or regional folk play pattern. Demon characters of puppets reflects the design of village Mother Goddess temple iconography. String puppets are manipulated from above the stage, manipulator’s handling technique is unseen because of the upper part of the stage covered with block screen. Puppets appear from the left wing to right, sometime from above the stage.

Stories selected for the performance are from the Ramayana and Mahabharata episodes. Song, dialogue exchange delivered by the manipulator behind the screen. traditionally performance played in the oil lamp, it has now substituted to electric bulb.

Devindrappa troupe “Shakti Yakshgaana Gombeyata Mandali” has earned very good name in the string puppets play of north Karnataka. Special attraction of the play is that percussionist (maddalegaara) sits outside of the stage and converse with the jester character “Hanumanaayaka” amusing the audience with proverbs, jokes.

Size of the puppets are 2 feet to 3 and half feet only.

Gorgeous costume of the puppets are similar to the regional yakshagana and made out of goldpaper, ornaments adorned shoulder, chestgears and headgear’s, paints reddish to demon character and bulged eyes with long teeth. The divine characters colored with yellow, green and jester character face paints quite jet black.

Accompanying instruments to marionette play are “Maddale” (percussion) “Shehonoy” (wind pipe) and “Taala” (metal cymbals) and leading singer sings the major songs assistants add the chorus voice.


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