Indian Puppets

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Item Code: IDK026
Author: Sampa Ghosh & Utpal K. Banerjee
Publisher: Abhinav Publication
Language: English
Edition: 2006
ISBN: 978817017435XX
Pages: 746 (Color Illus.264 & B/W Illus.67)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11.3" X 8.5"
Weight 2.60 kg
Fully insured
Fully insured
Shipped to 153 countries
Shipped to 153 countries
More than 1M+ customers worldwide
More than 1M+ customers worldwide
100% Made in India
100% Made in India
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23 years in business
Book Description

About the Book

Puppetry originated in India and travelled across the seven seas to the Eastern and Western world as vouched by many scholars. Puppets dated back to a period well before Bharata's Natya Shastra and have continued unabated throughout the centuries in almost all Indian states. Puppetry is one enduring form, which has entertained masses and educated people. The famous puppeteers of Rajasthan are really acrobats, who only put on puppet shows when they move out of villages. These and a thousand other scintillating facts come out of this exciting book for the reader's entertainment and elucidation. Puppets are by no means for only children- as the puppeteers of Orissa sing and dance about the romantic love of Radha and Krishna, and Keralan puppets narrate Kathakali stories in the same make-up and costumes.

The book aims at giving a connected account of the children of the Indian puppets: their variety, their multiple functions, their craft, their animation and their connections with other related arts in five separate parts. The book also contains- for the first time in any book on puppetry-four important appendices: Museums in India containing puppets, Directory of Indian Puppeteers, Global Bibliography on Puppeteers and a relevant Glossary. The world of Indian puppets is seen in vivid colors with scores of colored photographs and many line drawings and half tone pictures- in their many sided splendor: variety of the glove, rod, string, shadow, and human puppets and a myriad background stories of the puppet-masters and their imaginative landscape of free creativity.

About the Author

Sampa Ghosh joined Calcutta Puppet Theatre (CPT) under Suresh Dutta in 1980. She received scholarship for Young Workers in Different Cultural Fields from Ministry of culture, Government of India, for puppetry in 1982-85 and participated in more than 2000 shows all over India and Bangladesh as a member of CPT up to 1986. She worked at SRC Puppet Repertory as its Director in 1986-87 and directed four puppet plays, which proved very popular. She participated in Indian Manifestation Festival in Sweden in 1987 as the group leader, performing 42 shows all over Sweden. She conducted many puppet workshops in India and Canada especially for children and teachers. She directed two children productions and gave a lecture demonstration on Indian puppets to international group of puppeteers under the aegis of Kala Bharati and Quebec Puppeteers Association of Canada in Montreal in 1995. As as outstanding artist, she received Senior Fellowship from Government of India in 2001-03 for creating a website portal on Indian Puppetry. Her recent monograph on Make Your Own Puppets has been highly applauded.

Dr. Utpal K. Banerjee, an adviser on Management and Information Technology for nearly thirty years, has an abiding interest in Indian art and culture. He has been National Project Director for Indira Gandhi National centre for the Arts (IGNCA) relating to the UNDP project on Multimedia Database for Art and Culture Documentation and Computerisa-tion from 1990-92. He has been utilized by Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) to lecture on Indian Art and Culture in Canada in 1990 and in South America in 1998. He has also given similar lectures in Canada and USA in 1992 and 1995, as invited by Kala Bharati of Canada. He has been lecturing on Indian Arts and Culture in the training courses at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) to the Afro-Asian diplomats. His comprehensive book Indian Performing Arts has gone into several editions and Bengali Theatre: 200 Years has come out from publication Division. He has been writing on the arts and culture in India Perspective, Sruti, Rasamanjari and Indrama journals and regularly writing on performing arts in The Pioneer newspaper every week. He has been a prolific contributor and anchorperson on cultural and professional programmes to London BBC, AIR and Indian Doordarshan over last 35 years.


India is one of the important milestones in my life. That is not a very original statement but an experience that came through puppet theatre. From three started a voyage of discovery, first about the richness of Indian puppet traditions, then revealing all different artforms of Indian to the acquaintance with modern Indian philosophy and finally some discoveries inside oneself. This happened thanks to human encounters with many a great mind and is still going on- my Indian voyage is a life-voyage.

Names past review: the late Meher Contractor of Ahmedabad who opened many doors and brought me a young student named Dadi padumjee, the protector of puppet traditions Mrs. Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, the researcher and film-maker Jivan Pani who documented such traditions, the master Krishnankutty Pulavar from Kerala who taught me to admire his combination of artistic skill and humility… and many others.

Most of all and always there is the friendship with Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, a relation that has coloured my enthusiasm and commitment to India. Thanks to her encouragement and trust, I found a permanent Indian platform as a consultant for the construction, in mind and with stones, of the Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts (IGNCA).

Apart from the common "Indian blocks", a special one was to re-evaluate the idea of the so-called developing country. Culturally speaking, I found many European aspects to be "developing" compared to India. I asked, for example, the modern philosopher Subhash Malik how he would define the word tradition. He answered: "Tradition is creation now." While working on a provisional puppet theatre at IGNCA together with carpenters, I observed them sawing thick wood which looked like Kerala violin-bow, with only one chord. With my Western wise-guy approach, I wanted to help with saws and rationalize work. "Haven't you heard about Black-and-Decker machines?" "Yes we have", the carpenter answered, "Only, with that, there would no longer be any challenge in sawing!" That was the last time I tried to improve Indian craftsmanship.

As a perfectionist in puppet manipulation, I asked players of Andhra Pradesh why they moved their shadow-puppets inexactly on the screen. Their contours were often blurred, giving the bodies indistinct shapes. I do not remember who answered but I do remember the answer: "A shadow puppet is the image of man. Have you ever seen a man of totally sharp contours?" And so it goes on, without end to the possibilities to learn and grow. You can also learn something about the universality of puppet theatre when you speak with the heart and have something to say. The audience will respond equally in each country and continent. We experienced that wonderful insight when performing THE APOCALYPSE TRIAL in Delhi and Kolkata in September 1996. Never had we expected or hoped for so much understanding and enthusiasm as we met, for example, at Tagore's birthplace. These are sublime moments when the power of theatre makes the world very small and united.

To make a book presenting Indian puppetry to the world is an important and heavy undertaking. There is so much to tell. I wish the authors of this work to succeed; making a fair and rich presentation that shall hopefully reach the world.-Prof. Michael Meschke


Indian puppetry has been one of the most ancient arts and still practiced throughout the length and breadth of the country. It is seldom realized that even the Natyashastra mentions Sutradhar (the puppeteerz) and many neighbourhood countries show clear reflection if Indian influence in their puppets. While working, researching and collecting material since 1982, I realized that there should be justice done to the subject and a comprehensive book must emerge from my work which would lend a definitive voice to this art form in all its glory: from conceptualization to execution, from genesis to documentation. I associated with Dr. Utpal K. Banerjee, who has an authoritative knowledge on Indian performing arts and culture, and has already written three books in these areas.

The book strives to satisfy three major objectives. First, it seeks to answer queries from myriad teachers, students, art lovers and social workers who have shown curiosity and asked delving questions on Indian puppets: while attending seminars, participating in workshops and even enjoying puppet performances. The need particularly dawned on us, when we had given lecture demonstrations in Canada and Europe. Second, it tries to provide, within two covers, a complete knowledge on Indian puppets placed in the context of the world puppetry. Finally, it is meant to be a handbook to both practicing and aspiring puppeteers in India and abroad who may wish to learn this art form.

We perceived a special problem in collecting photographs on puppets, mainly on Indian puppets. We are thankful to Suresh Dutta and Sudip Gupta, who helped us by providing some rare photographs on Indian puppets. Prof. Michael Meschke, President, Third World Committee of UNIMA came to India with his troupe Marionetteatern in 1996, we approached him to write a Foreword and help in some funding for collecting photographs for our book. Meschke granted us money from Solidarite International des Marionnettistes (SIMA) and has written a nice Foreword. We thank Prof. Meschke to make this book possible. We also collected some photographs from visiting foreign troupes in Delhi. We would like to thank them also, especially Bobita puppet Group, Hungary; Byteatern, Sweden; and Bashkir State Puppet Theatre, Uzbekistan.

Pursuant of my Senior Fellowship in 2001 aimed at creating a Website on Indian puppetry, we wrote letters to all the known puppet groups in India to send us their details with photographs. Many of them did, but not all. We have used these photographs and want to give them wholehearted thanks. Our website, which now deals with Indian puppetry in all its aspects, has been well received, evinced by the fact that we collected names and addresses of the contemporary and traditional puppeteers of India. As no such list is available, we have included it, together with an earlier list of puppeteers from these neglected regions! I had made a global bibliography on shadow puppets for IGNCA in 1997. Afterwards, extensive work was done and this book covers a mammoth global bibliography on puppet books, journals, periodicals, papers, etc. In our study, we have included it, together with an earlier list of puppeteers compiled during the research work on North-Eastern puppeteers of India during 1983-86. One would be surprised to see the number of traditional puppeteers from these neglected regions! I had made a global bibliography on shadow puppets for IGNCA in 1997. Afterwards, extensive work was done and this book covers a mammoth global bibliography on puppet books, journals, periodicals, papers, etc. In our study, we have included some foreign evidence to compare their scenario with India and have also referred to such foreign forms as Bunraku, Muppet, etc., as these are widely used by modern Indian puppeteers. This book has a special chapter on Puppetry-related Arts, as we think the puppetry is a combination of all art forms. Lastly, an Appendix has been included on Indian museums that contain puppets.

This book would not have seen the light of the day, if Mr. Shakti Malik of Abhinav Publications had not shown exemplary patience and borne with us to allow us completing our study.

Our book is mainly written for Indian puppeteers and anybody who loves puppets. We will be happy if anyone finds something interesting in it and gets helped from this book. We are looking forward to the day when other puppet lovers would come forward with their finding on Indian puppets and would write many other books about other perspectives on Indian puppets.


  Foreword by Prof. Michael Meschke 7
  Preface 9
Chapter 1: History and Genesis of Puppets 13
Chapter 2: Categories of Puppets 23
Chapter 3: Glove Puppets of India 39
Chapter 4: Rod Puppets of India 45
Chapter 5: Shadow Puppets of India 53
Chapter 6: String Puppets of India 75
Chapter 7: Contemporary Puppets of India 99
Chapter 8: Sources of Inspiration for Puppetry 123
Chapter 9: Puppetry for the Masses 131
Chapter 10: Puppetry for Education 145
Chapter 11: Social Role of Puppetry 159
Chapter 12: The Creative Process 179
Chapter 13: Making Diverse Forms 197
Chapter 14: Manipulating Puppets 209
Chapter 15: Exercises for Puppeteers 225
Chapter 16: Scripts for Puppet Plays 233
Chapter 17: Movements and Gestures in Puppetry 239
Chapter 18: Voice and Music in Puppetry 245
Chapter 19: Puppet Production 253
Chapter 20: Puppetry Related Arts 275
Appendix 1: Museums in India Containing Puppets 295
Appendix 2: Directory of Indian Puppeteers 299
Appendix 3: Global Bibliography 327
Appendix 4: Glossary 463
  List of Illustrations 471
  Index 487

Sample Pages

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