An Overview
Multiple functions of Indian Puppetry
Skilled Craft of Indian Puppetry
Inanimate to Animate in Indian Puppetry
Legend & Genesis of Indian Puppets
Categories of Puppets
Introduction

The word puppet comes from the French 'Poupee' or the Latin 'Pupa': both meaning dolls. In Sanskrit, puppets are termed Putraka, Putrika or Puttalika, all of which are derived from the root Putta equivalent to Putra (son). It seems from the ancient Indian thoughts that puppets have life.

Basic Forms

Puppets are principally of four forms: glove, rod, string and shadow. There are also a few composite forms.

Glove

Indian glove puppets are a simple form where the puppeteer puts on the puppet-like glove and manipulates the head of the puppet in his forefinger, controlling the arms with his thumb and middle finger. Puppeteers operate either from below or squatting on level ground, mostly hiding themselves from the audience.

Rod

An Indian rod puppet has a main rod to hold the puppet and two thin rods attached with two hands of the puppet for manipulation. The operation is from below. There are also three-dimensional moving figures that are manipulated with rods. Variations of rod puppet are as follows:

- Cylindrical Puppet (shaped cylindrically) - Using large heads capable of moving mouth and eyes, manipulated by one or two puppeteers;
- Stick Puppet - Using a simple stick to carry a light head and hanging hands, manipulated by children.

String

Indian string puppet (or marionette) is a figure with multiple joints and suspended by string from a control. The word marionette is derived from the Latin word Maria which came from Marion, the character of a pastoral show of the 13th century or from marotte (the clown cane) or from the moving figure of the medieval nativity scene. In International terminology, it is used for a flexible puppet attached to a bar or hung by strings. String puppets operate from above.
Variations of string puppets are as following: -
- Juggling Puppet - For marionette used in conjunction with juggler's falls;
- Multiple marionettes - Manipulating a few puppets attached shoulder-to- shoulder from a single control.

Shadow

This Indian form uses not original puppets but their shadows - in black and white or in colour. The flat figures, usually made of leather, are lightly pressed on some translucent screen with a strong source of light behind. The screen thus forms the barrier between the audience and the puppet, creating the projection of image. The impact on the audience, surrounded by darkness all around, is quite dramatic. The screen in India is a simple sheet stretched on an adjustable frame.

Conclusion

The variety of Indian puppets covers dolls. But the latter can be different by being realistic imitation of humans or animals, whereas puppets need only to accentuate their principal characteristics. Many such borderlines, as between puppets and dolls, are disappearing with introduction of newer techniques like sophisticated mechanisation and remote control. Many people question the use of automation in puppetry in place of human manipulation. It is difficult to say where and how far the traditional categories of puppets will be pushed and transcribed in the modern day and age.

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